Beat the Credit Crunch Business booming at GreenThumb

With almost 200 franchisees operating nationwide offering a lawn service cheaper that DIY, GreenThumb is well-placed to weather economic downturns and its franchisees continue to achieve growth

If you are thinking about becoming your own boss and visiting the National Franchise Exhibition (NFE)'this year you will have an extra worry:'will the new business you are investing in be strong enough to beat the downturn that many experts are predicting will become a full-blown recession? GreenThumb is one franchise operation that does not have that worry.

Throughout 2008 Britain's biggest and best-known lawn treatment franchise GreenThumb has beaten the credit crunch. While many sectors have been struggling, business has been booming for GreenThumb which has recorded an amazing 30 per cent growth this year. That means good news all round for the company's 180 franchisees, who are benefiting from GreenThumb's 22 years of growth and tried-and-tested franchise model.

GreenThumb feeds and weeds more than a third of a million lawns throughout the UK making the grass look lush, green and weed-free for delighted customers. With nearly 200 outlets nationwide its immense buying power means GreenThumb can charge LESS to treat a lawn than its customers would pay buying the materials at a DIY store. This unique selling point means that, even during a downturn, new customers are signing up to have their lawns treated for a starting price of £14 per treatment and an average of £25. Each lawn receives four pre-scheduled treatments during the growing season.

It is all good news to franchisees like John Nuttall, who visited the NFE last October specifically looking for a lawn-care business. A former nightclub owner, John (52) sold his vending machine company in 1997 and planned to take early retirement. To fill his time he volunteered as a groundsman at a local amateur sports club and became interested in turning his new hobby into a business. His quest led him to the NFE where he visited five lawn care franchises. 'I liked GreenThumb because of their experience and their honesty,' John says. 'There were no over-the-top claims about how much money I would be making.'

After attending a seminar for potential franchisees at GreenThumb's headquarters at St. Asaph in North Wales John bought a virgin territory in Halifax, West Yorkshire, inheriting just 18 customers from a neighbouring franchise. Six months after launch he has over 300 delighted customers, has already taken on a part-time canvasser to generate new leads and hopes next year to take on his first full-time employee. He says: 'I wanted to spend the first year treating lawns myself so I learned the business literally from the grass roots, but there is so much potential to grow the business in coming years. I'm really looking forward to it.'

Kevin Toomey joined GreenThumb after visiting the NFE in 2000 and now has over 6,000 customers and is heading for a £1 million a year turnover. Having previously worked as a manager for Co-op, Safeway and Morrisons, Kevin went round the show, collected dozens of brochures, then went for a coffee and whittled his choice down to two and visited their stands. After visiting GreenThumb's headquarters he underwent the company's franchisee training programme and bought the franchise for the virgin territory of Leicester East which has developed dramatically in seven years.

In 1998 Neil Smith visited the NFE after being made redundant from his managerial job at a transport company. His bag of brochures included an information pack on GreenThumb, which he promptly put in a drawer.
Two months later he rediscovered the leaflet and suddenly realised the potential of a GreenThumb franchise.

Borrowing £30,000 from his bank, Neil invested in a franchise covering Oxford and Newbury. Today he has 18 staff, a £1 million plus turnover and almost 7,000 loyal customers on his books. Current Franchisee of the Year, Neil says: 'We have worked hard to become GreenThumb's biggest franchise in terms of turnover but we're being rewarded for all that hard work. We have a terrific lifestyle.'

GreenThumb wants franchisees to drive the business - not the van. This is an opportunity for anyone with business experience to make money for themselves. To have the sort of growth GreenThumb is experiencing in a downturn shows the real strength of the GreenThumb model.

GreenThumb still has around 60 virgin territories available nationwide as well as a number of re-sales opportunities at differing levels of investment. Prospective franchisees can attend regular seminars at GreenThumb head office to find out more about the GreenThumb success story and meet the team behind it.