Case Study: Franchise Power
WHAT LANDSCAPE CONTRACTOR’S eyes wouldn’t light up at the prospect of ten to fifteen percent of business growth a year, every single year? Or new accounts where the work is under written contract? Or when you’re able to pay your bills on time, every time?
This is the last decade’s reality for Mississippi landscape contractor David Purcell, a former independent who now operates the U.S. Lawns franchise in Ridgeland, Mississippi.
“My company used to be named Plantscape Landscape Management,” Purcell recalls. “In reality, I was a grass cutter, with maybe three fellows working with me, many more residential accounts than commercial accounts, and gross sales of about $300,000.”
Purcell became a U.S. Lawns franchisee in 1999. “Since then, thanks to U.S. Lawns, I’ve grown ten to fifteen percent a year, to where I’m about to gross $2,000,000. I never thought this Mississippi boy would ever be running a $2,000,000 business, but it’s happening.”
U.S. Lawns made Purcell’s meteoric success possible. Twenty-five years old, with more than 240 franchisees in thirty-nine states, U.S.
Lawns is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the ValleyCrest Companies. With both new franchisees who’ve never been in the landscape industry before, and professionals like Purcell who convert an existing business to a U.S. Lawns franchise, the firm draws a sharp distinction between “landscape maintenance” and “landscape management.”
“We’re landscape managers,” emphasizes U.S. Lawns president Ken Hutcheson. “We see an upside profit limit for contractors who do mostly residential landscape maintenance.
We focus on commercial accounts, where the franchisee can have an actual relationship with the customer —whether that customer runs a shopping center or an apartment complex—and has a smaller number of better-paying accounts to manage. Thirty to seventy-five commercial accounts is ideal.” Purcell immediately saw the advantage. “Most of my residential business had to be renewed every spring, since they weren’t on year round contracts. As I shifted over to managing the landscapes of commercial accounts, I was able to let those residential accounts go, one by one. I still do a limited number of residences, but typically only when I’ve got a relationship with the customer through a business account.” Acquiring a U.S.
For Purcell, that staff grew quickly. He now has crew chiefs, an operations manager, and an administrative assistant, in addition to more than thirty men in the field. “Actually, compared to 1999, it’s easier for me. My biggest problem is that I still have that urge to micro-manage.”
Being a U.S. Lawns franchisee is not for everyone, but Purcell gives massive credit for his growth and success to his parent company. “It’s not like going to your local Subway sandwich shop,” he notes. “Customers are not going to walk through your door. But if you’re willing to work to succeed, you’re a fool if you don’t buy one.”