Our Level Up series shares the strategies that help landscape and lawn care companies get to the next level.
Wade’s Lawn Service, based in Goodlettsville, Tennessee, was founded in 1998 by Ira Wade.
Armed with a push mower and string trimmer, Wade started out with a commitment for quality lawn service and fostered a reputation of excellence. Over the years the business has grown to include eight full-time employees.
Now the company is searching for its Goldilocks size. Co-owner Deborah Wade says they don’t want to be a very large company, but they don’t want to be a small company either.
Growing in the Growing Season
Wade says over the years they’ve had sudden spurts of growth. She says these have often occurred in the middle of their season. Some of the customers have come on board because they weren’t happy with their lawn care provider or they were referrals.
When dealing with a customer who is trying to switch service providers in the middle of the season, Wade says they make a point of making sure the client has tried to talk to their current lawn care company first.
“I think we need to help cover each other because we’re working together,” Wade says. “The good thing to do would be to say ‘Hey have you talked to ABC lawn care company? Have you told them your displeasure with them not blowing off your sidewalk? Have you given them the opportunity to do that?’ And most of the time they’ll say ‘No, I really haven’t. I was just tired of it and I just wanted you to come and take over.’”
At that point, Wade says they’ll encourage the customer to try to work things out with their current provider and if it remains a problem, then they’ll take on their business.
“To some that may sound dumb, but this is how we handle things when we take on new customers, especially in midseason,” she says. “If somebody calls you in the middle of the season, there’s a reason why they’re calling you. So, find out why you’re getting a customer.”
Another source of business is from realtors calling for help on creating curb appeal right away. As the company has grown, they’ve taken on more landscaping as well as fertilization treatments, aside from just mowing.
When asked for the main reasons the company has grown, Wade gives credit to God. “Number one, I want to say the Lord,” she says. “He helps us to have wisdom to do what we do. So, I definitely want to give Him His props.”
Some other main elements to their growth have been dependability, consistency and developing a good name throughout their community.
“Just trying to make sure we stand behind our work, if something gets messed up, we fix it,” Wade says. “Just being fair-minded and treating people the way that we would want to be treated. It’s not just one or two things, it’s a different combination of many things that have contributed to the success and the growth of the company.”
Wade also says they are consistently networking every week, even if they are not taking on new properties at the time.
“It’s always good to stay out there and keep networking, because you never know when things may change,” she says.
Wade’s Lawn Service is a member of the local Chamber of Commerce and Wade says they attend lead exchanges and she also serves on the board of the Business Referral Network.
“Being consistent in that group causes people to be able to trust you and when they trust you, they want to do business with you,” she says. “That has helped our business grow a lot.”
The company is also involved in the community. Wade and her husband participate in the organization Leadership Goodlettsville, which has allowed them to foster relationships with individuals who are in the local government.
Learning from Others
One of the networking connections Wade says they’ve made is with Jim McCutcheon, owner of HighGrove Partners. McCutcheon introduced them to NALP, known as PLANET at the time, and they became members.
“NALP has been a tremendous blessing to the growth of the company,” Wade says.
Wade says they were able to meet with different NALP members and learn from them. She says being able to network with others in the industry has been invaluable for them.
“I know that if I have any questions about anything all I have to do is pick up the phone and call NALP and ask them ‘Do we know anyone who sells insurance for lawn care workers?’ or ‘Do you have anybody who knows anything about this or that or the other?’ and they will get me right to whoever it is that I need to talk to,” Wade says. “They can always make recommendations.”
“We are friendly competition. There’s enough business out here for all of us. We don’t have to be cutthroat and we don’t have to lowball each other out of a job.”– Deborah Wade, co-owner of Wade’s Lawn Service
Wade’s Lawn Service also did Trailblazer company visits to HighGrove and Dowco Enterprises Inc.
“We were able to see some things and we were able to take in a lot of information,” Wade says. “I mean they loaded us down with all kinds of information that we were able to come back with in-hand and be able to implement into our daily activities and it made a difference. Our NALP membership has been great.”
Wade says they also take advantage of the webinars and online classes available.
Wade and her husband have also formed a group of local lawn care professionals called Iron Sharpens Iron. Prior to the pandemic, this group would meet once every three months on a Saturday morning to discuss how they can help one another and be successful.
“We are friendly competition,” Wade says. “There’s enough business out here for all of us. We don’t have to be cutthroat and we don’t have to lowball each other out of a job.”
Fostering a Team Mentality
Like many others in the business, Wade says one of the main challenges they’ve faced during their growth is having enough dependable employees. The company has used everything from Craigslist, Indeed, ZipRecruiter, word of mouth, networking groups and social media to find workers. Wade says they call their employees their team members to set the tone that they are all working together. The company has Monday meetings, which serves as a training and motivational time.
“We’ll talk about the schedule,” Wade says. “We’ll talk about who did what when. ‘You did a great job’ and ‘we looked at that property and oh man it was wonderful.’ We do a lot of attaboys, you know ‘Hey that’s great, ‘That’s wonderful,’ and that seems to really encourage the guys to continue to do good and it helps to bind them together.”
The employees wear uniforms and Wade says this also helps everyone feel that they are part of the team.
“We make a concerted effort to try to keep things upbeat and happy,” Wade says. “We don’t have profanity flying around in here. Most people when they come here, they know that they have to be very respectful, in terms of how they talk to others, and how they talk period. We don’t put our employees down. We treat them the way we would want to be treated.”
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