Three takeaways from Memphis newspaper’s TruGreen report

July 26, 2017 -  By

TruGreen, which is a subject of a new profile from the Memphis Commercial Appeal, was recently tapped to care for the grounds at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., the site of the Kentucky Derby.


The Commercial Appeal,
 a daily newspaper in Memphis, Tenn., published a profile of TruGreen, which is headquartered in Memphis. The article details the series of events that revitalized a slumping TruGreen into the thriving company that acquired Scotts LawnService last year.

The newspaper interviewed TruGreen CEO David Alexander, who took over in 2012 and was previously chief executive for CitiTrends, an apparel brand in Savannah, Ga. Alexander was recently named the southeast region’s EY Entrepreneur of the Year.

The article highlights the company’s move to Memphis, its local philanthropy projects, its low point in 2012 and the strategies that helped the company grow revenue by $979 million in five years. Here are a few other takeaways from the story:

  1. Things were bad in 2012, and Scotts almost bought TruGreen. 

TruGreen lost $5 million in 2012, the year Alexander took the reins at the company. Many thought the company was on its last leg and would sell for pennies on the dollar. There seemed to be no explanation for this slump.

Based in Ohio, Scotts knew TruGreen was wounded and started a campaign to purchase the company. Instead, TruGreen’s parent company, ServiceMaster (which was bought by Clayton Dubilier & Rice in 2007), decided to hold on and gamble on the company and its new CEO, Alexander.

TruGreen president and CEO David Alexander joined the company in 2012.

2. No one understood the depth of the problem.

When he took over, Alexander was tasked with identifying and stamping out deep-seated issues within the massive, 48-state company. So, he decided to head out and meet many of his 14,000 employees. He asked them what they thought about the company and leaned on them to show him what was going wrong. He didn’t know, he admits.

“It was a lot of listening,” he told The Commercial Appeal. 

But he was able to identify the problems, which were a lack of confidence, subpar service and a lot of customer complaints. Furthermore, after conducting a survey, the company found that only 44 percent of workers considered themselves engaged or highly engaged in their current roles.

The realization changed the company’s ethos. From now on, the company would operate on the golden rule: Treat employees, customers and vendors as you would want to be treated, Alexander says.

3. TruGreen isn’t taking its foot off the pedal.

Last year, after hitting an operating income of $85 million in 2015, TruGreen bought its rival, Scotts LawnService, with Scotts retaining 30 percent ownership and $200 million. In turn, TruGreen added 500,000 customers, giving it 34 percent of the nation’s lawn care market, according to the report.

For 2016, the company reached an operating income of $152 million. The company was No. 2 on the LM150 list of largest landscape companies with $1.3 billion in 2016 revenue.

This year, TruGreen launched an all-out blitz of an advertising campaign. It sent out 95 million pieces of direct mail, aired two months of commercials on ESPN and HGTV and promoted its landing of accounts at high-profile locations like Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.

The campaign totaled 6 percent of its revenue—more than $80 million.

After a customer survey, the company says it will focus on getting customers back in touch with nature and work on perfecting its services, which now include a mosquito control brand.

“We want to get really good at what we do,” Alexander said.

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Dillon Stewart

About the Author:

Dillon Stewart graduated from Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, earning a Bachelor of Science in Online Journalism with specializations in business and political science. Stewart is a former associate editor of LM.

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