Over the 17 years Steve Ferguson has been a U.S. Lawns franchisee in Hampton Roads, Virginia he has seen the brand evolve. “Change is inevitable and constant. U.S. Lawns’ evolution has been awesome. They constantly reevaluate and look for ways to incrementally improve. They truly listen to their franchises.”
Through the Advisory Council, U.S. Lawns taps into the power of the network and has created a channel for productive two-way dialogue between the brand and its franchisees. Ferguson, who is a member of the Million Dollar Club, the Top 10 and the U.S. Lawns Hall of Fame, has served on the council multiple times and has played a pivotal role in shaping the council to what it is today.
Agents for Change
“My goal is to be a positive agent for change. It is about taking a comprehensive approach and helping build a brand that we are all proud of,” Ferguson says, “I view our role as council members as being ambassadors to and for the brand. I liken it to a boat. U.S. Lawns is driving the boat, the advisory council helps steer it.”
Made up of eight members, each of six geographical regions elects a representative to the council, while the seventh member is elected at large. The eighth is a representative from the U.S. Lawns support team. The council holds bi-weekly calls and meets as a group three to four times a year. Ferguson says, “New franchisees should get to know who the representatives are and start a dialogue with them. They can go to any member of the council and are not limited to the one in their region. The more input we get the more effective we can be.”
Transparency is of utmost importance to the Advisory Council. Ferguson explains, “We want to include the entire network. We invite every franchisee to be a part of our conversations. It is very much a collaboration. All the meetings are open, and we publish the minutes from those meetings online.”
A 360-Degree Approach
The advisory council discusses a wide range of topics important to franchisees. “Recently we addressed an online training and application process, as well as separate training for different aspects of the business,” says Ferguson.
Ferguson continues, “Another initiative that has come out of the council’s discussions has been the publishing of the Top 100 standings. It was born out of a spirit of competitive camaraderie. We wanted to see the standings so we knew where we stood and so we could encourage and push each other to get to that next level. There is a lot of banter and good-natured ribbing that happens when the new list comes out each month.”
Engaging the Network
“Currently we are emphasizing the importance of being around and being plugged into the network. We are working on a 360-degree approach to fully engage the power of the network through 100% participation at our regional and national conferences. This builds on past initiatives like The Helping Hand Fund. We noticed that some franchisees were electing not to attend the annual conference for financial reasons so we created the fund to provide assistance and make sure everybody has a chance to attend. The conference is so beneficial to us as franchisees, we don’t want anyone to miss out.”
The advisory council is most effective when the network is engaged, explains Ferguson. “Many hands lighten the load. Everyone has a different perspective. The council includes franchisees who have been around for 20 years and some that have been around for just a few years, it is important to hear from everyone.”
He concludes, “We on the advisory council want to spread the word about what we do, and we want to get everyone engaged. We need to hear every franchisee’s voice because we are all in this together and we all make each other better.”