After 21 years teaching humanities and coaching sports, Morrison opened his first business with the lawn-care brand.
David Morrison, or Coach Morrison, as he is known in his home-town of Edmond, Oklahoma, taught at a high school in Edmond for 21 years before he became a Lawn Doctor owner. With a degree in social studies education and teaching certifications in more than a dozen subjects, Coach Morrison had long thought of himself as a career teacher, and he’d never considered going into business for himself. That was before he discovered the lawn-care franchise.
Coach Morrison first started thinking about leaving teaching roughly around the time it became commonplace for students to use their cell phones during class. “I’m old school,” he said. “The social media, the lack of attention, it was driving me crazy.”
As Coach Morrison started to consider other career options outside of the classroom, sales began to seem like a natural fit. One aspect of teaching that Coach Morrison had always liked was speaking with people, and he suspected his ability to relate to people would translate to success in the sales world.
“I taught sociology, geography, history, all sorts of different things, and I coached football and golf. I can communicate with folks on any level about all kinds of subjects,” Coach Morrison said.
Coach Morrison began looking around for sales jobs. After posting his resume online, Coach Morrison got a call from a franchise broker who thought he might be qualified to run a Lawn Doctor operation.
“I wasn’t paying much attention at first,” Coach Morrison said. “I thought it was just another recruiter trying to get me to sell insurance. But then he said a couple things that grabbed my attention. He said ‘lawn care’ and he said ‘existing book of 94,000.’”
Coach Morrison said he’d never thought about going into the lawn-care business, but he enjoyed fertilizing his own lawn, and the idea that he could make a profession out of that hobby intrigued him. As for the existing book of business, Coach Morrison knew enough about sales to know that kind of client base is an enormous advantage for any business.
Coach Morrison began researching Lawn Doctor, and the first thing that stuck out to him was the brand’s proprietary equipment.
“The equipment I saw, was impressive,” Coach Morrison said. “They have tools that no one else has. Now that I’ve been with the brand for a while, I can say that equipment is really what makes us what we are, but even back then it was clear they had something special.”
Still, Coach Morrison was apprehensive about owning his own business. It wasn’t what he’d set out for when he started looking for a new career, and he had little experience in the business world, but he was intrigued by the model and the freedom it promised. Coach Morrison brought the idea to his wife, who convinced him to go for it.
“My wife was supportive about the idea, so I reached out to Lawn Doctor and got the process started,” Coach Morrison said. “My plan was to start slow. I’d continue teaching and build the business as I went.”
Coach Morrison purchased the Lawn Doctor of Edmond territory from a retiring owner, and he hired the previous owner’s technician to service lawns while he was at school. Coach Morrison’s cautious strategy was quickly revised, however, as he was getting more than enough to service calls to take on the business full-time in his first months open.
“I didn’t know what to expect in terms of picking up new customers,” Coach Morrison said. “I’d never run a business before. I didn’t know if I was going to have to stand outside of a busy intersection with a sign begging for customers, but I was getting so many calls for service, and I just didn’t have the time.”
So, still fresh on his feet at Lawn Doctor, Coach Morrison left his teaching job and took on the lawn-care business full-time. Excited to flex his muscles as a salesperson, Morrison dedicated himself to customer acquisition until he hit a snag. Morrison’s sole technician was going through a divorce and had to quit. For the next three months, Morrison would have to do all of the field work and all of the sales and marketing himself.
Fortunately, Coach Morrison was not entirely on his own. With the help of Lawn Doctor’s support team and a number of other franchisees in the area, Coach Morrison was able to continue running the business effectively.
“The support Lawn Doctor provided was essential,” Coach Morrison said. “I learned early on, the trick is to never get frustrated. There is always a solution, you just have to reach out and ask. You can ask Lawn Doctor for help, or you can reach out to other franchisees. That network of support was a huge benefit in my first year, and it’s still something I rely on now that my business has grown.”
Those first few months without a technician had another benefit. Coach Morrison, who had never serviced lawns as a professional before, was quickly required to learn the ins and outs of the technical side of the business.
“Lawn Doctor had trained me in everything I needed to get started, but it’s a whole other thing to actually get out there and start doing applications,” Coach Morrison said. “It was really important for me to start doing it myself in those first few months. Now that I have technicians, I know exactly what they are doing, and exactly what they can handle because I’ve done it all myself. I’ve also been able to make adjustments to how I run the business to make my technicians more effective.”
While Coach Morrison was busy in the field during his first months, he relied on some inexpensive marketing solutions, which he knew had the potential to be less effective than more robust—and more expensive—marketing campaigns, but the results were more than encouraging.
“I started with online coupons, and I knew the downside with coupons is that you don’t know if customers are going to come back without the coupon,” Coach Morrison said. “So it was risky, but I converted almost every single one into a full-time customer, so it really paid off. It just shows that people are enthusiastic about the service, you just have to let them know you are there.”
By the start of his second season as a Lawn Doctor owner, Coach Morrison had hired a full-time technician and was able to focus on growing the business.
“I could have hired a technician earlier, but I was determined to find someone who was capable, reliable and responsible,” Coach Morrison said. “Once I found the right guy, I was able to put more energy into the business side.”
With the help of a full-time technician in the field, Coach Morrison set to work on fine-tuning two key aspects of the business: customer retention and cash flow.
“Sales was the name of the game in year two,” Coach Morrison said. “I knew that retention and a steady cash flow were two essential areas that I had to lock down to ensure the growth of the business. Fortunately, those two things go hand in hand.”
In order to secure long-term commitments from clients and consistent payments throughout the year, Coach Morrison instituted incentives for clients to pre-pay for services and sign up for automatic payments. That initiative gave Coach Morrison a more accurate projection of his business’s finances, and he was able to start growing accordingly.
Now, as Coach Morrison approaches his fourth season, he has a second territory in North Oklahoma City, a second truck, three technicians and he’s preparing to hire an office assistant.
“As the team grows, I’m able to focus more and more on the business,” Coach Morrison said. “I work almost exclusively in the office these days. If a tech is sick, I can help out in the field, but my main focus is on sales, and I really feel like we’re thriving.”
When Coach Morrison first purchased his Lawn Doctor territory, he said he had about 180 customers. Now, he services roughly 1000. Coach Morrison said by the end of his next season, he hopes to reach 1,800.
That kind of growth is not unusual for a new Lawn Doctor owner, even one with as little previous experience in the industry as Coach Morrison. Eric Martin, Lawn Doctor’s vice president of franchise development, said the franchise is more interested in finding owners who are passionate about the work than those with the best business or lawn-care experience.
“Owners like David are exactly the types of folks we love coming into the business,” Martin said. “David is motivated, he’s great with people and he understands the value of what we’re doing. The other stuff can be taught. Our equipment makes the applications easy for just about anyone, and it doesn’t take a special degree to apply our business model. It really comes down to, are you willing work hard to apply the model and build something with us, and David clearly is.”
Though Coach Morrison wasn’t looking to own a business when he first discovered Lawn Doctor, now that he does own one, he’s determined to take it as far as he can.
“You can quickly find a fairly comfortable lifestyle with Lawn Doctor and just keep your business humming along, but that’s not why I’m doing this,” Coach Morrison said. “I want to put my stamp on this thing. I want to work hard and be rewarded for my work in the long-term. I can see that the more work you put into this business, the more you are rewarded. That’s been the case even just in my first four years, and I’m excited to keep growing and finding a greater reward.”