Greensleeves Lawn Care: The franchise opportunity

Startups talks to David Truby, managing director of Greensleeves Lawn Care, about their start-up package for franchisees

Company: Greensleeves Lawn Care
Description: Greensleeves offers specliast lawn care treatment services throughout the UK. Its start-up package is available for less than £25,000, for which it claims to offer a proven return on investment.
Started in: 1998
Founders: John Warham – who retired in 2008. Jimmy Wilson-Petch, Phil Paddock and David Truby currently own the company.
No. of franchises: 61
Coverage:
National – franchisees operating across the UK
Average cost per franchise: Between £19,500 and £24,950
Website: www.greensleeves-uk.com

Greensleeves Lawn Care is on a mission to implement franchises across the whole of the UK. With 61 franchises already set up, and plans for extensive growth across the remaining unchartered lawn territories, it’s a franchise model with plenty of potential for new franchisees. John Warham set up Greensleeves Lawn Care in 1998 after returning from working overseas, and in just two years considerable expansion was needed to meet high demand. Warham had developed a sound business concept and quickly recruited a number of employees before deciding to turn to franchising in 2000 to facilitate growth. After implementing its franchise model, Greensleeves saw an increase of up to 40% year-on-year and hasn’t looked back since. David Truby joined Greensleeves Lawn Care in 2004 and in 2008 instigated a management buy-out (as John Warham was retiring). Here, he talks to Startups.co.uk about the complete start-up package that Greensleeves Lawn Care can offer franchises and what the company is looking for in its perfect franchisee.

Moving into franchising

So how did Greensleeves Lawn Care move into franchising?

John looked into and decided to franchise the concept in 2000 setting up a pilot in nearby Harrogate.  I joined the business in 2004 as a younger, more ambitious member of the team and headed a management buy-out due to retirement in 2008. At the time of the change in ownership the business had a network of 17 franchisees, mainly in the north of England.

Where did the business open its first franchises?

Following the successful pilot the company launched its first franchises in East Riding and Richmond.

How successful were those original franchisees?

The initial franchisees were extremely successful which encouraged the growth of the company from three franchisees to the 61 it has today. Greensleeves Richmond grew dramatically, it became (and remains) the largest of the Greensleeves franchises operating eight vans, employing 12 staff and looking after nearly 4,500 lawns.

The franchise opportunity

What makes the franchise different / unique?

The franchise is run for franchisees by franchisees, meaning that those running the company understand exactly what it is like to be a franchisee. The level of support and training supplied to Greensleeves franchisees really is second to none and sets them ahead of the competition. Greensleeves as a company prides itself on the high level of service it offers to its customers and this is also reflected in the way that it treats its franchisees.

What services do you offer?

Greensleeves franchisees offer a variety of lawn treatment services to their customers from seasonal treatment programmes through to specialist applications such as scarification and re-seeding. Greensleeves use the best quality products with ‘no scorch’ technology along with controlled-release granules that provide a steady supply of nitrogen to the lawns. This allows for a long-lasting greening for the lawns, and is perfectly safe to children, pets and plants.

How big is the market opportunity?

There are approximately 21 million lawns in Britain and approximately 60% are owned by the type of people who may at some time use our service so the potential is huge.

How many franchisees does Greensleeves Lawn Care have today?

Today the company can boast 61 franchises covering all corners of the UK from Aberdeen to Belfast, Brighton to Bristol. There are still many territories to fill so the opportunity to join the business is better than ever before. 

How is the brand marketed?

Greensleeves recognises the importance of marketing and as a result employs the services of a dedicated marketing company to assist franchisees in growing their businesses. Staunton Rook Marketing Services works with Greensleeves not only at a head office level to grow the brand and the company as a whole but also with the franchisees on a local level to assist them in growing their businesses. All Greensleeves franchisees have access to a dedicated marketing account manager to assist them in dealing with their marketing requirements.

How do you divide the regions?

Regions are divided by postcode sector; each franchisee has a dedicated unique postcode area in which to operate. Each area consists of a minimum of 80,000 households of the demographic profile that may become customers. This gives a prospective owner a really good opportunity to grow a significant business.

The perfect franchisee

What does Greensleeves Lawn Care look for in potential franchisees?

Potential Greensleeves franchisees do not need to have a background in lawn care. The only requirement is that they are self-motivated, ambitious and looking to develop a business that will lead to employing a small team of people. Most importantly, potential franchisees will understand how crucial it is to deliver a high level of customer service. Lawn care is not for everyone, it does involve some level of physical activity and a love of working outdoors.

So do franchisees work from an office, or are they home-based? Is it part-time or full-time?

To begin with, the vast majority of franchisees operate their businesses from home. As the business grows they may decide to take on premises in which to operate the business from. In order to run a Greensleeves franchise effectively and to get the maximum return on your investment you need to commit to it full-time; it is not really something that can be done on a part-time basis.

How are franchisees vetted?

Potential franchisees will have a meeting with the Greensleeves directors in order to ascertain if Greensleeves franchising is for them. At this point the prospective franchisee will be given a very open and honest view of the business concept in an attempt to help them make a decision on whether the business is for them or not. It is in everyone’s interests that this meeting is as open and honest as possible.

What do you offer franchisees that sign-up?

Greensleeves franchisees will receive a full start-up package which includes:

  • Franchise license, full training, accreditation and ongoing business support.
  • Unique postcode area with at least 80,000 potential customers
  • Full turn-key equipment package, including machinery, vehicle deposit, signage, software, stationery and initial stock
  • A full marketing launch programme including 100,000 leaflets for local use, a website and access to marketing assistance
  • Essentially everything they need to get a lawn care business up and running.

How much do franchisees pay and what are the ongoing franchise fees?

The initial investment required for a Greensleeves franchise is between £19,500 and £24,950. In addition, there is an ongoing franchise fee which equates to 7% of monthly turnover plus a 2% contribution to global brand marketing costs.

How do franchisees finance the purchase – what arrangements does Greensleeves Lawn Care have in place with banks?

Many franchisees rely on either savings or redundancy money to purchase their franchise but bank funding has been very forthcoming when needed. NatWest, Lloyds TSB and HSBC banks are all very supportive of the Greensleeves business and have in the past lent to incoming franchisees. Depending on personal circumstances, that is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.

Success and growth

How successful are some of the franchisees today?

A Greensleeves franchise really can grow to be an extremely successful business as demonstrated by many of the current franchisees. For example, Gary Birbeck of Greensleeves North Yorkshire established his franchise in July 2007 and since then he has grown his franchise into a very successful lawn care business operating three vans and employing several members of staff.

How is the brand looking to grow?

Greensleeves has enjoyed five extremely successful years of growth and the future looks just as bright. There currently remain many territories across the UK in which Greensleeves does not operate, not due to lack of demand from customers, but simply because Greensleeves do not currently have a franchisee operating in that area (we are regularly inundated with enquiries which unfortunately we cannot fulfil). The goal is to take on more franchisees so that the company truly can fulfil the demand that already exists for the brand right across the UK.

What is the potential of the business?

The business has huge potential, the lawn care industry is growing and Greensleeves is keen to grow with it, with more and more people being time poor yet house proud the demand for lawn treatment services is ever present. The goal is to ensure that Greensleeves have the franchisees available to fulfil that demand.

What will the challenges be in achieving that?

Like many companies in today’s economic climate the greatest challenge faced by Greensleeves is in encouraging potential franchisees to take that leap into the unknown. Greensleeves appreciates that setting up your own business is scary, that is why we have excellent support systems in place to reassure anyone considering taking on a franchise that they are not on their own and that the team at head office are committed to ensuring new franchisees get off to a flying start and succeed.

What awards has the business won?

Winner of ‘Business of the year’ award Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce 2006. Business Link ‘Bucking the Trend’ Winner 2008.

To what extent are the founders involved today?

The founders are extremely involved, as mentioned above the founding franchisees run the company.

Finally, is the company a British Franchise Association (BFA) member?

Yes

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