Sam Morgan founded his first Weed Man Franchise in Wilmington, North Carolina in 2001. Three years later, he sold that one and created a franchise in Normington, NC. Over the past 11 years, he says that he has enjoyed consistent, profitable growth by tenaciously executing the systems that Weed Man has provided to him. Above all, Morgan believes that door knocking and face-to-face interactions are the best ways to gain new leads, close sales and convert those sales to regular, paying customers.
1. Why did you get involved in franchising and how long have you been doing it?
At the time, I was working for a full-service landscaping business that did everything from mowing to trimming, planting, hardscapes and lighting. We dabbled in turf care on our existing mowing accounts, but we really didn’t know what we were doing. I had a friend named Ken who is now in charge of North Carolina and Georgia for Weed Man. At the time, he was selling turf equipment. I saw how he was able to start a Barefoot Lawns franchise from scratch and grow it to hundreds of customers quickly. I liked it.
Ken called me because we had a relationship. Right away I said, ‘If you say it’s the same thing as Barefoot, I’m in, because we’ll get a lot of customers.’ I signed up, and that was in 2001. I learned how to follow the systems. We did telemarketing – we didn’t like it, but we did it – and soon we had 4,000 leads, 400 customers and we were rookie of the year. That was in Wilmington. I sold that franchise and opened a second Weedman franchise in Normington in 2004, and I’ve grown it from there.
Honestly, the model that I used was Ken. He knew what he was doing when it came to lawn care, and I assumed we could duplicate that. I knew Ken and took a leap of faith. At the time, I didn’t dig that deep into the systems per se. I was just lucky that Ken was right.
2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of franchising?
Franchising provides you with marketing systems to help you get leads. A lot has changed in lawn care from 2001 until now. We have a ‘Do Not Call’ list. We used to buy phone lists, but now many people have cell phones and they have shut off their home phones. There’s less accessibility, so going door to door really allows you to get in front of people. You’re right there in person, and the closing rates are great. Weed Man provides you with a system, and that includes a database that has everyone in your area that’s already in it. It’s also already routed, so if we sell 30 accounts in one day, we can print them out in a routed order and get it done the next day as fast as possible. From business plans to marketing and administration, the biggest advantage of franchising is that it offers one system, making you as productive as possible.
Another advantage is the network of other Weed Mans that we get to talk to. There are over 100 Weed Mans around the country that I can call on. Some of the franchisees in our area, we’re even tighter and I can call on them weekly or even daily. If the Georgia or North Carolina group doesn’t have the answer, then I can go outside. It’s nice to have that. A lot of time landscapers won’t even wave to each other in town, they’re so afraid someone is going to give away some information. Yet with Weed Man, we don’t have to worry about that. They’ve been in our shoes and they can help us be successful.
In terms of disadvantages, there’s a fee to be involved but it is well worth it so I don’t think that’s a disadvantage. As a whole, there’s nothing I’ve really been unhappy with.
3. What advice would you have for someone who is thinking about entering the world of franchising?
I think the systems are important. You’re investing some money to use the Weed Man name and have access to the systems, so don’t try to reinvent the wheel. It’s all just math and statistics, and it works. If you knock on doors, you get certain number of leads, close a certain percentage, a certain number will cancel, and a certain number will up-sell. As long as you’re following the system it’s going to come together in the end.
Even with the economy the way it is, we grew by $300,000 in 2010 and $400,000 in 2011. We’ve just followed the systems. We’re aggressive and we do what we’re supposed to do. That kind of growth can happen even in a bad economy. No matter how much Internet advertising you do– and we do it – you’re just not going to get the numbers you’ll get by going out and knocking on doors. You can’t wait for people to come to you. We’ll originate 10,000 leads knocking on doors this year.
4. What is one thing you know now that you wish you knew when you started franchising?
Maybe that cash is a little more king than I thought. It takes money to start a business and get the work done. There were times in the beginning when, if we had a little more cash set aside, we wouldn’t have been so stressed out. Earlier on, when we were smaller, cash was very important. We’re not independently wealthy, so we just did what we could. We hit a bump when the No Call List came out and our door knocking system wasn’t fully operational yet, but we had that figured out within a season.
5. What type of personality is best-suited for being a franchisee?
You can’t be afraid to work. The most successful franchisees are willing to put in the time. You set the pace, speed and hours, so you have to be the last one out. It takes a while to build your people, to develop people that can be the first ones in and last ones out. Last year was the first year when I could back away at times and let my managers take over. Now I can get out of the moment, day and week and manage the process.
I’m not a 40 hour a week guy and we’re not a 40 hour a week company. The average that people work around our office is probably 50, and people that can’t handle that don’t work here long. Lawn care itself is not a 40 hour a week job, and the risk gets greater the bigger you get. You can delegate all you want. What’s changed is that I’ve done from 80 hours a week to 60 hours. I don’t think I’ll ever back down to 40 hours.
Right now, I have a technical manager, sales manager and office manager. Yet not a day goes by that I’m not coaching and critiquing. You have to deal with your business every day.