PHOTO COURTESY THE GROUNDS GUYS.
Kelly Ramos has mastered not one, but two male-dominated industries. Ramos is the owner and operator of The Grounds Guys franchise in Ashville, N.C. She joined that organization after first working for her father's Mr. Rooter plumbing franchise.
Plopped smack dab in the midst of one of the best cities in America, Ramos' franchise provides professional lawn care services to Asheville and the surrounding communities of Arden, Barnardsville, Black Mountain, Candler, Fairview, Fletcher, Leicester, Swannanoa and Weaverville.
The city of Asheville (pop. 424,000) is ranked as one of "The 50 Most Alive Places To Be" (Modern Maturity, 2000), the "Happiest City for Women" (Self, 2002), one of the "Best Places to Reinvent Your Life" (AARP Magazine, 2003) and one of the "Best Outside Towns" (Outside Magazine, 2006).
Ramos moved to North Carolina from Florida with her family when she was 8. At 16 she began working at her family's plumbing franchise. "I continued to work for them full time for nine years as office manager, and still step in now when needed," she said.
So how did a female plumbing ace become The Grounds Guys' gal?
The Grounds Guys of Asheville
Asheville and the surrounding
communities of Arden, Barnardsville, Black
Mountain, Candler, Fairview, Fletcher,
Leicester, Swannanoa and Weaverville, N.C.
Commercial grounds care, residential
yard care, landscape design, landscaping,
irrigation, fertilization and pesticides, snow
and ice control and outdoor lighting
"I have always aspired to have my own business," she explained. "I liked the steadiness of the service industry after working with the family business for so long. However, after working in an office, I was looking for something different." Not that landscaping was foreign to her. She had learned how to get her hands dirty as a youth thanks to her mother "a passionate and successful organic gardener," said Ramos.
One year after starting her own landscape company learned that The Dwyer Group, which is also the parent company of Mr. Rooter, was starting a landscape management franchise. By the next year, her second year as the owner of her small independent landscape company, Verde Plus, she had become a franchisee, The Grounds Guys of Asheville.
"As a new business owner trying to learn the industry, and having already worked with a franchise, I saw The Grounds Guys systems and structures as a chance to grow a solid and lasting business," Ramos said.
Ramos said that her customers' perception of her business acumen isn't discriminatory.
"I feel our customers and employees view me as a business owner. Some customers are surprised when they first meet a woman owner. But in this industry females make most of the big decisions. I relate to my customers and employees just as any business owner would," she added.
Ramos has mapped out some strong goals for this season. "We have several goals set out for our existing properties this year, but overall, we are continually trying to be more efficient with our time and material," she said. "Our market has a lot of room to grow, but we are trying to target the areas we are already working in."
Passing the 100 Franchise Mark on the Fly
by Mike Ingles
This past March 11 the Grounds Guys awarded its 100th franchise less than three years after establishing its first U.S. franchise in Brentwood, Tenn.
"Since reaching the 100 mark, we have already awarded 12 more franchises. We are the fastest growing brand in the 30-year history of our parent company, The Dwyer Group," said Ron Madera, president, The Grounds Guys Landscape Management, in Waco, Texas. (Update: The Grounds Guys welcomed 20 new franchise owners this spring with Colorado, Massachusetts and Utah receiving their first franchises, the company reported April 28.)
Madera said there's a very good reason for the Grounds Guys success. "Our foundation is a Culture of Care, which stands for Customer Focus, Attitude, Respect and Enjoying Life. Professionals in the lawn care industry know that the time has come for change. With the Culture of CARE we incorporate solid business management practices that include treating others as you'd like to be treated, listening with the intent to understand and communicating honestly and with purpose," he said.
"About 75 percent of our franchisees come to us with an established business in the green industry. They're looking for stability and business management tools that will take them to the next level." As part of their management practices, The Grounds Guys offers analytical tools for measuring productivity and establishing standards for the franchisee to meet to insure they are growing, not only their gross but more importantly, their net.
A major feature of the Grounds Guys marketing program is what Madera called the LMTM (Local Market Tele-Marketing) program, which originates sales calls from the corporate offices in Waco, Texas. "Our in-house salespeople secure appointments and requests for quotes for our franchisees. Franchisees use Grounds Guys proprietary software to quote. We might make an initial measurement using an online tool like Go iLawn, a software tool that allows us to measure lawns via the internet, but we always follow that with a visit to ensure we get everything right."
Mike Ingles is a freelance writer who lives and works in Columbus, Ohio. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beyond that, and working with the parent company, Ramos is building a seven-year plan to grow and expand her company's services. Sometime in the near future, she's hopeful of bringing on a general manager, so that she can concentrate on growing and improving the business and working so much in operations herself.
Pamela Walton is an experienced reporter and editor that lives and works in Gainesboro, Tenn. Contact her at email@example.com.