After serving as a Senior Airman with the U.S. Air Force, Jeff Baker now ironically wears the title of “Grounds Guy.” But though his career is now more down-to-earth, the leadership experience, skills, and discipline he acquired in the Air Force serve him equally well in owning a successful landscape business, The Grounds Guys of East Wichita.
With four years as a Security Forces Member, Baker was deployed to Operation Southern Watch, spending several months in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. These assignments provided a unique set of skills that would prove invaluable to his career today. An experience during his Kuwait deployment, in which he and his fellow service members were uncertain about their return home due to the emerging threat of an unknown terrorist act (ultimately the tragic events of 9/11), taught him the importance of organizing thoughts and moving forward despite uncertainty.
After the Air Force, Baker served as a police officer in El Dorado, KS, as a Patrol Sergeant. But by 2013, Baker was ready for a new mission. His motivation for transitioning into franchising with The Grounds Guys, a Neighborly company, was fueled by a desire for a fresh challenge and the opportunity to build a successful business. The discipline and focus instilled by the military, including the ability to stick to the plan, adapt when necessary, and prioritize mission success, have been key contributors to Baker’s success as a business owner.
Running a lawn care business comes with its share of challenges, spanning areas like overhead, production, and maintaining business momentum. Baker’s method for cutting through these weeds lies in his unique mindset and perspective. His journey as a small business owner stands as testament not only to his unwavering dedication but the immense value of the skills, mindset, and leadership traits that veterans bring to the business world. His extensive list of accolades awarded through The Grounds Guys includes:
- Franchise of the Year for 2022
- 1 Million Benchmark in 2021
- Pioneer Award in 2021
- Excellence in Leadership in 2018 and 2021
- President’s Choice Award 2020
- Top Gun recognition 2017, 2019, 2022, and 2023
- Personal Achievement Award in 2016 and 2018
- Builder Award in 2016 and 2017
- Shining Star Award 2016
These awards highlight his outstanding contributions and dedication to excellence in his role as a franchise owner. He envisions scaling his business to a 5 to 6-million-dollar operation and transitioning into a semi-absentee ownership role in the future.
Baker’s story serves as an inspiring example for those venturing on a similar path, driven by his resilience and steadfast commitment to success. For military veterans considering a career in small business ownership especially in the landscape space, Baker offers a valuable piece of advice: approach franchising like following a military model. Hit the ground running and don’t stop until you’ve achieved your goals!
On this Veterans’ Day, a special thank you to all who served!
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