Growing Like a Weed (Man): Canadian franchisee, American franchisor

After 10 years at Union Carbide, Ottawa-born chemical engineer Roger Mongeon wanted to spend less time traveling and more time with his family. He also wanted to test his entrepreneurial wings and started looking at franchise concepts. His 24-year relationship with Weed Man, the 40-year-old lawn care franchise, began with a casual dinner at a neighbor's home.

"He was running a Weed Man franchise out of his basement, and when he showed me his financials for the previous year I couldn't believe the profitability of the franchise," Mongeon recalls. "I looked more closely at the industry and visited a lot of dealers before I made a decision. I was impressed by the success and enthusiasm of the Weed Man franchisees."

In 1987, Mongeon, who says he's not a big risk-taker, nervously sold his home to buy a Weed Man franchise in Gatineau, in western Quebec. His goal was simple: he wanted to create a financially stable future for his family. "The first year, when I was down to $5,000 on my line of credit, I had this big lump in my throat," he says. "The second year, we actually made money. By the third year, we were ready to expand."

By 1996, as one of Weed Man's largest franchisees in Canada, he purchased the rights to sell franchises in the United States from Weed Man founder Desmond "Des" Rice, and created Turf Holdings Inc. to do business in the U.S.

Today Mongeon-the-franchisee has 47 Weed Man units in Canada, and Mongeon-the-franchisor has 257 Weed Man units in 35 U.S. states. That $5,000 line of credit balance is history: his total system sales are top $100 million, with close to half coming from U.S. interests.

CEO Mongeon, who works closely with his daughter and Turf Holdings COO Jennifer Lemcke, attributes his success--both as a franchisee and a franchisor--to detailed, culture-based business plans, somewhat "maniacal" measuring and monitoring of "everything," ongoing training, and an extremely talented management team. Stringent environmental and marketing laws present constant challenges to his industry, he says, but there's plenty of room to grow, especially in the U.S.

The family man and avid golfer who spends seven months of the year in Canada and five in Florida, has simple but profound advice for aspiring franchisees. "You'll spend a lot of money buying a franchise and getting equipped. When you start, you'll find that even though you've been trained, everything is new and you have a lot of doubts. My best advice is to keep with the system and be tenacious. In the end, it's not the smartest guy who'll be successful--it's the one who's a bulldog in executing the system."

Name: Roger Mongeon
Title: CEO
Company: 1051080 Canada Inc., a holding company for several companies in the U.S. and Canada; Turf Holdings Inc., the U.S. operating company for Weed Man.
No. of units: Operate 47 Weed Man units in Canada; U.S. franchisor for Weed Man, with 257 units in 35 states.

Published: January 11th, 2012

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