Franchise makes Iain’s grass greener…

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A FAST-expanding Border company has become the role model for businessmen or women seeking a new career through franchising, writes Andrew Keddie.

In Scottish Franchise Week, which runs until tomorrow, Iain Wharton who runs domestic lawn care specialists GreenThumb in Kelso has announced major expansion plans for his franchise which covers the Scottish Borders – the biggest territory in Britain for the company.

Since he set up in the Tweedside town nine years ago, Iain has been supported by Lloyds TSB Scotland and his franchise has grown faster than the lawn treatments he sells.

After a decade as an advisor with that bank in south-east England, Iain decided to take control of his own destiny – and become a business customer, rather than an employee.

With his wife, Herbie, who also worked for Lloyds TSB, Iain uprooted for a rural life in the Borders, taking a year’s career break while he decided whether to return to further education or embark on a new career. The concept of a franchise greatly appealed.

Having explored a number of franchising opportunities and relishing the prospect of working outdoors, Iain was drawn to GreenThumb, of which he was a customer, and approached his former employer for funding for his proposed venture.

After specialist GreenThumb training in the correct use of the chemicals necessary for lawn enhancement and the growth patterns of turf, as well as use and maintenance of machinery and legal requirements, Iain introduced the brand to the Borders in April, 2002.

He grew the business from scratch, and has an impressive list of 1,600 clientso. He aims to grow his customer list to around 2,400 in the next three years.

Treating lawns from 10sq m to 7,000sq m, Iain has three full-time staff and and employs Herbie and his father Jeff part-times.

“During the first seven years in business, weather caused a few minor disruptions, but nothing compared with the harsh winters we have experienced over the past two years,” Iain said.

“Because we were unable to work for two months, we experienced a major dip in income. I knew it didn’t make commercial sense to make staff redundant. Thankfully, we enjoy an excellent rapport with Lloyds TSB. We knew who to approach and had confidence that they knew our business really well.

“Anyone who’s considering becoming a franchisee should do their research, draw up a shortlist of a few they’d like to investigate further and speak to existing franchisees of recognised brand names that have a robust and established business model.

“My experience of franchising has been extremely positive. I am working in the great outdoors in a beautiful part of the world where the views and scenery surrounding customers’ properties are second to none.”

Jonathan Evans of Lloyds TSB Scotland said: “At the outset, Mr Wharton demonstrated business acumen, managerial ability and a positive approach to lead generation.

“His excellent communication and sales skills, as well as a commitment to good customer service, has contributed to the success of the GreenThumb brand in the Scottish Borders.

“Prospects for business growth are positive and we are pleased to partner him in this exciting venture.”