Having just brought a newborn daughter into the family, Charlie King couldn’t have picked a riskier time to leave his employer and start a company in the basement of his house. Defying the advice of others, he founded King Green Lawn Care in Gainesville, Ga.
As Charlie’s first born, Jennifer King grew up with the dedication to King Green that paralleled the growth of the business. Just six months Jennifer, King Green will be celebrating its 22nd birthday this February.
The Kings have yet another reason to celebrate: their winning submission for the first Bayer Lawn Care Institute (LCI) Business Planning Award. They won the grand prize – a paid trip to the Green Industry and Equipment Expo in Louisville, Ky. and recognition at the Lawn and Landscape Leadership Awards Ceremony. Selected by the Bayer LCI advisory Board, the winner must have implemented the most innovative and effective business development initiative to improve or grow his or her business.
LEARNING TO BE A LEADER. Groomed from high school summers at King Green, leadership experiences in the Delta Zeta sorority and business management classes at North Georgia College and State University in Dahlonega, Ga., Jennifer King has created some benchmark additions to the company. “I was kind of taking it day-by-day at first, but now it is growing into something long-term,” she says. “I’m just trying to learn as much as I can and use that to help King Green.”
While making updates to the company Website, Jennifer is learning how to track data collected on the side and use it for future analysis. She also utilizes new approaches to marketing, shifting the focus beyond telemarketing to the Internet and referrals. “People don’t pick up the phone as much as they used to, so I’m trying to think of some fresh ways to get our name out there,” she says.
Most recently, Jennifer rejuvenated the layout for bid proposals. The proposals are packaged neatly into black presentation binders, and inside, several color-coded tabs separate the pricing, testimonials, employee information and just about anything else customers would care to know about this family-owned business
Earlier this year, Gainesville Parks and Recreation approached Charlie King about a proposal for their facility, Bobby Gruhn Field, and he decided to let Jennifer run with it. “It was her baby from start to finish,” he says. “And we won the bid.”
SOUTHERN ROYALTY. King Green has two other locations in Georgia- Athens and Atlanta- and a branch in Charlotte, N.C. About 90 percent of its customers are residential; however, Bobby Gruhn Field is just one example of a few larger commercial properties on King Green’s roster.
Now a valuable member of the staff, the younger King was the first drawn to the company as a matter of convenience more than anything else. “I didn’t have to go job hunting like my friends; it was fantastic,” she says. “I started off with tow-totem pole jobs and did some telemarketing, but I found that I really enjoyed talking to the customers.”
Jennifer’s investment in King Green grew substantially as she realized how much she was driven to help the clients. She soon became a registered lawn care applicator, and is now studying to receive a designated certified operator’s license. “I want people to respect me for what I’ve done and not just who I am related to,” she explains.
Epitomizing the spirit of the Business Planning Award, Jennifer was not satisfied with obtaining a few licenses; she wants to be a contributing member of the green industry. She attended PLANET’s Legislative Day on the Hill and Renewal & Remembrance, as well as several University of Georgia turfgrass field days.
SURVIVAL OF THE BUSINESS. The Business Planning Award nomination form opens with “Running a business is hard work.” In Charlie King’s entry, he adds “Planning for its long-term survival makes it even harder.” He mentions that Jennifer’s leadership skills at King Green are a large part of the team dynamic.
The duo makes sure the staff keeps quality service at the forefront of their decision-making process. In the face of the drought that drastically affected the South, the Kings rely on these values to reassure their clients. “It’s our job to convey to our customers that we will make their lawns look their best,” Jennifer says.
Twenty years ago, Charlie King might not have guessed that his basement-run business would flourish into a company with four regional locations, or that his baby girl would be an integral part of its success. Together, they’ve only discussed King Green’s long-term survival, but, for today, the Kings are just enjoying their accomplishments.
By: Meredith Setzman
Lawn and Landscape Magazine
October 2008 Issue