Line it up
A team of landscapers moved into the parking lot striping business to provide another service for their existing clients. By Chuck Bowen
When you look at a commercial property, what’s the first thing you notice? The beautiful turf? The shrubs near the door? Or the cascading annuals near the entrance?
Have you ever considered the parking lot?
Chris Couri did. He’s president of We Do Lines, based in Richfield, Conn., and he and his partners – Tom Darrow, COO, and Dan Rella, CFO, co-founder and principal – started offering parking lot striping services to their commercial landscaping clients as a way to bolster revenue and do something different.
So far Couri and his team have sold 17 franchises; nine are in full operation, and they work all over the East Coast.
Why did you decide to branch out of the green industry? We had good businesses, but wanted to do something different. We saw really, an opportunity in our market with the line striping, in that it was totally fragmented and underdeveloped and we had a book of business. We wanted another business and to ideally capitalize on what we had been building at our careers as much as possible – that being the reputations and the book of business that we had.
We’re doing the plowing, the mowing, the irrigation. This was just something that wasn’t being done. It’s always nice to do something different. And there was a huge need for it. That’s ultimately what prompted us to franchise the concept.
What landscaping skills were you able to use in your new venture? Initially, we had truck and trailer experience. We had equipment experience. We had vehicles sitting around during the day and were able to put them to work again at night. Eventually, the line striping business far out-stripped everything else we’ve been working on for all these years. We still have our landscaping businesses. We had extra help in the form of labor. If we couldn’t give somebody continual raises in our landscaping businesses, this was an opportunity to have them earn some additional money. It really tied in nicely.
What was totally different? The totally different piece is that there’s 100 percent accountability. If you spill paint in someone’s newly paved parking lot or your lines are crooked, there’s no way to hide from it.
We learned a lot about how to safely and securely protect the parking area. I don’t think a lot of us realized how erratic people can drive. We learned that we absolutely had to control the scene. In a lot of cases, we go out at night. The night work was a nuance we had not been used to.
What advice do you have for other landscapers interested in adding an outside-the-industry service? Understand that they should be able to leverage their current books of business and really maximize as much as possible. How much of your skills and resources and clients are transferable? Making sure you have the right person for the job. Our contention was that this could be a full-time proposition. That has to be taken seriously if they’re looking to get into a new business. It’s hard to do something part time. Make sure they have the resources or the right person to give this new offshoot or division a chance.
How to add commercial cleaning services to your business. By Brian Horn
Mark Gregory’s Guardian Professional Horticultural Services was heavily involved in landscape work for new construction. But when that market suffered, he looked elsewhere to fill that hole, and wound up being part of 360Clean’s franchise network.
What skills from the green industry translated into the janitorial world? Oddly enough, quite a few. It might sound a little odd, but to me the thing that always set my landscape business a part is details. (It’s) very detailed oriented and very customer oriented and those two types of things, it doesn’t matter if your landscaping or doing janitorial work, they are going to get you a long way. The management style with my employees has been the same, although it’s a different type of person. I’ve mostly dealt with guys in the landscaping industry and now most of my employees are women, but my management style is the same as it has been in landscaping.
Was there anything that was totally different between the two industries? Not the way I look at it because you are still dealing with customers and you are still offering them a service and this is just like the landscaping – when they hire a company, they want to see results but they don’t want to see what it takes to get the results. They just want you to do it. Same thing with the janitorial, and it’s a little bit more so with the janitorial because most of the time my employees are there after business hours. So, we’re in when they close and gone by the time they open. So they want to see the results, but they don’t want to have to call us up and say, “You didn’t do this or why didn’t you do this?” Or, “The floors need cleaning or the carpet needs cleaning.” They just expect it to be done. Having dealt with that with some high-end residential customers and large commercial where they are paying you to do the job and they don’t want you to come to them, they just want you to do it.
Was it hard to adjust to a franchise’s rules after being your own boss? No it wasn’t, and I’ll tell you why. That was really important to me because I’ve been my own boss for quite a while and to go and insert yourself in another situation where you do have set rules and stuff but the thing that I really looked for is Barry, the owner of 360, he and I really seemed to hit it off as far as our business philosophies, the way we looked at things, the way we looked at employees, sales and the customers. I guess I can best describe it as it was if I was sitting there talking to myself when we were just talking back and forth and it’s like he sees things the way I see things and vice versa. The rules they had in place, and a large portion of the procedures they have in place, were right in line with what I was already doing with my landscape business. So far, it could not have been a more perfect fit in all aspects. The biggest adjustment I had to make was being involved with a franchise, they are going to get a portion of whatever you do. You know that going into it, but it still doesn’t make it any easier when sometimes you know you are getting the money but then you say, “aww I gotta…” But it’s all very fair, very up front, there’s no surprises.
What advice do you have for getting involved in janitorial services? If you want to work and be successful, the janitorial industry itself it seems to have not been affected as much as other industries just because of the need of cleanliness in places. We do a lot of hospitals, doctors’ offices, and that’s one thing that they really can’t do without is a clean office. They can do without maybe getting their grass cut as often. But they can’t do without clean offices.
Improving the yard
This former lawn care operator is once again adding to landscapes. This time, with fencing. By Carolyn LaWell
An old, worn-out fence detracts from beautiful landscaping. Ben Roach first noticed this theory when he started his lawn care business more than a decade ago while still in high school, and the same notion played a role in his starting a Guier Fence franchise just this year.
Roach and his mother, Kay Bateman, started their Guier Fence franchise in Tyler, Texas in January. And in doing so, they hope to show customers there is more to fencing than just placing polls in the ground.
“We’re trying to educate people, as we can, that there is a difference between a good fence and a bad fence, and paying the least amount as possible is usually not the way to go,” Roach says.
So far, his background in the green industry has completed his entrance in the fencing industry.
Why did you decide to get into the fencing business? I had a lawn business about 10 years ago or so. I was researching ways and looking for ways to get into my own business, something along those lines, and I came across Guier Fence and they were franchising. Getting into a real business for the first time myself, I thought a franchise would be a good way to go. They already have a business model, and a very good business model, they definitely know the business well. And all of the research and development over the years, and the experience – you are able to basically buy that (from them) and use it for your benefit.
What skills have you been able to use from your days as a landscaper? When I was doing lawns, I was called on a lot to do handy-man type work. It started off with people calling and asking if I could help with this or that around the house, repairing things, or fixing things or installing things. Through word of mouth, I kept getting more and more phone calls. Just kind of being out there in that environment and having that experience working in yards, I feel like that hands-on type of experience has prepared me. One thing I would say is I was made aware really the need for fencing, and how it can really add or take away from a yard or the landscaping itself. The fencing is a big part of the landscaping in the yard and can really add to it or really take away from it depending on the fence and the condition of the fence.
Do you have advice for landscapers looking to add fencing to their services? You can’t treat it as just another way to make money in your business, but it can be a way to really improve your business and prove to your customers that you offer a quality service that can be of great value to them. That’s all we sell is fence. Our only business is fencing. I see a lot of these little companies where fencing is a side job and their fences just aren’t really up to par, a lot of times they’re not built well. I would be careful – if I was someone trying to do fencing on the side or throwing fencing in with their landscape and lawn business – to just be sure what they’re doing because there is a lot more to it than just building a fence.