The Grounds Guys’ Ad Council members completed a Q&A style email interview and we’re excited to share their insights on serving the network and succeeding in this business. You don't want to miss their inspiring messages!
Current Ad Council members include:
- Charlie Nieman, owner of The Grounds Guys of North Eastern North Carolina
- Chris Draaistra, owner of The Grounds Guys of Abbotsford
- Jeff Baker, owner of The Grounds Guys of East Wichita
- Ryan Deatherage, owner of The Grounds Guys of Edmond
- Scott Denker, owner of The Grounds Guys of Toledo
- Kenny Smith, owner of The Grounds Guys of Spokane Valley
Question 1: What has been your favorite part of being part of The Grounds Guys’ franchise?
Charlie: With three years as a franchisee, my favorite part of being in this business is the people.
Chris: We were new to the business in January 2012 when we became franchisees. I would say that one thing we certainly look forward to every year is Reunion and getting to know fellow franchisees. We really enjoy the fraternity of business people in the room, the “cultural” similarities (core values), and the fact that we can call on people when we have a question.
Scott: My favorite part of being in this business is meeting other owners across the country. For the most part, we all have similar challenges. It’s great to be able to leverage this asset to improve the way I do things. I also like The Grounds Guys’ brand as it really stands out. I regularly have people tell me “I see your trucks everywhere!”
Kenny: The family. We have developed some amazing relationships with some incredible people and that keeps growing as we get to know everyone better each year.
Ryan: We franchised in May 2012 and my previous career was as a banker and about 10 other entrepreneurial endeavors. I like the challenge of being in business and this franchise. A franchise model is like a tool in a toolbox. Owners have to use the tool correctly by applying the franchise’s concepts. The tool itself doesn’t bring business to you… however, if you use the tool correctly, you will get business.
Jeff: I was a police officer before franchising four and a half years ago. I like the networking and connections and relationships you get to make in this network. Everyone who franchises has access to resources and benefits. That access has been the most valuable part of being in this business.
Question 2: Why have you chosen to serve on the Advisory Council?
Charlie: I felt it was important to be part of the Advisory Council to help deliver the concerns of franchisees and help drive the future of The Grounds Guys.
Chris: I want to be more involved in the forefront of decisions. Being on the front lines of a franchise gives me a different perspective and view point than the Waco team. When it comes to making improvements, I am open in discussions and want to work together with Home Office team to do what is best for all of the franchisees.
Scott: It is an honor to be asked to be on the Ad Council. I chose to accept because I want to bring my experience to this brand. I was the 15th person to join The Grounds Guys’ franchise so I have been here close to the start. I want the brand to succeed and hope that my influence will help with that. It’s also nice and beneficial to interact with the other members on the council. The other members have a lot of knowledge and ideas.
Kenny: We get to help refine our processes, so we become the dominant force in our space. It’s our brand and it’s not Dwyer Group’s job to bring everything to us. We must actively participate and bring the best practices from the field level to the network so we are working together as a team to constantly evolve and innovate.
Ryan: I want to help the franchisees and represent them to the Home Office team and also to help make the owners aware and in touch with the Dwyer Group and The Grounds Guys’ Home Office team. It’s important to me to share the current events and needs of the franchisees with the Home Office. I want to be that voice for this group of people.
Jeff: I have found out that the more you engage in the brand, the better your business does. It’s a lot like volunteering in your community. Successful people lend their time and in turn continue to be successful. The more you engage in the network, the more you get out of it. Franchisees who want to have their issues and ideas represented, whether it’s good, bad or indifferent – must be engaged to do so.
Question 3: What do you believe are the three most important characteristics of a successful The Grounds Guys’ franchisee?
- Communication has to be the most important part of being a franchisee.
- PEOPLE – find good people, KEEP THEM. I’m not saying give them the farm, but take care of them and they will take care of you. If you have a cancer (type of employee), get rid of it (I learned that one the hard way).
- Use the system – you paid for it and the tools and resources are there. If you are having difficulties getting answers, refer back to number 1: communicate! Don’t give up - find a way!
- Doing quality work that sets us apart as the landscapers of choice in our territories.
- Building an excellent team – being the employers of choice in our industry.
- Generating a profit – this will happen fairly naturally if we are doing the first two ideas well.
- Use the tools that you pay for… the systems. Most importantly, do a budget and refer to it often. As landscapers, we tend to work all day in the field, and then work in the office at night doing quotes and calling customers. That model means we find out at the end of the year how much we made. I was guilty of this for far too long, but thankfully survived. I look forward to GGPro and what it has to offer.
- Take advantage of the great brand we have, and represent it well.
- Talk to your franchise consultant on a regular basis, as well as reach out to other franchisees.
- Total and complete commitment to doing whatever it takes to make your business work.
- Constantly look inward for answers to your challenges. Don’t point fingers or lay the deficiencies in your company at someone else’s feet. You remove your power to do anything about it. Don’t wish it were easier, wish you were better.
- Create a strong vision and take responsibility for the leadership and management of your organization. You can’t hire your way out of your challenges.
- Communicate with your franchise consultant.
- Do not wait for business to come to you! Right now, my business mix is 70% commercial / 30% residential, and I hope to change that to a 50/50 mix. I believe the more residential business you have – the more financially stable you are. As businesses start out, they definitely need to focus on residential as commercial goes out to bid every year so you’re usually subject to the low price. You can get the job if you’re the low bid. For residential – if you’re doing the quality work – you can have a long-term relationship, add on services and increase your prices over time.
- Account managers have to be on property every week to give your customers that warm, fuzzy feeling. It also allows you to adjust to their needs and make changes on a weekly basis and offer upsells. Properties change just like a flowing river as the seasons move and change. If you don’t have an account manager to monitor the heavy rain and adjust irrigation – the property owners don’t know about this and not adjusting can make a mess. Property owners just want to go make their living and have their yards look better than their neighbors!
Bonus: One of the keys to a successful business is recognizing the fact that the success relies solely on the business owner. The business fails or succeeds on what the business owner does. It’s not the franchise who creates success or failure. It’s the business owner who hustles for it and goes out to make it work. As the owner, do you always keep a positive attitude with your customers? Don’t ever let them see you sweat or struggle – just handle any issues and remain a bright, shiny star in their life.
I strongly believe in taking ownership of each day and I focus on having a win every single day. I don’t worry about what my franchise neighbor is doing and what accounts they are winning because I’m focused on my business. Comparing yourself to others is only good to a point – can you learn from someone else or be motivated to hustle? That’s great, but don’t get consumed on others. Spend your energy on your own accounts, customers, employees and your success.
- Somebody who’s engaged with the systems, employees, customers has the right characteristics for this business.
- Act with integrity, which is not something you can buy or fake or sell to others. Others can just tell if you have it.
- Be disciplined to get up every day and find solutions to problems you encounter on the roller coaster of owning a business! People can get frustrated by hearing no from a potential customer – and they let it get it into their head. Allowing that mindset to take hold affects how an owner represents their business and can prevent getting back out there.
Question 4: What are your keys to business success and personal success?
Charlie: Communication. I think that is the most important keys for me have been exceptional communication, finding great people and PRAYER (never underestimate PRAYER) – and the good LORD has blessed me tremendously.
- Finding the right time to take a risk and then going for it.
- Giving our staff the authority to make decisions in the field and the leeway to do what needs to be done without micro managing them.
- Surrounding ourselves with a team that lives and breathes the company culture.
- Knowing your numbers- where is your profit coming from and why.
Scott: The keys to business success include finding and retaining valuable team leaders and team members. It’s very common for landscapers to say, “I’ll just do it myself.” However, you can’t do it all yourself and need good people around you. Another key to business success is being honest with the customer.
I feel personally successful when I am balancing work and family. Family events are once-in-a-lifetime so I do my best to make it to them. I did miss church with the family on Christmas Eve this past December. It started snowing in the morning and didn’t stop until midnight. However, I also feel personally successful when I am providing for my family financially. Sometimes, duty calls!
Kenny: Constantly be learning. If you are not getting the results you want in some area of your life, look in the mirror, take responsibility and go find the answers to make it better.
Ryan: My personality has helped me – I’ve been labeled as an entrepreneurial rocket ship who approaches business like: ready, fire, aim! Understanding there are risks and still being willing to take the risk when others may not is one of my secrets. If I know work needs to be done, and I haven’t done the work before, I’m still going to find out how to do it, scope it out and get it done.
Jeff: On a business level – I try to invest in my employees and empower them. The more you trust your employees – the more they will give back to you and the business. Employees want that responsibility and clarity in your expectations of them.
On the other side of professional success – I legitimately look at myself in the mirror and ask myself what will I do to make my business better every single morning.
To be personally successful, learning to trust my employees has helped to free up my time so I can make events and know the business will be handled while I’m gone. As a former police officer, it was difficult to trust my people at first – it’s possible if work on building positive relationships.
Question 5: How important is engagement between franchisee and franchisor?
Charlie: I don’t think I can overstate how important the engagement factor is. I don’t think there has been anyone in the franchise industry that does not feel disengaged from the franchisor at some point. When you experience that feeling, get on the phone and get re-engaged right away.
Chris: It is SO important for the franchisor to know what is going on in our industry and in our individual territories. Sharing valuable information with franchisees about wages, operating costs, new methods/developments in the market, best hiring practices, marketing that works – these are all things that the franchisee benefits from.
Scott: It is extremely important for both sides. A successful franchisee and franchisor both want to know that the other is vested in their success. Regular and meaningful communication between both will help to solidify that.
Kenny: It’s critical. You bought a franchise for a reason. If you are not engaged, you are not getting the value you paid for. The Dwyer Group is full of people who have “been there, done that” so plug in and take advantage of those resources.
Ryan: 100% important! I believe the relationship and the level of communication with your franchise consultant is directly related to whether or not you will be successful. I’m blunt and to the point: if you’re not listening to your business coach – you will not be successful.
Jeff: We all franchise to get access to things we didn’t have an independent. If you’re going into a franchise, use the resources that are available. Those outside, expert perspectives from your franchise consultant or marketing team can help you see clearly – as we are all emotionally tied to everything related to our business as the owners.
Question 6: What do you recommend as ways for franchisees to be/stay engaged with the brand?
Charlie: Attend any training you can – regional meetings, technical training, Reunion, etc, Call and visit other franchisees – I recommend making friends with other owners and even get online and connect using FranBuzz to talk to other owners.
Chris: Talk to each other! Read the information that is sent out from the Home Office and be involved. Find a way to get yourself to Reunion and take the risk to get to know someone new. Attend training or head down to Waco for “retraining.” You only get what you put into it when it comes to the benefits of franchise membership.
Scott: I suggest attending regional and national events whenever possible. I did not attend Reunion last year as I was visiting my daughter, son-in-law and grandsons in North Carolina. However, I wished I could have made it as it is certainly a good event to keep a franchisee engaged. I recommend that franchisees put money in the budget for these events. The educational classes and networking opportunities, if utilized, will be one of the best investments you can make in your business.
Kenny: Communicate honestly and with purpose. Commit to your regular franchise consultant sessions. Pick up the phone and call your franchise consultant or a fellow franchisee. The best time to do that is when you feel isolated or alone. Go visit another location and get a fresh perspective. It’s not everyone else’s responsibility to engage YOU.
Jeff: Developing personal and professional relationships with other franchisees and meeting regularly with your franchise consultant. Stay up to date on social media, FranBuzz, training and Reunion. Make it to as many training events as you can. It’s all about perspective – you can choose to look at these events as opportunities and benefit or choose to not engage. If you don’t engage, you will encounter all the issues, but you won’t have access to all the support. If you have a request or need guidance with your marketing plan – reach out to the Marketing department. If you need help identifying a vendor or with customer service you are receiving from a vendor, contact ProTradeNet. If there’s anything you need to help your individual businesses, contact your franchise consultant.
Ryan: Most of you don’t know that one of my passions in life is ranching. Yes, I am a cowboy at heart and have run 300 cow calf pairs to 1500 yearlings and I love it dearly, all while I was working at a bank as a loan officer before relocating to Oklahoma City. That time of year to purchase yearling had come and my wife’s grandfather usually loaned us money to purchase the cattle. I had not asked or told him when I needed the money, so this 83 year-old-man with a sixth-grade education, asked me one Saturday, “when are you purchasing the cattle, son?” I said, “I don’t know … the cattle market is down, and I just don’t know if I should or not, and I don’t know if I have time to do it this year.” He firmly grabbed me by my shoulders and said “Son, you are either in the cattle business or you’re not.” He explained, “In business, you don’t get to pick when to jump in and out of business – but YOU make your business what it is! Some years are great, some are not and none of that keeps you from being a Rancher.”
That day and his words have stuck with me and I have applied it to everything I do! Why do I share this? I want to ask what plans have you made for 2018?
- Are you a The Grounds Guys franchisee, or NOT?
- Have you turned your budget in to your franchise consultant? You know that thing that is the road map and guide for 2018.
- Are you talking to your franchise consultant on a regular schedule? If not, it is not their fault.
- Does your franchise consultant know your plans for 2018?
- How are you going to achieve your budget if you don’t have a plan?
- Is 2018 the year you take yourself off the crew and start working on your business rather in your business?
During calls, I have heard stories like it’s the franchise’s fault that I am where I am at and they are not doing their part. Well let me ask you this, is it the ZTR’s fault when it does not cut the grass correctly or is it the person’s fault who is operating the ZTR? I think we know the answer to that. The first step in changing the direction of our business is looking in the mirror and taking ownership of our mistakes. The second is asking for help. We have some of the best franchise consultants within the Dwyer Group and our leadership is outstanding. We have great franchisee companies and very good business owners in this brand. If you want a second opinion, ask your franchise consultant to recommend a peer and reach out to them. We are all traveling down the same road. Some of us are a little farther along than others. We can help mentor you as you make this journey!