Weed Man, a leading Canadian lawn care provider, has its sights set on aggressive growth in the United States with plans to add several hundred franchise territories in the U.S. within the next 10 years. Despite the down economy, Jennifer Lemke, COO of Weed Man, urges other landscape industry professionals to stay true to their own vision of what their companies should be.

“The companies that stay true to their vision are the companies that thrive in times of recession,” said Lemke. “During the economic downturn, people are spending more money on their homes. Lawn care is a low-cost way to add curb appeal, and people are protecting their biggest asset.”

According to Lemke, during this time of mass layoffs, lawn care companies can actually take advantage by adding better employees.

“Ours is one of the few industries that is hiring,” said Lemke. “And even if people are not out of work, they are still looking to add a second job for better security. We are adding people for evening and weekend shifts.”


Dare to innovate

According to Lemke, a lot of lawn care and landscape companies are diversifying their offerings to protect their overall asset. By branching out to other areas of expertise, it is not as big of a hit if the company loses a client.

“Maximize your dollars by expanding your offerings,” said Lemke. “Someone might have said ‘no’ to a particular offering, but don’t throw that lead away. As you look at your customer list, be innovative in how you upsell to your customers. Go back and see if their situation has changed. Stay on top of older leads, and keep up on your word of mouth and referral programs.”

Lemke suggests that companies identify how much they are willing to pay to get a customer. Understanding the value of the customer and what they mean to the business can help you determine how much you want to spend on marketing.

Looking at new ways to do business, such as lean management, is another way that companies can continue to innovate.

“Just because you’ve been doing something the same way for 10 years doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t streamline or look at ways to make your company better,” said Lemke. “Companies that aren’t willing to change with the times are companies that aren’t going to be in business very much longer.”


A working example

According to Lemke, Weed Man has stayed true to its vision of growth, and that example can be a model for others. In 2000, the Quebec government allowed municipalities to ban pesticides. Weed Man went into survival mode, stopped buying trucks, and just tried to make it through, said Lemke. Then, in 2002, company leaders decided that survival mode was no way to do business.

“We had lost sight of our vision of growth,” said Lemke. “So in 2002, we stuck to our company vision, and experienced a huge growth spurt. We have grown each of the last 10 years, except the year we went into survival mode. The only thing that had changed was our attitude.”

Lemke urges companies to take a hard look at finances, review budgets and follow a business plan. She also advises company leaders to impart to their employees the company vision, and stay positive and focused on growth. “Tell employees that you’re there to do the best for the company, for them, and for their families,” she said.