The Kalamazoo-Portage Lawn Doctor owner worked for a competitor for six years before starting his own business
In January of 2011, Bryan Sallmen purchased his first Lawn Doctor territory in Kalamazoo, Michigan. But the acquisition was not his first foray into lawn care. Sallmen had worked for a competing lawn-care company for six years before joining Lawn Doctor. In fact, it was his work with the Lawn Doctor competitor that he says inspired him to make the switch.
“During those six years, I was constantly running into Lawn Doctor customers, and it was undeniable that their lawns looked better and they were much happier with the service,” Sallmen said.
Eventually, Sallmen says he decided to do some research into his competitor to find out what was giving Lawn Doctor the edge. What he found was an advantage that was both simpler than he expected and impossible to match: Lawn Doctor’s proprietary equipment.
“I started looking into their equipment, and I realized quickly that that’s how they were able to do better work than us and so much more efficiently,” he said.
After learning about the brand’s equipment, Sallmen says he was determined to become a Lawn Doctor owner. After going through the qualification and diligence process, he was invited to a discovery day at the corporate headquarters.
“I went out to a discovery day as soon as I could and quickly knew that this was the right fit for me. I put a plan and an application together, and opened my Lawn Doctor shortly thereafter,” Sallmen said.
With his experience in the industry, Sallmen says he had aggressive goals for his first year, all of which he exceeded. Seven years later, he’s seen an increase in customers and revenue every year.
“I knew the industry when I started, so I set some high-performance goals,” he said. “I far outpaced those in the first year, and in every year since, I’ve outperformed the previous year.”
Equally as important as his financial success, Sallmen says Lawn Doctor has provided him the freedom he always wanted as a business owner, without requiring the years of hard work he saw the other business owners in his life put in.
“I love being my own boss. I always knew that’s what I wanted for my life, but I watched my father and grandfather build small businesses for themselves, and it took them each fifteen years to do it. I was willing to put in the work, but I didn’t want to take fifteen years to get there,” he said.
Sallmen does not credit the rapid growth of his Lawn Doctor exclusively to the brand’s patented equipment. He says his operation is reinforced by a wealth of support systems.
“We have any number of advisors and corporate support staff available to us at any time, for any issue,” he said. “Each December, a senior equipment tech comes out to my shop to help make sure all our equipment is in good shape and that my staff knows the best ways to use it. We also have a regional consultant who has worked in the business for years. I talk with him constantly. He’s the best employee I could ever imagine having, and I don’t even pay him. He’s actually become more of a friend than a consultant. He was even at my wedding. To have that kind of personal support is really something special.”
That personal support extends beyond the corporate team. Sallmen says his neighboring Lawn Doctor owners have become one of his most valuable resources.
“The fellowship has been crucial,” he said. “I never have to figure out anything on my own; I just ask my neighbor. It’s an amazing network of knowledge. Last year I saved 30 percent on fertilizer costs because I teamed up with a few of the local owners to purchase together. You can’t get that kind of advantage on your own.”
As eager as Sallmen is to attribute his success to Lawn Doctor’s technology and people, Eric Martin, the franchise’s vice president of franchise development, notes that Sallmen is responsible for making the most of those resources.
“Bryan is one of the few owners who came to Lawn Doctor with experience in the industry,” Martin said. “Most of our owners came to us from other industries, often from the corporate world. So it is by no means essential that our owner understands all the ins and outs of lawn care before joining; we have world-class training programs for that. What is essential is that they know what they are looking for and that they understand how our model can help achieve that for them. Bryan understands exactly what makes Lawn Doctor such a lucrative business, and he’s worked hard to make the most of the opportunity.”
The success of Sallmen’s Lawn Doctor has proven inspiring to his staff, two of whom have recently expressed an interest to purchase their own Lawn Doctor operations in the Detroit suburbs, an area Sallmen says is particularly lucrative for the lawn care business.
“Two of my employees are planning to start their own franchises outside of Detroit, and I expect they’ll do very well,” Sallmen said. “Not only have they been great employees who know the business well, this area is only becoming more supportive for businesses like ours. Detroit is a beautiful city, and the suburbs are filled with residential neighborhoods with endless lawns. And now that Detroit is on the comeback trail, more businesses and plants are opening up. That brings more jobs, which brings more people, which brings more homes, which brings more lawns. The market for lawn care is only getting bigger and bigger.”
Sallmen, who now owns two territories in the Kalamazoo-Portage area, says he plans to take advantage of the area’s growth to continue expanding his business.
“We’ve exceeded every goal we’ve set for this business, and I have no plans to sit back or slow down,” he said. “Lawn Doctor continues to stay on the leading edge with its products, marketing and services, and as the franchise system continues to grow, I’m excited to grow with it.”