When Bryan Smith of Myrtle Beach, S.C., first joined U.S. Lawns, he had plenty of questions for his neighbor, Steven Keys of Columbia.
“What do we do during the winter?” Smith wondered.
Keys answered, without missing a beat: “We make money.”
This conversation set the tone for Smith’s tenure at U.S. Lawns—and helped him grow Myrtle Beach into the successful business it is today. As a franchisee in South Carolina who neighbors a few of Keys’ territories, Smith says the two men have developed a unique business partnership and personal friendship.
“I know I have to bring my A game with Steve,” he says. “I can’t expand (into new markets in South Carolina), because the wagons are surrounded,” Smith joked. “So instead, my plan is to focus on net profit within my territory. That’s where I can win.”
People who don’t know Smith and Keys may be surprised by their friendship. It’s close-knit, but highly competitive. They share leads and customers across South Carolina, with Keys exceling in apartments and Smith specializing in HOAs. And they also share regular hunting trips, dinners with their families—and a free-flowing exchange of ideas. Their dialogue is honest, according to Smith, and “sometimes looks like we’re about to brawl.”
Last year, the two friends decided to begin Crossfit training. Just last month, they participated together in their first team competition—placing sixth in their division. With the right balance of competition and camaraderie, the South Carolina franchisees say Crossfit is ideal cross-training for small business ownership.
“Crossfit is all about building confidence,” Smith says. “When you’re confident, you can sell better. No one wants to tell you no. And your customers feel more confident in you, too.”
But it’s the teamwork of Crossfit that Smith and Keys value the most. Just as in business, beating the competition has meant working together, and playing to each other’s strengths. It’s a spirit of unity that’s found throughout the Carolinas, they say; and one they strongly believe benefits everyone.
“It’s all about having each other’s back. I want you to succeed, because then everybody wins,” reasons Smith.
But when asked who benefits the most, he’s quick to point out that it’s not anyone at U.S. Lawns, but the customer. Cooperation leads directly to Customer Satisfaction, and to 100% Client Retention across the U.S. Lawns system.
“It all goes back to the brand. If I’m communicating with my fellow franchisees, the client knows they’ll get the same experience. If I help you deliver the highest level of service, then the customer is going to be happy.”
Of course, as Smith and Keys remind us, sometimes it takes a little friendly competition to inspire and encourage one another. Next year, they’re already set to enroll in the same Crossfit challenge—only this time, they’ll be old enough to qualify for the Master’s Division.
“Steve’s glad we won’t have to compete against 23-year-olds with muscles on their eyeballs,” Smith says.
We wish them good luck.