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After 23 years of long hours in the oil field, oftentimes with 60-80-hour work weeks with zero flexibility, Ricardo Lewis wanted more for his life. “I wanted to spend more time with my kids and family. Over the years, I have missed many birthday parties and vacations because I was always too busy working,” says Ricardo.

With three kids approaching college age, in addition to wanting to spend more time with them, Lewis also knew he needed to create greater wealth and financial security for his family. Ricardo’s dad, Thomas R. and younger brother, Thomas C., also worked in the oil industry and were both feeling the same way. They all wanted to create more personal freedom and financial security in their lives.

Over the years, the Lewises and long-time family friend and co-worker, Roy Stephens, would often discuss going into business together. “We talked about all different types of business models, from a bar to a dry-cleaning business. We were open to anything, but for years it was just something we talked about, we were just passively looking,” recalls Ricardo.

After a company merger drastically changed their company’s work culture, the Lewises, at the urging of their friend Stephens, began to look more seriously into taking their futures into their own hands and starting a business. Ricardo says, “COVID-19 really got us looking more actively. The oil and gas industry was hit hard and when I was eventually laid off, we realized now was the time to act.”

They began to narrow down their criteria for investing. “We turned our focus to businesses that were considered both essential and year-round. Startup costs had to be low, but it also had to be scalable,” Ricardo says. “And, on the advice of our tax attorney, we looked for business where the operations were simple.”

This is when Stephens came across U.S. Lawns and shared his excitement about the brand with Ricardo. “It was all the things we were looking for. The support and systems that came with the brand were also appealing,” says Ricardo.

As he learned more about the brand, Ricardo found alignment with the business offering and core values. “Being a U.S. Lawns franchisee is not about being on the mower day in and day out, but rather growing your business,” Ricardo continues, “There is a family feel to the culture that resonated with me as well. My family is very close knit, and this will be a family operation. U.S. Lawns is a good fit for us.”

In October, Ricardo, Thomas R. and Thomas C. look the leap and joined the U.S. Lawns family as franchisees for the Pearland, TX territory. Unfortunately, Stephens’ health took an unexpected turn, and he is unable to join the family in the business. “He got us moving on this whole journey towards taking control of our futures and heavily influenced our decision to join U.S. Lawns. Roy has been and will always be a big part of this.”

In addition to creating more personal freedom and financial stability in his life, Ricardo is ready to grow personally and professionally. “I am excited to challenge myself in new ways that I wasn’t able to in my previous career,” explains Lewis, “I will be approaching my leadership role in the business much like a coach.  I am looking forward to building my team and being a mentor to them. I appreciate that with this business we will be creating opportunities for other others in our community.”

Improving communities in ways that everyone can see is a core component of the U.S. Lawns culture. By providing job opportunities, beautifying properties and getting involved in community organizations and charities, the Lewises hope to make a significant impact in Pearland and the surrounding areas over the years to come.

40-year-old Jaime Caballero has always been a growth minded individual. Six years ago, he left his successful banking career to go into business for himself. He and his wife Irene went on to build an inflatable rental business from scratch. The venture proved to be lucrative and the pair grew their business to more than a dozen employees.

For Caballero, one the most fulfilling aspects of entrepreneurism is providing opportunities for his employees, something he takes very seriously. “Every year, prior to the pandemic, my family and I would rent several cabins by a lake and invite all of our employees to bring their families and spend the weekend together, having fun.  I make it a point to remind my kids that we have a responsibility to all these people and their families,” recalls Caballero.

It is this sense of responsibility that lead the Caballeros to take proactive steps to diversify their revenue stream once the pandemic slowed their inflatable business. “Even before COVID, we reached a ceiling in our business. It is not a very scalable business model. There are a lot of logistics involved that demand a lot of my attention, in addition to a great deal of liability,” Caballero adds, “Not to mention the physical toll it takes to be moving 400 pound inflatables around.”

With the economic shutdown and health and safety guidelines prohibiting gatherings, the inflatable business drastically cut his business, Caballero found himself with more time to focus on a building a new business. “I had always wanted to get into commercial landscaping. The pandemic made it clear that it was time to take the next steps. The ideal of investing in a business deemed essential was very appealing.”

Landscaping fit well with Caballero’s existing business. “Both involve working outdoors. I already have trailers for equipment. Three of my guys have landscaping experience,” he explains, “Customer service and being dependable are key in both businesses.”

Instead of starting from scratch as they did with the inflatable business, the Caballeros wanted to go with a proven business model with systems already in place this time around. The expertise and experience of an established brand was important to Caballero. “Having the support of a franchise would help shorten the inevitable learning curve in the start up phase of the business. Franchising takes out a lot of the guesswork,” he says.

U.S. Lawns became the standout choice to Caballero, explaining, “The brand’s system has been proven. It has been fine-tuned, the attention to detail is tremendous. Through my research I could see that focusing solely on commercial clients makes the business more scalable and creates unlimited earning potential.  With U.S. Lawns I could grow at the pace I wanted and I have set big goals for our business.”

He goes on to say, “Creating a good work culture with opportunities for growth for employees, is central to our businesses. We found the U.S. Lawns’ Brand DNA to be in very much in alignment with this.”

Finding the brand to be a good fit for his long term personal and financial goals, the Caballeros purchased the U.S. Lawns territory in College Station, Texas. “I am 110% a better person because of my businesses. It is very important to me to set a strong example for my six children. I want to show them that with a solid work ethic and hard work, anything is possible. You have to always be growing. If you aren’t growing, you’re dying. Irene and I are excited to take on this new challenge and grow personally and professionally.”

After years of working in real estate development and management, Tommy Kilbride decided it was time to build something for himself. “I wanted the pride of being able to put my name on something of my own. I wanted to be able to say to my girls that their dad runs his own business,” says Kilbride.

With three small daughters at home, family was a driving factor for pursuing business ownership.  “Having control over my own schedule would allow me to spend more time with my daughters and be more available for them. As they grow, I wanted more flexibility in my business and be able to do things like take them to school in the morning,” explains Kilbride, “When you are in the middle of a development project, it takes up all your time and energy to make sure you meet your deadlines. It took me away from my family. I was looking for a business that could eventually sustain itself, as well as being scalable.”

Kilbride’s real estate development partner, Tait Coates, felt the same way. “We both had a bug for small business and would talk about different ideas on long car rides,” recalls Kilbride. After Coates became a U.S. Lawns franchisee, Kilbride knew the business model was what he was looking for.  “Once Tait started talking about U.S. Lawns, I saw how the business checked so many of the boxes we had discussed years earlier. Tait and I both have a similar work mindset and partnering up with him fit what I wanted my next step to be,” Kilbride says.

For Kilbride, the investment cost to become a franchisee was right, saying, “The low barrier of entry appealed to me. It was normal to put up earnest money for that same amount in real estate development. I felt the cost was reasonable, it didn’t feel like a risk, especially when you factor in the brand’s systems and support.”

Speaking of the systems and support, Kilbride says, “While I had experience in the commercial landscape operational side, I didn’t have the structures needed to run the business. U.S. Lawns helped me learn how to do things like quoting jobs and bookkeeping. The systems are simple, and when you follow the program laid out for you, you will be successful.”

He adds, “Being business minded will take you far in this business. Understanding the bottom line and budgets is helpful. The brand’s robust support and training will fill in the gaps. I like to put it this way: experience need not apply when it comes to U.S. Lawns. It takes an entrepreneurial spirit and hustle. Those are two things you can’t teach. The rest you can learn.”

Another asset Kilbride saw in joining U.S. Lawns was being able to leverage the brand’s recognition and reputation. “While I am new to the business, when I talk to potential clients, I have the 30 plus years of expertise behind me to help me get it right. It goes a long way,” says Kilbride.

Since launching his business in February, Kilbride has found satisfaction in building his team, saying,” It is rewarding to be able to provide my team with growth opportunities and a slice of ownership for themselves. I believe strongly in the Richard Branson quote: ‘Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.’ This is ingrained in the U.S. Lawns culture, and it provides a strong foundation for the culture in my own business.”

Kilbride concludes with this, “Starting your own business takes a lot of work upfront, but as my U.S. Lawns business grows it will create more freedom and flexibility in my life. Having a built-in recurring and self-sustaining revenue from a business that I am proud to put my name on is something I am excited to be building.”

To learn more about U.S. Lawns can help you create more freedom and flexibility in your life, click here.

As vice president of operations for a healthcare business, thirty-year-old Drew Eaton was already quite successful in his career, but he couldn’t help but feel that his career was not completely fulfilling his purpose. With a new baby on the way, this first-time father began to picture what he wanted the next chapter of his life to look like. He realized he really wanted to build something of his own, something he could grow as he grew his family, and something that would allow him to define the terms of his work/life balance.

Landscaping had always been a passion and a gift of Eaton’s, an avid golfer who enjoys being outdoors.  He says, “I knew one day I wanted to get into the landscaping industry. It has always felt like a creative outlet for me.” Before college, Eaton even briefly considered going into landscape architecture. He opted, however, for college degrees in business and healthcare administration, allowing him the opportunity to grow his business knowledge in other fields.

Eaton goes on to say, “Working in the healthcare industry taught me a lot. I gained operational and people management skills. I also saw what it takes to grow a business. It really comes down to investing in people.”

Opportunity Knocks

At the end of 2018, a U.S. Lawns territory in Eaton’s hometown of Memphis, Tennessee became available. “It really felt like it was meant to be.  After numerous discussions, validations and prayer, I felt good about the feedback I received. I felt confident about the brand and in the level of support provided to franchisees,” he says.

Eaton also compared U.S Lawns’ offering with that of another lawn care brand. “U.S. Lawns came out ahead, especially when it comes to their values and support. The U.S. Lawns Open House really affirmed my feelings. It felt like home. They treat people like family. The culture is inclusive and personable. If the culture, opportunity and business model didn’t make sense, we would not have made the decision we did.”

Joining the U.S. Lawns franchisee network has been a positive experience for Eaton. He immediately forged a strong bond with another new franchisee in the Memphis area, who coincidentally attended the same Open House he did. “Travis Alexander and I got started at about the same time and already have a great relationship. We swap ideas and are a sounding board for each other. It helps to have someone who is in the same situation as I am to bounce ideas off.” The two are now working side by side to develop contacts and build their respective books of business in the Memphis market.

Finding Balance

As of May, Eaton is up and running with eleven contracts. “I look forward to developing relationships with my crew and clients and providing quality service,” he continues, “I couldn’t do all this by myself. My wife, Carrie, has been so supportive and encouraging. She even manages the marketing side of things, in addition to her own career.”

Eaton is now building a business of his own. He concludes, “I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to invest in this dream at this point in my life. As with most things, I have set some aggressive goals. This business model is flexible enough that I can still create a good work life balance, and that is really important to me, especially with a newborn at home!”

To find your own balance, click here.

As a project manager at a global finance company, Chris Kelly had been following a set path.  Over 20 years he had successfully worked his way up through the company. However, when the company rearranged their reporting structure, things began to shift for Kelly.

Under new leadership, he found his work culture drastically changed. “In this new division, I was working twice as hard and not getting the same quality of results as I had before. I was unhappy and it just wasn’t a good fit for me anymore,” explains Kelly.

After discussing the situation with his manager, he was given two options. One was to find a different place within the organization that was a better fit. The second option was to accept a compensation package and leave the company.

Kelly recalls, “Finding new placement in the company felt like a safer option, but I had played it safe my entire life. I had been with the same company for two decades. My wife, Margie, and I had raised our kids in the same town we grew up in. We were ready to take a step outside of our comfort zone.”

Adding, “I had always dreamed of starting my own business and the compensation package would help fund such a venture.”

Examining Options

After taking the buyout deal, the Kellys began to look at their options. Right away they decided on franchising.  “At 50 years old, we didn’t have time to build something from scratch. With the systems and processes that come with a franchise, the learning curve is shortened. We could leverage what other people have already learned. We felt it would be foolish to do it on our own, especially at this point in our lives,” explains Kelly.

Looking at a wide range of business models, the pair were able to rule several out.  “We looked at buying an automotive repair business, but I had worked in one as a teenager. I remember it being dirty, hard work. I was not interested in doing that again,” Kelly continues, “We also looked at a fast food restaurant. The concept for this particular offering felt a bit gimmicky. I had my grown kids visit different locations and neither of them enjoyed their client experience. Food trends come and go and investing a large amount of money in a trend did not seem like a good idea.”

They even entertained the idea of going into real estate and flipping houses. However, Kelly explains, “After attending a seminar on the topic, we were turned off by the industry. We felt that the industry lacked integrity. There were a lot of people sinking their life savings into these get rich quick schemes and we did not want to be a part of that.”

Having examined several offerings, the Kellys continued their search. Aside from finding a business that aligned with their Christian values, they felt compelled to make some big changes in their personal life as well.  Chris and Margie’s two grown children lived in Texas and California, and the Kelly’s, who had always lived in Virginia, wanted to be closer to them. They decided that Texas would be where they would relocate.

A Values Based Organization

While doing a web search of franchise opportunities with territories open in Texas, Margie found U.S. Lawns. Kelly says, “It sparked my curiosity as I have a personal passion for lawncare. I take great pride in taking care of my lawn. But honestly it was the values of the company that really stood out to us. They have integrity in their operations and in their relationships. And they have outstanding processes and systems in place. Talking with other U.S. Lawns franchisees like Drew Eaton in Memphis, Tennessee, it is apparent that they don’t just talk the talk. They actually deliver on their value proposition and are invested in our individual success.”

Adding, “We also appreciated that they are not just out to sell anyone a franchise, Todd Chapman and the rest of the recruiting team really takes their time to determine if this is a mutual fit. They helped us look deep at our ‘why’ for investing and had us consider our three and five year plan.”

Looking back at the path that lead them to the brand, Kelly comments, “This whole journey towards U.S. Lawns ownership has really fallen into place in an amazing way. From the way my leaving my longtime company provided us with the money to invest in a business to my wife’s job going to great lengths to accommodate our move so she can continue to work for them, it has all aligned. We felt it was the right time make a big move in our personal lives as well. For example, the church plant we were involved in had come to a point of maturity where we felt we could step away. We really felt we were being called to take this big leap of faith.”

Alignment is Key

Having found alignment with U.S. Lawns in both their personal and financial goals, Chris and Margie are now the owners of an exclusive territory in Waco, Texas. Still in the beginning steps of setting up their business, Kelly has found the brand’s support comprehensive and robust. “I think many people don’t realize how much is involved in running this business. You are not just some ‘Chuck on a truck’, you really need to be business minded. I am so grateful I have the support to fill in the gaps as I learn.”

For the Kelly’s this business is also a mission field. “For so many years I worked for a large corporation where I felt my impact was in some ways more abstract. As a U.S. Lawn’s franchisee, we will be positioned to improve our community in a very tangible way. We look forward to making connections and form bonds with our new community as well as be a place that offers gainful employment to individuals in need of a second chance. We are very excited for what is to come.”

To start your own new beginning, click here.

In 2015, Stephen and Elizabeth Carman moved from their home in Houston, Texas when Stephen started a corporate training job to Fort Collins, Colorado.  “Moving so far away from our kids and their families was tough. We realized just how little freedom and flexibility we had in our lives,” says Elizabeth.

Stephen adds, “There were a lot of mergers and closings in my career and I grew unhappy with the lifestyle and constant worry. I wanted more independence and control over my future.  I was ready to do something else.”

Using his corporate experience, Stephen started his own business as a speaker and coach. However, he quickly found that starting a business from scratch without the backing of a support network to be daunting. “It was really hard to gain traction because I had no support. I couldn’t scale that business the way I wanted to. The system and tools just weren’t there,” says Stephen.

Searching for Freedom

Not finding the growth potential and financial freedom they had hoped for, the Carmans began to look at businesses to buy. Casting a wide net, they sifted through several options. “There were a couple of franchises that turned us off in the beginning of our search. We didn’t feel comfortable with their culture or leadership and did not see enough support or tools. We felt they were more interested in our money than in our success.”

The Carmans began to really consider their financial and personal goals. They both agreed that flexibility was their number one priority. Another prerequisite was that it had to be something they both were involved in. “It was important that we did this together. I didn’t feel I could do this without Elizabeth taking an active role,” says Stephen.

As they began considering their options, Stephen recalls that “landscaping has always been a passion” for him, and he really felt “drawn to the commercial lawncare industry.” Together with his background in commercial business, including organizational management, sales and service, a franchise like U.S. Lawns was a strong draw. Stephen’s background, along with Elizabeth’s, who comes from a human resources and executive assistant background, made a good fit for them to consider this as a team.

Initially, Elizabeth had some reservations.  “It was a big leap of faith for me. I didn’t know anything about landscaping. Once I started to see how our skills and experience in the corporate world transferred to the business model, I started to get on board with the idea. The affordability of the model helped as well.” she says.

Once they were in agreement about starting a business, and more specifically a franchise, they looked at several options, one of them being U.S. Lawns. “When we compared the options, U.S. Lawns stood out. The culture was a good fit for us. The support and passion they have to help franchisees succeed is incredible,” says Stephen.

Going All In

In July of 2018, the Carmans signed on as U.S. Lawns franchisees in Fort Collins, Colorado. In just nine months, they have grown beyond their first truck. Of the experience Stephen says, “You don’t know what you don’t know and the training, support and tools from U.S. Lawns has been a life line. They have offered guidance, encouragement and reassurance anytime we have asked for it. They are always just a phone call away.”

Stephen adds, “We have found sticking to the system to be our best bet. There was one particular area in the beginning where we tried to deviate from the system and got mixed results. Once we got back in line with the U.S. Lawns system, it worked out. This affirmed to us that the system works, we just have to follow it.”

They have also found an additional benefit to being part of the U.S. Lawns network: other U.S. Lawns owners. “It was great to meet other franchisees at the recent Growth Summit. We have maintained contact with several of them. Being able to share ideas has been a tremendous resource,” explains Elizabeth.

As their first professional venture together, the Carmans have found their complementary strengths and skill sets to work well together, but they have had to set some boundaries in their working relationship. Stephen says, “Sometimes Elizabeth has had to remind me to stay in my own lane. Of course, there are some areas of overlap, but for the most part it has been a natural division of labor and we have to get out of each other’s way.”

Looking Forward

When asked about their future goals for their business, Stephen says, “One of the things that really appealed to us about this business model was the potential for giving back to our community. We look forward to establishing a relationship with the local rescue mission and becoming a platform to offer people a second chance through employment.”

As the Carmans continue to grow their business, they are paving the way for a future of more financial freedom and flexibility. For them that means creating opportunities for their community and more time with their family, something that aligns well with the U.S. Lawns brand position of “Improve Your Community. Improve Your Life.” and something that was not possible in the confines and uncertainty of the corporate world.

For more information about how you can find your own freedom with U.S. Lawns, click here.

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