Lawn Doctor was established in 1964 and has continually grown into a household name and over the past 48 years despite evolving technology, changing consumer tastes and several economic recessions.
Closing in on their 50th anniversary, Lawn Doctor CEO Scott Frith offers advice and lessons learned to start-ups on what his company has learned over the past five decades as it grown to over 460 units.
Evaluate how your message should change over time
“I think the biggest thing that has changed in the past 50 years was that back in 1964, the lawn industry was in its infancy, so we were educating the consumer on why lawn care was ubiquitous and we were helping them understand the value of taking care of your lawn. These days, lawn care is universally accepted and the consumer who cares about their lawn is more sophisticated. Whereas we were communicating ‘why lawn care?’ 50 years ago, now we’re communication ‘why us?’ as in, how are we different and better than competitors. Your message changes, but your fundamental values stay the same. Throughout the years, we’ve had to evolve as customer expectations became more demanding.”
Evolve with technology
“You need the right delivery system of equipment because technology will be evolving as your grow and consumers will expect you to offer them the best technology. You need programs that are consistently changing and you need technology to manage the customer relationship. Fifty years ago, the first equipment we used was built in a farmhouse and it was pulled by a horse trailer. Each iteration of the equipment gets better and more efficient, so you need a system in place that will allow upgrades to be rolled out system-wide.”
Create an innovative culture
“Your company has to be flexible to evolve with the times, technology and consumer tastes so you need to create an innovative culture to manage the change of technology and equipment, but ensure that the brand stays consistent. The innovative culture should be the life blood and backbone of your company.”
“As a franchisor, don’t shotgun. When you’re a young franchisor, you’re not going to have unlimited capital, so you need to build out with like-minded franchisees and focus on markets that will be beneficial to you immediately. You should really stick to your guns on quality franchisees, because if you choose carefully on the second and third location of your company, it’s more likely that you’ll get to location 100 or 1000 in the future.”
Involve your franchisees in everything
“You operate in your ivory tower, so whether you’re in your infancy or a mature company, you’re going to miss things. If you create an innovative and inclusive culture where you involve franchisees in the decision making, you’re going to have a supportive sounding board and better adoption rates of products and programs that the franchisees are enthusiastic about.”
Tired brands vs. established brands
“To establish yourself as an established brand versus a tired brand, there’s a balance you have to strike. You have to have a foot in the past and the other foot in the future to have the balance remain true to the core and fundamental elements of the brand. Some things will never change that were established in the past, but you have to create new and interesting ways to evolve to be successful in the future.”
Passion is essential
“It sounds cliché, but passion is the fundamental ingredient of the ideal franchisee. It’s just not going to work without it. A franchisee could have all the capital in the world, but if they’re not passionate about the brand and not motivated to achieve the shared goal, it’s not going to work out.”