Since the advent of Uber, there have been many companies launched since then that cater to customers’ need for on-demand services and lawn care has been no different.
Yet the story of Block Lawncare and the nature of its business is not quite like other green industry apps that offer mowing and other lawn maintenance services.
Based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Block was born when CEO and founder Matthew Armstrong was mowing some vacant lots near his home out of a desire to serve his neighborhood.
“I enjoyed it so much that I started asking myself, ‘How can I do that on a larger scale?’ and that’s when the idea for an on-demand lawn care app that gave back to these communities started forming in my mind,” Armstrong says.
One of the major differences between Block and other on-demand lawn care services is the fact that all of Block’s mowers are employees instead of independent contractors.
“This allows us to tap into a completely different labor pool than the rest of the industry,” he says. “These are people who can and want to cut grass on the side, but still need flexibility. This allows us to bypass most of the labor issues that the rest of the industry faces.”
Because Block’s mowers are actually employees of the company, the business has been able to create a thriving culture. Armstrong says the three main values that drive the company are generosity, service and joy.
“We talk about these values with our mowers constantly and empower them to make decisions on behalf of Block by filtering options through these values,” Armstrong says. “The result is customers who are consistently blown away by how our mowers go above and beyond what is expected.”
Armstrong says Block gives their mowers the security of an employee but the flexibility of an independent contractor. The mowers are not paid on an hourly basis but on commission.
“Block splits the cost of services right down the middle with our mowers,” he says. “In addition to their cut, we cover a number of other expenses on their behalf to make it easier to bring them on board as a Block mower. These are things like paying the employer’s portion of their taxes, we pay worker’s comp and we cover them with our GL policy.”
This helps eliminate some of the administrative load that would come from the mowers running their own operation as an independent contractor.
“The vast majority of people that are working for us already have a solid income source, and they just want the flexibility to mow when they want and make extra money,” Armstrong says. “We allow them to do just that.”
Armstrong says the vetting process for Block’s mowers is taken very seriously since they will be representing the company’s brand. Anyone interested fills out an application. Their references are checked, and they come in for an in-person interview. After meeting Block’s background check standards, the potential mower goes through the company’s onboarding event called Starting Line.
“This is where we spend time talking about the Block culture, our process, we have a meal with them and have them do a proficiency test to ensure that they know what they’re doing even before they touch the first customer’s yard,” Armstrong says.
Mowers provide and maintain their own equipment. Armstrong says applicants must have at least the state’s minimum liability coverage.
Armstrong says he is very open to mowers wanting to come and work full time for Block instead of it being a side hustle.
“We’re constantly trying to find ways to make the business model better for our mowers because we want to retain the best,” he says.
Currently, there is 29-hour weekly cap on the Block mowers, but Armstrong says he is more than willing to find a scalable way to keep their all-star mowers on full time if they start requesting it. He says the people who are doing really well with Block used to cut grass commercially or owned their own lawn care business, but this offers the flexibility they didn’t have previously.
Another differentiator is the fact that Block allows customers to schedule a single mowing with no contract.
“Rigid contracts are one of the biggest pain points for customers nowadays,” Armstrong says. “That’s why we allow them to book one-offs with no strings attached. The great thing is we’re finding that once people see how easy and affordable Block is to use, they’re highly likely to book again.”
A unique aspect of Block is its commitment to acting on its values, like generosity, by earmarking one percent of its revenue to go back to low-income communities.
“We don’t plan on just cutting a check,” Armstrong says. “We envision using each month for what we call ‘Block parties.’ These are going to be events where we will put our mowers on the ground alongside members of the community to help clear off overgrown lots that can be turned over to other organizations to add value to the community, like a park or a community garden.”
Another way Block is planning to encourage generosity is by rolling out a gifting feature that allows users to gift a lawn mowing to a friend, family member or a client.
“There are some very creative ways that we envision releasing features that align with our culture of generosity,” Armstrong says. “We want to make it easy for even our customers to operate in our values. Those are some things that get us really excited whenever we hear our customers asking, basically, ‘Do you have a feature that I could exercise generosity towards one of my friends?’”
Block determines the pricing for a job through geofencing.
“Since we offer á la carte services, we split the total price out across the time it takes to mow, weed eat, edge and blow,” Armstrong says. “We’re currently working on the ability for users to do this as they create their account and then our algorithm will take their input and assign the appropriate price for each of those á la carte services that we offer.”
A rating system also exists both for mowers and customers, on a scale of one to five. Customers could get a low rating for various reasons, but mowers have to explain to clients why they were docked a star if they receive a less than a 5-star rating.
Likewise, mowers also are rated by customers and when they fall below a 4-star average, Block provides additional training to make sure they are equipped to provide quality service.
“The dual rating system really helps us maintain a process that respects both parties,” Armstrong says.
Right now, Block is only live in Baton Rouge, but Armstrong intends to scale Block and has already picked out the company’s next eight cities.
Block is also starting development on its software solution, Block Pro, which will be available for existing companies to help boost their operational efficiency. Armstrong says there will be four tiers, starting as low as $10 a month.
Looking to the future, Armstrong and Jolibois are currently raising funds from family, friends and interested investors to build the app for new markets. They’re aggressively hiring mowers and plan to launch in two additional cities in the state next March.Read the Article