NaturaLawn of America


NaturaLawn of America’s proven products and systems

have guided its success for 30 years.

By Chris Kelsch

Some people simply aren’t meant to work for others, so when NaturaLawn founder and CEO Phil Catron lost his job with a nationwide lawn care company in 1986, his friends and family told him it was a blessing in disguise. “They said, ‘Now you can finally go and do your own thing,’” Catron recalls. “With some help from my brother, Mike, and longtime friend Beecher Smith, we ultimately started NaturaLawn of America in 1987.”

But even before starting NaturaLawn, Catron was already doing his own thing. Working for large and small lawn care companies, and living close to the nation’s capital, Catron always had his ears to the ground, and could sense growing interest in environmentally friendly lawn care. Catron had been experimenting with natural and organic-NaturaLawn Fact Boxbased products since the late ’70s. Ultimately, though, none of the companies Catron worked for opted for these products on a large scale, so he saw an opportunity when he struck out on his own.

Nutritious Method

The driving philosophy that has propelled NaturaLawn to grow to 86  franchises in 24 states is clear: A one-size-fits-all chemical program is simply not a safe approach for customers, their lawns or their pets. What NaturaLawn does instead is to customize a formula based on a thorough soil test that determines the nutrient content in the soil of a client’s yard.

The concept is to strengthen a lawn’s root system by building up the soil, resulting in a healthier, greener lawn. “A lot of companies try and treat the plant, but that’s treating the symptom, not the problem,” Catron says. “Instead, we’re imbedding the soil with special beneficial microbes. Nobody is doing that on a national scale.”

To set NaturaLawn apart from much larger, national lawn care companies, the focus for Catron is really on product innovation. “The biggest thing for us is we want to stay five years ahead,” says Catron, referring to the NaturaLawn’s advantage with environmentally safer products. “And we continue to do so with vigorous testing of products first throughout our four company-owned locations before introducing them into the entire franchise system.”

Quick Start

Given the demand for environmentally friendly products, it is easy to see how NaturaLawn can generate interest among prospective franchisees.  But once franchisees sign on, the company continues to support them. “We offer a very good system of marketing support,” Catron says. “If you follow it to the letter you should absolutely be at 500,000 in yearly revenue in five years.” That marketing support includes NaturaLawn’s telesales room, direct mail campaigns, door hangings, internet advertising and customer referral programs.

Another component of success for franchise owners stems from demographically friendly territories. “We absolutely will not issue a territory to someone that cannot be a million-dollar-plus operation,” Catron notes. “In fact, our average owner does $1.5 million a year in revenue.” Typically, a franchise owner can expect to operate in a territory with 70,000 to 80,000 single-family dwelling units.

In addition to marketing support, which is offered at no additional service fees, franchises have access to an approved vendor list for preferred pricing for vehicles and equipment, and access to NaturaLawn’s full product line. Furthermore, all of the customer information on a franchise’s computer is backed up on a central server through NaturaLawn’s home office.

Catron notes franchises also have access to a franchise development manager as well as a team of operations managers who help with business development strategies in their regions. “We like to visit the locations quite a bit,” Catron notes. “And it isn’t so much ‘Big Brother is watching’ as it is ‘What can we do to help you grow?’”

All new NaturaLawn franchisees launch on Jan. 1, after participating in rigorous training from September through December. Included in the training is a three-week session in the home office in Frederick, Md. and in the field at an operations center where they touch every aspect of the business, including sales, service, and data entry. “And they’re actually taking part in the business, they’re not just watching,” Catron emphasizes. “The idea is to have them up and running completely on their own by Jan. first.”

Nice People

As for what NaturaLawn looks for when considering franchise owners, that is also simple: “We’re looking for people who want careers, not jobs,” he says. “We like working with nice people. If the only thing you’re focused on is profit, it’s probably not going to happen. But, if you take care of your people, the people will take care of the customers, and the customers will take care of the business. That will lead to growth and profits”.

The customers have been taken care of for 30 years, as have the employees. Many have been with the company for 20 years, and one of the earliest franchises in Baltimore, which signed on in 1991, has many of its original employees. As Catron prepares to let his daughter, son, and key employees take over the company in the coming years, the driving philosophies will remain the same. “If you don’t offer people an opportunity to grow with you,” Catron says, “you’ll become stagnant.”


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