Paul Welborn admits he is a “recovering control freak.” Well, he says he still likes control, but he’s getting better at his company Lawn & Pest Solutions located just outside Tupelo, Mississippi.
“I started this and knew I wanted to grow this business,” he says of the company that he launched in 2002. “The first two-and-a-half, three years, it was just me. I didn't have any employees. I had a plan and I had a vision for what I wanted it to be, but then of course, several years in I hadn't let go of a lot of stuff to keep it growing.”
A few years ago, he realized being involved with every detail of the company was wearing him down, so he decided to lessen his grip on the reins. But he realizes the micromanaging had hindered some current managers’ ability to grow.
“I've done a good job of letting go, but I held on to things for so long, wanting to let go of them, I'd almost handicap some of the people that I have turned it over to,” he says.
Helping that management team grow is one of the main reasons he applied for the Turnaround Tour. This lack of empowering managers (Welborn says he’s a firm believer of promoting from within) has resulted in them shying away from taking the lead in areas they should, which led to a higher than usual rate of customer cancellations when compared to previous years. Welborn said normally the company is around 95% retention of customers, but last year it slipped to around 88%, which was a red flag for Welborn.
“We're adding more faces in here and so it gets harder to keep that relationship with customers. The other part was, sometimes our approach on people wanting to cancel wasn't what it should have been, as far as managers following up as well as we should have,” he says. “Because I view a cancel as they're giving us an opportunity to keep servicing them, ‘Yes, they're canceling, but let's find out why.’”
It’s details like that where the micromanaging may have hindered the managers’ growth.
“They see the big picture, don't get me wrong, but it’s getting them to see all the little things we need to do to make sure the customer is serviced well, make sure our guys are doing their job correctly, making sure everybody's bought into what they're doing and satisfied with what's going on and has a good understanding of what's going on,” he says.
Closer to the home.
Right now, structural pest control is 20% of the company’s revenue while 80% is in lawn care. Welborn sees a lot of growth opportunity and wants to grow that portion of the business by 50%. The company has performed structural pest work for 10 years, but the consistent growth of the lawn care side of the business has left little time to focus on the structural side.
“It didn't get the attention it deserved, and the way we treat customers and what's required out of a good termite service, it just falls in line with the way we do business,” he says. “It's just a huge growth area for us that just hadn't gotten the proper respect that we should have given it in years past.”
What’s enticing is to Welborn is the opportunity to create bundles (the company also performs mosquito spraying) to offer customers. However, for the pest division to grow, he’s going to have to find new technicians because treating lawns is different than treating structures.
“The only difficulty, and there are some that treat it the same, but in my mind, a great lawn technician and a great pest technician are oftentimes different in their skill sets,” he says. “And in our area, if you're out spraying in the yard and it's the hot summertime, you don't want to go in somebody's house. You've been out spraying in the yard. You're not really clean enough to go in a house.”
For 2019, Welborn had hope to hit $1.87 million in revenue but fell short, only reaching $1.78 million. Welborn hopes to hit slightly more than $2 million in 2020. In the early years, the company could grow at a 25% rate. But as business grew, the growth slowed down.
“The past two to three years, we've had this hump that we can't get over,” he says. “If we ever get over that hump, if we ever crest that hill, we're going to bump up to this next level.
Part of getting to that next level was expanding into the Tennessee market. The company has a small presence there but would like to grow into Memphis, which is about an hour north of Lawn & Pest Solutions’ current service area. “We've got a small customer base up there that we're going to maintain, and then if we come across the big customer potentially take that on,” he says. “But, any kind of big, formal push, we’ll lay low and wait until 2021.”