After getting into landscaping in 2008 and starting It’s HIS Turf in 2010, Blake Hawthorn has experienced the highs and lows of business ownership. His Hot Springs, Arkansas-based landscaping company has seen a lot of change in a short time. This runs the gamut of expanding payrolls and acquiring companies, to trimming staff and selling off unprofitable ventures.
Though trials and tribulations can be taxing, they’ve helped Hawthorn develop better business acumen and have been a means to personal growth and a strengthening of his religious beliefs.
“I wouldn’t be going through these challenges unless my faith could help guide me through them," Hawthorn said. "I've learned a lot from them and have grown stronger in my beliefs."
His faith, which calls him to help others when he can, plays a strong role in how he runs his business. Now, he’s answering that call by turning his experience into a resource: The Playbook, a guide to help others navigate the challenges of business ownership.
The idea for a guide was originally meant to be an employee handbook to help Hawthorn determine if his employees were working for the short term, or if they had potential for long-term growth. At the time, he had to figure that out, and fast. After losing a few good employees in the summer of 2018, Hawthorn sought to identify their reasons for leaving and realized it was because they didn’t have a clear advancement path. The Playbook would ensure his employees knew how meeting goals and developing professionally in other ways could forge their career paths.
“It was hard losing good workers,” Hawthorn said. “I knew a change had to be made, so I came up with The Playbook as a way to identify good employees and create career paths for them to succeed.”
The Playbook started as an internal project for It’s HIS Turf, but when Hawthorn attended GIE+Expo in October 2018, he learned there was a wider need for the curriculum. With other contractors facing similar challenges to those he experienced, Hawthorn began offering material in The Playbook to industry professionals and even let some landscapers shadow It’s HIS Turf to see company operations firsthand. Additionally, he started hosting educational livestreaming events on social media that featured tips for aligning a business’s mission to its goals, as well as sessions on paperwork, finance, contracts and more. The venture caught so much traction that he turned The Playbook into a paid course, up until he learned that not everyone could afford it.
“I have a heart for people,” Hawthorn said. “So instead of continuing to have people pay for our material, we moved it to our YouTube channel where people could access it for free. And that’s how our Sunday Night Tips
and Tricks show started.”
Kevin Frost, owner of Fall River Lawn Care in nearby Benton, Arkansas, was one of those people. As a new business owner, he required a lot of learning from the ground up, from navigating audits to achieving growth goals.
“I had worked in a corporate position for years, so when I got into lawn care I wasn’t nearly as experienced as Blake," Frost said.
When the pair met at GIE+Expo in 2018, Frost started enlisting the help Hawthorn was offering. The Playbook took him from a strategy that wasn’t providing the level of success he wanted to a business with growth and a bright future.
“It was very much trial and error early on,” Frost said. “But since Blake and I started working together, I have found a steady source of information. Our relationship is very blunt, so he often tells me what has and hasn’t worked for him in the past, which helps guide me.”
For Hawthorn, it’s satisfying to see that the The Playbook works, and to enjoy its fringe benefit of friendship. He and Frost, who met only a year ago, quickly became each other’s sidekicks in both business and each other’s faith.
“Kevin has been able to take some of the advice that I offer and successfully implement it, and he’s going to nearly double his business this year,” Hawthorn said. “But more importantly, we’ve become close friends outside of work and help each other grow our faith.”
According to Frost, the feeling is mutual.
“When we first met, we immediately clicked, and he suggested we work together until I got my business to where I wanted it to be,” Frost said. “He gave me so many materials to start, like how we price jobs and how to get new business. It has really helped me grow.”
With help from Frost, the Sunday Night Tips and Tricks series hits on the “meat” of The Playbook. For Hawthorn, that opportunity to help others is humbling because he has purpose in making a real difference in peoples’ lives. For Frost, the advice has meant a lot to him, both in terms of how he manages his business and how he has grown as a person.
“I want to show guys that The Playbook works. Taking these free guides and implementing them works,” Frost said. “I am very appreciative for what he has not only done to help me grow my business, but how he has helped me grow closer with both my family and faith. It really means a lot to have his support and friendship.”