“I wanted to be a brain surgeon”
I understand you started Augusta Lawn Care as a side hustle and then it grew into something bigger, right?
Yes. I started mowing lawns when I was 11 years old. I did it with my brother as a way to pay for college. My family had always moved from paycheck to paycheck and our parents or grandparents had never gone to college, so college was our goal. We started mowing lawns when I was really young, but in terms of Augusta Lawn Care, I started out a little bit later; when I was 18 years old, I finished my Bachelor’s degree. I actually went to college when I was 13. The reason I started so early and the reason I pushed myself to do that is because I wanted to become a brain surgeon. I figured, hey, I’m going to be in school for the next 15 years of my life and I want to get through this as soon as possible. So, I got my degree in Pre-Med at Western Washington University; I kind of changed plans and decided to ramp the landscaping business up. I was really passionate about entrepreneurship. That’s when I switched, after getting my degree, to getting my MBA at night. In terms of a side gig while I was doing that, is when I started Augusta Lawn Care. That first year we did $27,000 in revenue by myself basically. And to pay the bills, I worked as a part-time personal trainer.
So, they call you the 7-figure millennial. How old are you?
I just turned 24.
What made you make the jump from having a side hustle to running a full-time business?
When I made the switch from medical school, I knew that entrepreneurship was where I was going. I had always been the guy that sold lemonade or sold to people playing golf; I had lots of side gigs as I was growing up. The personal training was only to pay my bills and to have some money coming in; the money was used to work on the lawn care company, so I made the decision to go all in. But then thought– next year. The year after I did about $30,000 in revenue and the next, $180,000; that’s why I went full time into it. From there I just scaled up in terms of hiring more people and franchising. Going from a side hustle to full time wasn’t coincidental; I knew I wanted to run a business and not be the operator. Not do it on the side, but full time.
How many employees do you have now?
Right now we have about 15 in our local office and we just started a call center for all of the franchisees. That’s where the franchisees’ phone calls, estimates, and scheduling will be done. We just had our first 10 franchisees come last weekend and we have another 10 coming in February. We should have about 40 franchisees by the end of 2020.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start his or her own side gig versus someone with a steady income from a growing business?
I think it really comes down to what they want out of it. Lawn care is a great side hustle because you can get started with such a low amount of money. My brother and I started with $1,000; we went out and got cheap weed eater, mower and a blower, threw them in the back of a van, and we were off to the races. Before he got his license, we went around the neighborhood with a wheelbarrow. So, my advice is to ask yourself, “What do you want out of the business?” If you just want to make some side money, maybe $1,000 or so on the weekends, and your way through college or pay off some debt, then that should be your intention—to finish or pay for that thing. I knew I wanted to hire people, get my MBA, start a podcast—it was all intentional. For some it is more of a means to an end: paying off debt or for college. For others, they turn their side hustle into a career. If you are intentional with a side hustle as a business owner, it becomes your career.
What advice would you give to someone with 50 customers? Should he or she take a step back to scale and take out a business loan to hire help?
It comes down to what you want the business to become. A) you take 20 years to slowly build the business or B) you invest every penny you make back into hiring more people and buying more equipment. When I was starting Augusta Lawn Care locally, I put every single penny back into the business. I lived in a 200 sq ft apartment, drove a company vehicle, and stripped down all of my personal expenses to less than $1,000 a month. Doing those things allowed me to scale much faster. But most people aren’t going to want to build a million-dollar business. They aren’t going to want to scale up. In that scenario, that’s when they take a little more money out and maybe go on a vacation or two. I worked 100 hours a week trying to build something because that’s what I wanted. I don’t think that’s the right answer for everybody, but if they want to scale and grow, that will come with the cost of time and money. The money needs to be spent on the business to grow it.
What do you do for fun?
I used to play a lot of golf. That’s where the name Augusta Lawn Care came from. Augusta’s National is where they play the Master’s golf tournament. Our tagline is “your personal greens keeper.” I own a gym as well, so I’m really into fitness and exercise. I bought that gym last year in order to learn the franchise system and model of Anytime Fitness and emulate those things into Augusta Lawn Care as we franchised. Exercise I one of my favorite things to do; I love fitness and I love having a full schedule and 10 different things on my plate. I love that I have podcasts lined up. I love that I’m building. That really is my hobby. If I’m not actively working on my businesses, I’m listening to audio book or researching another business.
How can people hear more of you? How can people get in touch with you?
I have a business bootcamp podcast which is where most of my listeners are. I’ve had that one for about 6 years now. Landscapebusinesscourse.com is a course, however we also have a podcast and free videos on YouTube and Facebook; 90% of what I do is completely free. The only thing you need to pay for is the course, but you can essentially get all of the value and information from the podcasts. The course is more or less a step by step of my first 3 years. We have conference in January. We do a landscape summit for 3 days where landscapers come together, as well as the franchises. We’re staying busy. It’s a lot of fun.
How do you learn more about the Landscape Summit? How can you attend?
If you go to landscapebusinesscourse.com/conference or visit the conference tab on the main site, you can sign up there. We’ll probably have about 100 landscapers. We need 3 days of training our own numbers and marketing; this coming year we’re focusing on pay for performance (PFP), where we teach the business owners how to pay their employees based upon performance and budgeted hours instead of hourly. It’s been pretty revolutionary for our business and for our franchisees, so we’ll be teaching that at the conference this coming January.