Franchise Leaders Join Forces: Exploring the Clintar and U.S. Lawns Merger - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

We recently updated our Privacy Policy. By continuing to use this website, you acknowledge that our revised Privacy Policy applies.

Franchise Leaders Join Forces: Exploring the Clintar and U.S. Lawns Merger

Photo: U.S. Lawns

This year, U.S. Lawns, based in Orlando, Florida, joined EverSmith Brand’s portfolio of B2B service-based franchise companies.

Previously, U.S. Lawns was owned by ValleyCrest and when ValleyCrest merged with The Brickman Group to form BrightView, U.S. Lawns tagged along.

“We realized it was a good time for us to spin out, a necessary time,” says Ken Hutchenson, president of U.S. Lawns. “We were non-core to their business because we’re a franchise company.”   

Photo: U.S. Lawns

Hutchenson says this departure from BrightView was mutual once they had the conversation. Both parties were ready as BrightView is looking to focus on their core landscape business. He says since BrightView was a direct competitor of their franchisees, they kept a firewall between the way U.S. Lawns and BrightView operated.

“We shared some overhead resources, but we didn’t share any information, no best practices, no pricing information, no landscape-related information,” Hutchenson says. “They were best described as an investor in U.S. Lawns, so we changed from one investor to another investor.”

U.S. Lawns reached out to The Riverside Companies, EverSmith Brands’ investor, who then connected U.S. Lawns with EverSmith because they have a deep understanding of franchising. The deal was completed in under 60 days.

“We reached out, we connected and drove it pretty hard and fast and closed in mid-January,” Hutchenson says. “One thing that we were excited about is EverSmith already has the start of a platform, which was our vision all along, and that is how can we best serve our customers? What other services does our customer buy that we can help them with? That’s what we’re building with EverSmith is a platform of companies that serve the same type of customer.”

With this B2B platform, when U.S. Lawns goes to market, they can share customer leads with other EverSmith franchise brands like KitchenGuard Services and MilliCare.

Photo: Clintar

Another company that is part of EverSmith Brand’s portfolio is Clintar Commercial Outdoor Services, based in Ontario, Canada. They have been with EverSmith since 2020.

Clintar originally had plans to expand into the U.S. prior to this merger. Hutchenson says the company was hours away from announcing the decision.

“We want our franchise concepts to be best friends, never competitors,” Hutchenson says. “Clintar is in Canada; we’re in the U.S. We can serve the different areas well.”

Because the two companies aren’t competing with one another, they can share resources. Hutchenson notes that they have similar company cultures and are both committed to the industry. He says they’ve been running parallel paths. U.S. Lawns was founded in 1986 with over 200 locations operating across 37 states while Clintar was founded in 1973 with 26 locations.

Terry Nicholson, president of Clintar, says he was surprised by how similar the two companies’ stories are.

“The amount of time we’ve been in business, the amount of time we’ve been franchising, the strength of the franchise group, the tenure of the individual franchise owners, it’s kind of a very similar story,” Nicholson says. “Coming together allows us to just expand on the expertise that’s within both businesses and begin to share, so to me, that’s where the big advantage of coming together is going to be.”

Photo: Clintar

Nicholson is excited to learn more from U.S. Lawns because they have more franchise owners and Hutchenson is impressed by Clintar’s snow and ice management capabilities. It makes up more than 50% of Clintar’s revenue.

Hutchenson says for both companies, franchising is about having an owner in the community that you serve.

“We’re also passionate about landscape and serving customers,” Hutchenson says. “You can’t ignore the employees. Both brands feel the same way about our employees. Words like respect come to mind and trust and professionalism and training. Those are all things that just bring us together as a brand and also bring our owners together, and we’re excited about that.”

The two companies are looking to improve their footprints with better coverage so they can better serve their customers.

“At this point, it’s adding more franchises,” Nicholson says. “Helping our helping our existing group of franchise owners grow in their markets, but also filling out white spaces where we don’t operate.”

Another goal is to generate more profitable growth.

“You can’t grow without satisfied franchisees,” Hutchenson says. “To have a satisfied franchisee takes one, some emotional management, feeling part of something bigger than yourself and having a winning team. A lot of it comes, to be frank, from growth and profitable growth. If they’re making money and they’re growing, creating opportunities for their employees and growth creates energy and vibrancy. If they’re growing and they’re making money they’re pretty satisfied.”

Nicholson adds their franchisees have to keep growing so they can keep their team members engaged. In some cases, employees have become franchise owners themselves.

“It’s not like the individual breaks away and says, ‘Hey, give me some space somewhere else,’” Nicholson says. “It’s supported by that franchise owner and, in some cases, financially supported by that franchisor to help that individual get started in the market.”  

“Our success as a franchisor is really measured by the success of the franchise owners,” Nicholson says.

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the senior content manager for NALP.