In this exclusive Q&A, we get to learn more about the grounds maintenance franchise U.S. Lawns from its president, Ken Hutcheson.
Franchise Chatter (FC): Can you please share a bit of background on the U.S. Lawns concept – including its founding story and growth up to this point?
Ken Hutcheson (KH): U.S. Lawns launched back in 1986 and is a year-round grounds maintenance and landscape business that works exclusively with commercial businesses. We are a franchise and our franchisees service properties ranging from corporate campuses to retail centers and industrial parks, and even multi-family residential communities to name a few.
All of U.S. Lawns’ landscaping experts provide professional grade, customized grounds care in addition to snow and ice management services in seasonal markets – keeping our franchise owners and their teams busy year-round. Our success is largely dependent on our ability to make and maintain great relationships with local businesses.
Our message and mission goes deeper than simply helping local businesses with their grounds maintenance – every U.S. Lawns franchisee is committed to improving the communities and lives of those they work with every day.
With more than 250 franchises open and operating, the U.S. Lawns business model prioritizes both the franchisee and the client, a key factor that has helped our organization grow both in system-wide sales and in franchise coverage. Along those lines, we anticipate breaking into new and untapped markets next year as both new and current franchisees open more territories to better serve our expanding customer base.
FC: What makes U.S. Lawns an attractive business opportunity for potential franchisees?
KH: The landscaping industry at large is growing, specifically the commercial landscaping sector. That sector is valued at more than $70 billion and has been growing steadily at just over two percent each year since 2014.
Not only do our services help with curb appeal, but landscaping services keep commercial areas and business parks safer and cleaner on a day to day basis, which can ultimately help to attract more customers and keep employees happy and proud of where they work.
Out of our more than 250 franchisees, about a third of them have been open for more than a decade, validating the success of our business model. Our extensive franchise network is filled with experienced business owners that are eager to provide mentorship, advice, and a helping hand when needed.
U.S. Lawns also developed a technology portal that offers 700-plus tools and modules to help franchisees answer industry-specific questions, like preparing estimates for new jobs, engaging with clients, or learning a new skill.
Plus, with the industry steadily growing and a recession-resistant business model, U.S. Lawns franchisees are able to generate revenue quickly and grow clientele due to brand recognition and our comprehensive year-round landscape management contracts with commercial businesses.
FC: How does U.S. Lawns differentiate itself in the grounds maintenance space?
KH: U.S. Lawns is the only franchise to exclusively service commercial businesses. Most landscaping businesses focus on a combination of commercial and residential customers.
Choosing to concentrate on commercial landscape services has allowed us to hone our skills, deepen our understanding of the industry, and continue to innovate and expand our service offerings. All in all, this model has turned our company into a year-round operation, offering recurring services, and one that has proven to be sustainable and recession resistant.
We also pride ourselves on maintaining lasting business partnerships with all of our clients. We strive for 100% satisfaction by personalizing the scope of services for each client and job site, even if it is a routine and traditional job.
And, by being year-round, we work with our clients throughout the seasons to offer landscape enhancements that create more curb appeal and a heightened professional image for their locations. As importantly, we keep them informed every step of the way.
In the commercial space, we are continually challenged by changing trends. For example, this year we anticipate seeing a shift toward more sustainable landscaping and services. Our customers are looking for companies that are conscious of water conservation, and have a smart approach to irrigation. As more people aim to lower their environmental footprints, we will be ahead of the curve in what we offer, and how.
We’re also always offering continuing education for our franchisees so they have access to the most up-to-date industry information and regulations.
FC: What qualities do you look for in a potential franchisee? Which territories are you currently seeking for growth and development?
KH: We are looking to build our business through strategic, vision-oriented partnerships in the coming year. What that looks like in terms of a franchisee is simple: we want people who possess an entrepreneurial spirit, who understand and are passionate about our brand, and are ready to put in the work and grow with us.
That being said, we don’t require our franchisees to have a background in grounds maintenance whatsoever – the training we offer is comprehensive, and our home office support team will be by your side during the launch of your business. If you’ve held a management position and have strong customer service and sales skills, then you’re already on a fast track to success with U.S. Lawns. We’re looking for the skills we can’t necessarily teach: people skills, honesty, openness, and a growth-oriented mindset.
Understanding our ideal franchisee will help us in our growth story. We have an aggressive expansion plan in place for 2020, with the goal of establishing new territories across the country. Much of this growth is expected to occur in Midwestern states as the company continues to expand westward.
FC: What is the typical investment to open a U.S. Lawns franchise?
KH: The cost of opening a U.S. Lawns franchise (franchise fee, plus overall investment costs) ranges from $59,500 to $141,300 with discounts available for conversion candidates and military veterans.
FC: What type of support does U.S. Lawns offer franchisees?
KH: The U.S. Lawns team invests significant time tailoring a plan designed to effectively train and support our franchisees so they’re set-up for success in their markets. From the moment you sign on as a U.S. Lawns franchisee we begin the training process.
All franchisees undergo comprehensive training in our Orlando office, and once they head back to their home market, a dedicated new franchise development team works with them both on-site and from our support center throughout their first several months of business to ensure a smooth start.
Afterwards, this intensive support continues through a series of visits, meetings, and monthly advisory calls, which all allow each franchisee direct 1:1 time to address any needs or answer any questions that may come up.
Beyond our mentorship capabilities, technology has played a hand in our support offerings as well. All franchisees are provided with a portal that can be accessed 24/7, containing a roadmap which is linked to more than 700 tools to help them operate their business efficiently. However, so as not to overwhelm the franchisee, the tools are made available when certain business benchmarks are reached, thus keeping the operation of the business relatively simple.
FC: Can you tell us more about your role with U.S. Lawns?
KH: My role as president revolves around big picture initiatives, such as franchise growth, perfecting corporate systems and processes, and developing our leadership team. With decades of experience in the landscaping industry, and over 20 years with U.S. Lawns, I have helped our business adapt to the economic climate and grow through the means of franchising, technological advancements, and smart and strategic partnerships at the local level – all aimed to better the communities we are a part of.
FC: How can people learn more about U.S. Lawns and its franchising opportunities?
KH: People can learn more about our franchise opportunities by visiting https://uslawnsfranchise.com/.