The Great Recession caused him to look for a new line of work. Now, he only wishes he’d looked sooner.
In 2008, few industries were thriving. The recession was taking a toll on virtually every sector, and Jeremy Turner found himself in the particularly unenviable position of selling kitchen and bath appliances to a country that had abruptly stopped building and renovating homes. By 2009, Turner had taken a hard look at his career and decided not only did he not want to work in appliances anymore, he didn’t want to work for anyone but himself.
“When we were hit hardest by the economy, I started getting introspective,” Turner said. “I worked so hard and I’d done so much for the company I worked for, and I started thinking ‘Why have I done this for other people? Why haven’t I done this for myself? Why haven’t I started my own business?’”
Turner suspected that the best path to business ownership might be through franchising, but he admits he knew little about the industry.
“I thought it might take a lot of money to get in the game,” he said. “I didn’t really understand the options. I thought you could pick between giant fast food brands, like McDonald’s, or tiny little businesses that couldn’t be scaled up.”
Despite his rather limited perception of his options, Turner decided to reach out to a franchise consultant. He quickly found he had misunderstood that resource too, thinking he might be able to secure a loan for one of those giant fast food franchises he’d imagined joining.
“I called a franchise consultant and asked them what franchise they would loan me money for,” he said. “She just laughed and explained that I was approaching the whole thing wrong.”
Though Turner’s consultant, like all franchise consultants, was not in the business of awarding loans to prospective franchisees, she revealed to Turner an array of options in the franchise industry that would suit him better than a massive fast food chain.
The consultant worked with Turner to learn about his financials, personal interests, professional experience, career goals and a host of traits before presenting him with a list of twenty franchise opportunities she thought might work for him.
“I didn’t realize there were franchises for every industry,” Turner said. “She told me to go through three or four at a time, look at each carefully, and start ruling out the ones that I wasn’t interested in.”
Turner ruled out most of the concepts he looked at rather quickly, but one stuck out: a lawn-care franchise called Lawn Doctor. Turner didn’t have any experience with lawns, but the operational model looked interesting, and he suspected it might be something he could grow.
“I didn’t know anything about lawn care, so I wasn’t sure it was for me, but the concept stuck out, so I set it aside as I looked into other concepts,” he said.
Turner continued investigating the franchise concepts he had not immediately ruled out, but as he dug deeper into each, he started seeing some worrying signs.
“I started making calls to franchisees, and for every franchise I looked into, I was finding franchisees who weren’t happy, except for Lawn Doctor. Every Lawn Doctor franchisee I spoke with loved their work, they loved the business, they loved the brand and they loved the industry.”
Turner made the decision to sign on with Lawn Doctor on Christmas Eve of 2009. By January 10, he was training at the brand’s corporate headquarters.
Eight years later, Turner now operates multiple Lawn Doctor territories throughout the St. Louis area. That growth took some time, but far less than Turner said he expected.
“When I signed on with Lawn Doctor, I knew it was something I wanted to grow, but I also knew that I was completely new to lawn care. I decided that I could handle two territories right off the bat, and I had a plan to take on two more after about five years. But after my first season, the operation was doing well, and I felt ready to start the expansion process much sooner.”
Today, Turner’s operation services thousands of customers but he says that his rapid expansion throughout the market is not unusual for Lawn Doctor owners.
“I noticed a trend early on. When Lawn Doctor enters a new market, if the franchisee follows the model, they quickly become the dominant player in the market. You’re a local owner, but you have the support, systems, program and buying power of a national brand. When I started with 0 customers, I was still able to buy like my competitors. And our branding and services are so much stronger. If you get one customer on a residential street, you are going to get five on that street pretty quickly.”
Though Turner’s growth is not unusual for Lawn Doctor owners, Eric Martin, the brand’s vice president of franchise development, says that growth is a result of Turner’s dedication to building a strong operation, something Martin looks for in every new Lawn Doctor franchisee.
“Jeremy came to Lawn Doctor with a very clear goal of building something sustainable for himself,” Martin said. “That’s what we love to see when we talk to prospective franchisees. Jeremy has taken advantage of everything we have to offer and has created an annuity type business with high annual customer retention rates. Jeremy truly understands customer service and is very customer focused. This mentality has helped him build a fantastic business and expand it throughout the St. Louis area.”
The growth of Turner’s Lawn Doctor has not only generated an enviable revenue stream, it’s also allowed Turner a level of freedom he’d never had in the corporate world.
“As I’ve grown, I’ve turned my operation into a business where on any given day, if I don’t go to work, I have people in place that make everything happen behind the scenes,” he said. “I have the freedom to do the things I want to do. If I want to leave for vacation a little early, I can do that. There’s a lot of freedom that comes with growth.”
Turner attributes much of his success with Lawn Doctor to the brand’s recurring revenue model. For someone whose previous career was crippled by a turn in the economy, the stability provided by that model is a crucial asset.
“In my old industry, I was working with a new client for every transaction,” he said. “Someone was remodeling their kitchen or they needed a new appliance, so I would sell them what they need and that’s it, they weren’t likely to come back anytime soon. Lawn Doctor is nothing like that. It’s repetitive, like a cell phone or cable bill. You sell a customer one time, and they are with you for a long time; you don’t have to re-sell them. You just make sure they have a good experience, and the business keeps coming in. That kind of repeat business is hard to come by in most industries.”
Turner has no plans to slow the growth of his business anytime soon. He says he’s found his place in an industry he knew little to nothing about before he started eight years ago.
“I never thought of myself as a lawn-care guy, so I was reluctant at first, but from a business perspective, everything looked right. I set out to own my own business, and that’s what I’ve done with Lawn Doctor. If I have any regret, it’s that I didn’t start sooner.”