This month, we spoke with Ryan Meinika, who, with the help of his wife Leaha, runs a Spring-Green Lawn Care franchise in Columbia City, Ind.
|Ryan Meinika is a franchisee at Spring-Green Lawn Care. To the right, his wife Leaha.
Ryan Meinika decided to start Spring-Green Lawn Care Columbia City, Ind. after graduating from Ball State University in 2005 and researching options to purchase a franchise in the Fort Wayne metro area. He soon decided that Spring-Green would offer the perfect blend of company support mixed with the freedom to take entrepreneurial risks. He knew he’d be on his own, but he’d have lots of help when he needed it.
In the beginning, of course, it wasn’t easy. Meinika invested $100,000 in the franchise fee, equipment and other start-up costs, and he hired a telemarketing company to help him develop leads. Yet thanks to his persistence and Spring-Green’s support system, he was able to attract dedicated customers. Meinika’s Spring-Green franchise has grown every year, and last year it doubled in size as he added a new territory.
1. Why did you get involved in franchising and how long have you been doing it?
I started my franchise in fall of 2005 to take advantage of the proven systems of an established company. I knew that I could adopt their methods and design and benefit from their trial and error over the years without having to take all of the risks myself.
2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of franchising?
The most important, useful advantage is the system itself. You have a marketing department and call center, things that a small business couldn’t have on its own. All of the franchises have a system called Frame Connect, and we get on it and ask questions and learn what’s going on. Anytime we need advice or to talk to someone else that’s going through the same situation, we can do that, and it’s invaluable.
Another advantage is collective buying power. If I was by myself, my little business would be paying full prices on everything. Collective buying power brings collective material costs down. I don’t really feel there are any disadvantages to the franchise system itself. Obviously there are fees, but I consider that to be simply another business expense and we receive so much in return that this more than makes up for the franchise costs. We have a great support system, and Spring-Green helps us with marketing and materials.
I don’t want to sound like you just buy into a franchise and it all works out. There is obviously still a lot of risk involved, but you can minimize that risk by following the proven model you are buying into. You might be a franchise, but it’s still your business. You are free to do what you think works best for your individual market and nobody knows your business like you do. There will be mistakes made, but you can learn from them and your business can come out stronger and actually benefit from them.
3. What advice would you have for someone who is thinking about buying a franchise?
Follow the system. It’s a franchise because it works. At the same time, you still have to make decisions for yourself and your business. They give you an outline and you have to color it in. Every market is different and you can make subtle changes. Doing mailers and home shows work very well for me, but they might not work for someone else.
4. What type of personality is best-suited for being a franchisee?
In most ways, it’s not too different from any other business. You have to be hard working, willing to put in 80 hour weeks and do what you need to do to make it work. You have to be persistent and confident. To fully utilize the franchise system, you also have to be able to work well with others and take advantage of the system. Within my contract, there are things that I can’t do. The trucks have to be uniform and look the same. There’s a list of approved services. Yet overall I am still free to make decisions for the business while benefitting from all the tools of the franchise system.
5. What is the biggest challenge you face being a franchisee?
Keeping quality employees is a huge challenge in any business. I have found a way to do it, and that’s been a vital part of our success. You’re as good as the people you have working for you. Our employees go above and beyond, and that’s what sets us apart.
In the beginning, financing is also difficult. We bought two trucks and a ride on spreader. I basically used my garage to start off with, and the spare bedroom in our house became our office. I was fortunate enough to get a bank loan to start off with.
Getting customers and keeping customers while staying competitive can be challenging. Initially, I was also just unfamiliar with the system, and I had to adapt and learn as I went along. That’s why the support center is there – they give you everything that you need to learn as you go. They can’t do everything for you, though; you have to learn.
Growing too fast, if there is such a thing, is another challenge. You have to be ready for the business to take off and exceed your expectations. If not, you will crash. We were able to handle our large growth last year because I have surrounded myself with great employees.
I couldn’t do what I do without the support of my wife, Leaha, who works alongside me in the office. The fact that she is behind me 110 percent has given me the confidence to take Spring-Green where it is right now, with five full-time employees.