The Franchise 5: John Moehn

Departments - Franchising

John Moehn, Scotts LawnService

August 13, 2012
Brian Horn

Having worked in the corporate wing at Scotts LawnService, John Moehn, president of J M Systems, learned a lot about what made franchisees successful. Now, as an owner of nine Scotts in Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, Tennessee and South Carolina, he is able to apply those lessons learned to his franchises.

“They minimized their distractions as far as other business ventures,” he says. “I’ve seen franchisees that have the entrepreneurial spirit to be a franchisee, and a lot of those people want to be involved in a lot of different things. We’ve really stayed focused on what we do in our franchise and I don’t have three other businesses that I’m trying to run at the same time.”

Lawn & Landscape spoke with Moehn about what he learned working in the corporate world, as well as what it’s like transition from being part of the day-by-day operations to handling more big picture strategies.

What did the franchisees who failed do wrong?

A lot of them weren’t involved day to day and didn’t hire the right people to run the franchise. They got into the franchise system and they applied their principles and their business things that they knew and they learned to a model that was different than what they were possibly doing before.

They didn’t take the advice of how the system should work and implement the different procedures and marketing efforts. They were always trying to do things their own way and put their own spin on it versus listening and buying into a system that you a paying for – hopefully a brand that is successful and is proven already. You should be taking that advice and understanding that they’ve done something right and that they’ve found ways to minimize the potential risk and failures.

What is the challenge in getting a branded franchise off the ground?

Hiring successful people and training them to consistently give the message that you want to give, and produce the quality work you want done. If you want to be large you can’t do this alone and you’ll have to have employees out their representing your company. If you go into it undercapitalized, you are going to have a lot of issues and you can’t spend the money to let people know you’re there. There are a lot of strong successful brands out there in markets that people don’t even know that you’re there because you don’t spend the money.

Just because it’s a brand that people know, they have to know you are there, if they’re going to come to you. You still have to spend the money on the marketing and advertising. Otherwise you’ll just be spinning your wheels hoping that referrals and a good name get you by. Those things are important, but they’re not what grow your business.

What is a best practice to hiring people?

Don’t get in a hurry and hire someone for the wrong reasons. Understand that hiring somebody and training them to do the right things is going to take several weeks if not months to get them to do what you want them to do. If you make the wrong decision you are starting over again, so don’t get in a hurry and train these people. And make sure you do train them when you hire them.

Otherwise, if you don’t give people the right tools to be successful, then they are going to have a hard time being successful. People in general don’t like not having the right experience or the right training to do a job correctly. If you don’t train them, they’re not going to feel that they’re successful and they’re eventually going to leave you because they’re not getting out of their job what they want. It’s not always about being paid for things. People do want to have a feeling of success and self worth.

What was it like when you opened your first franchise?

You don’t have the luxury of having different managerial levels when you start things up. You are everything. When I started Louisville up, there were a lot of 14-hour days that went into that business. You walk into a business and turn on the phones and hope they start ringing.

When you invest a lot of money into something, you’ve got this nervous thing in your belly that you’ve got to make it work and you’re going to put your heart into it. I had guys that were doing a lot of selling the first year, but I probably serviced half the customers myself in the field. Now I’ve been blessed with employees that work hard and I can look at bigger picture things and help us grow.

What was the challenge in transitioning from working on the day-to-day operations to bigger picture strategies?

The biggest challenge to me was delegating the things that you like to do that you shouldn’t be doing. There are certain things that everybody inherently feels they are particularly good at and like to do but they are not key to making your biz successful. You have to give those up things up and let people make decisions. Sometimes, they are going to make the decision that you wouldn’t have made, but you have to know some of those things aren’t going to make or break the business.

They’ve got to make it their own too in some ways. You have to realize that there are people out there that do just a fine job and they might not do it exactly the way you did, but there is nothing wrong with the way they do it.