Applying properties all over Northern Illinois for 20 years we have racked up miles and experiences.
Yes, after 20 years of business this year, we have a lot to be thankful for. Even after years like this, the rainiest year, yet we still keep our promise of the way it should be. Seems like just yesterday we were driving around an old rusty 1987 yellow and green Barefoot Grass van, rechristened at 200+ thousand miles to be the first Aaron’s Greenscape flagship.
The idea of doing it the way it should be was hatched the previous year in 1997 by several customers of the company Aaron worked for at the time, who wanted more than what their current company’s products and application techniques offered. Many times, the right course of action couldn’t be followed because he lacked the ability with what was available from the company he worked for. This happened from time to time and several customers encouraged Aaron to start his own business doing it “The way it should be done.” Some of those early customers have been with us for now 20 years, thank you! So, after that current company’s promises fell through, he knew it was time to seriously consider starting his own business.
Planning out how to do this right and be a specialist, it was obvious that a certain volume had to be reached just to exist and we would have to have hundreds if not thousands of customers, so cheap effective marketing was going to be key. First and before we could sell anything, the vision for a lawn company that would be different had to be formulated. So, in 1997 on a donated 10-year-old computer running Word, Aaron spent a better part of November and December thinking and putting down how his company would do things differently. As he put that down on paper with a business plan, he also had to build an account card system to manage accounts on. That plan was enough for his family to encourage him to invest $3,500 in the newly incorporated business.
TruGreen had no use for the higher quality, all granular process used by Barefoot Grass, so their vans and equipment would be sold and thus the start for Aaron’s Greenscape getting specialized lawn treatment equipment for pennies on the dollar.
At the same time, Aaron was fixing up and setting up equipment, he was leaving fliers and then following up with calls to get his first couple hundred customers. It took a couple years to build enough business that it was a full-time year-round job, so those first few years he worked winters as a janitor as well as UPS to support his family. This was great motivation for him to grow the business, so he could eventually focus exclusively on Aaron’s Greenscape and after a few years, he was able to. He also learned a lot those first few years while investing all the sweat equity he could spare.
Many of those ideas needed some adjustment, but many worked great and have given us the edge in quality and value. The company grew its fastest, almost doubling its size a couple of those years. In many cases Aaron was still wearing all the caps, starting with advertising, calling and visiting, selling and then servicing lawns. This full circle of the business helped with a few new ideas that we brought to fruition.
Funny to find out in later years that sometimes the first few bids/prices were so low some people told us later they were worried how it could be done quality or not. The people that did try us were shown what the way it should be stands for, they just got an even better value. It would be another year before setting up the first website and accounting programs building more systems to properly manage customers’ accounts, treatments, and services.
Before 2003, customer accounting was on what we called a hard card, kept on file and when someone called, we had to dig through files to find the account. We appreciated the patience customers had while waiting for us to get their account pulled up and many liked the personal touch with handwritten invoices, but we needed a better way.
In 2003 we migrated to a computer-based system and our accounting was much improved. We grew steadily for the next several years adding customers while building up a fleet of trucks to service them.
Soon tougher times came calling that we all felt in 2008, but for Aaron, he had bigger concerns, slowly losing one of his biggest fans in his life, his father in November. After months of focusing on him, driving to and from Madison, it was time to do what he could. There wasn’t much that could be done with the fact that the cost of fertilizer had more than tripled in price over that year, being caught up with the commodities going crazy. It took several years to unwind but we made it thanks to our loyal customers and some hard work and a bit more sweat equity. Now looking forward to the future of the company that we have had the privilege to build and run with renewed growth there are some new ideas we have just rolled out and others on the horizon and may take several years to shake out.
Over the years we have had some great customers and people on our team and in the last couple years, we have even reversed one of our weakest areas to one of our strongest as indicated by our survey that we just did.