Our communities are connected. Businesses, people, and organizations all sharing a common goal; to create the best place to live and work possible. Everyone has a story to tell about their businesses and the place they call home. We are here to tell your story. This is “Your Network” powered by D & P Communications. We spoke with the owners of Marflo’s Lawn Service and Snow Removal, a local lawn care and landscaping company located in Ida, Michigan. We had a chance to learn about their history and how they started a business in the lawn service industry in Monroe county.
Who are they?
Mark Flotow, an Ida native who has been working in the lawn care industry for about 25 years, and his wife, Hilary, own Marflo’s Lawn Service and Snow Removal. Mark started in lawn care when he was just 8 years old riding his grandpa’s garden tractor. From there, he started a summer job cutting grass at age 14 which he really enjoyed. This taught him responsibility, and at a young age, he did farm work which has helped him become a well-rounded person. As Mark put it, “God gave us hands to use, not to waste.” In the early 2000’s, he had an interest in continuing work in this industry, but was unsure if he wanted to take the risk to start a business. “When you own a business, you don’t turn it off at 5:00. You live and breathe it. It’s your second marriage, it’s your livelihood. This is what puts food on the table and businesses who don’t take it seriously fail,” said Mark.
How did they get started?
Why lawn care? Lawn service is an easy business to start up as it typically has minimal cost to get started. In 2005, after working full time at a warehouse, Mark looked into finally starting a lawn care business. He started part time with 5 or 6 lawns by handing out flyers to neighbors around his nana’s house. By 2006, he was taking the business to full-time with 28 lawns. After getting his list of lawns established and equipment in order, he and one other employee starting with mowing, trimming, and edging. First year of a business can be a rocky road, but Mark said he has been blessed and fortunate. His motto has always been “never give up.” From there, they grew to at least 4 team members, started landscaping in 2010, and began booking commercial accounts by 2011. The business was run out of his house and things were done by hand, as he says he is old fashioned, with hand written billing and estimates.
Mark was born and raised in Ida. This is where he grew up, this is his community. They felt like they wanted to be in their town, and find a way to give back. Mark and Hilary wanted to give an opportunity for employment and help thrive the town. Ida was a place he dreamed of being in. It’s simple, it’s close to other cities and it’s a good location. So, what makes running a business in Ida special? Mark says it is the close community and you can see a lot of community pride. They receive a lot more feedback in this area making the best form of communication word of mouth in the Ida community. Farmers in town would stop by during construction on their new building. These people have seen Mark grow up his entire life and everyone has a sense of pride for the town.
How did they progress?
Mark proposed to his now-wife Hilary in 2014 and she joined the business. She helped clean things up and integrated online payroll, used quick books, and applied computer programs more often which made it easier to connect with their clients. In 2015, they moved into a rented building, but unfortunately had to move out after a couple years. Even though they were unable to stay at that location, this was a good step for them to get out of the house and try out a bigger facility. They decided to look at getting property in 2017 as they wanted to move out of the house and be a legitimate business. After checking out their current Ida location, they decided to purchase it and worked on plans to redesign the building. The Flotow’s had renovated 80% of the building before the pandemic hit. So, things took longer to get done and became more complicated to retain permits, but they moved into the permanent location in August of 2020 and now it feels complete having their own building. Their operations manager is very helpful and assures things continue to run smoothly. They starting conducting employee evaluations and has been helpful for the employees to learn and grow, creating a good working environment and good team member attitude. In the winter months, snow removal is the main source of income for Marflo’s with February being the best month for snow removal so far. They have acquired more commercial accounts and more plows than they had in the past. A good winter makes for a better transition into the spring when lawn services start back up.
Best part about building a business?
Building relationships, and connecting with customers. The company’s tagline is “we make yards happy”, so they also want to make their customers happy. Marflo’s goal is to turn a yard into something the customer can enjoy and to leave it better than when they showed up. They now have software to create a mockup landscape layout on a picture of the property and show a before and after design. They can match them up after the project is done and even do a 3-D model for outdoor kitchens and patios. So, what is the hardest part of building a business? Employment, because making everyone happy is almost impossible. They want to make sure every job is done correctly, so constant upkeep on equipment is necessary. This requires each team member to care for the equipment like it is their own. Employees come and go a lot, but it is a challenge in this industry. They search for consistent team members that will stick around and do their job properly and want all of the staff to connect and understand each other. If everything was easy, then everyone would try to do it.
What does the future look like?
Bright! He tries to live in the moment, but looks to the future and makes plans to project where they will go. They try to make today the best day they can make it. “You can’t worry about tomorrow and you can’t worry about the day before. Take care of today, but we need to have projections for the days ahead,” stated Mark. They are trying implement new policies for their employees and assure projects go accordingly. They are working on staff training and employee education to keep moving forward. The landscape side of staff will utilize training webinars, refresh their existing knowledge, and learn new techniques. Marflo’s wants to stand apart from everyone else. Why not try to be the best? That’s their goal. They want to stand out on what they offer and how they train their employees. Mark and Hilary come from opposite backgrounds and that helps when they come together and bring both of the sides into play. His strengths are her weaknesses and her strengths are his weaknesses.
Lastly, what do they want people to know about them?
Mark stated, “we want people to know that you can trust us. We will stand by our product and answer the phone, we won’t dodge things. We’re going to be there to take care of our clients and potential clients and make everyone happy. We want to have a great reputation.” They are a small family-owned business who tries to just be good people, they also preach to our employees to be good people. Marflo’s is always trying to break lawn company stereotypes and make their staff wear uniforms, look clean and put together, and show respect. They try to do the best they can and treat their clients with respect. That is what sets them apart, they have a small-town feel, they go out in the community and people see that they are just authentic and genuine.