After about ten years in the film and television industry, Ben Harrell started to feel burnt out and began to look towards his next move. With a small landscaping side business, mainly doing weekend jobs, he began to think of ways he could grow this business, explaining, “I wanted something that was more sustainable.”
Harrell and his wife, Julie, were ready to make some big changes professionally and personally. Both agreed they wanted to start a business. They also wanted move from southern California back to Harrell’s native Arkansas. “Starting our business in Arkansas made a lot of sense. It would get us close to family and the area was really growing. It’s a great place to do business.”
After some research, Harrell paid a visit to a nearby U.S. Lawns franchisee to learn more about the business model, saying, “I really liked what I saw. The tools and resources U.S. Lawn provides its franchises impressed me. The model is designed to build a large, sustainable business. Anyone can start a small landscaping business, but having the U.S. Lawns brand and support team by your side really helps you grow quickly. Being a franchisee gives you access to things like marketing and financial tools, support, buying power and employee training, things you wouldn’t have if you did it alone.”
He adds, “You don’t really need any landscaping experience to be successful with this model. It’s a business first and foremost. I had to transform myself from a landscaper to a businessman, that is how I was able to grow.”
In 2005, Harrell became a U.S. Lawns franchisee. One of first things Harrell did was hire a manager, “I realized early on was that I couldn’t grow this business sitting on a lawnmower. I knew I had to get help. I wanted my focus to be on building relationships in the community.”
That fall, Harrell began building the infrastructure of his business and hit the ground running in the spring of 2006. “We started with one crew and then a few months later added another. We have kept that pace, growing about one to two crews a year since then. Today we have ten maintenance trucks, three irrigation trucks, one spray truck, two enhancement trucks and four manager trucks,” says Harrell.
With such a large crew, Harrell will tell you the quality of his employees has been vital to the business’ success. “I am proud of what we have built together. This is not the success story of Ben Harrell, this is the success story of U.S. Lawns Team 193.”
He explains, “You are only as good as your employees. Many of my people have been here for eight, nine, ten years. It is so important to take care of them, know who they are, who their families are. My crew is made of up a fantastic group of guys who work hard.”
Another key to Harrell’s success has been community involvement. As part of many local associations and councils, such as his local apartment association and a bank board of directors, Harrell says, “Building those relationships in your community is extremely important. This is where the work comes from.”
As relationships were built and the work began to roll in, Harrell was able to take his business to the next level because he had a roadmap. “Everything I need to run my business was laid out by U.S. Lawns. I know what my goals are. What my direct and indirect costs are and what percentage they should be. I understand where my gross profit needs to be,” explains Harrell.
Along with the road map and support Harrell receives from the brand, the network of other U.S. Lawns owners has been invaluable to propelling his business forward. “The relationships I have developed with other owners has been amazing. We can bounce ideas off each other and inspire each other. I have taken golf trips and vacations with some of these guys. The competitive camaraderie has been a huge motivation as well. When I started out, I saw them running 10,15, even 20 trucks. I saw the money they were bringing in. I saw them getting a ring for hitting different revenue benchmarks. I saw them being inducted into the Million Dollar Club and the Hall of Fame. I was determined for that to be me. And U.S. Lawns helped me do it, but they also made sure I was doing it in a sustainable way.”
More than a decade into his business, Harrell is enjoying a greater level of freedom and flexibility. He says, “I am really enjoying the freedom of running my own business. I now have more time with my family. I am a father of young boys and the fact that I get to be there to help them get ready for school or take them to their appointments and sports try outs means everything to me.” Harrell also uses some of his spare time to give back to the network by sitting on the U.S. Lawns Franchise Advisory Council.
He adds, “It took some work to get to the lifestyle that I now have. There were some hard years, but it has all paid off. Now, I don’t have to be in the office daily. I have good people who do that. At this point the business basically runs itself.”
When asked if he would recommend U.S. Lawns to someone considering the brand, he says, “Don’t get into this if you just want a job, get into it if you want to build a business. No matter what you have done before, U.S. Lawns can be a vehicle for people to be successful. U.S. Lawns has the tools you need to grow a sustainable business.”
To request more information about starting your own U.S. Lawns franchise, click here.