Interview with Jim Stewart of Greensleeves Lawn Care, Aberdeenshire
Franchisee: Jim Stewart
Franchise: Greensleeves Lawn Care
Why did you go down the franchise route? And why did you choose your franchise?
I was immediately attracted to investing in a franchise because of the proven track record of success they provide, along with the low business failure rate. I felt that the market knowledge, supplier relations, marketing expertise and defined tried and tested procedures that come with purchasing a franchise were extremely beneficial and something that I would not have access to as an independent, new start up business. I was also acutely aware that I would be in an advantageous position whereby I could learn from others mistakes and receive excellent training. All this combined with the realistic buy in costs and exclusive geographic area made franchising the obvious route for me.
Like many people who have spent their professional careers going from car or aeroplane to stuffy office meetings and hotel rooms the appeal of working outdoors was a real draw. I was very much attracted by the vision of a much healthier working environment and a healthier, more active lifestyle. Lawn Care provided all this and when I met Greensleeves I knew they were the company for me.
What did you do before taking up a franchise?
After 25 years as an executive in the electronic component industry I was made redundant in 2010 which came as a shock. I took the time off to look around at what areas I could venture into and decided franchising was perfect for me. Whilst I wanted to run my own company I also wanted the security that a franchise offers.
What training and support did you receive initially and ongoing?
The initial training took place over two weeks at Greensleeves head office. It was organised to coincide with some other new starters which was nice as everyone is in the same boat and you all learn together. The training package was extremely comprehensive focusing on all aspects of the business from practical lessons on how to carry out the actual lawn treatments through to business administration, finance and marketing training. I was impressed with the level of support provided, nothing was too much trouble. The support was ongoing as well with regular contact and visits once I was up and running.
What is a typical day for you as a franchisee?
My daily work routine has altered as the business has developed and is very varied. We are very fortunate that we have a great team of customer facing staff that are out treating lawns 5 or sometimes 6 days a week. This allows me the time to manage the business and make sure we are giving the best service we can whilst maximising our business opportunity. I spend one day a week in the office keeping on top of enquiries and following up on quotations. The rest of the week I am out seeing potential new customers and handling service calls. When time allows I will do some door to door canvassing which is a great way to attract new customers. I really enjoy being outdoors and meeting people whilst growing my business.
What challenges have you faced?
The weather can be extremely challenging – it has a significant impact on our business for example last summer’s heavy rainfall meant that lawns were by and large looking lush. On the other hand the warm and damp conditions lead to many lawns developing red thread and in some cases moss continuing to grow through the summer months, we therefore had to take appropriate action to rectify this. So far this summer the warm, dry conditions have left many lawns looking dried out and in poor condition so we have a new challenge. No matter the weather we experience different challenges and as a result opportunities to help our customers.
Has becoming a franchisee changed your life, if so how?
My life has changed completely, I have gone from working in an office for somebody else to running my own business in the outdoors employing my own team and I find it invigorating. I definitely feel fitter and healthier from working outdoors in the fresh air.
What marketing/promotional tools do you use to grow your franchise?
I use a variety of tools to compliment the national marketing activities that head office take care of. For example this year head office ran a national advertising campaign in Ideal Home and Gardeners World so I complimented it with my own local advertising, leafleting and PR which I find works well. We have a dedicated marketing company that is made available to us by head office to assist us with any activities we undertake which helps.
What differentiates your franchise from the competition?
After meeting up with two lawn care franchises I picked Greensleeves because of their in-depth knowledge, attention to detail, professional manner and friendly management staff. I was told how successful their franchisees are and what to expect. It was explained how some franchisees worked with partners, children and friends. This was an idea I warmed to as my hope when I started was that in 5 years time my franchise will be bringing employment to the Aberdeen area, helping people like myself who found themselves out of work. Now only 3 years on I am already in that position.
In your opinion, what makes a successful franchisee?
To be successful you need to work hard in all areas of the business and ensure that you provide the utmost levels of service to your customers. A large amount of my new business comes from customer referrals – when you do a good job people tell their friends and family. There is no quick fix it takes time and dedication but it is certainly worth it.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of buying their first franchise?
Take your time and select the right franchise for you, the support that I have received from Greensleeves has been excellent and I cannot stress the importance enough of finding the right fit with the franchise that you choose. Talk to as many people as you can including the competitors in the same market. Be sure to budget and plan realistically and get the support from your partner and family. Be prepared to work hard, paying a franchise fee is not a guarantee for success. Be resilient, there will be tough times in the early years but with the right work ethic and the support from your franchisor and your family you will succeed.
What are your plans for the future?
So far we have exceeded both our customer numbers and revenue targets year on year which has allowed us to bring on 2 full time employees and 3 part time employees and put a second van on the road. Business is looking good and I am currently looking at investing in a third van which will also require another member of staff. I am very enthusiastic to see what is next, the business is growing and I am having a lot of fun running it.
Would you do it again?
Absolutely, I wish I had done it sooner.