The new franchise model focuses on both residential and commercial maintenance and related services.
Photos courtesy Big League Landscape.
After long careers, many landscape professionals are content to become consultants, offering advice to newbies while resting on their laurels. But not Tommy Ganz, a 35-year veteran of the landscape industry with experience at franchisers, such as U.S. Lawn and The Grounds Guys to his credit.
Big League Landscape
Owner/Founder: Tommy Ganz Sr.
Operations manager: Tommy Ganz Jr.
Locations and service areas: Daytona Beach, Fla., and Waterbury, Conn.
Services: Maintenance, installation, color programs, pressure washing, gutter work, and snow and ice management (northern office)
Ganz is starting up a new game: his own franchise named Big League Landscape. This year, 2014, is his launch year. The company is in Daytona Beach, Fla., and Ganz describes it as "the company store and working model." He is also announcing an initial franchise company, headed by family member Jesse Hoyt, in Waterbury, Conn., where Ganz lived for more than a decade and the site of one of his successful landscaping businesses.
"I have never been out of the landscape business," says Ganz. His most recent experience was as a vice president at ValleyCrest Companies. But he left that job in 2011 to get back into the non-corporate, independent swing of things, and he relocated to his old stomping ground in Daytona Beach.
Starting up his own franchise was actually his wife's idea; she knew the work he had done with partners at U.S Lawn and The Grounds Guys and thought he should put this experience and his ideas at work in his own firm. Plus, he had the industry education and mentoring chops gained from his success as a founder of the American Landscape Maintenance Association (ALMA) and ALMA's Expo, an annual national event for networking and education.
A sports nut, it wasn't that tough for him to come up with a different name and logo for his new enterprise.
"I wanted to get something more unusual than the typical green tree logo kind of image. Since I am a baseball fanatic and started up a baseball academy when we lived in Waterbury, I went with that as a brand. It's a difficult image to forget," he says, adding that the landscape industry is awash in sports analogies.
"It's a natural fit," he says of the company's name. With the help of a branding professional, he populated the firm's website, http://www.bigleaguelandscape.com, with baseball language. It works. What landscape company owner or employee doesn't recognize terms, such as game plans, team captains or playbooks? They are not just words. Playbooks, for example, mandate the detailed services that Big League provides and a rigorous training schedule for workers.
Baseball hats and jerseys are a likely part of the uniform, trucks feature giant baseball images iconic in American culture, and even the business cards look like game-day tickets.
Ganz's son, Tommy, a professional baseball coach, is also the firm's operation's manager. He will head up the training and field training activities, while the older Ganz heads up the marketing and the company's overall management.
"I want to specialize in residential," he says. "There is no national leader in residential; it's fragmented now. I've been in commercial all my life, but the margins are getting thinner, thanks to all the competition. The commercial accounts are scaling back, and the commercial guys have to fight over the business." That doesn't mean that Big League Landscape franchisees will ignore the commercial market, but residential will be their primary focus.
The necessary transition to residential has Ganz working with a 30-year expert in direct mail, and franchisees will be able to use his services to reach their residential customer base with a well-maintained client list and frequent outreach.
Franchisees and their employees will be easily recognizable in their branded baseball sports theme uniforms.
Stats and box scores
Residential maintenance historically has been harder to manage because it involves a far larger number of clients. "It could get overwhelming," Ganz admits. But that is no longer a drawback, thanks to modern technology that can keep far better track of service stops and services performed. Residential can also take advantage of neighborhood route density. The technology behind managing this customer base is perhaps Big League Landscape's greatest strength, and it is touted on the Big League website.
"The big customer base in now an asset, and technology makes it easier to manage," says Ganz.
The Big League tech advantage includes an app for keeping track of work done on clients' properties with instant updates to their devices. Field workers follow step-by-step procedures as they're guided by mobile apps that offer check-off lists for each property.
"The biggest proble
m I ever had in customer service was communication," says Ganz. "Not in the quality of the work done, but in communicating with the customer. I've found it is better to do too much than too little."
Using the app, he adds, allows a customer to know what to expect to see in the yard when he or she gets home each night.
Ganz also takes pride in using technology to streamline management and make workers more productive. He calls it time-and-motion estimating.
"I am the first to measure the lawn area, the linear feet to be edged, and to translate that into worker hours, a production ratio," he says. "Too many people just guess at it. If you know how to measure, it gives you a place to start when you are approaching a new job, especially a new commercial mall or office complex. Having systems in place takes the guesswork out."
Of course, Ganz's expertise and coaching ability are also key to franchisee success.
"Why didn't I become consultant?" he asks rhetorically. "Because you go in and give good advice, and two weeks later they haven't done anything about it yet. With a franchisee, they get the follow-up. They need that structure, and the control. The franchisor first of all needs to know the business and then has to be able to support the franchisee in using that knowledge."
Ganz is especially proud of his franchise's reach out to veterans of the U.S. military.
"We are offering five free franchises each year to veterans. That is worth the $29,500 franchise fee, plus no royalties," he says, adding that his dad was a Marine. Ganz knows military discipline and its get-it-done attitude.
"This will give us top-quality people," he says. His big challenge right now is getting this work out to veterans who may be interested in a role in the landscape industry.
What's more U.S.A than red, white and blue trucks with a baseball theme?
Big League Landscape is offering a full range of property management services, including maintenance, installation, pressure washing, gutter work and seasonal color. Northern locations will also offer snow and ice management and even weather monitoring.
With a roll-out early in 2014, Ganz is concentrating during the first six months of the year in getting franchisees in the U.S. Southeast. Because he is based in Daytona Beach, he wants the first franchisees to be close enough for on-site visits and close coaching.
"This is so I can support them properly. You have to actually be on-site to give the proper support," he says. But of course, he adds, he is willing to start a waiting list for others in the country, especially those close enough to the Waterbury offices.
Cindy Greenwald brings more than 30 years experience covering small business to the pages of Turf magazine. She lives and works in Cleveland, Ohio. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.