Andy Kurth Of Weed Man: Five Things I Wish I Knew Before Opening a Franchise

An Interview With Cynthia Corsetti

Deal with people. Early on, I did not have experience dealing with employees, such as absences or other one on one conversations that would arise. I had to learn that you have to have the right conversations with people. It comes with the territory.

The world of franchising offers a unique blend of entrepreneurship and established business models. However, navigating the franchise landscape can be daunting, especially for those embarking on this journey for the first time. There are lessons to be learned, pitfalls to avoid, and success stories to be inspired by. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Andy Kurth.

Andy Kurth has been in the lawn care industry for almost two decades. His career began at Weed Man as a sales manager in 2005 while he was attending the University of Wisconsin — Madison, where he earned a degree in soil science, turf management and agribusiness. Kurth worked his way up in the Madison location to general manager, co-owner and now chief executive officer. Today, he oversees 22 locations that span 10 states, grossing over $50 million in sales.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive into our discussion about succession, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

Mydad, Terry, bought multiple Barefoot Grass franchises in the 70s before selling them to TruGreen in the 90s when I was in high school. Right around that time, Weed Man contacted my father to help in bringing the brand to the United States from Canada. He restarted the franchise in Madison, WI., while I was in college. During that time, I began doing sales and lawn application for the company to make some money. While this is never an industry, I saw myself in, I found that I really enjoyed working at an outdoor company. I then transitioned to selling and supporting franchises in the Midwest before becoming the sales manager at the Madison location in 2005. My role began leading a sales team as well as high school crews knocking door to door before I transitioned to general manager. We went on to buy out other existing franchises around the Midwest, West and South, now having 22 locations across 10 states.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

The most interesting thing that has happened since I started my career is the outcome of an initiative that we took part in as a company. Roughly 10 years ago, the National Association for Landscape Professionals began a program called GreenCare, a resource that provides lawncare service to families who have a loved-one serving in the military. My grandfather served in the South Pacific in WWII, so this is very near to me and this sounded like a cool opportunity. I think it is important to take care of veterans and their families. Once we became part of this program, we had communication with one individual while we were helping his family. There was a day when a man walked into our office, asked for me and handed me a folded flag with a note stating that the flag had flown over a palace in Iraq in honor of us helping his family while he was on tour. I was speechless. It is one of the most meaningful things I have been a part of and imparted a mindset that giving is to receive. That is still part of our story and something that we emphasize at all of our locations.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

There are two “life lesson quotes” that are my favorite. The first one is from my dad who said “Money can buy a lot of things in life but respect isn’t one of them.” That has created a culture in our business centered around taking care of our community and people internally. By treating everyone respectfully and doing the right thing, it has been integral in our growth. It has shown us that the community’s image of you is a strong indicator for how your business is doing. The second thing he taught me is that you don’t get what you don’t ask for. How many doors open by just raising your hand asking? We express that to our employees as we push them to ask for opportunities to learn and advance their professional and personal growth.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Our people and shared vision are what makes our company stand out. Our mission is “People. Opportunity. Community.” We take care of our people within our organization and in the community. We always say we want to be an employer of choice, somewhere people want to be for work. By having a culture of opportunity for employees to advance, we can then in turn better serve our communities.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. What factors did you consider when selecting your franchise, and how did you determine it was the right fit for you?

I was not actively seeking this opportunity at the time. Growing up in this industry, I thought it was very cool to be part of it. While I was in college working for Weed Man, I had the chance to meet some of the leaders of the brand and could feel the family culture the company has. I fell in love with that aspect, then got experience in the field with the job, and knew it was an easy decision.

Can you share a significant challenge you faced while establishing your franchise? How did you overcome this obstacle, and what did this experience teach you about running a successful franchise?

My biggest challenge was shifting from a “having to hustle” mindset to leading and developing others. Like most businesses, you have this mindset of having to hustle early on to grow. You are doing everything from the start to get things off the ground. I went on to hire high schoolers for door knocking, but that meant we then needed supervisors. Well, this led to issues with the systems we had in place and I ended up doing everything still as issues arose. I had to shift the focus to utilizing systems that could develop employees while following the great systems Weed Man had created. This was an opportunity for me to sell the story of the company and get people involved that wanted to be here. By redeveloping and analyzing the systems in place, we were able to empower others and hold them accountable to grow. This was a groundbreaking moment for me.

Looking back to when you first started your franchise, what was one aspect that completely took you by surprise? This could be related to the franchising process, customer interactions, or day-to-day management that you hadn’t anticipated.

One of the biggest things I realized early on is how much of this is still a people business that just happens to be in lawn care. Between myself and other people at our company, we have extensive knowledge of the industry, but much of it is irrelevant to being a people business. So, while we could tell you what’s best for lawns, I still had to learn the people side. No matter what industry you are entering, everything is a people business. Secondly, I learned how important it is to follow systems. There is a reason franchises are a thing, the systems work. You do not need to recreate the wheel. By opening a franchise, you get their system, and then you have to adapt to create your own culture and leadership by utilizing the systems that are already in place. Be creative when adapting.

In hindsight, what advice would you give to potential franchisees about selecting a franchise that aligns with their personal and professional goals?

The first thing I would do is ask yourself “What do I want out of my life?”. Then forecast out 5–10 years both personally and professionally. We do this with employees to ensure we are meeting their personal and professional goals to get them where they want to be. You want to look at what energizes you in both aspects as well. It is important to make sure that the brand will help you get to where you want to be at the end of the day. Once you are aligned on that, you want to look at the culture of the company and within the franchise system. Speaking to some of the franchisees is important to know what you are getting into. For example, Weed Man has a very strong franchisee culture. We are competitive with each other but also supportive for one and other by providing advice and celebrating wins.

How do you balance adhering to the established systems of your franchise with the need to innovate and adapt to your local market? Can you provide an example of a successful adaptation or innovation you implemented in your franchise?

One thing that comes to mind is that we were an early adapter to remote employees. Weed Man has really strong systems in place but we had a hard time employing sales people in some of our offices. It was a challenge to fill roles so we decided to look for remote employees to expand where we can hire. During COVID, we were able to capitalize at a high level since the systems for recruitment and hiring were already in place. We have also adapted culturally by creating 5 and 10-year plans for individuals to look at ways they can gain opportunities for advancement. Additionally, the world is evolving to where the consumer wants immediate gratification for a service or product. If you do not deliver a good service or product, then you do not reap the benefits of people searching for your company. In our industry specifically, there are not a lot of touchpoints for reviews with customers for how infrequent we see them, they do not think about it. We had a feeling that our clients love us, yet we hadn’t found a way to elicit the insight. By working with a third-party vendor and our employees, we were able to implement a system to gain feedback where every review from a customer provides a $25 donation to Ronald McDonald House who we support greatly. This gets clients involved while also giving back to the community. The final thing we have done is changed our agronomic system so that employees can do one job at a time well, instead of doing average having to do multiple things on a visit.

What are your “Five Things I Wish I Knew Before Opening a Franchise”?

1 . Buying a franchise still means running a business. Some people buy a franchise thinking that it will run itself but that never works. Over the years as we have bought out more locations, I see that a lot. It just leads to more ensuing issues down the line. You have to be involved as an owner.

2 . Deal with people. Early on, I did not have experience dealing with employees, such as absences or other one on one conversations that would arise. I had to learn that you have to have the right conversations with people. It comes with the territory.

3 . Quick profitability might not be attainable. Things are more expensive now; it is harder to gain clients. It is necessary to be more strategic today balancing growth and cash flow.

4 . Brand compliance. There are certain things you have to hold the line on, such as a uniform. I saw it as just a shirt, what is the big deal. I learned that it is about having strong representation for the brand out there. You don’t want differently branded vehicles or people out there with various logos or colors, it keeps it all in sync.

5 . Importance of location. A decade ago, people would think of this in terms of clientele, looking for a highly dense population for business. Now, you want to look at where you can employee people. It does not do your business any good if you are in the middle of your densest customer base but you can’t hire employees.

As your franchise has grown, what have been the key drivers of its success? Looking forward, what strategies do you plan to implement to ensure continued growth and sustainability in an ever-evolving market?

The key drivers of success for us have been adopting the mindset of Weed Man and finding opportunities for employees to grow. We are getting people involved in something awesome that they enjoy. Every year, we host a huge holiday event at a resort where employees can bring their families and we do awards to celebrate everyone’s achievements. I would say this year, when I asked those who have had an opportunity for advancement within the company, roughly half the room raised their hand…and the other half was mostly plus one’s.

Off-topic, but I’m curious. As someone steering the ship, what thoughts or concerns often keep you awake at night? How do those thoughts influence your daily decision-making process?

Currently, it is regulations and politics. For decades, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Department of Agriculture have regulated pesticides at the highest level while being state and federally regulated. Now there are folks trying to change that so it can be regulated by municipality. Who is more qualified to regulate this, a local town board or the EPA and Department of Agriculture? I’d like to keep regulations with the EPA and Department of Agriculture where it makes the most sense.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I think capitalism is still the best vehicle. I believe this is the right way when we have the right influencers in charge. In this format, we strive to meet expectations of shareholders but we put our community and people at the forefront. For example, at Weed Man, we have been able to provide opportunities to pay success forward to people in their lives through buying their first car, maybe their first house, or something else they may want. This leads to employees paying that forward and embodying the same mindset. This would provide everyone an opportunity and energy. You can take care of everyone and meet financial obligations.

How can our readers further follow you online?

LinkedIn — Andy Kurth —

X (Formerly Twitter) — Andy Kurth —

Weed Man Website —

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

About the Interviewer: Cynthia Corsetti is an esteemed executive coach with over two decades in corporate leadership and 11 years in executive coaching. Author of the upcoming book, “Dark Drivers,” she guides high-performing professionals and Fortune 500 firms to recognize and manage underlying influences affecting their leadership. Beyond individual coaching, Cynthia offers a 6-month executive transition program and partners with organizations to nurture the next wave of leadership excellence.