James Jakobsen, left, and Peter Roberts, right, started ManageMowed to provide a franchising model they believe is new to the industry.
Photo courtesy of ManageMowed

Seattle area business partners James Jakobsen and Peter Roberts had an idea: Create a franchise opportunity called ManageMowed that helps business owners focus on client relations and local crews, rather than on purchasing and storing landscaping equipment on their own. The team says they can build a landscape management brand that provides an alternative approach to how things are done in the industry.

Jakobsen grew up doing summer work at a local landscape company. After college, he and his brother launched a residential maintenance business in 1999. He kept in touch with his high school acquaintance, Roberts, whose company focused on residential design/build such as patios and fences. By 2006, the entrepreneurs decided to join forces to grow the company.

A new model.

By 2008, Jakobsen and Roberts decided to rebrand for a more corporate feel and changed the name to Greenpoint. Of course, that was the year when the recession hit. “At that time, 90% of our client base was residential,” Jakobsen says. “We lost business overnight. We had to ask ourselves, ‘Now what?’”

They decided to re-examine their business focus. “When the recession hit, clients in the residential market did maintenance themselves. We realized the money was in commercial,” Jakobsen says. “A bank or restaurant still needs its grass cut.”

They began tweaking their business model to focus on commercial accounts, and they started teaming up with local owner-operators who ran two- to three-people crews. They’d pitch the accounts, negotiate the rates and reach out to the crews. “We learned you can’t just sub a job and forget it. You need to manage the crews for quality control,” Jakobsen says.

The two steadily paid off debt and learned how to manage the model. By 2013, they were able to hire their first salesman. Along the way, they fine-tuned their idea trough trial and error. “We learned this model works because many owner operators are great at doing lawns but not at growing the business,” Jakobsen says.

“(Franchising) seemed like an attractive way to grow, but we knew we needed to see what worked and what didn’t first,” Jakobsen says. By 2016, they opened two test markets that are corporate-held in Denver and Portland.

They began working with a franchise consultant who guided them on what they needed to do from both practical and legal standpoints, such as writing an operations manual, determining royalties and getting approval on their federally-mandated franchise disclosure document.

The company also rebranded from Greenpoint Landscape Management to ManageMowed.

Branching out.

Why start a franchise anyhow? “There’s the scalability of franchising, and we were attracted to the idea of teaming up with other entrepreneurs,” Jakobsen says. “We also feel the industry mindset is broken. We want people who want work/ life balance and who focus on results. And those may be people who aren’t even in the green industry now.”

All of the account managers at the corporate locations do not come from landscape backgrounds. Jakobsen emphasizes that the key to success will be training and support.

A potential franchisee starts with an initial on-site visit to get a feel for the company culture and operations. If he or she goes forward, the franchise fee is $37,500. Two weeks of training occur at the corporate office, followed by a week on-site at the franchisee’s location. Training will focus on classroom and field exercises, including learning how to build a sales base, how to get leads and how to source crews. Web support, webinars and ongoing mentoring will always be available, too.

“A lot of companies have a canned pitch when they go on site,” Roberts says. “We try to train them what they need to get across, but that they should use their own personality to do so.” The partners’ goal is to reach 10 to 20 franchises in 2020.

“We built this company on a lot of grit. We learned from our mistakes. Now we want to pass that along,” Jakobsen says. “We want our franchisees to be successful and retain their customers. And the better we support them, the better they do.” L&L

The author is a freelance writer based in the Northeast.