I thought I should introduce you to one of my long time clients.  Creativity pays huge dividends for the business owner who takes action.  We can all learn a valuable lesson from Terry Delaney of AAA Lawn Service!  Enjoy & learn! Tony Bass


It is 2:37 a.m. on an early August morning and John Suchowski, of AAA Lawn Service in Fayetteville, Ark., is mowing the lawn at the world headquarters of Wal-Mart. He’s not catching up on overdue work. He’s one of nearly 40 workers who are raising money and awareness for the Children’s House, a local charity that provides a safe, secure place for children to overcome the devastating effects of abuse and neglect.


According to Terry Delany, owner of AAA Lawns, Inc., the fifth annual fundraising event – AAA Lawn’s Mow-a-Thon – helps hundreds of children in Northwest Arkansas receive much needed services to overcome their situation.


“I was raised with the belief that you can’t have success on your own unless you help someone else,” he says.  “We have an opportunity to make a difference in our community and while this event is to benefit the children, I think it is our staff that truly benefit in the form of feeling good about our participation within our neighborhoods.”


Wanting to make a difference

Five years ago Delany knew he wanted to do something out of the ordinary to support the Children’s House and came up with the idea of a 24-hour mow-a-thon.


“Terry is very creative and motivated to help,” said Trish Jones, executive director of the Children’s House.  “He contacted me and was very interested in finding a way to support our organization, bring awareness and also highlight what he does too. It was a win-win.”


Participation and support

Preparation began for the 2008 event a couple of months in advance when Delany and his administrative staff sat down to map out a plan. They discussed what this year’s event would look like, how they would raise money, and how to get local media to cover the event.


Delany explained that the Mow-a-Thon raises money in three ways: 1) A $1,000 donation from AAA Lawn Service, 2) from clients, and 3) donations from AAA employees.


A memo was developed and circulated throughout the office letting staff know about the event and encouraging them to sign up and participate.  “The staff has the option of donating part or all of their time for the cause and whatever time they donate I write a check in their name for the equal amount of their hourly wage,” notes Delany.


To get clients and businesses to support the program, AAA Lawns developed flyers that were distributed to every client.  “Since all of our clients are commercial businesses, we knew we could get a lot of local support, we’d just have to ask” said Delany.


In addition to financial support, businesses also donated coupons, t-shirts and various items that were used for a drawing to generate more excitement and support. This year the local Hustler dealer donated money and manpower to support the cause. Additional support came from Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, Penske and Walgreen’s.


Anything worthwhile doesn’t come easy

From 6 a.m. to 6 a.m., Delany and his staff worked non-stop, mowing, trimming and blowing for a good cause. Delany admits that originally it was tough to get buy-in from his staff – and a lot to ask – to stay up for 24 hours straight mowing lawns. So he and Jones came up with an inspirational plan.


They decided to hold a breakfast at the Children’s House the day before the event for employees to see and visit the children – who range in age from 18 months to 5 years.


“These kids are going through a lot and it’s important for us to see why we are doing this,” says Robbie Snyder of AAA Lawn Service.  “It gets tough at 3 a.m. and visiting with the kids and understanding their situation helps keep us going when we get a little tired.”


Getting the word out to media

Delany has done a great job of building relationships with local media over the years through the annual event. They now contact him as a source for other news stories on gardening and landscaping.


“It’s important to notify media about our event well in advance to give them enough time to plan their story,” says Delany.  “So we begin our media relations planning and implementation about four to six weeks prior to the event.”


Delany and his staff write a press release outlining the who, what, where, why, how and when about the event, update their list of local media contacts and send out the release. Delany says he resends the release a week in advance and has his office manager make follow up phone calls to reporters to make sure they know about the event and if they plan to cover it. The release is then sent one last time the morning of the event to make sure everyone knows about the Mow-a-Thon.


A program that pays off

Three television stations covered the 2008 Mow-a-Thon for their evening newscasts and two newspapers ran photos.


“It’s awareness and free publicity for the Children’s House and our company,” says Delany.  “Plus with the high rate of turnover this industry deals with, I have more committed and motivated employees than I did before we started this program.”


Over the 24-hour period, Delany and his team mowed nearly 100 lawns and raised close to $5,000.


“I’m already starting to think about next year and how we can raise the bar even higher,” says Delany.



Children’s House: www.childrenshousenwa.org

Tony Bass Consulting: www.tonybassconsulting.com