Interview with Kelly Giard, CEO and Founder - Clean Air Lawn Care

Interview with Kelly Giard, CEO and Founder

Interview with Kelly Giard, CEO and Founder

This interview with Kelly Giard covers a lot of ground in a short amount of time! It’s a great place to start if you’re looking into our franchise opportunities. Host Lee Kantor of Business Radio X  asks our CEO and founder about the Clean Air Lawn Care business model and history, approach to COVID-19 disruption, how owners grow the business, seasonality, marketing support, and our unique approach to providing a win-win partnership between top employees and franchise owners.

You can listen to the full interview here or read the summary below.

What is Clean Air Lawn Care?

Clean Air Lawn Care is a sustainable, organic lawn care franchise that features a business model with three core services. Those services include solar-powered and electric mowing, organic fertilization, and organic weed control. “a healthy alternative” to the common chemical- and gas-powered lawn care companies

What Disruption Have You Seen From COVID-19?

Our franchise owners have been fully operational throughout the COVID-19 state closures because they have been deemed an “essential service.” Still, there have been some changes and adaptations that franchisees need to make to mitigate risk to themselves, employees, and customers. Giard explains how our estimate process has changed, “we’re not shaking hands at the door or meeting at the kitchen table anymore, but we can walk the property while on the phone with the customer.” Plus, when it comes to lawn care, it’s fairly easy for all services to be performed without violating the physical distance rules, “we’ve had some rigid restrictions… but for the most part, we’re operating as usual.”

Other protocols Clean Air Lawn Care franchise owners are following to mitigate risk include staggering start times for lawn techs, limiting one lawn tech in a truck instead of two or three, and wearing masks. New branded masks are currently being ordered by franchise owners to be worn for the rest of the season.

Clean Air Lawn Care 2006
Kelly Giard on an electric mower with his son in 2006

History of Clean Air Lawn Care

Before launching Clean Air Lawn Care, Kelly Giard was a retail stockbroker. He was a franchisee himself, owning a stock brokerage franchise. As a franchisee, he saw what he liked and disliked about how the franchise system worked and took note. Giard was getting antsy and bored of his work behind a desk as a broker, and the idea of a new approach to lawn care came to him. He soon realized that it was a smart business idea, as well as a great excuse to spend less time behind a desk.

Giard remembers the beginning of the business well, “I started messing around with this concept out of my garage in 2006, and it just kind of caught fire.” He sold his stock brokerage franchise and started focusing on becoming a franchisor in 2008. In 2020, Clean Air Lawn Care has 70 territories across the country.

Who is a Clean Air Lawn Care Franchisee?

When Kantor asked about whether our franchisees are mostly owner/operators or general managers with a crew of lawn care techs, Giard explains that we have a healthy portion of both in the Clean Air Lawn Care family.

franchise owner

However, the owners who separate themselves from the rest are the owners who can manage their team and scale the business with a workforce. We have a lot of owners who came from white-collar, corporate jobs and are wanting a change (much like Giard when he decided to leave his stockbroker job). They see our business model and they say “that makes a lot of sense,” and they can use their past career experience to grow the business and manage a team.

Most of our franchise owners are what we call “white-collar to green-collar” entrepreneurs who find a lot of value in our sustainability mission and like our simple, but proven business model.

Scaling the Business

Kantor asks if franchise owners are able to grow the business by adding territories. The answer is YES! Giard explains that adding neighboring territories is common for our most successful franchise owners. “We had our first owner go over a million dollars in revenue last year, in 2019. He has three territories and is in the Seattle market.” The sky is the limit! There’s a lot of good real estate in terms of the territories that we can build.

Plus, now is the perfect time to join the Clean Air family, “the brand and the concept are in an exciting stage right now, where we’ve established it and it’s proven, but there’s still a lot of great real estate available.”

Seasonality

We often get questions from potential owners in more seasonal climates about how the business model takes the seasonality of lawn care into account. It’s true that the owners with the longer seasons do have a leg up in terms of getting the most out of their capital, but as Giard says, “I think it’s nice to take a break, too.” We do have several Colorado-based owners with shorter seasons who do really well with the business model. We also have successful owners in places like Bend, OR and Jackson Hole, WY, where there’s a high expectation of living standards and a shift in focus to mountain life when the snow starts to fall.

Marketing Support for Franchise Owners

When it comes to marketing and getting customers, Kantor asks, “how much is required of the franchisee to immerse themselves in the community and build their customer base?” While it certainly helps for the franchise owner to make connections and be active in their community, one of the big benefits they get as an owner is our marketing support.

Our franchise owners get full marketing support from the HQ team in Fort Collins. One of the many things the support team does for owners is “provide an individual website for each market.” We focus heavily on SEO for each market and then build off of that. We give our owners that website, and then we push traffic to it with SEO, and then we support them with Pay Per Click advertising, as well. One great benefit to our model is that our customers are very “sticky.” Once customers are used to no pollution and no chemicals, it’s pretty hard for them to go back in the other direction.

Tech-to-Owner Program

When asked about something that stands out about being a franchisor, Giard responds by telling us about the success he’s seen through the franchise’s Tech-To-Owner program. Clean Air Lawn Care has three franchise owners who went through the program, including an owner in Dallas, “who started off as a tech and now owns a very robust location in Dallas. He has a much higher standard of living for his family now as an owner. It’s been really cool to see him go from an employee to an owner, and change his entire family’s lifestyle in that way.”

We set goals with the franchise owner and the employee, and the goals are usually long-term goals. They could be goals with a timeline of anywhere from 2-5 years. The benefit to the franchise owner is that they will get a very committed employee who will help them with long-term goals. They have that employee who has “bought-in” and is loyal to the success of the company, which is priceless. Then, once they meet their goals and that employee becomes an owner, the original franchise owner gets a neighboring territory that boosts the local brand awareness and coverage. Having another owner in the area helps grow the market and keeps the potential customer base happy.

In this interview with Kelly Giard, this is where Kantor lights up the most, calling the Tech-to-Owner program a “brilliant career path in a time when it’s not easy to keep employees.” Giard agrees, “those owners from the Tech-to-Owner program tend to really hit the ground running because they are experienced and already know the business model and approach.”

A Turnkey Business for Green Entrepreneurs

Despite (or perhaps because of) the uncertain current economic situation right now, Giard celebrates that “there’s a lot of “entrepreneurs being born right now.” We’re getting more interest in franchise ownership now more than ever. People are ready to take their career and economic livelihood into their own hands by becoming a business owner, and having a franchise support system on your side is something that increases the likelihood of start-up success.

If you’re interested in becoming an owner with us, get in touch! We’d love to talk it over with you.

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