By Jay Holland, Franchise Consultant for The Grounds Guys®
Dan and Brandy Prettyman purchased their franchise in March of 2012. Their business started in July 2012 as a start-up company with the idea of building a sustainable business. Dan and Brandy are both veterans and utilized the VetFran program to purchase their franchise. They were both on active duty in the Army when they first met in San Angelo, Texas. Dan was a terrorism analyst and retired from active duty as sergeant, while Brandy was a Chinese linguist and retired from active duty as a specialist. They have had tremendous growth in the short time they have been in business, targeting government, regional, independent and residential market segments. I was able to spend a few minutes learning how Dan and Brandy have been able to achieve substantial growth in such a short period of time.
What was your biggest challenge after you purchased your franchise?
The biggest challenge for us was to sort through the systems and understand exactly what we needed to do first. When you first start with your franchise, you have thousands of things to do to get ready to open your doors. The good part was we had our franchise consultant (FC) there to walk us through each step and focus on what we needed to do next. GroundsNet can be intimidating at first, but once you understand how it works, the process becomes easier and easier. It consolidates all of your data including contracts, leads and team members.
You signed a five-year government contract at Offutt Air Force Base. How were you able to land a 1,000-acre property and have the confidence it would be profitable?
The first step was to really understand how government contracts work. Brandy and I both worked on the contracting side for the government after we retired from the Army; the process can be detailed and requires a lot of paperwork to get submitted. We had that covered. We were able to determine the contract was coming up for renewal through research and made the decision with our FC’s input that we would submit a bid. There were a couple of key factors that helped us land the contract over our competitors, and those factors are the systems and training we have received over the last year. We compiled a 30-page technical write-up that showed the contractor office we had the quality control systems to maintain a property that large, and the experience behind us to make it work. It was already built into the system, like LAND, GC3, V.I.E.W., CASE, etc. It made our job easy; everything that was required was already there for our proposal. When you are dealing with a property this big, you need to understand your financials and numbers, down to every penny. We were able to utilize our business planning tool and understand how the numbers would work over a five-year period. The ability to have the home office team review our production and budgeted numbers as we walked through was crucial in giving us the confidence we were accurate.
With your company growing so fast, how has equipment played a vital role in your success?
Utilizing ProTradeNet® vendors, especially John Deere, is one of the biggest reasons of our success, hands-down. There is no way we could have done it without that relationship. The Grounds Guys has a national community with the ability to get special pricing and fantastic financing terms. When you save on equipment and have the ability to finance at zero percent interest, it really gives you an edge over the competitors. Their dealer network also provides exceptional service to us.
How do you attract such quality team members?
It’s all about the Culture of C.A.R.E. and our hiring process. We worked with an organization called Hiring Heroes. They help find retired servicemen and women jobs, and we were able to find several employees. We did not hire them because they were able to operate a mower; we hired them because they fit our culture and had proven leadership skills because of their time in the military. We are now up to ten full-time employees and two part-timers, and we are always looking to hire veterans who fit our culture.
Why do you make it a point to meet with your franchise consultant once a month?
The main reason is the ability to bounce ideas off of them and make sure we are on track with our goals. He always seems to start back with the basics every time and that really helps put everything in perspective. It might be something as simple as bidding a small residential property or a large government bid. You have to start with basics and work your way from there. It allows you to make the right decision and be confident in it.
Why do you think it is important to diversify your customer base?
Landing such big contracts at the beginning, you can’t forget to refocus on the overall plan and your market segments. I learned at training that you don’t want a couple of customers to be your entire business.
If you had one suggestion for a new or existing franchisee, what would it be?
It would be to look into city, state and federal contracts. It can really help to get your business to break even quickly, and usually, the buying process is not biased by personal relationships.
Korey Kaigle is one of the youngest franchisees in The Dwyer Group® family. At 23-years-old, Korey is employed fulltime by the Army and owns his own The Grounds Guys® franchise, a business he started at 22.
Born and raised in Swanton, Vt., Korey served in the Army National Guard for six years as a medevac Crew Chief on Blackhawk helicopters. He served in Iraq from 2010-2011. Upon his arrival back to the United States, Korey began researching opportunities to own his own business and saw opportunity in The Grounds Guys.
“They allow me to be myself, but made me an entrepreneur and gave me potential. I see a lot of groundskeepers in the area but they limit themselves because they can’t expand,” Korey said. “The Grounds Guys gives me an opportunity to grow and have a support team. I’ve never been in business, and they gave me the tools I needed.”
Recently, The Burlington Free Press featured the incredible story of the local soldier turned entrepreneur.
Korey is one of more than 230 military service men and women and veterans that own a Dwyer Group franchise business. Through the Veterans Transition Franchise Initiative the company has given nearly $1.5 million in franchise discounts to transitioning military personnel and current veterans.
In 1991, The Dwyer Group the founded the VetFran program, a voluntary effort of International Franchise Association (IFA) member companies to encourage franchise ownership by offering business franchise opportunities and financial incentives to honorably discharged veterans. The company’s mission with VetFran program is to help veterans achieve their dreams and goals by being in business for themselves. Learn more at http://www.leadingtheserviceindustry.com/VetFran.asp.
The franchising industry has a long-standing history of supporting veterans. In 1991, IFA launched VetFran, a program to give Gulf War veteran’s access to business ownership opportunities through franchising. In 2011, Operation Enduring Opportunity was launched to expand that initiative to include hiring and the franchising industry began to support the White House Joining Forces initiative.
Recently, IFA President & CEO Steve Caldeira joined President Obama, Vice President Biden, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden onstage to announce the hiring of 290,000 veterans and military spouses who have been hired or trained since the launch of the initiative. Impressively, franchising has contributed almost a quarter of the total hiring.
Hiring our veterans and military spouses is so important because it not only helps them adjust to a new lifestyle but also shows them that our nation honors them with actions, not simply words. In a recent FranBlog, First Lady Michelle Obama commended the work the International Franchise Association has done to help veterans and said, “The IFA has helped more than 4,300 veterans [find jobs] since 2011.”
The franchising industry, led by IFA and 562 other franchised businesses from IFA’s VetFran strategic initiative, were the first to commit to the White House Joining Forces initiative in 2011. The IFA and its association pledged to hire and recruit 80,000 veterans and military spouses in three years. In the first year alone, 65,000 veterans had started careers in franchising using discounts offered by VetFran member companies.
IFA President and CEO Steve Caldeira offered his opinion on this franchising initiative saying, “With its rapid training opportunities, scalability, and need for operational execution and excellence in following proven systems, franchising provides an ideal structure to enable returning veterans to become leaders of and productive participants in the U.S. economy.”
Franchising is clearly a promising decision for many job-seekers today. For current franchising opportunities, veteran discounts or to learn more about the impact of franchising you can visit The Dwyer Group’s website www.leadingtheserviceindystry.com or contact The Dwyer Group® at 1(866)-656-1504. For more information regarding the IFA and the work that they do you can click visit their website at http://www.buildingopportunity.com/index.aspx.