Charlie Winkler and his partner Gregory Iverson started a franchise in the moving and junk removal industry a couple years ago. They learned what it took to launch a business, to market a brand, to get and keep customers – and to pay out royalties. Then, they decided to start their own landscaping firm.
In 2013, they launched Yard Tender, and the $100,000 firm (in its startup year) is poised to at least double revenues, Winkler hopes. Probably triple. Just depends on how thing go. Meanwhile, the partners are applying some lessons they learned in franchising to their new, original business.
Look the part. Yard Tender’s crews are clean and polished, dressed in uniform and arrive in company trucks. That goes a long way when your competition lacks presentation. “We have guys who are clean-cut – we’re not just out there in our jeans and T-shirts,” Winkler says.
Deliver on the promise. “We kept hearing that there were a lot of contractors that wouldn’t follow up, that wouldn’t finish jobs on time, or weren’t honest upfront with their quotes,” Winkler says, adding that he and Iverson took some customer service lessons from their franchise business. “It’s important in the contracting industry, and any industry, to be honest with clients and develop a good rapport because those customers are your biggest vehicle for driving new business.”
Market smart. Yard Tender didn’t have an advertising allowance or the backing of a national brand to kick-start a marketing program. But that hasn’t been necessary because of social media tools, Winkler says. The company has an active Facebook page that Winkler personally updates every day. Yard Tender also contracted with a search engine optimization (SEO) firm to help with certain online promotions, such as ticket giveaways on Facebook. “We have relied heavily on our network of people,” Winkler says.