As a Tugboat captain, Bryan Smith kept a stressful schedule. He would spend 30+ days out on the boat pushing barges, and then just seven to ten days at home before he had to do it all again. “I knew I wanted a family and that wouldn’t work being gone all the time,” says Bryan.
In 2004, Bryan’s dad approached him with the idea of starting a U.S. Lawns franchise in the Myrtle Beach, South Carolina area. “I immediately said ‘Let’s do it!” I was all in,” says Bryan. “My dad was semi-retired at the time, and it was something we enjoyed doing together.” By 2010, Bryan’s dad stepped back and Bryan, who was also a new father at the time, took over the business.
Recalling those early days, Bryan says, “My Culture Index profile is a Persuader, and my charter boat days taught me how to interact with clients to create a great customer experience. I have always been a bit of a chameleon,” explains Bryan, “In the early days of the franchise, I was doing both sales and operations. We only had two employees then. I would be weed whacking one property and see a place across the street that wasn’t being kept up. I always kept a spare U.S. Lawns polo in the truck, so I would get that and go across the street and ask them for their business.”
Bryan’s business has come a long way since those early days. Today he has 43 trucks, 16 maintenance crews, a chemical crew and an irrigation crew. This is in addition to his sales and office staff. He says, “Our biggest growth has been in the last two and a half years. My upper management team has been the driving force for that. They are the reason we have made bigger deals with bigger customers.”
Creating a best place to work culture has been central to how Bryan has been able to grow his business. “U.S. Lawns provides a pathway for my team to grow and develop. I also think providing incentives is very important. My Business Developer has been with us for over 11 years and has done every job in the company. Having good people on your team is key,” says Bryan.
Bryan will also tell you that having the support from such a strong brand has helped him made all the difference, “I can always count on the Home Office. I would never be where I am today with my franchise if it wasn’t for the other franchisees and the franchisor. There is always someone with the expertise I need to level up my business. When I have a problem, they are always there to help. If this was Bryan’s Landscaping, it wouldn’t be a success because I wouldn’t have that relationship with the U.S. Lawns brand.”
He goes on to say, “I also had some amazing mentors help me when I was getting started. Steven Keys, who at the time owned the Columbia territory, let me shadow him. William Atwell also was a great source of information and knowledge. The power of the U.S. Lawns network is incredible.”
Bryan is honest about some struggles he had over the years as a franchisee. “For a few years there, I went rouge. Most of my work was in installation and not in maintenance,” he explains, “This goes against what the brand teaches. I soon found out why. The economy crashed and all that enhancement work dried up. I took a hit and had to spend some time course correcting.”
Bryan’s life as a business owner is very different from his life as a tugboat captain. “I have so much flexibility now. I get to go on a boat when I want to, not because I have to. And best of all I get to be there for my 13-year-old son and do stuff with him. We can go hunting and fishing. I am also creating a legacy of business ownership for my family. I 100% accomplished what I set out to by becoming a business owner,” adding, “I feel like a poster child for U.S. Lawns. If I can do it anyone can! I had no previous business knowledge. It doesn’t matter what your background is, you can make a good living and you get to be outside.”
After 20 years with the brand, Bryan is taking on the role of mentor to new franchisees joining the system saying, “It is rewarding to now be in that role. It feels good. I enjoy seeing people be successful. It excites me.” And his advice for new franchisees just starting out is this: “Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call for help. Someone probably has already made that mistake. The help is there. I also want to say that at the end of the day, you can’t be scared, you just have to go for it.”
Recently Bryan was honored by the International Franchise Association with one of their highest honors: Franchisee of the Year. “When I found out I was named Franchisee of the Year, I thought, ‘Me? What did I do?’ This was really my team’s award, not mine. My name might be on the award, but it really should say Team 157,” adding, “When you are out on the water, a captain is only as good as his crew and that applies to my business as well.”
Learn more about how you can build a sustainable business that helps you achieve your goals like Bryan, with the help of the #1 commercial landscape franchise in the nation. We look forward to hearing from you.