This month's franchisee spotlight includes a Q&A interview with The Grounds Guys of Barrie Franchisee Justin Scott.
Justin Scott owns The Grounds Guys of Barrie and started his business in April 2005 as one of the first franchises with Sunshine Grounds Care. Here’s an insightful Q&A with Justin about life and business with The Grounds Guys.
DW: What was your initial motivation to purchase a The Grounds Guys Franchise? Or, your “Why?”
JS: I started my business with the original eight Sunshine Grounds Care. My family owned Scott’s and TruGreen, so I’ve been in this industry since I was eight years old. I grew up building greenhouses, cutting grass, weeding beds, etc. I promised my grandfather I’d go to university, and I graduated with honors as a mechanical engineer and worked for the van Stralens while I went to school.
When I graduated, I wasn’t ready to go work indoors as a desk jockey. I went back to work for the van Stralens because I didn’t want to go inside and work at a desk. Soon after, the van Stralen brothers were ready to franchise the business just as I had been offered a quality engineering job for Honda. I thought – I’m young enough to franchise and if it doesn’t work out, I can still pursue engineering. That was more than 12 years ago!
Working outside had a lot to do with my decision and at the end of the day, in Ontario, an engineer can only go so far. When I looked at what I love – building things – whether that is a company, people or an actual structure, I want to be able to look back and see what a team or I accomplished and created.
DW: Justin, with your long tenure as a franchisee, what has been your favorite part of being in this business?
JS: It’s a tough question – I got to work with van Stralen brothers and helped influence the system as it was being built into what it is today. I was one of the first people to read the draft of Peter van Stralen’s book and recommend it. I like meeting people with the same interests and in our industry. Some people have a negative stereotype of landscaping guys and think of ripped jeans and pot smokers! The franchisees in The Grounds Guys and even some of our competitors are good, wholesome people.
DW: What do you believe are the most important characteristics of a successful GUY Franchisee?
JS: First, realizing that failures are lessons and being able to take a negative to make it a positive is important. It’s only a failure if you quit!
Next, companies don’t die from big issues – I believe companies die from not taking care of yourself and your home first. So many people get ranking the values backward. I think it’s employees first, then vendors and lastly clients. You can’t do what the clients want if you don’t have the staff or great vendors. Take care of those people first, and they will take care of your clients.
My operations manager will be with my business 10 years in August and my general manager will reach eight years this December. I think keeping great people is to pay them what they’re worth, and remind yourself they are human beings… not tools to complete the jobs. Owners don’t reach their goals if employees don’t get to their goals!
I remember my general manager starting out and he had credit problems back then. In his second year, he came in and told me he qualified for his first truck. It was a big moment for me and it wasn’t my truck. I will always remember that big moment because it meant the world to him. If you go the extra mile for your people – they will go the extra mile for you. If you practice a simple boss mentality and don’t connect with your people – you’ll lose them.
People make connecting with employees way too complicated – all you have to really do is talk to them. Ask them about their goals. Everyone hears bosses are supposed to keep so much separation between yourself and the employees, but the truth is, your people are directly impacting your life. Their contributions to your business determines what kind of food you put on your table and to the quality of life you provide for your family.
There are still times you have to be the boss, so pick the right times and places to hang out with your team and make them feel they are important. It’s a balance to make people feel part of the family while keeping a healthy distance.
DW: What are your Keys to business success and personal success?
JS: I wouldn’t consider myself a success – yet, and that’s because I’m not done. Success is defined so many ways – by the things you own, money in the bank or the things you accomplish. My success is defined by feeling good about answering this question, did I make my own life better and others’ lives better in the process?
I truly want to leave this world a better place and I don’t need a Ferrari to be successful. I have five children, and at the end of the day, I need my family to know I love them. I want to go home and live the life most people wish they had.
It doesn’t matter if I’m a billionaire or a guy that just gets by because you can always make money. If I lost everything today – I’d be sad, but tomorrow, I’d go out and work to get it back. There’s always going to challenges in the business and as an owner, there is no off season and it’s tough to turn off thoughts of the business. As Rocky said in the movie, “it’s not how hard you can hit, it’s how hard you can get hit and get up.”
Tractor mowers will blow, trucks will break down, you will always have bills to pay and/or three employees leave just as you get ready to start a big job. This business, and any business, is about getting up to fight that fight, and keep moving! I’m still learning these business and life lessons and have to keep learning every day. I can always be a better dad, husband and business owner.
DW: What advice would you offer to GUY Zees with less than five years in the GUY network?
JS: A lot! Remember, what’s happening today isn’t happening tomorrow. You should adjust your five-year plan every year. Make the plan, and don’t be afraid to tweak it. I love hockey and coach two youth teams. It’s the same when building your hockey team – set your goals first. Then, make your plan for the season and make changes if you need to.
I also believe owners should never be afraid to push back a goal to do it the right way. We set timelines, but they are made up and can be adjusted. Just don’t change the goal!Lastly, remember your why about this business. I got into this franchise to help others improve their lives and to coach others. I love to build things, and I want to help people build their businesses and be part of a youth center. Helping others demonstrates home, school and work life can be more than what is shown in the media. I love bringing old school values to a new school world.