TruGreen Lawn Care franchisee Stephen Graves speaks to his recent successes

Tom Page sits down with TruGreen South Bedfordshire business owner Stephen Graves to speak about how a mindset change and pragmatic approach to lawn care led to growth and a business built upon positivity.  

Stephen Graves inherited TruGreen South Bedfordshire from his father, who purchased the business in 2010.

This placed the advent of the business during the credit crunch, placing Stephen’s father on the back foot to get started and turn a profit during a difficult time.

Stephen says that he thinks this put his father, and subsequently him, into a negative mindset when it came to business.

This was only amplified when he compared himself to other lawn care businesses in affluent areas that could charge more to work on grander lawns.

But this all changed.

The Turning Point 

By 2020 and the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Stephen was ready to call it a day and sell.

But, the pandemic and lockdowns marked a decisive turning point for Stephen and TruGreen South Bedfordshire.

Describing the pandemic as “drawing a line in the sand” for him, Stephen says that the lockdowns, while awful, allowed him to take stock and reassess his priorities.

Spurred on by support and a guest speaker hosted by ServiceMaster Ltd about being present in your business and life, Stephen changed his outlook.

He realised that his issues with the business were with him and his mindset. He vowed to focus on what he could influence and realised he was in a great position.

He could pay his bills, stay afloat during lockdowns and difficult times and provide for his family.

At that time, we had a lot of negative thinking in our approach to managing our business. [The change in mindset] helped us to see opportunities more than worries. Today, I only worry about issues I influence, which frees up a lot of time and energy.

Positive Reinforcement & Pragmatic Business

The changes following Stephen’s shift in thought process have been revolutionary. In 2018, Stephen managed 367 customers and now has over 430 clients as a lone worker, exceeding his expectations for growth and building a strong and healthy business.

During my conversation with Stephen, the rewards of his mindset are abundantly clear. He cites multiple ways this seemingly simple change in his viewpoint has seen no end of benefits for him and his customers.

“It’s all about taking steps in the right direction,” he says. “If you’re bogged down and don’t believe in what you’re doing, people will easily sus you out. You have to look up to be able to see where you’re going and give the people you see a wave.

The interpersonal nature of the services Stephen and other TruGreen business owners provide to their customers means that his approach synergises brilliantly with the brand and model.

Healthy Mindset and the TruGreen Brand

Our technicians develop relationships with clients, spending time with them and having open dialogues about what we do and how it works.

Stephen says that this sets TruGreen apart from other lawn care businesses and franchises, which have a more detached approach, only spending 5 or 10 minutes on a lawn to carry out necessary processes and then moving on, often with the customer unaware of what treatment has been given and why.

This naturally makes it difficult for customers to develop trust in the people that are serving them.

At TruGreen, Stephen and our technicians build trust through the initial lawn analysis process to evidence their expertise and kudos.

I understand that my business stands out from its main competitors,” he says.

I take the time to offer customers advice (when they are available for a chat) on how best to maintain their lawns and advise them on the benefits of what I am doing for the lawn with unrivalled enthusiasm.

This means that customers buy into and trust the process. Sometimes, lawn care isn’t pretty. Sometimes, the lawn can be in an unpleasant state, only to turn out perfectly manicured and healthy at the end of the process a few months later.

Relationships and trust are essential to ensuring that customers trust and see the value of the process.

Benefits of Positivity

His personalised approach and positive, can-do attitude have bolstered Stephen’s ability to win customers, as evidenced by his growth.

His enthusiasm and personable approach have had a clear impact on his customers, and his growth can be attributed to his plethora of positive Google reviews and referrals.

One customer says:

I have been using Steve for three years now, and I am always impressed by his polite manner and willingness to explain what is being done and what is best for my lawn. In 2019, he advised me on the preparation of the soil of my new lawn following building works to get it ready for seeding. During the growing season, he made regular visits to check progress and always answered messages promptly.

I would thoroughly recommend the services of TruGreen.

Another customer dubs him the “Ultimate lawn specialist.”

I have always found him to be knowledgeable, clear and enthusiastic about his trade,” they say.

He is very responsive and prepared to go the extra mile. He provides a tailor-made service and is very good value. I would have no hesitation in recommending his services. Keep up the good work.”

Brand Benefits

This is reinforced by the support Stephen receives from the TruGreen network.

He says being a TruGreen franchisee has supported him through tough times with knowledge, products and nationwide support.

Citing recent droughts, difficult weather conditions and product shortages as challenges in the last few years, Stephen says that his approach, in tandem with support from the TruGreen brand and franchise support centre, allowed him to continue to build his business even in the face of difficulty – which he says would have been hard to overcome as a lone worker, but where made easy.

“The technical support from Brand Leader Steve Welch continues to be valuable. The management of the supply of fertiliser and other products during the last 18 months has been crucial to continuing our operation uninterrupted.

Stephen also benefits from online marketing support and systems for success, like our patented Business Management System (known as BMS), which allows our business owners to manage their businesses from anywhere, easily.

BMS has really helped,” Stephen says.

I have used this to change how I manage customer appointments, scheduling them one job at a time. This has freed up a lot of time and has relieved a lot of stress.

Personal Benefits

Stephen has reached a happier place where positivity, trust and pragmatism shine through.

He has achieved a positive growth of 17% in the last two months and a stable-work work-life balance that has allowed him to spend plenty of time with his family this summer, even as a lone worker and has been able to pay all his bills and not worry about money during the cost-of-living crisis.

His advice to people looking for a change is to “Stop second guessing.”

“Everything in life is a risk,” he says. “Do your homework and see what is achievable in your area. Your mentality is like clearing a cluttered cupboard. Once you think positively, you start seeing opportunity everywhere.”

Are you interested in a lawn care franchise?

If you’re considering taking the next steps towards your future, we’d love to hear from you.

Like Stephen, you could develop a growing and healthy lawn care franchise with the support of TruGreen and its systems for success in the lawn care industry.

Contact our friendly franchise sales team today on 0116 275 9000 to find available opportunities near you.