Early on, Mike Fitzpatrick found a deep sense of satisfaction in landscaping. “I like being outside, but also I like being able to look back see what I have accomplished. Landscaping improves your community in ways you can see.” What started as a love for the outdoors and summer jobs mowing lawns, turned into a career in the green industry which has spanned 40 years.
Today, Fitzpatrick helps others improve their own communities in his role of vice president with U.S. Lawns. Here he brings his vast experience and extensive knowledge to his leadership of U.S. Lawns’ Franchise Advisors team, which offers support to the brand’s network of franchisees, as well as the Development Team, which specialized in helping new franchisees get off to a good start.
Starting in the green industry in the 1980, Fitzpatrick spent a decade learning the industry well before becoming one of the first members to join the U.S. Lawns team in 1990. From that time he was an integral part of the growth plan.
Fitzpatrick says, “I was excited to work directly with franchisees and have a hand in their support, rather than just the sales aspect. To help an individual build a sustainable business and create the lifestyle they want is very fulfilling.”
He continues, “To grow past one or two trucks takes training and methodology. When you are trying to figure this out on your own, you will make mistakes and there will be a lot of trial and error, but with the U.S. Lawns business model, the learning curve is shortened. We provide the infrastructure and a road map to help you grow your business quickly and sustainably.”
The Evolution of Support
Over his 30 years with U.S. Lawns, Fitzpatrick has seen a lot of changes. “U.S. Lawns has done an incredible job of evolving. While much of our ground level core support has stayed the same, the advent of different technologies has made our support efforts even more efficient and successful,” he says.
From day one, U.S. Lawns offers new franchisees with out of the box solutions that cover all aspects of the business. Fitzpatrick says, “Support starts on day one. We want new franchisees to hit the ground running immediately after franchise training and get up to two trucks quickly. It doesn’t stop there though; we provide support for every phase of a franchisee’s business development.”
One example of how U.S. Lawns provides out of the box solutions is with its supplier programs. “Anything a franchisee would need or use, we have a relationship with a partner to supply it at a substantial discount. We get hundreds of calls a year from companies looking to partner with us, vetting them thoroughly and only choosing the best. They truly understand our model and the needs of our franchisees,” says Fitzpatrick.
From their supplier program to support programs, over their 30 years, U.S. Lawns has fine-tuned their offering. The brand offers their franchisees world class experts, such as Fitzpatrick, who know the industry and how to help franchisees build the business and lifestyle they want.
Fitzpatrick’s team provides support that is responsive and comprehensive. “We provide support that is multilevel and multitouch. It both accessible to all and scalable to where you are in your development,” Fitzpatrick continues, “Perhaps the best tool in our toolbox is the network of other U.S. Lawns franchisees. They have been through the same struggles and offer the best source of support. We facilitate lots of conversation between our franchisees through regular conference calls and meetings. The power of the network is invaluable.”
“U.S. Lawns’ culture of competitive comradery helps them push each other to achieve their next goal and continue to grow. Having protected territories means that franchisees are not in direct competition with each other. They want each other to succeed because it keeps the brand strong which benefits everyone.”
Named in the top 10 of brands in the industry, U.S. Lawns’ brand strength has stood the test of time. “We provide franchisees with a business model that has proven to be sustainable, generating reliable income year-round. Having weathered multiple recessions, the business model has proven to be recession resistant. For example, the economic slump of 2008 showed us that even in tough times, business need to protect their property investments,” Fitzpatrick says, “The condition of their property is part of their brand, so they need to continue base maintenance. Dealing only with commercial clients means that we are dealing with a fixed budget rather than one that as is discretionary as with residential clients.”
Most recently the global pandemic and subsequent economic shutdown has shown the strength of the brand once again. “We have evolved our support even more to adjust with the times. We want help reduce any type of hardships they may be experiencing so that can in turn do that for their clients and their community. We have been coaching owners to talk to the commercial clients and seeing what their needs are. Maybe they need to help their clients look at the levels of service and help them adjust accordingly,” says Fitzpatrick.
Even just a phone call makes all the difference says Fitzpatrick, “A lot of times we hear that our franchisees are the only ones that have reached out to their clients and considered their needs. The stories we have been hearing about how our franchisees are improving their communities is incredible, from gift baskets to nursing homes, to helping struggling businesses protect their property investments. Some have even taken on new clients because their previous service provider could no longer meet their needs. At the end of the day we are a service business, and supporting our franchisees so they can best serve their clients is our number one goal. That has never been more important than it is now.”
“U.S. Lawns is a good service business with a solid business model, Fitzpatrick concludes, “We can teach the landscaping part of the business. It is about building a business, one that is sustainable and improves your life and your community. If you are a business minded individual with a growth mindset, you will do well in this business. Getting outside is just an added benefit.”