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.”
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.”
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