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.”
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.