How They're Doing It
- Develop a detailed financial plan that is sales-, profit- and goal-oriented
- Become an educator
- Be realistic with expectations
- Offer "natural" services so you don't miss out on this growing market
- Use promotions to develop a solid base of business early in the year
- Reach out to past clients to win them back
- Provide consistent, reliable service
- Be attentive and responsive
- Become a valuable member of the community you serve
- As the owner, remain the face of your company
Women have assumed a more prominent role as business leaders over the past few years. In fact, U.S. Census Bureau data suggests that nearly one-third of small businesses are now owned by women. Furthermore, the growth rate of women-owned small businesses is much higher than the national average.
Though not nearly as dramatic, positive trends are also being seen in the Green Industry. For example, Green Industry PRO's March/April issue featured contractor Julie Copps, a female horticulturalist who has built a thriving multi-service landscape business in Montana.
Over the past year, three ambitious women have abandoned successful white-collar careers to become Lawn Doctor franchisees. Their unique perspectives on sales, customer service and environmental stewardship have helped them to quickly build strong foundations for businesses that can continue to grow and profit. Here are their stories.
Western Chicago Suburbs
Started in August 2011
Previously in education
Kim Toth has never considered herself a landscaping aficionado. But in 2011, her inability to find a lawn care contractor that offered a "natural" program piqued her interest in the business.
"My husband and I were concerned with our son's health issues," Toth says. "We were looking for someone who offered environmentally friendly fertilizer and weed control, but didn't have much luck."
At the same time, the Toths were looking for a franchise business they could buy into. They found Lawn Doctor online. In August 2011 they opened up a brand new territory. Then, in March of this year, they purchased an existing territory from a franchisee that was moving to another state.
"We went from 40 customers to 540, and quickly grew that to 670 by the end of April," Toth says.
Toth now makes "natural lawn care" an important part of her service offering, though it only represents roughly 10% of revenue. However, even her regular program incorporates fertilizer blends of synthetic with natural and organic nutrient sources. Then, her natural program utilizes Milorganite or poultry manure-based fertilizer.
Toth's previous career as a high school biology teacher gives her an edge when it comes to sales. "I think it's important to educate consumers," Toth says. "It's also important to be realistic about expectations; you can't be weed-free after a single application. We work hard to inform our customers about what's going on and how the products are going to work."
Toth is also a big believer in the age-old rule: Treat others as you'd want to be treated. It sounds cliché, but many contractors do not get it. "We think that this presents a tremendous opportunity for growth," Toth points out. "When we talk to prospects, the thing we hear over and over is that they are not happy with their current contractor's attentiveness. Having someone local who genuinely cares about their yard is very important."
Speaking of unhappy customers, Toth has had success in reclaiming clients who had cancelled on the previous owner. "Continuing to talk to past customers is important, but listening to them is even more important," Toth says. "Sometimes people just want to be heard—and to be reassured that you truly care about them. They need to be able to reach you when there's a problem—and need to know that you're going to be there to help them."
Started in January 2012
Previously in city and economic development