Having your family in your business has some drawbacks, but it can also have a great many benefits. “I love it,” said Alle Rorie. “The relationship between my father and my sister has grown stronger and we’ve grown closer.” Sister Rachel agrees, “We’ve become a closer knit team because of our relationship.” It’s funny but in a family business, some talk about business always pops up, even when you’re just going out for dinner.
There’s an old saying, “You can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been.” So, let’s go back just a few years and see how the Rories‘ found a need and filled it. ’ Let’s reflect back to an even earlier time, because the experience of the past plays an important role in the present.
As a young boy growing up in Cincinnati, Ohio, Mike Rorie didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life. One thing he did know was that he liked those ‘man toys’—trucks, tractors, and that sort of thing.
When he graduated from high school, he enrolled in college, but after a few months he decided that college wasn’t for him. He got a job with a local distributor of air cleaning equipment, but that didn’t seem to satisfy him. He yearned to work outdoors and play with the man toys, so in 1979, he started a landscape maintenance business. “I loved the equipment—in particular the trucks,” said Rorie. “I was a 19-year-old kid.”
But Rorie didn’t know much about the landscape maintenance business. “I learned completely on the job,” he said. “My real goal was to be able to work out of a truck every day, outside.” He started out by working in the residential market and in 1982, within three years of starting his business, he began taking on some commercial work. “The motivator for me was that I could use bigger equipment in the commercial area.”
In 2006, he sold his company to The Brickman Group. “I was 46 years old and I sold my company for enough money to never have to work again if I didn’t want to,” said Rorie. “If I wanted to continue to work, I figured I could always begin a second career.”
“I was offered several investment opportunities; one was with GIS Dynamics (Geographic Information Systems) in Cincinnati, Ohio. They were seeking an investment partner,” Rorie recalled. “It was a service that was being sold to green industry contractors. They explained the business to me, as well as their business woes; I was interested. Long story short, I started to meet with them weekly, and coach them as to what I would do if it were my business. I also began to learn more about the business. Then I ended up lending them a little bit of money.”
Rorie knew the landscape business and liked the concept of offering a service to the contractor. The founder of the company, however, decided to take the business in a different direction, so Rorie ended up buying him out. “I thought then, and still believe, that this service has great potential,” he says.
But what is GIS Dynamics? Their first product was Go iLawn, started in 2008, when a lawn care company asked GIS to do a project for them that involved getting some data. And data is the imagery that Go iLawn still provides. It provides a service to the landscape contractor—a service that’s easy, quick, and simple.
In order to bid on a project, a contractor will go out and the first thing he will do is measure the property, because without the exact footage he can’t properly bid the job. So, he’ll drive out to the property and walk it off with a measuring wheel. Now you have to figure in the drive time and the time it takes to measure the property.
“How many times have you gone back to visit your clients, and realized that the estimator who measured the property either didn’t measure it properly or forgot to measure the entire property?” asked Alle Rorie. “You begin to realize how much more work your company is doing that you’re not charging the client for, because of the inaccurate measure. How much money has been left on the table over all these years?” Suppose you could sit at your computer, click on Go iLawn’s website and measure the above-mentioned property online, with accurate figures. How much would this be worth to you? That is precisely the service that Go iLawn offers. How much does this service cost? Three dollars. It’s hard to imagine: no more sending someone out in the field, no more walking the property, no more wasted gas and wear and tear on the vehicle—all for three bucks.
Rorie realized that he has some built-in talent in the family who could help the business, so he put the girls to work—his daughters.
Alle graduated from the University of Kentucky in 2008 with a degree in journalism. She became intrigued with the real estate market, which was still booming at the time, and got her license. In September of that year, she got her first job selling real estate. However, shortly thereafter, the housing market came to a halt. Around the same time, Alle’s father Mike saw an opportunity to snag one of his daughters into his business. Alle joined the firm in April 2010, and she is now head of marketing for the company.
Rachel graduated with a degree in finance from Xavier University in 2005. She had taken a part-time job with GroundMasters when she was in high school, and continued to work there during her college years. Upon graduation, she stayed with the company as an assistant controller. Then, in 2011, Rachel joined GIS Dynamics, as controller. In addition, she does the analytics for the business.
These are exciting times for the Rories. They have the opportunity to build a business that saves their clients time and money. You can see how they’ve poured their hearts and souls into this company and are loving every minute.
It’s a tough combination to beat.