Turf Magazine - April, 2012

FEATURES

Off the Ground and Growing

Is The Grounds Guys coming to a market near you soon?
By Jerry Mix

The Dwyer Group at a Glance


Founded: 1981
Founder: Don Dwyer Sr.
Chairwoman and CEO: Dina Dwyer-Owens (daughter of the founder)
Headquarters: Waco, Texas
Franchise Brands and Date of Launch or Acquired: Mr. Rootor, 1981; Aire Serve, 1989; Mr. Electric, 1993; Mr. Appliance, 1996; Glass Doctor, 1998; The Grounds Guys, 2010
Total Franchise Locations Worldwide: 1,560
Total Dwyer Revenues: $800 million
Employees: 10,000
The Grounds Guys Brand: 56 U.S. franchise locations, expected to double in 2012
Dwyer Group Website: www.dwyergroup.com
The Grounds Guys Website: www.groundsguys.com

What do you know about The Dwyer Group, based in Waco, Texas? If you don't much about it now, you will soon. The company will likely be coming to a market near you soon. It was featured this past January on Undercover Boss, a CBS reality program.

Here is how that show went: Dina Dwyer-Owens, president and CEO of The Dwyer Group, an international $800-million company, was professionally disguised to go undercover and pretend to be Faith Brown, an administrative assistant seeking employment in the service industry. In her disguise she visited four companies, each one a subsidiary of The Dwyer Group. Each company thought it was participating in a different reality television program; none suspected that it was hosting its boss.

Over the course of the hour-long program, viewers watched Dwyer-Owens visit and work with service technicians at four franchise locations in different parts of the country: Mr. Rooter, Mr. Appliance, Mr. Electric and The Grounds Guys. These are four of the eight home and property service brands under The Dwyer Group's umbrella of companies. The Grounds Guys is the latest addition, joining The Dwyer Group in 2010.

If you haven't heard about The Grounds Guys, you'll likely hear about this rapidly growing group of landscape franchises soon. In fact, you find yourself either competing against one or, perhaps, joining the organization.


Just entering its third year under The Dwyer Group corporate umbrella, The Grounds Guys is one of the fastest-growing green industry franchise operations in North America.

As of mid-February, the Dwyer Group had 56 landscape franchise locations in 20 states, the majority being on the East and West Coasts. By the end of 2012, the company is planning to double the number of its landscape management franchise locations, branching out further across the U.S.

Locally managed and run

A local owner familiar with his or her local market operates each franchise. Dave Patterson, whose company is located in Rio Rancho, N.M., joined The Grounds Guys in March 2011. His company specializes in xeriscapes, water-conserving landscapes composed of native and drought-resistant plants. The term xeriscape, coined by the Denver Water Department in the early 1980s, comes from the Greek xeros, which means "dry".

"We have a lot of properties here that have no grass whatsoever," says Patterson. "But when you combine decorative rocks and boulders and different types of plants, we provide beautiful xeriscapes." His company promotes buffalograss, a species native to the dry Southern Plains for those customers wanting turfgrass. It's been said that buffalograss got its name because it only needed watering by the buffalo that grazed those plains to stay healthy.

His New Mexico market averages just 9 inches of rain annually; last year it received less than 5 inches of rain.

"I don't think people living in other parts of the country realize how dry it is here," says Patterson, who has been in the landscape business 20 years. "We have to adjust and adopt here, just to stay in business," he adds. Last year, his market area got just 4.5 inches of rain. Not surprisingly, Patterson stays busy installing and maintaining sprinkler systems, with the irrigation water coming from a local aquifer.

"Being a part of The Grounds Guys has been good. They treated us well and we like the national recognition. It's still too early to know what's going to happen, but I wouldn't be in it if I didn't think that The Grounds Guys was going to be successful," says Patterson.

"We're focused on growing the brand, but we are also focused on partnering with our franchisees and helping them develop their customer and business bases." says Chrissy Ronje, The Grounds Guys marketing and communications specialist.

"We have several franchisees who have never been in the landscape management industry who are coming in and starting their own businesses. We also have people who had a smaller landscape management business and are now rolling into The Dwyer Group."

Individuals joining The Dwyer Group start their training online, which is followed by a week of hands-on training and instruction at the company's Waco headquarters. Newcomers get a thorough introduction to The Dywer Group's culture, values and systems, all of which helped it to grow to more than 1,500 locations worldwide.

"We're big on making sure that our franchisees and their employees are trained really well," says Ronje. With just a few hiccups, this appeared to be the case as presented in the Undercover Boss episode.


Every owner of a The Grounds Guy franchise agrees to follow The Dwyer Group's "proven systems for success" and abide by its Code of Values. The number of franchises are expected to double in 2012.

Dwyer-Owens experienced and learned things that she liked and that she didn't like during her working visits to the four franchises. The show was, at times, poignant as she recalled her father, Don Dwyer Sr., who founded the company in 1981 with 36 franchise locations and died in 1994.

The program also had its share of its amusing moments. Landscape professionals watching the show probably chuckled knowingly watching her climb aboard and take the sticks of a front-mount, professional mower. The zigzag pattern she cut on the grounds of a church property wasn't pretty. It was later "cleaned up" by the 21-year-old field supervisor, Jake, who was working hand-in-glove with her.

"I was standing back for safety. I didn't want to lose a limb," grinned Jake as he kept a keen eye on Dwyer-Owens whipsawing the uncooperative zero-turn mower across the church property.

"I felt like I was riding a bucking bronco," said a shaken Dwyer-Owens during the filming and after climbing off the mower.

In that 10-minute segment of the program, Dwyer-Owens visited The Grounds Guys franchise in Germantown (Memphis), Tenn., where she helped take down a small tree and planted a bed of begonias on the church property. Both she and Jake dripped with perspiration working in the 105-degree-Fahrenheit temperature.

"I have a whole new level of respect for the employees and the work they do," admitted Dwyer-Owens.

The Grounds Guys offer a host of different programs to prospective franchisees, including programs for military veterans, women owners, firemen and policemen who might want to own their own business. Special financing is being offered to these groups.

The Grounds Guys emerged as a brand in February 2010 when the Dwyer Group announced it had reached an agreement with Canadian-based Sunshine Grounds Care to market franchises in the United States. Sunshine Grounds Care, established in 1987 by Tim Van Stralen, grew into a sizable and successful business as nine of his brothers joined the company. By 2004, the grounds care division of Sunshine began franchising. Today, there are about 35 Grounds Guys franchise locations in Canada, 31 of them along with its Canadian headquarters in Ontario Province.

The Grounds Guys points to five reasons, in addition to the Dwyer Group's acquisition experience, why it's growing rapidly. These "points of difference" include:

  • clean, shiny trucks;
  • friendly personnel with uniforms;
  • state-of-the-art equipment that is cleaned and sharpened daily;
  • monthly quality control reports;
  • and a three-hour callback guarantee for The Grounds Guys customers.

The Grounds Guys mission statement also helps to put a positive spin on the company. It reads, "To exceed customer expectations by providing exceptional front-line service with well-trained employees who thrive because of the positive culture."

The Grounds Guys gained positive attention from the Undercover Boss television show, according to the Dwyer Group. It ranged from people wanting to be customers of the company to others inquiring about franchising.

Only time will tell just how well The Grounds Guys will do in the U.S. market. Nevertheless, this rapidly growing company might be worth keeping an eye on in the future.

Jerry Mix, longtime editor in the home and commercial services industry, reports on contractor companies and issues from his home in Cleveland, Ohio.