Tips from the Top: Scott Frith, Lawn Doctor

Departments - Top 100

Scott Frith, CEO, Lawn Doctor

June 3, 2013
Chuck Bowen

Scott Frith has pushed the 45-year-old Lawn Doctor brand toward a new model of expansion, targeting “empire builder” owners who view lawn care less as a calling and more of an investment. But he’s gotten there with the old-fashioned work ethic and focus on relationships his father, Russ, taught him.

We operated out of a farmhouse. That was one of the first headquarters for the company when we started the franchise. We started in a hardware store on Main Street in Matawan, N.J., selling product, and became the franchise leader in our space.

Lawn care franchising grew up as very much an owner-operator kind of model. We’ve gotten much more sophisticated.

There’s a lot more people over the last five years looking at lawn care franchising that probably never would have considered it in the past. And they’re looking to be that empire builder where they want five, six, seven, 10 franchises.

They really don’t have a lot of interest in providing the lawn care service themselves. So somebody that maybe would have under a different kind of circumstance been investing a restaurant, they’re now looking at a service.

If I invest $100,000 or $200,000 in the equity market, what’s my likely return on investment, and what’s my risk? If I invest it in the debt market, what’s my return there, and what’s my risk?

The biggest challenge is going to be change management. We’re upgrading our infrastructure and we’ve got a new accounting package. We’ve got a new ERP package. We’ve got to look at production at our manufacturing facility that’s just much more volume. We’re bringing more franchisees into the system than ever before.

We’re the same company we were before. We’ve been around for 45 years. We have the same kind of value system, the same core values as an organization.

I’ve said this to you before, it’s a foot in the past, a foot in the future. Stay focused on the things that are important for the organization. Innovate a little bit quicker. Just move the ball.

There’s a lot that I learned from my father. Nothing worthwhile comes without working. I came to understand that anything worthwhile required a lot of effort and it was important to fully apply yourself.

You have to show up every day. You have to give it 100 percent. You surround yourself with good people, you work really hard toward a common vision, great things happen.

The value of relationships is something I learned from my father really early on. You can take the most convenient path, or the one that’s most advantageous under a particular set of circumstances at that moment, or you can do the right thing for all the people involved. Opportunities come and go, but character is lasting.

You want to always innovate. You want the brand to stay very relevant to the customer. And you want to meet the changing needs of the franchisee. But you can’t push it too far or you find that you’re outstripping the franchisee’s ability to implement these innovations. That’s not good for the company, either.

It’s the passion of the franchisee. They want the customer to be satisfied. They want the repeat business. They want the referral business. And at the end of the day, they have to put food on the table based on their ability to do the right things in the marketplace. And I think that’s why they outperform.

It’s the best of both worlds. And that’s what makes franchising exciting, and that’s what gets me up in the morning.

Some companies want to be the low-cost producer, and do it at the absolute lowest cost, and they want to drive a lot of volume. And that has pros and cons. That has certain implications. Others want to be the premium-priced business that delivers the absolute best experience to the customer. Others want to be the Apple in the lawn care industry, and have a very different kind of brand, a very different culture that’s either cool or quirky.

Whoever you decide to be, just be who you are.