Small-town success in lawn care

September 21, 2016 -  By
Kathleen’s employees don’t earn points for speed. The focus is on quality.

Kathleen’s employees don’t earn points for speed. The focus is on quality.

Michael Rogers strives to manage growth while maintaining his Georgia-based lawn care company’s small-town roots.

Michael Rogers has never told his technicians to work faster. Instead, he encourages them to spend as much time on each client’s property as necessary to do the job right the first time. Perhaps it’s a reflection of his southern roots, or maybe it’s just his way of doing business, but this slow and steady pace works for the president of Kathleen’s Lawn & Ornamental Pest Control in Evans, Ga., who has always appreciated quality over quantity.

“I’ve never asked my guys to hurry up,” says Rogers. “Part of their job is to get the job done right, and telling them to hurry up could jeopardize the job and the relationship.”

This philosophy is the backbone of Kathleen’s Lawn & Ornamental Pest Control, or Kathleen’s for short. Since launching in 2006, the $600,000 company has strived to grow without letting go of its small-town identity. The company keeps it simple—with practices like issuing hand-written invoices and referencing the Old Farmer’s Almanac to help predict next season’s weather—while delivering services to its 60 percent residential, 40 percent commercial clientele in more than 20 counties throughout eastern Georgia and western South Carolina.

Kathleen’s, which does 85 percent lawn care, 10 percent shrub and tree care and 5 percent pest control, is also a subcontractor for several of the area’s larger landscape maintenance companies.

“We are trying to grow but still retain that small, comfortable feel of a locally-owned company,” Rogers says. “I want our customers to know they can always call and get ahold of someone. I still want that local feel and that personal one-on-one touch.”

Healthy Dirt Kathleen’s services are designed to improve the health of the soil, Rogers says. The company uses the organic plant probiotic Holganix.

Healthy Dirt

Kathleen’s services are designed to improve the health of the soil, Rogers says. The company uses the organic plant probiotic Holganix.

For 20 years prior to becoming Kathleen’s, the company operated as Rogers Services and offered landscape maintenance and lawn care. But six years ago, Rogers, who has been a licensed chemical applicator since 1992, decided to sell the maintenance side of the business and focus primarily on lawn care, which intrigues him more. To differentiate the new lawn care business, the company now does business as Kathleen’s Lawn & Ornamental Pest Control with its signature ladybug logo. Named after his wife, who doesn’t work in the business, Rogers says the name presents the company in a softer, less industrial light and is easier for customers to recognize and remember.

“She kind of flinched at it at first, but she understood what we were going for,” Rogers says. “People see the logo and recognize it. They say, ‘Hey, call Kathleen’s.’ We knew it would run off the tongue much easier than our old name.”

Rogers says there was a lack of lawn care companies that did more than just “throw down iron or nitrogen,” and he wanted to offer services that focused on improving the health of the soil. His interest in the scientific side of lawn care led him to an organic plant probiotic product called Holganix, which he says uses a diverse list of beneficial microorganisms, microbial food sources and organic additives to build strong roots and grow healthier, more resilient plants, balancing the soil’s ecosystem. The company uses a bridge system of Holganix and synthetic fertilizers. It also practices integrated pest management.

“I knew there was a niche there,” Rogers says. “I knew if I could get people to build up and take care of the soil we could make a difference.”

A different way to grow

So far, the company has done just that. Clients’ lawns look so good that Kathleen’s has experienced 90 percent growth through word-of-mouth marketing and customer referrals, Rogers says. Other than a website, Facebook page, yard signs and truck wraps embellished with the company’s recognizable ladybug logo, Rogers does not buy in to traditional marketing methods. He particularly dislikes the postcards many companies use, which he says “slam” homeowners’ mailboxes January through March. The company gives customers $25 gift cards for referrals, and it has no intention of competing with larger companies that are more focused on price.

“We grow more in the months of July and August because our yards look so good,” he says, adding that the company boasts a client retention rate of 98 percent. “We are not the cheapest, and we never will be. We set high standards and goals, and we tell our employees that people are paying more for our services so we have to make sure they get what they pay for.”

Rogers is quick to point out that a great looking lawn requires participation from the homeowner. His technicians spend time educating customers on how to water and mow their lawn based on the time of year. Their efforts, combined with the products and the company’s expertise, are what keeps their lawns green and healthy year-round. Rogers doesn’t hesitate to walk away from customers who don’t hold up their end of the bargain. Such a relationship would be a waste of time and money for everyone involved, he says.

Kathleen’s educates employees, who in turn educate homeowners on proper lawn care.

Kathleen’s educates employees, who in turn educate homeowners on proper lawn care.

“It’s truly a joint measure,” Rogers says. “Our services don’t work well if someone doesn’t know how to mow or water their lawn. Each customer’s lawn is an advertisement for us, so we don’t want to work with people who aren’t going to do their part.”

Education is ongoing at Kathleen’s, both in the field and in the office. In addition to teaching homeowners how to properly care for their lawns, Rogers holds weekly meetings with his staff to make sure everyone is on the same page. The company enforces a strict policy that any concern reported by a customer will be checked out within 48 hours. Being informed and prepared helps his staff stay on top of potential problems.

“We have different phases of different pests and weeds that come in, so we want to have a heads-up when we start to see different things,” Rogers says. “If customers see something, I want them to call me. I would rather spend the time to come check it out to make sure it’s not a problem than to have to fix a problem later.”

Like many lawn care operators, Rogers cites pesticide regulations as one of his company’s top challenges, and he spends a lot of time testing and researching new products. He says he’s lucky the Augusta region has not yet faced fertilizer restrictions, but he continues to see chemicals being taken off the market, and he often has difficulty finding adequate replacements.

Going forward, Rogers wants to continue to grow in the Augusta market, while never losing site of what has made his company successful—honesty, loyalty and patience.

“I’d love to know that in five to 10 years from now, someone will say, ‘Wow y’all really did it,’” he says. His advice? “You must practice the following at all times, and you’ll continue to grow: Be honest with your customers, be honest with your employees and be honest with yourself.”


Learn about an additional service Kathleen’s offers during The Masters in this web extra.

Photos: Kathleen’s Lawn & Ornamental Pest Control

Save

Save

This article is tagged with and posted in 0916, Featured, Turf+Ornamental Care

Comments are currently closed.