Our Level Up series shares the strategies that help landscape and lawn care companies get to the next level.
Mainely Grass, based in Bedford, New Hampshire, is focused on providing the best experience for both their customers and their employees.
The company was acquired by Chenmark in 2017 and has been growing steadily year after year, with a bump in 2020 with the pandemic. Mainely Grass’s main customer base is residential customers who care about the look of their lawn and the ability to use their outdoor space.
“In some instances, they might have a landscaper, they might have someone who mows their lawn, but they’re really looking for a ton of expertise on the lawn side specifically, on the pest control side specifically, and that’s ultimately why they decided to work with Mainely Grass,” says Edward Coady, CEO of Mainely Grass.
Mainely Grass doesn’t have an ideal company size they’re trying to reach.
“Our focus is truly chasing better every day, getting better each day, each week, each month,” Coady says. “I think customers see that and feel that. More and more customers want to work with us and more and more technicians want to join the organization.”
Part of the Chenmark Family
Coady stepped into the role of CEO on Jan. 1 this year after former CEO Palmer Higgins. He says that any leadership transition comes with challenges, as employees of the organization are can be skeptical and aren’t quite sure of the new leader’s goals and focus.
“I think it happens with each leadership succession change,” Coady says. “It is so important to demonstrate early on how much you care about the organization being successful and the people within it being successful. Words don’t get you very far because everyone’s capable of saying nice, exciting things about what the future looks like. But it’s definitely profoundly another to really prove it and live up to what you’ve articulated at the onset.”
He got into the industry by happenstance when he joined Chenmark, as he was attracted to the holding company’s long-term orientation.
“Their intention was to buy businesses from retiring owners not with the goal of turning around and selling them in five years, but really holding on to them in perpetuity and focusing on ‘Hey, what are the key building blocks to build a really successful, enduring business that’s great for customers and great for employees?’”
He says since joining Mainely Grass, he fell in love with the lawn care and pest control service delivery model and the service they provide to customers. As the new CEO, Coady is excited for the opportunity to lead the company and actually figure out what works and brings value to customers and employees versus just coming up with theories on how to run a business.
Coady says that being part of a team of companies provides a ton of opportunities to learn from and talk with other leaders who have to make hard decisions. While some of Chenmark’s companies are in different industries, they still have shared experiences of the trials and tribulations of leading an organization.
“It’s not always just about the tactical things of what can I do this or what can I do with that,” Coady says. “It’s the support network of ‘Hey, how should I think about this?’ or ‘How should I approach that in a broader context?’ That support network is insanely valuable.”
Mainely Grass’s most popular service is their traditional lawn care program. The company launched a quiz on their website this year where visitors who are uncertain of their lawn care needs determine a customized solution for their property. Coady says this quiz is particularly helpful when customers may not be ready to have a conversation over the phone.
“We have found it to be an incredibly successful way of winning a customer and getting them that perfect program if we have an opportunity to speak with them over the phone after they fill out the quiz,” he says.
He says the quiz helps them determine the lead’s parameters and preferences to build the perfect program for them. Coady notes the quiz isn’t as effective if they are unable to talk to the homeowner after it has been filled out.
“There are certain instances where a customer might believe they’re prioritizing quality, but once they see the price of some of the things that they picked out, the price might be a bigger factor for them,” Coady says.
Another feature Mainely Grass has launched this year is their good, better, best lawn care packages.
“We’ve been incredibly excited about that because it just gives us more tools and more options to find the perfect program and a perfect service for customers based on their needs and expectations,” Coady says.
Mainely Grass also offers organic and pesticide-free program options. Coady says this is an area they’re trying to continue to bring more options to customers. He says they are working on setting proper expectations on the level of weed control organic lawn care can provide. The pricing for organic services is also more expensive than their traditional lawn care program.
When it comes to adding new services, Coady says they don’t want to be a Swiss Army knife that does 100 things okay. He’d rather they do 10 things really well.
Keys to Success
Mainely Grass wants to be a company that team members want to join. Coady says you can’t have happy customers without happy employees.
“First and foremost, we’re focused on making sure people have the right training,” Coady says. “Making sure people feel part of the team, making sure people understand the importance of delivering a great service to our customer.”
Doing what you say is another key to their success. Mainely Grass’s customer satisfaction guarantee promises to have a professional on the property in 48 hours, they will return as many times as it takes and they will not rest until the client is happy. Coady says while they worry about this promise being abused, there are very few instances where a customer actually takes advantage of them. He says in these rare cases, they simply have to draw the line that they cannot meet the customer’s expectations given the restraints.
“The way we look at it is if we’re 1% wrong in terms of a customer having an issue, then we’re 100% responsible for resolving that issue,” Coady says.
Coady says they’ve found that their customer cancel rate is lower in the instances where there has been a service call versus those that haven’t called.
“It’s kind of counterintuitive,” Coady says. “You would think in the instances of a customer’s upset to the point where there’s a service call, they would cancel at a higher rate. But for us, it’s lower because that’s when we’re at our best. That’s when we have an opportunity to demonstrate the degree to which we care about getting this right. We care about delivering great service to our customers. So ultimately, those are the customers that ended up even being happier with our service because they saw what we did when push comes to shove.”
One of the challenges they’ve faced as they’ve grown is maintaining good customer communication so clients feel they are really being looked after and their questions and concerns are being addressed. Coady says they’re working to ensure continuity so customers don’t have to explain themselves multiple times to different account managers.
He says the third key to their success is the amount of effort they put into selecting the right products and the level of training their technicians receive. Coady says while customers can’t see everything you’re doing, he believes they can feel the difference. He says referrals are a massive source of leads for them as a result.
“We do make a very large investment in the products we use to really make sure we’re delivering results,” Coady says. “I think ultimately, over time, customers see those results and feel the level of care that’s going into it.”
Coady says they’ve also been successful by learning from NALP’s content.
“It’s always really interesting to understand what’s working for others, what’s not working for others, the trends others are seeing,” he says. “All that stuff is insanely valuable for us to improve and better understand what’s working and what’s not working, particularly in the green industry.”
He also says knowing how active NALP is in governmental affairs gives them confidence in the future of the industry as they deal with the regulatory environment at the state and federal levels.
“It’s certainly an area that we’ve been appreciative of and want to continue to support,” Coady says. “Those challenges loom very large and the education that NALP is able to provide to stakeholders in that is incredibly important because I think, for lack of a better term, the voice of reason is getting lost in the shuffle to a few loud voices. The work NALP does there is awesome and we really appreciate it.”
He says NALP serves as a rallying cry for those in the industry to stick together.
“It can be easy to kind of just focus on ourselves and our own organizations,” Coady says. “I think the mindset that comes with having an organization like NALP helps us think more as a group and as an industry, which I think ultimately we’re more impactful as a group than you are individually.”
Recruiting and Retention
Mainely Grass has around 100 employees. They recruit mostly by reaching out to individuals they feel would be a great fit for the organization and promoting the company through social media posts. Coady says they showcase the open jobs on their website and constantly communicate the value the company can bring to potential hires.
The company breaks retention into two buckets. One aspect of their retention strategy is the first 60 days an employee is with the company.
“For us, our focus is really that first day, that first week, making sure those folks really feel part of the organization,” Coady says. “That if they have a question, they feel comfortable asking that question. They know who to ask that question of. They’re not just walking through the wilderness alone. They’re part of a team. We’re here to support. We’re here to be helpful.”
They also work to provide new hires all the necessary training and ensure their employees have the knowledge and tools to succeed.
“It’s very easy to give training short shrift, particularly when you’re in the season, you’re busy,” Coady says. “For us, just remaining laser-focused on that, so we’re really putting new hires in a position to be successful. We’ve found that to be incredibly valuable from improving that 60-day retention of folks.”
The other section of their retention strategy is looking after their employees who have been with the company longer than 60 days and ensuring they feel cared for and looked after and part of the team. Coady says they also want to challenge and give their team members the opportunity to grow with the organization. They provide a career ladder for technicians to move up from a pay rate perspective. Mainely Grass built their own internal learning management system to quiz employees as they progress.
As they grow, he says they’re working to ensure each new hire understands their cultural values so they are invested in delivering great service regardless of the five branches they work at.
“You can’t control every element of the service you’re delivering across an organization this large,” Coadys says. “Really make sure that each part of the organization feels a sense of ownership and feels a sense of pride in the work they’re doing.”
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