The Scoop on Sunshine Grounds Care Franchise

Date: OCT 3rd, 2008

Topic: Franchise News

Peter van Stralen, president and CEO of Sunshine Grounds Care, based in Caledon, Ontario, weighs in on the keys to the company's success and how 10 brothers--all of whom are involved in the business--balance work and family.

The company was founded in 1987 by Tim van Stralen and has grown with the addition of each brother to the business. The company now includes 17 North American franchises that provide landscape and snow & ice management services:

Q. How do you balance the needs of the business with the family dynamics that come with having all 10 brothers involved in the company?

Peter: Our parents, Frederik and Nellie van Stralen, laid the foundation. They taught us not to be afraid of hard work. They taught us that you'll realize your dreams if you have a clear vision and work hard to get it. Tim says 'Our family has been a strong engine that has propelled and driven our company's success: 10 brothers all working toward the same common goal with the same obsession for customer satisfaction. The challenge is to identify common goals within the company that will help each of us achieve our own personal goals. Each of us has our own personality, character and skills that we all can learn from.'

We run it like any business. My advice for anyone involved in a family business to establish clear job descriptions and job contracts and sign them. Develop concise operation procedures and systems for everything you do. That way if something isn't working, you can work together to fix the system or process, rather than place blame.

Q. How long has your company been providing snow & ice management services?

Peter: We provided summer maintenance services only for the first 4 or 5 years of our business. We got into snow plowing because of the high volume of requests we were receiving for snow and ice management services, and also to keep our manpower and equipment busy all year. We began by providing snow clearing to our residential customers and then as we learned the business, and as our commercial portfolio increased we began providing total snow and ice management services to commercial properties, head offices corporate campuses and even large car manufacturing facilities.

Q. What is the biggest challenge facing your company on the snow & ice side? What are you doing to address it?

Peter: Despite skyrocketing fuel costs, increased wages, unpredictable weather and rising insurance premiums, we still find the search for reliable and dedicated employees to be one of the biggest challenges we face.

To address this we have been focusing on three areas:

1. We have been making a conscious effort to recruit good people right off the bat. We look for people with good attitudes. As a rule we will "hire for attitude, and train for skill." Just "filling a position" will cost your company in the long run.
2. We also work hard at creating a fun, high energy work environment where we involve every team member in training programs and we encourage openness, communication and team work.
3. Celebrate successes and reward the team. In this industry we all work hard, and we need to make sure we take time to play hard, too, sometimes.

Q. How do the principles on which you and your brothers have built the company apply to the difficult world of snow & ice, where Mother Nature can be finicky?

Peter: Our principles and values have helped us be successful in this industry. We put the "customer first - always." That compels us to persevere during the tough conditions that Mother Nature throws at us. It takes dedication and stamina, along with a lot of careful planning and preparation to successfully manage a major winter event.