What is your background, and did it help you get where you are today?
I got my first exposure to franchising when I was 6 years old. My father would sell Lawn Doctor franchises from a home office. He was good at it and constantly refined his craft, seeking advice from others and educating himself. I learned the value of hard work as I watched him work day and night. He was an incredible role model. As a young man, I worked in our manufacturing plant, learning how our equipment and vehicle outfitting was built. To this day, I am amazed by how our team turns raw metal into state-of-the-art machines that are an essential part of our models and generate a lot of revenue for our franchisees. When I graduated from college, I had an opportunity to join the marketing team at Lawn Doctor as an entry-level assistant. I have had many interesting roles in the Company in marketing, development, and management over the span of 25 years. The various experiences enabled me to move into CEO and Chairman’s role, having first-hand knowledge of many of the important business drivers from the vantage point of those seats.
What was your key driving force to become an entrepreneur?
Candidly, seeing my father create something special was truly inspiring to me. I loved seeing everyone roll up their sleeves in a smoke-filled conference room to solve problems and create strategies. I got a front-row seat and learned what it was like to collaborate with a group of people you really admired. I was hooked.
What kind of culture exists in your organization, and how did you establish it?
Our culture is all about positivity, collaboration, and fun. Life is too short, so you need to have a team that exudes positive vibes and wants to have fun. The work happens almost organically when you have all the right team members in the right environment.
What motivates you?
I’m motivated by creating something truly unique in the world of business and franchising. I want to create a win for everyone involved in our businesses; customers, franchisees, employees, and shareholders. We have been fortunate to create a winning formula that allows us to do just that.
How do you generate new ideas?
Ideas come in all shapes, sizes, and directions. In some cases, our franchisees or team members who are close to the action have the best ideas on how we can do things better. Sometimes I may be inspired by something I see in an aspect of my daily life that creates a “what if” moment. Often ideas flow out of sessions we have together. It is really incredible what you can accomplish when people openly share and build off one another’s ideas to continuously improve.
Do you believe there is a pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur?
I don’t think there is anyone way or template to become a successful entrepreneur. I do think certain attributes are necessary, such as passion, vision, and resilience.
If you want people to join your quest and follow you, you need to really believe in your where you are going.
While the path to get there may change, you need to have a very clear picture in your head as to what you want to build and be able to clearly share it with others.
As with anything worthwhile in life, there will be failures along the way. Lots of them. You need to have the ability to get up, dust yourself off, and get back in the game. It is OK to fall; you just can’t stay there for very long.
What are some of the mistakes you wished you could’ve avoided?
I have made a lot of mistakes in my career. I try to learn from the ones I make and not repeat them.
In a franchise business, you always have this tension between the need to innovate to stay completely relevant to the customer and the need for good franchisees who are executing the model to have stability in their day-to-day operations. I have tried to strike a balance but don’t know that I have always been successful in keeping us fully aligned as we drive necessary change.
What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs?
Pursue something you love (or think you could love if you have no idea yet). Things seem to come together when you are doing just that. Never be intimidated by hiring smarter than you and having skill sets you don’t possess. This has been said by many people many times, but often those who have not been there yet hesitate out of a sense of understandable pride.
What is next? Where do you see yourself and your business in 10 years?
Lawn Doctor has evolved from an almost bankrupt start-up to become one of the most respected brands in our category with over 600 locations. More recently, we have embarked on a journey to be a catalyst for young entrepreneurs who want to move their emerging franchise brands to iconic in the right way. Under our new Happinest brand, we have partnered with Mosquito Hunters and Ecomaids on our way to become a world-class home service platform with cool franchise brands in every major home service category. I’d like to be able to look back and see how many lives we have changed through the power of franchising.