When Phil Catron founded NaturaLawn in 1987, there was little interest in the company’s environmentally friendly approach to lawn care within the industry. Since then, perceptions towards natural, organic methods are much more favorable, and the company has experienced substantial growth.
Since its inception, NaturaLawn of America has grown every year in gross revenue and customer count. Even during challenging economic years, the company has seen continued growth – a testimony to their customer service and results, and a key reason that NaturaLawn is a superior franchise opportunity.
“Lawns treated by chemicals and pesticides may look pretty on the outside, but are sick on the inside, because nothing is living in the soil,” Catron explains, “Our entire concept is built on building the foundation of the soil profile, where the plant roots support the top.”
Instead of using harsh pesticides and chemical treatments on lawn surfaces, NaturaLawn’s patented approach focuses on preserving the lawn’s soil and using natural pest prevention techniques. Catron goes on to explain, “When we first launched, the industry took a very negative approach toward us because we were against the norm.”
NaturaLawn of America treats lawns using proprietary granular, organic-based fertilizers that are safer for children, pets, its employees and the environment. The company’s Integrated Pest Management (IPM) system involves preventing, monitoring and controlling pest activity.
Before starting the company, Catron worked in training, product development and program development for two national lawn care companies. While at the first company, he began developing an organic approach to lawn care that would have used biorational microbial materials to treat lawns.
After Catron’s methods and ideas about reducing their unnecessary chemical impact were ignored by his first employer, he left the company to work for another lawn care provider and continued to research biologically beneficial materials. Unfortunately, this lawn care provider also did not embrace the concept of biologically beneficial materials. After gaining valuable industry insight from these companies, he subsequently left the second company in 1986 and started NaturaLawn of America the following year. “I decided that if this was something I was going to do, I would have to do it myself,” he says.
“There were a lot of concerns from the general public about issues with chemical sensitivity,” he says. There were reports of clients’ pets and the employees of lawn care companies falling ill as a result of the chemicals being used to treat lawns. “I felt that we weren’t providing a service; we were just providing chemicals, whether they were needed or not.”
Although NaturaLawn of America faced initial resistance within the industry, many of their peers have now come to embrace this more organic way of thinking. “The industry has truly tried to make that turn, but I compare it to an aircraft carrier trying to make a turn – it takes a very long time! NaturaLawn of America’s franchise system is more like a fleet of PT boats and is able to manoeuvre very quickly.” Catron continues, “No one likes to admit what they were doing for 25 years is inherently wrong, but if you’re not willing to change and do what customers want, you will surely go out of business.”
A Turnkey System
Today, NaturaLawn of America has 90 licensed franchises in 25 states, making it the nation’s leading organic-based lawn care franchise and the third-largest lawn care company in the industry.
NaturaLawn’s 90 franchisees enjoy very high customer retention. “Our average customer stays with us for more than six years, and 85 percent of our customers continue with us every year,” says Franchise Development Manager Blaine Young. “When someone engages with you to purchase lawn care services, they want to see a healthy, green lawn that is as weed-free as possible. Our customers are loyal to us not only because of the great results we deliver, but also because of the safer level of service we provide while focusing on building up the health of the soil.”
The average NaturaLawn of America franchise reports more than $1.5 million in annual sales, and several of its locations range between $3 million and $8 million in sales.
Each franchise is given an exclusive, protected territory of between 50,000 to 70,000 single-family homes, as well as the company’s patented and exclusive fertilizers. Franchise owners also benefit from advertising, marketing, accounting, purchasing, business management and other support services provided from NaturaLawn of America’s central office.
A franchise support team visits new franchise locations an average of eight times a year for their first two years in business. Other franchisees also offer guidance and assistance during regular franchise meetings.
“Our franchisees are given a turnkey business with processes, systems, and uniquely blended proprietary fertilizers which cannot be purchased anywhere else”, Young says.
A NaturaLawn of America franchise is like getting three opportunities for the price of one. While lawn care is the primary focus and service provided, additional opportunities to expand into mosquito services with Mosquito Ranger® and flea and tick services with Tick Ranger® , are available in areas where needed.
These three service lines allow NaturaLawn of America franchisees to receive lawn care, mosquito, and tick abatement equipment and solutions for using the federally trademarked services of NaturaLawn®, Mosquito Ranger®, and Tick Ranger®. “Once franchisees get lawn care up and running, they can offer the two additional services to existing customers or provide these services to new customers who may not be receiving lawn care from us,” Young says. “This gives NaturaLawn an exceptional point of differentiation for both customers and franchisees.
NaturaLawn of America’s revenues have increased 26 percent since 2014 and the company is targeting new franchisees on the East Coast as well as in the Midwest and the South. By design, three to four new franchises are added annually, enabling for steady and sustainable growth.
“Although my position is focused on expanding the franchise system, we are not in business to simply award a franchise to just anyone who wants to write us a check,” Young says. “Joining us is like being part of a family; we want to make sure our prospects are a good fit for our family and we are a good fit for their family.”
NaturaLawn of America is particularly interested in growing from within through its ownership incentive program, offered to all full-time franchise and home office employees. Employees can receive a $5,000 discount toward the company’s $29,500 franchise fee for each year they remain with the company, up to four years of employment or a total $20,000 discount. Employees interested in the incentive go through NaturaLawn’s Internal Management Training Program which prepares them for owning their own franchise. “The incentive helps franchisees attract career-minded people and assists the Home Office in growing the franchise system from within,” Catron says.
One potential future franchisee is Blaine Young himself, who joined NaturaLawn of America three-and-a-half years ago.
“Being a person that has owned several different businesses, I saw an amazing opportunity,” he says. “I believe and am passionate in what NaturaLawn of America has to offer.”
NaturaLawn of America not only provides superior products and services to its customers, it also offers a trusted, successful and supportive opportunity for franchisees.