The Kansas company continues to grow more than three decades after Mike Rollf took over on his own.
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. - Lawn Master Systems could have gone out of business in 1979 when Mike Rollf's business partner left the two-year-old venture. Mike had just returned from his honeymoon. His wife, Vicki, had recently moved to Overland Park from Nebraska to marry him. The whole thing could have been a multi-level disaster.
Vicki thinks one word explains why the irrigation and landscape lighting company is a thriving business 35 years after its founding – vision. "Mike's dad had vision, and that's why we're here,” she said.
In 1976, Mike' s father, Neil Rollf, was vice president of production at Russell Stover Candies in Kansas City, Mo. Neil noticed that very few people in the area had lawn sprinkler systems. He called Mike in Nebraska and suggested he fill the void.
Mike did it, but it was not easy. "He could have quit when his business partner left," Vicki said. "Instead, he worked hard and continues to keep up with new products and technology."
At first, Mike and Vicki pursued separate careers. Across the state line in Kansas City, Mo., Vicki worked in retail at Jack Henry Clothing and then the merchandise division at what is now Campfire USA national headquarters. They also have a daughter, Alicia, who is a special education teacher in the Blue Valley, Kan., school district.
In 1998, Vicki joined her husband at Lawn Master Systems. Exercising his own vision, Mike could see how the marketing skills Vicki had developed over the years could benefit the company. Vicki changed the logo, added branded apparel for employees, developed promotional literature, created project and vehicle signage and started a website.
Together they also recognized an additional service the business could offer if Vicki studied outdoor landscape lighting. Now, with Vicki creating custom designs and Mike installing the systems, landscape lighting has become an additional contributor to their bottom line.
Mike gives Vicki and her lighting designs and marketing vision much of the credit for Lawn Master Systems' continued success in today's market. "We make a good team," he said. "Vicki has led the marketing charge and added another service for our customers. This was especially important in overcoming the 2008 economic downturn. Now our overall annual growth is 20 percent."
Today, Mike and Vicki remain hands-on owners paying personal attention to customer's needs.