Company ProfilesJuly/August 2023Previous Issues

The Great Outdoors

Three franchise opportunities that improve, beautify, and add to outside spaces

By Gina Makkar

When the days get longer and temperatures get warmer, Canadians yearn to expand their living space beyond the four walls of their homes. Check out three franchise brands that are helping their customers live an al fresco lifestyle and maximize the beauty of the great outdoors.

Hickory Dickory Decks

A deck extends a living space and becomes the perfect place to dine, lounge, and entertain. CEO Tom Jacques started Hickory Dickory Decks in 1987 in Hamilton, Ontario, and quickly expanded across the country. Marketing director Charleigh Roberts says their systems are a cornerstone of their success. “Before starting to franchise, Tom made sure that the process to create a custom deck company was duplicatable and profitable.”

With a strong reputation in the marketplace, the system boasts extensive marketing and advertising initiatives, and a dynamic online presence. When home makeover shows and reno reveals began to surge in the media, demand for beautiful, practical havens at home increased. Even in tougher economic times, the franchise continues to field project inquiries. “Having a fantastic brand presence and marketing program, our franchisees are frequently top of mind when someone is looking to have a deck added to their home,” says Roberts.

Prospective franchisees should be ready to wear a lot of hats; they close deals, manage permits, and handle finances, among other duties. Organizational skills are vital to success. Roberts also says successful owners seek to grow the brand in their local market.

Owning a franchise comes with plenty of benefits. Franchisees can work from home, which often creates a better work-life balance. They can also make their own schedules to avoid the peak nine-to-five commuter traffic. For those with an entrepreneurial spirit, multi-unit management offers the opportunity to expand and grow profits.

Once on board, franchisees go through an extensive training program, which includes a week-long sales course and a 10-day build training on site with the owner and a builder. A franchise manager is also assigned to each new franchisee to facilitate day-to-day operations.

As the brand continues to grow, they’ve adapted to create enhanced lead tracking systems and CRM systems to help franchisees stay organized. An app helps digitize the sales process, creating a seamless, streamlined approach.

Roberts says the key to franchisee success is to follow the system and trust the supports they’ve put into place. “All successful franchisees have started out by taking what they learn in the initial training and putting it to practice right away. The systems are in place because we know they work and those who follow them tend to see success at a quicker rate.”

With locations strategically placed throughout Ontario, the brand recently began expansion east and west, and also has a U.S.-based location. “Our goal is to dominate the custom deck building industry and have our elite brand recognition expand across the country.”

Puddle Pool Services

Mark Amery, founder and CEO of Puddle Pool Services, is no stranger to great ideas. An entrepreneur at heart, he’s also the mastermind behind Toodaloo Pest & Wildlife Services and Gorilla Property Services. He even appeared on Dragons’ Den. In 2018, he took the plunge and started Puddle Pool Services. “The industry needed cleaning up. There were the mom-and-pop shops that would have two, three, or four vehicles but no real executive model and standards and systems,” he says.

The company has grown to 12 franchisees and is looking to expand to the United States. During the pandemic demand for pools surged. “People got stuck with nowhere to go, and I think people are afraid that will happen again. Now they’ve got their own little oasis,” says Amery.

Amery says Puddle franchisees can manage the system from anywhere. All the systems are online, and in-house marketing and social media teams allow them to maintain control over quality.

“I think one of the big advantages is our culture. It’s fun and it’s a great life. Building a lifestyle where you are making money along with it is always a bonus,” says Amery. “Everyone is happy and everyone is making money and has the same mindset.”

He adds that low overhead and a recurring revenue model are also big draws of the brand. In fact, franchises can onboard in 42 days, and with a large commercial presence, they’re busy year-round with hotels, apartment buildings, and gyms. “It’s a fun industry. No one is ever upset by a pool. Technicians go to work in flip-flops!” Amery notes.

Prospective franchisees should come with an open mind, a great attitude, and a desire to grow the business. “The system scales organically on its own. Our last three franchise partners were hiring someone and adding a new truck in month two.”

Training includes one week of virtual classes followed by a week of in-house training and job shadowing. “Then they’re out the door and generating revenue immediately.” Field operations staff are always on hand to offer support. Positioned to expand, the franchise doubled its expected growth within two years, expanding into the United States.

Amery’s advice to franchisees is to follow the systems. “You’re joining a franchise model. Everything is done for you, so just follow the systems and it works.” He adds that a franchise is constantly changing and growing, and franchisees should also voice their opinions as the brand evolves. Finally, he advises franchisees to find a system they want to grow with. “Make sure it’s for you. Take your time and find your thing. It’s life-changing, so there’s no rush. The money will come as long as you’re enjoying what you do.”

The Grounds Guys

What began with just 10 brothers and a single vision in 1987 has now grown into an industry-leading brand built on several key principles, including excellent workmanship, a commitment to customer satisfaction, and infusing real care into all that they do. With more than 250 locations in North America, The Grounds Guys is quickly becoming the go-to company for exceptional lawn care and landscaping services.

The Grounds Guys president Lori Johnson says the franchise offers many benefits, including a supportive franchisor committed to career development, a family-friendly workweek, and proven operations. With no need for a brick-and-mortar office, it boasts low overhead costs. It’s also recession resilient. After all, no matter what happens to the economy, the grass will continue to grow.

“As with any career move or investment, running a franchise in this sector is equal parts hard work and job satisfaction,” says Johnson. “Franchise success requires a thoughtful approach to planning, marketing, and growing the business. However, a strong franchisor like Neighbourly is there to help The Grounds Guys franchise owners every step of the way.”

With a large roster of North American franchise owners, The Grounds Guys offers a wealth of knowledge and the advantage of a seasoned system. High-demand services like lawn care and snow removal have a recurring customer base, and both residential and commercial clientele keep franchisees busy year-round. Scalable operations position franchisees for optimal growth.

The Grounds Guys’ promise of excellence includes timely responses, safe and reliable equipment, branded vehicles, and an end result that exceeds expectations.

More than just emerald-green lawns and host-worthy spaces, the brand’s guiding CARE principles (Customers First, Attitude, Respect, Enjoying Life in the Process) are at the heart of its success. It also gives back to local communities by celebrating WeCare Week, where franchisees and volunteers support local charities with lawn maintenance, snow and ice removal, meal preparation, and more.

Successful franchisees are keen and hardworking leaders with operational experience. Once on board, the Sure Start training system offers classroom-style learning in business operations, marketing, and more. On the ground, a franchise business coach is on hand for ongoing support, and regional and national gatherings provide the opportunity to glean the expert advice of other franchisees.

Going forward, Johnson says The Grounds Guys will continue to refine the business model and focus on owner profitability. “We want to continue to be a remarkable company and part of that is keeping up with all the advancements in the economy and technology, by leaning into those advancements and automation in order to have that seamless customer experience.”

Johnson offers this advice to potential franchisees: Be honest with yourself about why you want to get into franchising. What drives your interest? Whether it’s to build a family legacy, give back to your community, or find passion in a second career, the right driving force will be a road map to success.