Average Initial Investment and what this covers: Between $45,800 and $141,300 depending on type of franchise (standard vs. conversion) and desired operational model. Covers the first three months of operation and includes the franchise fee; initial marketing plan; training costs; deposits and payments for facility, truck, trailer and equipment and additional operating capital.
Royalty Fee: Begins at 6% of gross monthly sales and declines to 5% and then 4% as certain revenue thresholds are achieved.
Franchise Fee: Initial franchise fee is $34,0000 – discounts are available for existing landscape business operators looking to convert their business.
Total Investment: Same as average initial investment listed above
Number of North American Locations: 250
Services offered: Core services includes maintenance, tree trimming; fertilization, lawn care and shrub and tree insect and disease control, lawn and ornamental consultation; irrigation services; installation of landscape materials; arborist services; and snow management and other snow-related services
Franchising since: In Canada in 1976 and expanded to offer franchising to the United States in 1996.
Average Initial Investment and what this covers: $69,490 - $86,550. Initial franchise fee, training expenses, travel, real estate improvements, equipment and fixtures, truck and spray package lease, computer hardware and software, insurance, miscellaneous operating costs and additional funds for three months.
Royalty Fee: $12,558.98 annually for each of the first two production vehicles; $8,791.29 annually for the third production vehicle; and $6,279.49 annually for each subsequent production vehicle used during the year. Each year, these amounts may be adjusted for inflation, according to the Consumer Price index. The Base Year is Nov. 1, 1995. The amounts stated are for 2020.
Franchise Fee: Single territory (population up to 150,000): $20,000; double territory (population up to 300,000): $33,750
Total Investment: $69,490 to $86,550
Number of North American Locations: 306 License Agreements & 683 Territory Counts
Average Initial Investment and what this covers: $81,220 - $200,070. This includes the initial franchise fee, software, vehicle(s), equipment, supplies, inventory, insurance, local marketing and promotions, training, travel, lodging, deposits, permits licenses, real estate. The Grounds Guys estimated initial investment range includes the franchise fee; however, the initial franchise fee may vary depending on the size of the territory purchased.
Royalty Fee: 5-6%
Franchise Fee: $35,000 (minimum initial)
Total investment: Not available
Number of North American Locations: 213
Services offered: Residential and commercial services include: lawn and bed maintenance; landscape and hardscape; pest, weed and fertilization, irrigation, outdoor lighting, snow and ice management; gutter cleaning
Hours of Training: 110 hours over a 12-13 week onboarding process from signing to opening. Ongoing learning opportunities: 48-plus annual training opportunities, all day training events, weekly webinars and more.
Average Initial Investment and what this covers: Ranges from $45,000 - $60,000 excluding franchise fee. This includes vehicle, spray unit, computer software program, miscellaneous equipment, training, marketing, customized website, paper supplies, start-up product, insurance licensing.
Royalty Fee: 6% - Also offers franchise owners an incentive program for reducing their monthly royalty based on annual growth.
Franchise Fee: $15,000 - $25,000 based on territory
Total Investment: $60,000 - $70,000
Number of North American Locations: 11
States/Provinces with at least 1 franchise: 4
Services offered: Organic based lawn care, plant health care, natural mosquito control, many other optional lawn care services.
Closures in the last three fiscal years: 1
Hours of Training: 2 weeks- 80 hours- training is conducted at the corporate office and on franchise site
Average Initial Investment and what this covers: $87,424 – Franchise fee, down payment on vehicle and equipment, technology and software, opening supplies, initial marketing campaign, initial data fee, three months working capital.
Royalty Fee: 10-8% (5-3% first season for qualifying green industry business)
Franchise Fee: $25,000 with qualifying green industry business; ($40,000 without)
Total Investment: $89,982-$106,262
Number of North American Locations: 126 independently operated locations, plus 26 company owned locations
States/Provinces with at least 1 franchise: 26
Services offered: Lawn fertilization and weed control, lime treatment, lawn disease control, brown patch control, aeration and overseed, core aeration, grassy weed control, ornamental bed weed control, irrigation maintenance, moss control, root feeding, specialty injections, two-step tree program, perimeter pest control, mosquito mitigation, fire ant, control, flea and tick control, crane fly control, grub/subsurface insect control, surface feeding insect control (services may vary by region)
Average Initial Investment and what this covers: First 90 days - $81,800 - $102,250 covers territory fee, travel for training, tools and equipment, computer hardware and software, inventory, storage, vehicle, vehicle signage, marketing investment and additional funds
Royalty Fee: Tiered 8%, 7%, 6%, 5%
Franchise Fee: First territory - $49,500; Second territory - $40,000
Total Investment: Initial investment (first 90 days) - $81,800 - $102,250; Total Capital (first year) $150,000 - $200,000.
Number of North American Locations: 105
Services offered: For residential and commercial properties: Irrigation system installation, irrigation service and repair, irrigation annual/seasonal maintenance packages, annual inspection of backflow devices, government water rebate incentives, upgrading and retrofitting irrigation systems, system inspections and assessments, drainage solutions
Closures in the last three fiscal years: 4 franchisees, 7 territories.
Hours of Training: 10 days of training – 80 hours. 5 days in person; 5 days virtual
Average Initial Investment and what this covers: N/A
Royalty fee: 6%
Franchise fee: $20,000
Total Investment: $80,000 in working capital which is applied to start-up costs, marketing and equipment
Number of North American Locations: 30
Services offered: Lawn fertilization and weed control with additional services including overseeding, lawn renovation, irrigation; insect control – turf insects and mosquito, ticks; perimeter pest control
Closures in the last three fiscal years: 0
Hours of Training: 120 hours start up training plus ongoing e-training and support
The big news in the world of trucks is the new Ford F-150, due out at the end of the year.
The 2021 model is less of a revolution and more of an evolution as Ford continues adding new options and features but keeping things similar enough to keep its fans loyal. Here some more on what to expect in 2021.
New for 2021
• Hybrid option:
The gas-electric hybrid model isn’t a pure economy play. The most powerful version of the 2021 F-150, Powerboost engine mates the twin-turbo Ecoboost 3.5L V-6 with an electric motor. The company is targeting 700 miles of range and 12,000 pounds in towing capacity from the hybrid. The Powerboost model boasts 430 horsepower (hp) and 570 lb-ft of torque. The 35kW (47hp) electric motor will be powered by a 1.5kW/h lithium-ion battery, slightly larger than the 1.4kW/h battery it uses in current hybrids such as the Fusion sedan.
• Exterior cosmetics:
The truck’s front fenders are slightly higher, giving it a taller look, and the wheels are larger and slightly farther apart (0.75” farther out per wheel). Buyers will have 11 grille options, depending on model selected.
• Tech upgrades:
The truck will be able to update software over-the-air, eliminating the need to visit dealers for minor patches. Updates to the Sync connectivity system support more apps and add-on services. On hybrid and non-hybrid models, users will be able to use the truck’s engine as a generator to run tools and other devices.
Some optional features are now standard, such as pedestrian-detection systems and an emergency system that pre-tensions seatbelts if it senses an accident is about to take place. Late next year, the truck will offer Active Drive Assist, Ford’s answer to Tesla’s autopilot or General Motors’ SuperCruise, a system that will allow drivers to take their hands off wheel in some cruise situations. That feature will come as an over-the-air update.
The Ram 1500 was new last year, and the General Motors products (Chevy Silverado, GMC Sierra) were new in 2019. So, there will be minor changes to both of those, new special editions, new colors, etc., but even those cosmetic upgrades will be delayed, likely into mid-2021 because of COVID-19.
Operating in this environment is difficult, and working through plant upgrades can be even tougher, so companies are delaying anything other than the completely necessary. Ford's new model involved tearing up existing assembly lines, and those balls were already in motion when COVID-19 hit. Swapping out colors in the paint shop is much easier, so those sorts of things will be delayed indefinitely.
In 2021, electric vehicle startups will be really active in the truck space:
• Lordstown Motors plans to launch the Endurance pickup in early 2021. When it launches next year, Lordstown’s Endurance EV (Electric Vehicle) pickup will use electric hub motors in each wheel instead of following the traditional EV layout of a large electric motor with a transmission that sends power to the wheels. You can learn more about that by visiting bit.ly/trucktrend2020.
• Nikola is taking pre-orders on its Badger EV pickup. They haven't given a release date, but it'll likely be late 2021 or early 2022. GM is partnering with Nikola to make the Badger and supply batteries for it for an 11% stake in the company.
• Rivian, an EV startup that bought a former Fiat Chrysler plant in Illinois, plans to launch three EVs next year, an SUV, a delivery van for Amazon and the R1T electric pickup.
• GMC Hummer EV, GM is bringing back the Hummer name as an electric pickup from GMC. It goes into production in late 2021, probably as a 2022 model. The company is promising extreme performance numbers (1,000 hp, 1,100 lb-ft of torque, 0-60 mph in 3 seconds).
• Ford electric F-150. So far, Ford has only committed to the 2021 model year hybrid F-150, but an all-electric model is in the works, probably as a 2022 model. No details yet.
• Tesla's Cybertruck goes into production in late 2021, so it probably won't be available until 2022. The first vehicles will be more expensive ($50,000 to $70,000) dual-motor and tri-motor pickups. The $40,000 single-motor option doesn't go into production until late 2022. The company is promising more than 500 miles of range, 14,000 lb. of towing capacity and less than 3 seconds for 0 to 60 mph.
• Bollinger B2, the most expensive of the new EV trucks at $125,000, the all-aluminum model is built in Detroit and should launch early next year.
• Atlis XT Pickup may launch late this year, but I doubt it. The company made a lot of noise in 2019 but hasn't said a word this year, so either they're keeping their heads down and working on launching the truck or they've run out of cash and are hoping someone buys their intellectual property.
The author is editor of Lawn & Landscape’s sister publication Today’s Motor Vehicles.
Celebrating your differences
Features - Business Focus
Understanding the diversity in your workforce could do more than boost your team morale.
Richard Lehr believes refocusing your efforts on diversity and inclusion is a slow burn – it’s not easy and it won’t come quickly.
“It’s wading from the shallow end to the deep end,” says Lehr, the legal and human resources adviser with the National Association of Landscape Professionals. “It’s not diving into the deep end.”
Lehr presented during a session called “Focus on Diversity and Inclusion: Implementing Meaningful Initiatives in your Organization” at LANDSCAPES 2020, which was held virtually in October due to the pandemic. Pam Dooley from Plants Creative Landscapes in Georgia hosted the panel, which also included Lehr; Brigitte Orrick, the director of recruiting and employee development from the Davey Tree Expert Company; and Mari Medrano, the human resources director from CoCal Landscapes.
The panelists acknowledged that efforts to celebrate workforce diversity are often well-intentioned, but they can lose steam unless the company undergoes a significant culture change.
“We need to change our mindset,” Medrano says. “Not only as owners, but we need to change the mindset with our employees out in the field as well.”
Looking for the right thing.
Lehr specifies that a focus on diversity should not be company owners seeking to make their employees conform to one specific cultural identity. Avoid assimilation – it’s not the end goal, nor is simply tolerating everyone’s differences.
“What we’re really focusing on is to appreciate the various backgrounds and beliefs that individuals have,” Lehr says. “What we really want to do is understand, respect and celebrate the differences that individuals bring to the workplace.”
Lehr says that when we hear the words “diversity and inclusion,” the focus tends to be on race, sexual orientation and gender identity. But really, he says company owners should be thinking in a broader view of what makes each member of their companies unique.
Yes, this viewpoint includes a look at race or sexual orientation or gender identity, but it should also include language skills, geographic background and work experience. It can include preferences like learning style, favorite foods, social style or hobbies, too.
“One of the mistakes we make is we look at it too narrowly,” Lehr says. “There’s a richness within our own workforce that we can learn about.”
It’s not just about the employees: Lehr says a “thorough, wall-to-wall” focus on diversity and inclusion is an effort to bid jobs to female-owned or minority-owned companies at a higher frequency. The outreach to do work with these companies needs to be strong, and Lehr challenges landscapers to consider how they’re doing this in their own communities.
But Lehr says one of the reasons the process of truly embracing diversity and inclusion can be so difficult is because there are plenty of people who come from areas that truly were not that diverse. In other words, some folks were raised in spots where people didn’t think too differently from one another, and diversity in race, ethnicity, or even sexual orientation may come as a culture shock.
Even still, Lehr says it’s important to go through the meticulous growing pains of this process should they exist. That’s because the benefit of a company that embraces each other’s differences is one that has a strong culture overall.
“Individuals are not spectators, they’re participants,” he says. “Organizations that have less of a focus on inclusion and diversity tend to be cultures that are more siloed.”
How to get rolling.
Orrick says Davey Tree launched their initiative in a four-stage process, of which they’re only midway through.
First, she recommends collecting data and analyzing it thoroughly. Examining the existing workforce and determining ways to break it down into categorical data is helpful. And if company owners find that they can’t break it down into some types of categories, that means there’s not even visibility at the company.
For example, Orrick says Davey Tree found they didn’t offer many ways for employees to select themselves as military veterans or share their sexual orientation preferences in company surveys. Obviously, employees should have the option to opt out of answering any of these questions, but Orrick says they should be able to opt in to addressing their status, too.
This type of research helps companies evaluate spots where they’re succeeding in their efforts on hiring or recruiting with diversity in mind, and it highlights areas where the company can improve.
“What we did learn is that just by examining our workforces, we found some pockets of success and some pockets we needed to pay attention to,” she says. In particular, she found that at Davey, there was decent representation from women and minorities in the consulting part of the business but significant underrepresentation in other areas.
So, after companies evaluate where they stand with their current workforce, Orrick says employers should then transition into the strategy development phase. She says they noticed some trends that stood out – again, some positive, some negative. They saw minorities at the company tended to actually stay longer before leaving Davey Tree than their majority counterparts, which felt like a victory.
That said, Orrick says they also learned some surprising things as they started asking employees questions about the data they collected.
“What we really want to do is understand...the differences that individuals bring to the workplace.”Richard Lehr, legal and human resources adviser, NALP
For example, women who work in the field at the company told employers that they needed better fitting uniforms and equipment to help them do the job comfortably and safely.
“We also learned that women don’t always have access to regular bathrooms in our field crews. That was another really big learning moment,” Orrick says, adding that some of the men also felt the company needed to better provide this to their employees. “Some of these initiatives were just good common sense.”
Orrick says one key element to their strategy development phase was also looking at the company’s marketing materials. To successfully recruit minority employees, Orrick says the materials should show people who look and talk like them. She also says building a strong mentorship program will help retain the employees a company recruits.
Orrick says the company’s still in the strategy phase, but the implementation phase will take place over the next year. This includes creating accountability to not only celebrate these individuals, but also establish strong protections for them and clear pathways to promotions down the track.
Eventually, Orrick says they’ll enter an evaluation period. What did they learn? What do they want to implement further? She says any initiative like this requires a pilot phase. There will be some wins – some areas where the company clearly progressed – but there will also be spots where the company must continue to improve.
A final focus.
The LANDSCAPES 2020 presentation concluded with a segment from Medrano, the president of the National Hispanic Landscape Alliance, which joined forces with NALP in April.
As the human resources director at CoCal in Colorado, Medrano says she’s seen her company become predominately Latinx employees over time. She says they’ve been solely Latino-owned since 2011 and they’ve got a diverse set of executives, plus a middle management team that’s 100% Latinx.
She also says that a focus on diversity really comes to understanding the views and values of all employees. This leads to better flexibility, such as granting women employees who work in the field the time to drop off their kids at school should that be an issue.
But to understand those viewpoints, it first comes down to understanding.
“Often we don’t look the same in gender, color and economic status,” Medrano says. “We as business owners and leaders need to do a better job of inviting minorities to the table.”
A few years ago, Krisjan Berzins arrived at his office, and an employee commented that he hadn’t seen Berzins around in a while. The employee caught Berzins off guard so his response was defensive, and Berzins realized later that it was the wrong way to react.
“The proper response would have been, ‘I trust you so much that I don’t need to be here every minute, looking over your shoulder. I have faith in you to get the job done.’ And that would have been a great way to totally disarm it. But I didn’t react that way.”
Lesson learned for Berzins, who doesn’t want to sound arrogant, but after years of trial and error of delegating, he’s settled into a good spot as president and CEO. His normal workday looks different than it did a decade ago. Here’s Berzins’ average day.
I am generally in the office 2 to 3 times per week. If I’m going into the office, I’m up around 5 a.m. and in the office by 6:15 a.m. If I’m working from home, I’m probably up by 6:30 a.m.
Obviously, my alarm clock is on my phone, so, once I turn the alarm off, I’m generally looking at any recent text messages or emails that came in overnight. I’m just looking for something that might be urgent. Otherwise, I’m not getting into business right away.
I love coffee. I am a bit of a coffee snob, so I enjoy trying different types of roasts and different types of coffees. So that’s the first thing, I’ll generally have two cups and then I switch over to water for the rest of the day.
Commute is anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes. On satellite radio, I do listen to Fox Business and that’s almost exclusively what I listen to in my truck. It’s a lot more business talk than it is political talk.
First thing I do when I get in, I like to stay down downstairs and greet as many people as I can with a smile on my face and an elbow bump at this point. I might find someone that recently had a baby or they had a family member that was ill and ask them how they’re doing. I’ll probably have a quick chat with our operations manager and then I’ll head upstairs and get out of her way.
I am pretty removed from the day-to-day operations, but I do handle recruiting for the most part. I focus my energy on strategy. For financial analysis, we do have a CFO, but I review finances on a monthly basis with her and our financial consultant.
I have a workout routine where I’m working out early afternoon, generally three times a week. That also keeps me from having a big lunch, because I know that I’m going to be working out. And if I wanted to go out and have a big lunch, I will occasionally take staff. I would much rather do that than have some formal meeting in the conference room or in my office.
If I am at the office, I’m out the door generally by 12:30 p.m. or so, and then I’m working out and putting two to three hours in at my home office. Sometimes it’s longer than that, it just depends.
As corny as it sounds, we still eat together as a family. No phones at the table and we discuss whatever we feel like discussing.
I love to grill. So, I’ll probably grill three, sometimes four times a week. I’m an audiophile, so I have the Bluetooth speakers out there on the deck and music and the grill going. That’s my sanctuary for 20 to 30 minutes.
I’m actually guilty of letting the hours creep into evening before I unplug. I’m not a big television guy.
I do have one other hobby: It’s called iRacing. I have a whole rig down in the basement that has the racing seat and the custom wheel and pedals. I race a lot of the guys virtually. It has become very popular now that COVID has changed things. I also race my vintage BMW four or five times a year at racetracks around the country.
I wish I went to bed earlier, but I would say generally, I go probably around 10:30 p.m.
The next software solution
Features - Technology
The right labor management software can help tackle common tasks more efficiently.
In today’s world, business owners are looking to technology to solve their everyday problems and help streamline operations.
Nate Moses, CEO of Precision Landscape Management, in Greenville, S.C., says good labor management software can be one of the most essential tools for a landscaping company.
“Like the CRM that you use for your business, it’s very involved and the more involved you are in it, the more you get out of it,” he says. “You have to utilize it almost on a daily basis to get the most out of it.”
Taking the plunge.
Moses admits he didn’t go looking for a labor management software, and it took him awhile to commit to the investment.
“The product came to us. The salesperson who taught us about it is someone we knew from their previous job,” he says. “He knew the business we were in and knew that labor management was a key part of what we do. We did a lot of our own research, too. It was probably three to four months since he first told us about it before we decided to pull the trigger.”
Daniel Henks, owner of the Missouri-based Earth Effects Outdoor Living, was turned on to his software by a local colleague. After getting the referral, Henks says he made sure to test it with a few members of his team before committing to it.
“We started using (the software) three years ago and had used a few basic types of software before but decided through another local company to give it a try,” he says. “I came to love it pretty quick just because of the efficiency and how things tie together from being out in the field and then coming back to the office and it’s all tied in.”
One of the things Moses says he likes most about his software choice is how tech-forward it is.
“It’s a technology company that handles HR and payroll rather than a HR company trying to use technology,” he says. “We feel like it gives us a lot of advantages on the reporting and predicting side that traditional payroll and HR software has not.”
Getting it together.
Moses and Henks both say the process of implementing the new software was time-consuming but well worth it.
“Obviously, there’s a huge learning curve,” Henks says. “I still say I’m not using it to its full potential because there’s so much you can integrate and automate, and I just haven’t had the time to fully use it. But, even at using it to 35 to 50% of its capacity, I still find it to be a huge value.”
Onboarding the new software took Moses’ company about two months to complete.
“There’s a lot of work that goes into it,” he says. “The process for us started with our office manager really spearheading the project. When you’re implementing something new, I think it’s really important that one person owns the project.”
After getting it set up, the next step is introducing it to the masses.
“When we rolled it out to the company, it was a tiered rollout,” Moses says. “There were three or four weeks where we rolled out specific things. And that went very, very well since it was planned intentionally.”
Henks says his software came with a convenient way for his crews to learn it on their own time.
“There were training videos galore, so you could have your staff watch videos on their phones even to see how it works,” he says. “That saved a lot of time.”
And after training the staff, the next step was encouraging employees to utilize it. Henks says he let employees practice using the new technology for a few weeks before they officially went “live” with it. This way they felt more confident using it when the time came.
“The biggest challenges were getting it set up the right way…and then training both the office and guys in the field. There’s different levels in people’s ability when it comes to technology,” Henks says. “Young people gravitate to it really quick and wonder why you didn’t do it sooner, and the older generation says, ‘I don’t want this new thing. And how in the world am I supposed to learn this?’”
When it came to those older employees, Henks says he allowed more time for training and knew some hiccups might occur during the early stages. But, he says they continued working with those employees.
Moses says the software was well received at Precision.
“I’d give the reception an eight out of 10,” he says. “People are typically resistant to change, but there was enough frustration with our previous software that they were a little more open to the change.”
Reaping the benefits.
Moses says the advantages of labor management software are endless.
“We’ve been using it now for about six months,” he says. “It’s made our payroll process shorter. It has made reporting for our team members better, and it’s made our team members more involved in the process.”
Communication is always key, and Moses says the software has made it a breeze.
“It allows us to do things like make company announcements and schedule company events,” he says. “Some other features it has is that you can survey your staff on different things…and you can also link it with Indeed and other job-tracking software.”
But Moses says there’s one special feature that really sold him.
“The technology, once you’ve used it for a while, can help predict what employees may not be satisfied in their position based on your turnover trends and other common things,” he says. “It has GPS and looks at where people are driving from, how long they’ve been in the company, how long they’ve been in this role and who their supervisor is. It looks at all these different factors and tries to predict that employee’s long-term success at the company and prompts you to proactively have a chat with that person.”
For Henks, the labor management software is all about saving time.
“It’s a lot more efficient. It takes care of a lot of the things that you’d have to bring paper into the office for and enter,” he says. “I also use it for marketing some and could use that heavier.”
Henks says other perks include a customer portal for online payments and he’s able to keep an eye on crews out in the field.
Embracing the times.
The pair believe that the software, and technology in general, is necessary to keep their companies moving forward.
“Like anything in life, you have to keep up with changes or you get left behind,” Henks says. “One of the reasons I like technology is because I like things to be seamless. I’m not a huge company, there’s 15 of us on average, we don’t have the time to do lots of extra things. Anything I can do to push the processes through faster is important.”
Moses says he recognizes that some may be hesitant of the expense but staying stagnant in business could be even more costly.
“When you’re analyzing software you really have to not think about what the expense is but what additional efficiencies you can get out of your business when you do implement it,” he says.