By Peter Saunders
You don’t need a background in franchised businesses to become a franchisee yourself. Franchising is the world’s most successful business model because it takes people from all walks of life and gives them the tools they need to be their own boss, often in an entirely new field. Considering your natural talent, skills and life experience, you’ve probably got a lot to be confident about as you prepare for your journey.
Still have any doubts? Maybe your career thus far has been very different from the franchise you hope to buy? In “You’ve Got What It Takes,” we show you how your work experience—or any other experience—can be applied in a franchised setting.
What he does:
Based in Richmond Hill, Ont., Paul Eden has been a franchisee since July 2009 for The Gardener, a year-round landscape maintenance business whose services include weekly lawn cutting, shrub and hedge trimming, organic fertilizing and weed control, spring and fall yard cleanup, planting, soil and mulch installations, sodding and other landscape improvements, as well as snowplowing and ice control in the winter.
Paul’s Richmond Hill North/Oak Ridges franchise territory encompasses a large suburban area north of Toronto, with a mix of residential and commercial landscaping opportunities.
“I have 180 km2 (69.5 sq. mi) to cover, but it keeps me close to home,” he says. “In my previous work, I used to be on the road 45 weeks out of the year.”
So, while the workdays are long, especially in the spring, the franchise allows Paul to spend more time overall with his children as they grow up. He is also conveniently based near the franchisor’s head office in Thornhill, Ont.—and in a region with many potential customers.
“I was very fortunate to live in Richmond Hill and get it as my territory,” he says. “There’s an aging population, as well as younger families that are mostly double-income, preferring to hire gardeners because they don’t have time to handle the work themselves. So, this is a prime target area. And there are an awful lot of landscapers out there!”
In the face of large-scale competition, Paul feels he has an advantage in his franchise. Aggressive marketing has established strong brand recognition, as have trucks on the road with The Gardener’s logo and motto, ‘We do it, you enjoy it!’ The administrative office ensures he gets his leads quickly, while also handling tasks like billing, payment processing, accounts receivable and scheduling.
“The system provides exceptional services, particularly in terms of billing and handling incoming phone calls, which I don’t have time for or don’t want to do myself,” he explains. “Instead, I get to be the face of the business, running a crew and knocking on doors. And in this sector, the first to the door usually gets the job. A customer isn’t going to wait and compare three quotes.”
While Paul says sales are relatively straightforward in the landscaping business, as people either want the work done or not, his current challenge is trying to keep doing hands-on work and manage a growing franchise at the same time. He started with 98 clients in his first year, which jumped to 170 early this year, with more signing on throughout the summer.
“I have two crews and I’m running one of them,” he says, “but I can’t see what the other crew is doing at the same time. If we go up to three crews, I won’t be able to ‘work,’ I’ll only be able to manage.”
This pattern of growth is normal for The Gardener franchisees, the majority of whom are managing their business, not pushing a lawn mower. Along with his love for working outside, however, Paul has experience managing large departments in his previous career. This has helped him guide his crews effectively.
“For example, I run my grass-cutting schedule on a four-day week, because I know it will rain on some days,” he explains. “This way, the workdays are long, but I can sometimes give my crews a three-day weekend.”