In April, Linda Barnes, her husband Gary and their son Heston opened their first Lawn Doctor territory in the town of Kingwood, just outside of Houston. The opening was a long time in the making for the Barnes family, who first became aware of the lawn-care brand years ago, when Gary’s nephew Craig opened a franchise.
“Craig’s father was always telling us about how well the business was doing and how we had to open our own,” Linda said. “But the timing just wasn’t right.”
Linda says she and her husband were always intrigued by the prospect, but until recently, they both maintained full-time careers, and Heston was in school. Last year, Gary retired from his career in oil and gas, Linda was winding down a second career selling educational technology—her first was teaching—and Heston finished school, got married, and became a father. Finally, the timing seemed right to open their Lawn Doctor.
Linda and Gary were both looking for an opportunity to continue working, now on their own terms, and they wanted to help Heston build something that he could run long after his parents retired for good.
“My husband retired a year ago, but he is used to staying busy, and I wasn’t quite ready to retire,” she said. “Heston has his own family now, and we want to help put him in a position where he has a business that he can run himself.”
According to Linda, they didn’t spend much time researching other business opportunities after zeroing in on Lawn Doctor. Not only had they watched their nephew’s operation grow into a reliable and lucrative long-term business, but everything about Lawn Doctor’s model also seemed to fit their requirements.
“Gary grew up on a farm, and our family has always loved working with the land. I wanted to apply my skills as a salesperson, and Heston wanted to build something that he could eventually step back from and run from a high level,” Linda said.
Lawn Doctor checked off all of those boxes, and Linda says as soon as the family agreed they were all ready to start a business, they reached out to Craig to start the process.
“We never truly considered any other business,” she said. “We talked for a bit to make sure we were all ready, and then immediately reached out to Craig to guide us through the process.”
The day that they reached out to Craig, Linda says he happened to be at the Lawn Doctor annual convention, where the franchisees and the brand’s development team had been discussing, among other things, finding opportunities to bring on new owners.
Craig put his family in touch with Eric Martin, Lawn Doctor’s vice president of development, who invited the family out to a discovery day to learn more about the business.
“I think Eric was surprised to see how eager we were to get started,” Linda said. She was right. Martin says he was both surprised and delighted by the Barnes enthusiasm.
“In a lot of ways, the Barneses are very similar to a lot of Lawn Doctor franchise partners,” Martin said. “We see a number of family operations with parents who want to find something they can do as they ease into retirement while helping set their kids up with something for the long-term. Early on, we find many prospective owners tend to be a bit more apprehensive, which is understandable. The decision to start a business is not something to be taken lightly and we want to be sure the right boxes have been checked before we move forward. After watching their nephew run his Lawn Doctor successfully for so many years, the Barneses knew exactly what they were in for, they were committed and didn’t want to waste any time.”
The Barneses attended discovery day in December and opened their Lawn Doctor a few months later, just in time for the busy spring season. Now that the family business is up and running, Linda says the only real surprise was just how much business they found right off the bat.
“Craig’s business grew steadily, but not nearly as fast ours is growing. I'm not saying it was easy. We put in many hours and there was a huge learning curve,” she said. “Of course, when Craig opened his business, that was before marketing was done online. He was hanging flyers on doors and relying on word of mouth. Even that did very well for him, but with all of the tools that Lawn Doctor has for online and digital marketing these days, we can grow at a more rapid pace.”
Linda says their business has picked up about a customer per day since they’ve opened. Fortunately, she says Lawn Doctor has provided a wealth of support systems to help handle that rapid influx of business.
“We have so much support,” she said. “We have a mentor that we selected ourselves, and I speak with her frequently. We also stay in touch with the group of new owners who we trained with. We exchange tips and practices that we are all learning as we go. Lawn Doctor also has consultants who visit us every now and then. We just had a visit from a consultant who has been in the business for 26 years, and his knowledge is just incredible. He went out in the field with Gary and Heston and was pointing out all sorts of things to make the job easier.”
The quick growth of the Barnes’ business bodes well for the family’s long-term plans, which Linda says includes expanding into surrounding territories as her and Gary transition into full retirement within the next few years.
“Our original plan was to build up the business and then Gary and I retire in about three years, but we’ve had so much business already,” Linda said. “We’ll eventually expand in to the surrounding territories, and I think we’ll have a really solid long-term business for Heston to run himself much sooner than we expected.”