Former police officer turns his focus to landscaping

08/13/2014 9:49 AM

08/13/2014 4:56 PM

The connection might not be obvious at first, but Jeff Baker says there are similarities between working in law enforcement and owning a landscaping business.

“Being a police officer, you have to have exceptional service in that line of work. I decided I wanted to do that in the private sector.”

Baker opened The Grounds Guys, a residential and commercial landscaping franchise, in October after spending almost 12 years with the El Dorado Police Department.

His franchise area covers east Wichita, Park City, Andover, Augusta, Derby and El Dorado, which is his hometown and base. He employees three people full time and two part time.

Currently, his business is about 60 percent residential and 40 percent commercial, but he’s working for an even split between the two.

In addition to mowing, The Ground Guys does irrigation work, landscape design and installation, pruning and mulching. Summer is peak season, but Baker said it operates year round, with commercial and residential snow removal during winter.

He has snagged several commercial clients in El Dorado’s industrial park, including Valmont Industries, RoadSafe Traffic Systems and Barton Solvents.

“There's a lot of competition, but I’ve found there’s a lot of people eager for a high quality of service,” he said. “We haven't had any problem finding customers.”

While most of Baker’s time is spent managing employees and seeking business, he helps out with labor on bigger jobs.

He chose landscaping – and becoming a franchisee – for a couple of reasons.

For one, he had run his own small landscaping business on the side for years, “so I already knew how to do it.”

He was impressed by The Grounds Guys’ plans for growth. Baker said he was the first franchisee in Kansas for the Waco, Texas-based company. Since that time, others have opened in Olathe and Lawrence, and another is preparing to open in west Wichita.

“They're big out East and really big in Canada,” he said. “Now they're trying to get that in the Midwest.”

The company offers franchisees a call center, training, computer software, help with marketing “a whole directory of vendors for business, which is a huge benefit,” Baker said. “You get a lot of discounted rates through those vendors.”

Before working as a police officer, Baker served in the U.S. Air Force security force, including deployments to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. In El Dorado, he was a DARE officer and graduate of the Drug Enforcement Administration's narcotics investigator course and attained the rank of patrol sergeant.

Asked if he misses his former line of work, Baker said, “Of course. I miss the people and the relationships, but I also know my family had a long time of me being gone for just about every holiday possible, unexpected overtime, court on my day off, training on my day off.”

“They were gracious enough to let me do that and I wanted to kind of give back to them.”

Now you know

The Grounds Guys

Phone: 316-768-8217

Owner: Jeff Baker

Website: www.east-wichita.groundsguys.com

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