The Lawn Service Industry and Its Products Explored

The last few years have witnessed the clear emergence and prolific growth of an industry that was hitherto virtually nonexistent. The industry we are talking about is the lawn service industry. Twenty years, or even fifteen years ago, this was virtually an unheard of industry. It is not that people didn’t have lawns then – we have always lawns for centuries, if not millennia. Rather it is because people didn’t take very particular care of their lawns, and were as such not willing to spent substantial sums of money on their care. Subsequent years, however, have given rise to a trend where people are increasingly ready to spend and spend some more on their lawns and general ‘landscape management,’ with the trend being what eventually gave birth to what we refer to as the lawn service industry.

The lawn service industry is one that employs thousands upon thousands of people all over the world in various capacities. Aggregated figures are hard to come by, as this is one industry that is yet to recognize itself as being one entity. It is also the sort of industry where people tend to work on casual basis, meaning that the people who may be working on it today could turn out to be extremely different from the people you find in the industry ten months down the line. But at any given point in time, you are certain to find the aforementioned thousands upon thousand of people working in various capacities in the lawn service industry.

An industry is, by the way, defined as an aggregation of firms providing a similar (or almost similar product), and usually competing against one another. There are, of course single firm industries – where the whole business is dominated by a single monopolistic player – but such industries are rare, and getting even rarer by the day as most countries in the world embrace economic liberalization. The lawn service industry, on its part, is a true industry: one that is an aggregation of numerous firms, providing various lawn services in their respective jurisdictions. It is usually the sort of industry where the typical firm tends to be rather small. Most lawn service firms are, indeed, constituted of less than ten staff members, and this is the sort of industry where a firm with a hundred people would be considered a big firm, with a firm that boasts of a thousand being considered a ‘giant.’

The product of the lawn service industry is a service. The service comes in handy for the people and organizations who are keen on having good looking lawns, but who don’t have the time and energy for the labor that goes into the making of such good looking lawns. The lawn service firms step in the gap, with their promise to give you the lawn you desire for a fee. All you typically have to do is show them the plot where you want the lawn established (whatever its current state), give them the agreed fees, and several months down the line, you will have a fantastic lawn right there.

Food Service Franchise – Is a Franchise in the Food Service Industry Right for You?

Being in the restaurant business is never an easy road; just ask anyone who’s ever done it. For some people it has an addictive quality, and they cannot get enough of the fast pace, but this type of franchise is not for everyone.

If you have always enjoyed working with the public and being the person “in charge” behind the counter, then maybe a franchise in food service is right for you. To be successful with this type of franchise, you will need great communication skills, high energy, and a passion for owning your own business.

Why is a franchise in food service such a great idea right now?

According to the National Restaurant Association, the number of food service industry jobs in America will increase by 10% or more over the next decade. Most of this growth will be seen in the “franchise food service” category, particularly “fast casual” restaurants. Franchises like Chipotle, Baja Fresh, Cosi, Panera Bread and Peace a Pizza are cropping up in suburban shopping districts everywhere. They succeed by giving patrons more ambience and better food than a fast-food restaurant without the added expense of table service.

This promising new trend for franchise food service entrepreneurs has caught the attention of the restaurant industry as well, so expect to see more restaurants like this starting up over the next few years. It may seem surprising that any category of business could be growing this quickly during a recession, but the success of this type of franchise food service business has come at the expense of higher priced restaurants, who have suffered a decline in consumer spending.

Are you considering a new venture as a franchisee? Do you like the idea of starting a new business without the risk that comes from an unproven concept? Starting a franchise food service business may be the right option for you.

The Service Industry Entrepreneur Employee

My definition of a Service Industry Entrepreneur Employee is very simple: “An individual who, rather than working as an employee, takes ownership of their work, just as much as an individual who owns and runs a business.” Why is having such an individual on your team important? Well, if you feel like you are “doing all the work around here”, you need to keep reading.

Have you ever been frustrated by an employee who could perform better? But they aren’t. Perhaps they could become your best employee, best server, best bartender, best cook. But they aren’t. They could be a manager someday, and a great one, but they aren’t ready to make the jump? You see more in them than they see in themselves. Sound familiar? I’ve been in that same situation. So, why aren’t they? Because they don’t believe they can. They do not have an entrepreneurial mindset. There are various reasons for this. As managers, we can eliminate some and replace them with entrepreneurial empowerment.

Many people, employees, mid-level managers, and even top executives could accomplish something more, something great. But they don’t. Why? Because they are too attached to being comfortable. They’re comfortable where they are, and performing how they are performing. They are so attached to their current job level that it becomes a part of their identity, and it’s not always a good one: “I’m just a cook”, “I just wait tables”, “I’m only an assistant manager, not the real boss”. These employees allow themselves to be defined by their job, their income, their status in the workplace. And it hurts them. They’re comfortable doing what they are doing and it might be easy for them to do their job, but they’re not happy. And they work for you. Congratulations. Over 73% of your younger employees, when asked about their strengths and weaknesses, will focus on their weaknesses. This is higher than any previous employee group surveyed. (Time, September 28, 2012, “Note to Gen Y Workers”, Jane and Marcus Buckingham)

Odds are that if you are reading this, you are “the boss”, the manager, the person with the accountability and the responsibility for the performance of these types of people. And society reinforces the perception these employees have of themselves at almost every turn. Here is a simple example. What’s the most common question that people ask when they strike up a conversation with someone they’ve just met: “So, what do you do?” I have managed tens of thousands of employees and worked one on one with hundreds of managers. And I still sometimes find myself asking that question too. Oops. Worse yet, I have heard guests and customers ask my employees “So, what else do you do?”, like their current job is not good enough. Wow. Now there’s a self-esteem booster for your full time, key employees. I’ve seen the faces of some of them as they walk away from the table or guest after hearing that. Have you ever slowed down enough in your busy day Mr. or Ms. Manager to notice, or to care?

So, how do you help employees with this emotional aspect of the business? You don’t help fix it for them. They help themselves. You allow them the freedom to have, what I once heard coined, the “Entrepreneurial Mindset”. This is the freedom to think and act like an owner in their workplace. Most employees in the service industry never have this freedom. Ever.

Hospitality employees are usually younger, the “generation y”, the “millenials”, the “teacup employees”. They are thought of as delicate and pampered and easily shattered. They always “got the trophy for finishing the soccer season”, not for winning the championship. You and I have probably heard the same stories and the same analogies. The topic has been beaten to death in management-oriented writing. I cannot claim to be anywhere near an expert on the topic. But I do know one thing: people like to feel good about themselves. And I have worked with many younger employees. They’ve told me many things. The most recurring item is also the most emotional: they want what they do to mean something, and they want to feel important. That trophy, which was the same as every other kid’s, didn’t make them feel good. The “helicopter parents” who hovered over their every move, and told them how good they were for taking that test, “C-” score and all, didn’t make them feel good. How do I know? I talk with them.

I once heard one of my best employees, Steve, answered that guest question “what else do you do” with “Oh, I’m just a waiter.” I winced as I walked past. I hoped the guests didn’t notice. My coaching piece with Steve later was as simple as it was true. I said “Steve, seriously ‘Just a waiter’? In my restaurant, each server brings in over $31,000 a year in revenue. You are a full time employee, and a valued one, your contribution is probably about double that figure. This is a multi-million dollar restaurant. And you help make it run every single day.” Steve was important to my business.

So, yes. Your employees certainly mean something to somebody. They are certainly important to somebody: you. Do you tell them how important they are? Do you say “Thanks” to each employee for one small thing every day, hopefully some behavior you are trying to encourage? Be honest with yourself, and no crossing your fingers under the desk.

Let’s examine a common service industry scenario and apply the entrepreneurial mindset to it: the “problem table”. Don’t pretend that you never get them. We all do. So, pretend Steve works for you. He is 21 years old. He comes to you with a long list of complaints from one of his tables: “The food came out cold, the bartender made their drinks wrong, they say it is too cold in here, and they’re really mad”. Then Steve stops. He stops speaking. He also stops thinking, and moving. So, what do you do? Oh: you fix it. You get tell the cooks to get fresh hot food working. You turn the air conditioner warmer. You tell the bartender to remake those drinks. Then you get right out there to the dining room and visit that table and grovel for a while. What exactly does Steve do? He does what he was trained to do by almost every restaurant I know of: tell the manager. This is followed by doing absolutely nothing, except perhaps to complain about the table to his coworkers. At what point does Steve have freedom to act? Is he allowed to fix these problems himself? Do you let him? Do you trust him? And if that answer is no by the way, why do you let him continue to be the face of your business to the public?

Okay. I do admit that, yes, someone else other than Steve has to fix the A/C issue. But Steve’s freedom to act on everything else is up to you. Is the culture in your workplace “I got it”? “I” meaning you in this example. Or, is it “What have you done to fix things so far, Steve?” Do you let him ring up the new food first to expedite time, and to offer the guests some soup or a salad “on me” so they do not sit hungry and unhappy at an empty table? Can Steve ring in another round of drinks without checking with you first? If not, why not? If it’s a theft issue, remember what I just said: Steve “rings up” everything. He just doesn’t “ask” the bartender or cook for it. There is an accounting control there. You must remove it from the bill later, before it’s presented. Financial risk: minimized. Steve: empowered. He is in control, like an owner of his table and all that happens with it. Steve is then an entrepreneur in a most basic description of the word: “Entrepreneurs take initiative, accept risk of failure and have an internal focus of control”-Albert Shapero, 1975. Steve has been trained and allowed to take care of the guest first, then inform the manager, and worry about the rest later. So when Steve goes back to the table he doesn’t say “I’m sorry. A manager will be over shortly.” Instead, Steve says “I’m sorry. This is what I’ve done to make things right for you… “

Answer these simple questions. In which situation does Steve feel important, needed and successful? In which case is Steve given the ability and flexibility to use an entrepreneurial mindset? More importantly, in which situation would you like to be that guest?

You might be saying “But that wouldn’t work in my restaurant.” Really? Why not? Truths are timeless. Here is one you have probably already heard: You’re either growing or dying. It’s true of people. It’s true of plants. Managers need to allow people to grow. Yet, you can’t nurture people to grow, develop, and become better if you do not have a system and culture in place that permits it. You’re either growing or dying. There is no staying the same. People who say “I want things to stay as they are” just don’t get it. They’re too comfortable. The only time people are comfortable is when they are not doing anything new.

Give your employees the freedom to act beyond the boundaries of “normal”. Allow them to be uncomfortable with the “new normal”. And they will grow. Will Steve be uncomfortable taking ownership of “problem tables”? Yes. Will he feel empowered after a few successes at it? Definitely. And if he fails, will you support him, coach him, and retrain if necessary, or will you just say “You tried really hard, Steve. Nice job.” Then give him the same trophy as all the other kids got at the end of soccer season?

There are many of you reading this that will be saying this is too simple to work, or it can’t be done, or blah, blah, blah… ” Apparently, you might just be too comfortable with the status quo yourself. People are always comfortable setting repeats, not records. You have to take a leap of faith.

Managers manage in the moment. Leaders develop, learn, teach, and grow for long term impact. They take risks. I challenge you to find it in yourself to be that leader, to get out of your comfort zone. Become an agent of change, and improvement, for your employees. Become an entrepreneur yourself. “Entrepreneurs are innovators who use a process of shattering the status quo… “-Joseph Schumpeter, 1934. Truths are timeless: If you don’t exhibit leadership and do it, your employees won’t exhibit leadership and do it. Then, someone else, perhaps your boss, might just be looking at you someday, thinking “This business needs to grow and to perform at a higher level. And that manager is just too attached to being comfortable to try anything new. He could be such an impactful leader, but he’s not. I see more in him than he sees in himself.”

Let that not be you.

Service Industry Challenges – How to Step Beyond the Subjective Nature of the Industry

The service industry can be very subjective in nature due to the fact that you are trusting people to perform skills. Trust may not be the biggest issue, however value in the service can be perceived as very high or very low. A lot of that perception has to do with the individual selling the service. This can be a big hurdle to overcome.

Another challenge that faces the service industry is the idea that clients pay for a service or services based on the number of hours the task will take to be completed. In this model, the company is basing its services’ value on the number of hours to complete the work. It would seem that the scope of work should be based on the value that the services provide. While the company may determine the amount of hours to completion for time management and as an estimate, it should not be end price.

To get beyond this low profit margin income model, you as the owner and entrepreneur, must truly believe that your product and services are worth their asking price if not even more. That may sound outrageous, but to some consumers, they will trust companies, services and products that are at the higher end of the price spectrum because to them, they perceive more value in it. As you recognize the value that you have created in your products and services, it will start to come across in your sales pitches. Don’t stop it- that is your passion and drive speaking. That is what will get the sales. No need to be arrogant about the price, just focus on the value that your company is offering, how it will benefit and simplify the client’s life and how you can get started today.

Very simply, change your thoughts, increase your prices, and let your passion shine through. You may start to see a new market to tap that previously would have been out of reach. You may also discover that you were not charging enough for your services.