Vested Capital
Vested Capital

Episode 12 · 1 year ago

(EP12): Bryan M Clayton, Founder Green Pal - 'Uber For Lawncare' - $20 Million A Year Run Rate

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Bryan M Clayton is the co-founder of Green Pal, an 'Uber for lawncare' technology platform, connecting lawn mowing providers to customers all over the United States.

Bryan got his start as a teenager when his father forced him to cut a neighbours lawn to earn some money. Bryan liked being in charge of his income and over the next decade went on to build one of the largest lawncare companies in his city, earning over $10 Million a year in revenue with a team of 150+.

After a decade, Bryan decided to exit his company, selling the business. 

It didn't take long for Bryan to realize he needed a project to focus on to stay happy and passionate, so he decided to jump back into entrepreneurship and even stay in the same industry.

However, his new company was a pure technology play, connecting lawncare providers with customers using a website and app called Green Pal.

Bryan explains during this interview the very hard first five years of his new business. He didn't want to risk the money he made selling his first company (which he instead used to buy property), so along with his co-founders, they completely bootstrapped the project.

They wasted a whole bunch of money working with a development firm to build the first version of their app, then scrapped it all and learned how to code so they could build it themselves.

Bryan breaks down all the steps to grow the company from their first 100 customers to the point today where they do over $20 Million a year in revenue, having expanded across the entire country -- with international expansion coming soon!

This is an inspiring story and a great interview because Bryan was very transparent with what worked and what didn't.

Enjoy the podcast.

Yaro

Podcast: https://www.yaro.blog/pod/
Blog: https://www.yaro.blog/

Hello, this is Yarrow and welcome to vested capital Episode Number Twelve, featuring my guest Brian M Clayton from your green pal, the Uber for a lawn care. Vested capital is a podcast about how people make money and put their capital to work. I interview start up founders who enjoyed big exits, Angel Investors, venture capitalists, Crypto and Stock Traders, real estate investors and leaders in technology. In today's episode are going to hear the story of how briant and his cofounders started your green pal, or just green Palcom, the domain name they finally got after a decade of being in business. As I said in the earlier in the introduction, it is the Uber for lawn care. So essentially, if you need your lawn mode you can open up the APP or go to the website and connect with someone who will care for your lawn. So this business was started after Brian already had an exit from a lawn care business that he was running for many, many years that he started as a teenager and got into it because of his father and grew it actually to an eight figure business as well and eventually exited that business. But he wanted to get back into entrepreneurship because he felt that was what really gave him purpose and meaning in life. So, with his CO founders, he decided to start essentially a technology company, and he shares the entire journey of how he set that up, how they got their first few clients, how they built the supply side the market place. You know, you have to have the people doing the long care as well as the customers. Really emphasizes how hard the first five years of the journey was and then talks a little bit about, you know what worked to grow and scale this company to the point where it's a twenty million dollar a year revenue business and consistently growing. No venture capital, two hundred percent boots trapped. So an amazing story, great success story and I think it really enjoy this interview, especially if you want to get some advice from someone who's had two successful companies, one successful exit, very likely another exit at some point in the future, although, as Brian said, he's not in a hurry to sell green pal at the moment. I'll also ask Brian about what he's done with the money he's gained from his first exit and, of course, what he's continue to reinvest his funds. He's a property investor, so he can hear his strategy around that and how that connected with starting a second company. Actually locked away his money so he wouldn't risk it in the second company and consequently he basically went through the grind once again. There was no advantages. They start from scratch, use the credit cards as their initial capital source to begin with. So great story. I think you love it. Before I begin that interview, just a reminder if you have not yet subscribed to vested capital. You can do so with any of your podcast apps to hit the follow or the subscribe or the Plus Button and you can get every episode as I release them. Also, if you think this episode will be useful for any of your friends, our family member, maybe they're getting into technology business for the first time, or any entrepreneur really who starting a company for the first time, I think Brian will be super motivational, so share the episode. You can actually do that by just telling them to go to vested capital Episode Number Twelve. Find that in any of the APPS. You can also use my name, why a Ro Oh, and you should find the best of capital that way, or just go to why a ro o Dot blog and then look for the podcast have and you will find all the episodes there. Okay, that's it for me. Let's begin this interview with Brian, and Brian, thanks for joining me today. Yeah, great to be here. Thanks for having me on. Yeah, so I'm excited to hear a lot more about your green pial. I was just asking you off the recording what numbers we can share with it. So do you want to to give us the overview of actually what it is to distant case? It's own obvious from the T shirt you're wearing of what your green pile does. So, yeah, so green pal is an eight year, no nine year, overnight success in the sentence. It's the Uber for long care. So if you're a homeowner you need to get your grass cut, rather than calling around on craigslist or yell or Facebook, you just download green pal and you get hooked up with a great lawnmowing service and less than a couple of minutes, get quotes higher than pay them and then book them for the whole season right on that APP. If you're long care service is the best way to run your law knowing business. On top of our technology, everything from getting new customers a getting paid to getting scheduled. It's kind of like an operating system for your little landscaping service. So,...

...like I said, we've been at it for eight years. started off really humbly. First three four years of getting the market place where really, really tough. We were just in one city, Nashville, Tennessee, where my cofounders and I live. And then little by little we sort of figure it out, figure out how to make the product work predictably and seamlessly, and rolled it out to every major city in the United States. Since now here we are. Eight years in. Few hundred thousand people use in the APP, doing over twenty million dollars a year in revenue and bootstraps, a self fund of the business off of its own revenues the whole way. So that's kind of rare in the text startup world, particularly local market places, but it's the path we chose and as one of the reasons why we're still standing. A lot of there's kind of a graveyard of similar businesses that make it, that raise a bunch of money, and so, you know, it's just one of those things. We had a good idea, we stuck with it and we've worked our butts off and now we've got a good, profitable business that's growing. So many questions, but first thing I've got to ask is when you're coming to Canada, because I'm in Montreal and I could not find a lawn mower. I ended up buying one of myself due to the job. So you guys coming to Canada or not? Yeah, yeah, Canada is happening. So okay. One of the things that one of the barriers to international expansion is that we're we focus on organic search as our main channel. So we get customers two ways. One is just do organic google search and the other's word of mouth. We don't do any paid channels and you would think it'd be relatively straightforward to just expand across that imaginary line between the two of us, but it's actually really difficult, almost to the degree of starting from scratch. So Canada is happening, maybe next year or the year thereafter. We've got a little bit longer in terms of smaller cities and the United States to expand into some of your lower, like midtier markets, like a witch talk Kansas, but after we get those saturated we're going to be moving in the Canada, UK and Australia. Nice. Okay, looking forward to that. I wouldn't mind going back in time and just learning a bit more about the early days and of course we can talk about, you know, all the growth as well. But born and raising. Actually, you said, did you go to university? You know you're in an entrepreneur early on. Are you more planning to have a career of some sorts? Yeah, so I'm forty one, but I've been in business in some shapeform for twenty two years. I've never had a job, always been an entrepreneur. My First Company was actually a landscaping company. It was just a traditional lawmowing business that I was dragged into kicking and screaming by my father. He made me go mow my first yard on a hot summer day to get off your ass, you got a job to do. You'RE gonna go both the neighbor's yard. Luckily he did that, because something about like I made twenty bucks and I just stuck with me and I never look back. I started passing out flyers all over the neighborhood, got my first fifteen or twenty customers and just kept growing that little lawnmowing business year over year in high school and into college and and I went to business school at a State School in Tennessee and when I graduated college, had to make a decision. Was I going to go into the job market and took a pay cut or was I going to stick with this landscaping business I had? You know, at the time I had a handful of employees. I was probably doing, I don't know, six, seven hundred thousand dollars a year in revenue. So I had a good little business and I didn't really want to be a long guy my whole life, but I thought, you know, I'm going to see how far I can take this. I had kind of had a chip on my shoulder. I at that time I was like twenty, three or four years old and I just wanted to build the biggest, most profitable landscaping company in the date of Tennessee and set it out to do that. Made A business plan, built a good team around me and learned a lot about business. You know, over fifteen year period of time ended up growing that business to a hundred fifty people, ten million dollars a year in revenue and in in two thousand and thirteen that company was acquired by one of the largest landscaping companies in the United States and so growing that businesses for me and a push mower to me and a hundred fifty people, ninety trucks going out every day. I learned a lot about how to get a business going and how to be a decent manager, decent leader, and what it meant to grow and operate a business of that size. You mind talking about the acquisition of that why did you decide to sell? Yeah, you know, ideally, when you want to sell a company, you work a a three or four or five year exit plan, you know, you you lay out a plan that you execute against to get the company sold. I did not do that. I really didn't have any plans of selling the business. I thought I was going...

...to run it for my entire life because it was profitable is growing. But one thing I started to learn about myself was that if you're doing business right, if you're growing a business the right way, you, as the founder, should evolve every three or four years. You should grow into a completely different person. You should be able to look backwards and not even be the same person you were. And that was the case for me. Fifteen years of running that company and I enjoyed that. I enjoyed that aspect of it really kind of was the forcing function of my life to cause me to level up, to cause me to grow, to cause me to be challenged by new things. And I kind of hit a plateau once I hit about the eight million dollar a year mark and I kind of hit a plateau where where the business was no longer like giving me that and I didn't know it at the time, but I was no longer for filled by it. It was no longer my purpose and once that started to set in, I know it was no longer having fun. And so that's when the notion of okay, maybe I should explore selling this business and explore and exit, which at the you know then and now, is not something that's common in the landscaping business. You know, maybe one of these companies gets bought every year in the country and at the time, and still to this day, you know, it was the largest acquisition in my market, in my industry. So it was not like an easy, like straightforward thing to do, but I thought, okay, I'm I'm going to see if I can pull this off. And so from the time that I had that notion to the time that I actually was able to get the business sold was over two years and so I did a lot of the things, you know, a lot of the reverse engineering in terms of doing the things that you do to get a business ready to sell, creating the system, the process. He's the accounting that big companies look for, and ideally you do that proactively, which you know I did it, but you know I was able to get it done. I was able to get it bought, and one big reason why it was because the business was debt free. I had grown that business completely debt free and so when I was a little sell it, I had a clean balance sheet. So that was one of the the attractive things about it. Correct me if I'm wrong, but if you did one of the largest deals in your space, you must have had more than enough money to retire for the rest of your life. At that point. You do seem like the kind of guy who likes a challenge and wants to keep growing, just by the way you describe yourself before. But to make the decision to kind of get back into the same space again, you know, there's a lot of I would have thought maybe you wanted to do something in a completely different industry or take some time off to travel, since you were doing this when you were young, but was there a gap in between before you start your green pile? Like how did the transition happen? Yeah, it's a really good question and it is one that I went through. So, when I sold the business, I was able to retire and not have to work anymore, which was nice. Like forrest Gump says, one lass thing. You know, it was very much that, and I thought, okay, what now? You know, I took some time off, I did do some traveling and I started to realize that that there was something missing, that my business is the thing that lends purpose to my life, is the thing that makes my life interesting, and that was gone. And so I thought, okay, it's not that I love starting business from scratch. I actually hate doing that, like the first three or four years of starting a business from zero sucks. It's one of the hardest things you can do with your life. And so it's not like I'm wired to love that, but I am wired to love the progress, the winning, the seeing like something that was just an idea be brought to life as a lot of fun and so and I had this idea you know, I had this idea for green power because I had spent fifteen years in industry. I saw how inefficient it ran, how difficult it was for homeowners to get hooked up with a good lawn noise service and then on the other side, like these long care services come and go in as many reasons because they don't know how to run a business, they don't have access to systems, they don't know how to implement systems. They work hard, but they don't know how to run a company, and so I thought if I could build like a business in a box for them and then create a way for homeowners to kind of hire them off the shelf, so to speak, that that could work. And so the here we are a decade later. The idea is pretty much the same as it was that we had back then. It almost has changed none but the execution and bringing that idea to life as meandered and taking on many changes along the way. And so I had this burning idea, this this thing that I thought I could make...

...happen, and I thought, okay, I'm just going to go for it, and it was almost like naivete as an asset. I didn't know what I didn't know. I didn't know how hard it was going to be, and that was good, because I never would have done any of it if I had known how difficult and challenging it was going to be. And one thing I under indexed on was was it's a there's a big difference between starting a traditional company like what I had, trying to build a landscaping company, Construction Company, a restaurant, whatever. There's a big gap between that and inventing a brand new product from scratch that doesn't yet exist like those are two very different things and I didn't really understand that until I got into the trenches of building Green Paler and my cofounders and I were just beating our heads against the walls, like why is this thing not working, and we started to really understand that, no, this doesn't exist. You're kind of on the outer edge of what people are doing. You're creating new experiences, you're creating new you're trying to change human behavior, and so we really just try to learn from the best. Read as many books we could listen to, and it's got as many conferences as we could like, read as many blog post, listen as many podcasts we could understand, like how do you build a company from scratch? How even vent the new product from scratch? And this little by little, just through trial and error, doing hundreds and hundreds of things over and over again, learning from mistakes, we were able to build a product that people wanted to use. And so for me, you know, I'm glad I did it because here I am a decade later, I'm a completely different person and you know, my cofounders and I had to teach ourselves how to Code, how to do product design. You know user psychology, you know distribution, all of these skills and things and talents that we've accumulated over the top over the last decade. You know, we wouldn't have you know, if had we not had this project, had we had not had this company that required us to do it. So I'm grateful for that and I think if you can look at business in that way and see it as like this is like the thing that's that's going to, let, cause me to level up in life and it's the thing that's going to like make the my life story interesting. If you can look at it that way, it can help solve a lot of the a lot of the slog and a lot of the grind. Yeah, that's a great point. It's not just about the money. In your case, you know, you ready had the big financial result. So you were doing this about finding a meaning again with a new business. I'd love to talk about the early days, though. You were talking there about learning to code, lots of study, about just start up technology businesses, but in terms of entering this space, because obviously you know Uber Fulng Care Amilily, you think APP. So how did you guys create the MVP and the minimum viable first version that you would actually go out to the world and say here's our APP? And then, also, because it is a two sided marketplace, just having the APP is not enough. You need to have the supply side, the law or providers. How did you do that from, you know, day one, early days as well. Yeah, is difficult for many reasons. One, none of us, my to cofounders and I, didn't know how to build technology. We'd had no clue on how to do any if we don't how to build a product, we didn't know how to market a product, we didn't know how to architect the market place, and so we just we just had to get in there and start figuring it out. And so one of the things we did, which was a mistake but which was kind of our ticket price into the game, we pulled our money together. You know, I had a sale and in my belt, but I didn't like bankroll all that money into the second company because I for a couple reasons. I didn't want to go backwards and I didn't ever want to like pick up a weed eiter ever again. I never wanted them mow another yard again. I done that thousands of times, and so I didn't want to go backward. So I locked all the proceeds down from the first sale into like ill liquid investments, and so I was kind of a forcing function for the second business. It had to kind of sing for its supper and it had to stand on its own feet, because I knew that like so long as I was willing to like feed it cash, that it might never take off. And so we pulled together our money, and this was like money on like credit cards, liquidated for a one case credit card checks. You know. We go like a hundred eighty grand together, twenty three of us, and we thought, okay, all we need to do is we need to pay a Dev shop to build like this idea that we have and will market it and we'll just be off and going. And boy, we didn't know what we didn't know. We hired a Dev shop here in Nashville. Took them like eight months to build...

...like what we thought Green Pal should be, and we did that, launched it and there's a total, total failure, total flop. The APP, that website sucked, that was Buggy, didn't have the features it needed. And then know, it wasn't all their fault. We didn't even really know what it that the product should be, the product experience should be, and so we did that, launched it. Wasted a hundred fifty grand doing that. But we were at the time. We were reading a book called the startup owners manual by Steve Blank, which is kind of the predecessor to the lean start up by Eric Greece, and those two books kind of tell you one thing. It's like this, a thousand pages of one thing, and it's like get out of the building, get a product in people's hands and talk to those people like it's all those books talk about and a simple concept is that's is. That sounds like it's so many business owners, founders entrepreneurs are resident to do that because it's not fun. It sucks to hear the feedback. Most of the time the feedback is telling you what you don't want to hear. But we did do that right at least. And so we had this like crappy product. We launched it. We passed out a bunch of door hangers all over Nashville to get people to use it, and we got maybe like a hundred people to try it out and we met with as many of those hundred as we could and was through that exercise that we were able to understand a few things. One we had a good idea, because when we were talking these people, they were disappointed, they were let down, they were upset that the product didn't work. The long guy didn't show up. Prices too high. He showed up, but he did a crappy job. He showed up but he didn't know how to use his side of the APP and so, like the the workflow broke down. They signed up, but get any quotes. You know, you name it, thousand problems, but we never heard this. We never heard I don't need this, we never heard I would never use this. We never heard like this does not solve a problem for me, and so that was validation in a sense. Like all of that negative feedback was validation, and it was enough validation to tell us, like, let's keep pushing forward because if we, if we spend five years or ten years like well, grinding on this, we can maybe build something valuable, we can maybe get create a breakthrough. And so we use that validation to kind of like gas US UP, so to speak, and then also confront the reality that if we were going to be in the technology space, we were going to have to learn how to build software. There was just no way around it. We couldn't we couldn't like outsource this stuff. We couldn't just like change order this thing to death through this Dev shot. We go broke doing it and we would be seventy five years old by the time we got something built. So like all of these like realizations like hit us at the same time, and it was just through going through the efforts of launching that shitty product, getting the advice and confronting the realities and like really having a gut check understand okay, this is what it's actually going to take to pull this off, and then it like is doubling down, just like having a conversation amongst ourselves. We want to quit or do we want to keep moving forward? And so it's like we had to work on the next version of the product and work on ourselves at the same time. My cofounder went to a boot camp here in Nashville. We barely got him into the class and he learned back in code and I learned how to do front in code and we were able to hack together an entirely new version. We had to scrap the whole code base for the first version, everything we had to scrap all of that. We had to build an entire new platform, but at least this time it was built in the feedback that we had from the first hundred c customers and it was built in like a knowledge and understanding of like experiential wisdom. You know, a lot of times you can read all of these books and learn and but none of that really matters until you get the experiential wisdom, like the getting in there and like getting your hands dirty and understanding this is what people want. And so the second version was rooted in that and that's what gave us the foundation to build something that people would use and the ability to iterate on top of it over and over again. We did that for five years until we really had something that was has some traction, had some momentum behind it, and that's impressive. I can imagine your your previous self running the long care business, would not have expected your future to be front and designing an APP as. Yeah, Never Rover in a million years, and it was very humbling. That's one thing. That one of the cool things about running your own business.

You want to do one of the most humbling things you can do with your life go start a company because a nobody cares, like your family doesn't care, your girlfriend, your wife, doesn't care like you have to really want to see that thing come to life and then be like the market places is unread, is relentless, with this unvarnished feedback. The market place is always going to tell you where you stink. It's always going to tell you where he suck. And then the other thing too, is is you know, I had this like ten million dollar business and I was kind of a known commodity in the landscaping business in Nashville, Tennessee, and here I am now again passing out flyers. Well, you use this crappy APP that I paid somebody to build for your twenty seven dollar lawnmowing, like literally like begging people to use its very humbling, but that's it was good for me, like it grounded me, and it is not that I enjoyed any of it, but it was what I needed and you know, looking back, I would change no part of it. Now, what about the supply side? And you said, you know, had a hundred test customers. Did you go out and also solicit as many lawnmower individuals, freelancers, companies, just even create a listing on the APP, like with the enthusiastic about her? How did that side of the marketplace go? It was one of the things that was I was really surprised about. I thought that, you know, so long as we just created this thing that consumers would use, that suppliers would beat our door down, like I thought that that was an untested like assumption that I had, and that was not the case. The supply side, we had to hand crank as well, and the way we did that in the early days we would just dial for dollars on craigslist. We figured out that Sunday afternoon was the best way to get these guys on the phone, because they're cutting grass money through Friday, and so we would just like dial for dollars on craigslist on Sunday to try to like pitch these guys on using this APP to run their lawnling business. And, you know, out of every hundred phone calls we might have gotten one, but all we needed was like to validate it was like maybe twenty or thirty, and that's for us. We were able to kind of grind our way through and in, and anything you would find out is like they would sign up, but then they wouldn't even bid, even though bidding was free. And then they would bid, they get hired, but they wouldn't even show up. And then they would show up and like they would literally show up but this drive off and not even do it. And so it's like it was like all of these is like everything that sucks about hiring a long care service. Is What I realized, like in the first year. Everything that sucks about hiring a long care service and keeping them coming was now our problem as the market place. All of those like there was no like there's like magical technology that we could just build. That was salt like every one of those problems became our problem, and so we had to solve them just by figuring out the root cause of each and every issue that could break down between like downloading the APP and getting a nicely mode lawn. And this took a long time to figure that out. So in the early days we hand cranked the supply base and then the way I was able to kind of keep them bought in was I would offer free coaching to them because they knew me. Like, if you were in the lawnmowing business, you knew who I was because I ran like the biggest company in Nashville, or, you know, maybe top three in terms of sales revenue in Nashville. So you knew who I was and I was the only guy who'd ever sold one. So if you were molling lawns in Nashville, you knew Brian Clayton was. And so when I called you, you're like, is this for really you? I can't believe it. And so and so I was like, yeah, I got this new APP and I'll tell you what, if you would use it for a year, I will meet with you once a month and I'll give you an hour free coaching how to grow your lawnloining business. Done deal, and so that's how we got the first three thousand and forty vendors to use it and keep using it, and so then we could focus on the consumer side. How do we perfect that experience, make it predictable, consistent and seamless, and then two years later come back to the supplier side and fix all of their problems? So it's kind of like this ping pong of solving for the wants and needs on both sides of the transaction. And if you're self funded, you...

...know it's you go through this stuff slow. You know, if you've raised a bunch of capital, fifty million, hundred million dollars, you can put teams on this stuff and if you're smooth operator, you can pull it off like if you've done it before. I had never done it before, and so a lot of times you see these huge overnight successes and what you don't realize is like that founding team or that founder had already crashed and burned two or three other things and now he was rolling in all those mistakes in the wisdom into this thing that did work. I didn't have that, so I kind of I didn't want to crash and burn. This was my one good idea. So our strategy was just to go slow and low and do it sustainably, because I knew nobody was going to pull the rug out from under us. So, I mean, I can see the connection between coaching the hungry long hair people who want to replicated. Your success doesn't scale if it's you doing the coaching. Obviously that you can only do so many of those one hour a week sessions before becomes unmanageable. That does lead me to a question about business model. I'm curious here. Was Uber around when you started this or like, because you must have thought, okay, you pay the going rate to the lawnmower company or individual as a profit margin for you guys, whatever that is per job, and then you pass that on to the client. So we you experimenting with that to make it work. And then, of course I want to ask you about scale, but let's talk about business model first. Yeah, so nowadays, here we are, two thousand and twenty one. There's a lot of like collective wisdom around market places, how they took how to architect them, and I've learned a lot from all of these guys you know guys like Bill Gurley and the guys over nfx and there's another guy named Casey winners, that talk a lot about how to architect and build a market place. But this stuff wasn't around in two thousand and twelve when we started, and so we had to kind of like figured it out as we went. Was Uber around? Yes, but they were only in like San Francisco and New York. So Uber was not this validating entity that you like, yeah, we're kind of like UBER, but for la on mooing that slogan didn't like happen until two thousand and sixteen. So the ideal was good. I knew technology could solve the problems, but it wasn't like there was all of these other strategic like playbooks we could fast follow, and so we just kind of had to figure it out through tryal on air. We knew we wanted a market place model because we wanted to we wanted to end in transaction. We didn't want to be in the lead Gen business and we didn't want to be in the SASS business, although looking back, you know, if we just focus all of our intensity on just a Sass play, mean who knows? I mean we double down on the marketplace model. That's that's what we that's the bet we made and once you make that bet it's kind of hard to go backward. And so for us, we knew we wanted to capture the transaction, we wanted to close the loop, to create that kind of like magical end end experience, and that's what we said. Oh, that's what we focused on. We knew, you know, through other market places that did exists, you know, like Ebay, maybe Amazon. The idea of a take rate and taking a piece of the transaction was one that was validated. That was one that we implemented and I still are our biggest revenue model. We take a sliding percentage of the transaction depending on how much volume the service provider is doing through the platform. The more they do, that rate goes down, and so we did that and that's really that was the only way we made money back then. It's only way we only way we make money. Today, here we are, a decade in, you know, we're starting to experiment with other ways to make money without taking value out of the market place. So things like like Fintech, things like premium placement within the marketplace, like we're talking with equipment manufacturers like John deer could sell equipment through the platform. So interesting ways to monetize the activity happening on the platform without like robbing value from the people participating in it. Yeah, that's interesting. Must be fun for you guys to think about those new alternatives now that you have in market place, because that's the hard part ride building the audience. Before we talk about maybe what doing now. How did you scale? So your America wide now, so that's massive. You maybe you could go doortodoor in every single major city with those flyers,...

...but I doubt you did that. So how did you scale? We learned real quick. I got bit by a dog two times and after the second dog bite I realize that flyers was not a scalable user acquisition strategy, that we had to figure out something else. But it was what we had to do at the time. It's like starting one of these things, is like a video game and and you work through every single level of the game, and level one for us was get a hundred customers. I don't care how you have to do it. Go get a hundred customers. will go pass out a bunch of door hangers. Once you get through level one, that level to presents its own set of challenges, its own goals, its own objectives, its own final buss and so that's what we have to do. then. Now, if people listening to this, okay, so the key is pass out door hangers. Know, the key is do whatever it takes to get through that level of the game and then get on to the next level. So once we started getting a little bit of traction, little bit of liquidity, enough validation from users and understanding what the hell is we were trying to do, we then began to like, okay, we got to figure out what channels are we going to experiment in? And we were demand side constrained. We knew if we could get more homeowners to use it, that we could then take care of the supply side. And so we focus on the demand side and we experiment with facebook ads, Google ad words, radio, print, TV. We use what little money we had to experiment in these channels and the only thing that we found that would give us lasting rl I was just just investing in Google organic search. You know, I type in lawnmowing service, Kansas City, Missouri. You know, we need to be in the top three and so how do you do that? And then, you know, as complex as everything as it relates to building a product that people want to use, building a marketplace, self funding the thing, like all those things are complex. Google organic search is just as complex as all of those things and its own right. And we started to understand that, wow, this is a bet, the company decision we're going to have to and whatever the output, the whatever the GDP of this business is like, half of it is going to go into figuring out how to compete in Google organic search. But we had enough validation just through testing to understand it. This was a good channel to bed on. This was a good channel that we could lean into and spend five years, you know, investing in and we did that and you know, to this day that's how we get half of our users. The other have come through word of mouth, and I'm glad we did that because because a lot of times. I read an article once that something like seventy five percent of all venture money goes right back to three places, Google, facebook and Amazon, and we didn't want to make that bet. You know, if you can figure that out and make the unit economics work, then yeah, you're kind of master of the universe. But for us we didn't have this big pool of cash that we could like deploy and play with, and so we had to make like a long lasting, sustainable bet, and for us that was developing the content build this, the project in such a way that it was congruent with what Google one of the see, and also the PR you know, my when my cofounder, that's all he's done for the entire like the entire journey, is pr that's all he's done, you know, six, seven years ago. It's all he does today, is getting the word out, getting the the mentions in the press, getting the backlinks and and executing on that, on that piece of our strategy. And so if you know, if you're listening to this and you have a startup, you're like, okay, so what I'm hearing is, is Seo is the answer? Maybe, but it's going to be very much about the company decision. It's going to be like half to output on whatever the hell it is you're doing. So just to May, to close a loop on that idea for the current space online, if you were, say, deciding to go after local search in two thousand and twenty one, as we record, this would the advice be similar in the sense that you do need some sort of consistent link building campaign, whether it's PR going on podcast, for example, or, you know, getting some articles written about you. And then is it? You're such a great example, because you need to have an article that ranks for literally every single city that you're in, with the Word Lawn Mower or lawn care or similar, you know, phrases around that. So if you just have, I...

...can't even imagine like thousands of versions of almost the same article for each different city. Like what's the overview ofviously, I don't expect you to dive deep into local search strategy right now, but what would be like your number one or two ideas? Yeah, so to answer the first part of the question, if you're listening to this, in two thousand and twenty one you're like, okay, yeah, I'm going to do I'm going to do search. That's how I'm going to get my customers. That's cool, but it's going to be a year before you start getting any kind of traction. So like let that be known, maybe even two years, and so that's kind of the ramp up. The other thing is is, you know, start small, go after the key words like if your local market place, if you're looking for the local queries, focus on one city and get it to work in one city and then figure out what work there and then go from neck one city to the next. And it's going to take a long, long, long time. So so long as you are willing and sufficiently motivated to grind that out, then yet go for it. The other thing in terms of like the actual execution for us, it's not like we're we're respinning the same article for every city. It's what we do is we take the top ten performing vendors and every city and we interview them and we talked to him. We talked to him like we talked about their business, what they do differently, where they went to high school, how long do they live in the community, what they like about the community, what they love about the landscaping business, and we write the best content around their business and then we put that on our landing page, along with statistics about like how much does it cost to get your grass cutting, which a Tall Kansas? You know, how often should you seed? How often should you fertilize? How often are people getting it done weekly or every two weeks? All of this data around what our platform generates. We surface that it's homeowners. So it's interesting, it's unique content that you can't find anywhere else. And so if you're searching for a long care service, in which Ita, this is one of your options that you can look at and guess what, you can hire these folks off the shelf right here from this page. So that's our strategy. That's on page SEO. So really you can take Seo and delineate it into almost three categories. You know, there's there's on page. There's the technical side of it, which is is the site fast? What does the architecture of the site look like? Still linking, internal linking of the site look like? Is it discoverable by Google? All these things, and then the other thing is off page Seo, which is what sites are pointing to this site. And so every link that goes to the site is kind of like a vote and so and so for us, you know, my cofounder has been on TV a hundred times in the last two years and every time he's on, you know the Fox affiliate in Burlington, Vermont, or the ABC affiliate in Boca Raton, Florida, there's a link that points back, and so that link is kind of like a vote. And so Google understands the web in this fashion. Understands that, okay, these sites that Garner more links are more predominant, more authoritative, more trustworthy. Therefore we're going to show them over these sites that don't have any links, because nobody gives a shit about those. And so that's Seo twenty years ago and it's still seo today. Links matter. Some people will tell you they don't, but they do, and so that's how we execute. That's what we've done for ten years and as you can see, like wow, that sounds like a lot. It is. So it's like, if you're going to do this, it's very much like a bet the company decision. Yeah, yeah, your a cofounder. must he's probably not tired of it that I can imagine going on these TV shows a hundred times and about cutting grass over and over again. You know you're excited about your company. But we poke fun of them because, like he's that George Clooney in that movie up in the air. He has been on like not last year, because covid before that. He's been on so many damn, he's been to so many cities and on so many flights and he loves the holiday and express because it's got like a pancake machine and it makes free pancakes, and so we kind of make fun of about that. Until you love the pancakes that come out of the holiday in express pancake machine, don't try to execute a local SEO strategy because you're going to have to love that machine like. That's really what is going to boil down to. You're going to have to get on the road and reach out the local media in all of these cities if you want to play this game. Okay, now we know what to look for in a cofounder as well. You need front end, back end and the pancake I and grind. Yes, right, that's right. You need a hacker, a hustler and...

...somebody who loves pancakes. It's really all you need to start a BA. So you just laid out a fairly effective long term strategy for growth. Is that what's pretty much taken you from those five years of what you said, like slow, really building a platform, making the product experience amazing, you know, getting those hundred customers, the suppliers, but now to get to twenty million a year and revenue is everything, so it is scaled comfortably. Have there been any kind of inflection points from something that happened that you know you didn't expect? You look at every chart, you know every hockey stick moment like we have never seen that. Like. It has been a slow progression. However you want to look at traffic, reven new transactions, whatever metric you want to look at. Is this been like what Jim Collins calls a twenty Mile March? And it has been a twenty mile march for us from day one. There has never been like a breakout moment. Oh we did this and then we were just often going and I would dare say, like most of the time that's the case for most businesses. I mean, yeah, if you raise a bunch of capital and you can really put it to work the right way, you can hit that moment, like that hockey stick moment, but for us, no, that's not been the case. You know, we're doing twenty million a year. We're growing thirty, forty, fifty percent. For us it's going to be been doing much of the same things that are already working and then moving into other countries and then figuring out other revenue models and using that money to make more money. You know, a lot of times as a founder, as a CEO, you the hat you wears capital allocator, and really all you're doing is is you're making money and then you're figuring out k where do I put this money to work? Do I put it on a better PR strategy? Go I put it on hiring a new Dev, a new CTO? Do I think that's a better move? Do I put it on hiring a new seo lead or new content creator or new designer? Like, where do I make my bets? And so for me, like that's kind of my job. And so, as we unlocks a couple other revenue streams, using that money to make more money is what I have to do. And as a founder, really you know you're going to make. If you're making two good decisions a day, you're doing good and that's what I strive to do. You know, you have described my life, I think with my cof I know we have a call every two weeks and we basically decide how to spend money and what part of you want to test next. So you nail it there. Now last sort of thirteen or some minutes here, Ryan I'd love to ask a little bit about. I mean the future, but also this show is called best to capital and you re ready had an exit and you said you put your money into some very liquid investment so you couldn't risk it with this new start up. And obviously this new startup is now doing incredibly well. I don't know what. You're taking dividends from it, or you guys are reinvesting everything back and growth, or there's an exit strategy with Green Pal. Would you might talking a little bit about that? Is there an exit strategy for green pal? And also, I love to know personally, what is your capital investment strategy as an individual, you know, for yourself, your family and so on. Yeah, so, so the first company retired. So, okay, quick story. The Guy who bought my business owned probably thirty others like it, and so he was head of this big group that bought little businesses like mine and roll them up. This new was probably worth a hundred fifty million dollars. And so I'm talking to this guy and the closing sale of that company was very contentious. There's a lot of retrading back and forth and we almost didn't get the deal done, and so I almost hated this guy, but I'm sitting down with him facetoface in my office. He's like, Hey, congratulations, we got the deal done. I think we're going to get it done, but it's awesome and I'm looking forward to having you on our team for the next few months to help us shipherd this thing. And I just want to give you a little bit advice. Congratulations. You are now a millionaire, and the best of US I can give you is that it's a lot easier to make a million dollars than it is to keep a million dollars. And that just hit me really hard because I had almost killed myself getting to that point and, you know, building that business and getting the business sold. That really stuck with me and it was almost kind of like gave me a degree of paranoia that I was going to screw this up, that I was going to make some bad investments and and so I locked everything down, predominantly in real estate. I bought a ton of single...

...family homes and as it turned out, it worked out well, because we're talking two thousand and twelve and I was able to buy for thirty cents on the dollar. And so I bought a ton of single family homes and just turn them over to a management company that handled them for me. And that's how you know I have paid my bills for a decade and how I can pay my bills for the rest of my life. Do I live a private jet lifestyle? Know, but if I want to go travel for six months, I can. And so like having that pressure like relieved from me enabled me to start in build green pal the way I wanted to, because I didn't know I wasn't like pressure to make short term bets and to have to like make short term, motivated like decisions. I can make long term decisions because I knew I didn't have to like sell this business anytime soon and I didn't have to like depend on it to go to the grocery store that week. So that's how I started the game and that's a really good way to start, you know, a company where you're swinging for the fences, which is kind of what we're doing with green pal. And I coach a lot of entrepreneurs and business owners on this kind of idea of yeah, you want to start this twenty, fifty million, hundred million dollar business, but let's get a single under your belt, like let's get a million dollar business and maybe even get it sold, or maybe let's get two or three hundred grand put away and then do this big thing. It's not a popular bit of advice that I give, but I do give it, and that's kind of what I did. I got a single under my belt, maybe a double, and so when I started green pal I wanted to hit a home run. And so now here we are. The first five years really sucked running this business. I'm not going to sugarcoat it. But here we are, ten years in, or eight, nine years in. We have a more profitable we pay ourselves a good salary. We don't work as hard as we used to. I might put in thirty, forty hours a week now, whereas in the first five years it was seven days a week, hundred hour weeks. So now it's high leverage. It's very much on the company, whereas you know, for the first five years it was in the company and on the company. And so what does it look like now? You know, I'm fine with running this business another decade because now it's fun. You know, I'm enjoying it. The day I don't enjoy it is the day I look to sell it, but that don't see that happen anytime soon. I got a great team. We've got twenty seven people that work on the company and all of them are smarter than me and some degree, and I love it. I'm having fun, we're crushing it and and I'll keep doing this for as long as I'm enjoying it. I love to know, then, what is the day in the life of you, Brian, right now, in terms of you know, what you do for the company? That if it is more fun. You're obviously not putting up door hangers, you're not coding front and I would assume now you know the one is making the the APP of the website changes. You said you're allocating funds, but you know you might have a meeting once a week to this by that. What is your chief podcast guest at the moment? Why? That's true. Oh, I do one podcast interview a day and I do it because I believe I'm one of my philosophies in life is that you're either in one or two states. You're either in expansion or contraction. You're either coping or you're thriving, and I and for me, these interviews keep me in a point of expansion. I'm sharing my thoughts, I'm sharing my philosophies, right or wrong, good or bad ideas. Some of my ideas might be good, I guarantee some of my ideas are not good, but I'm sharing, I'm expanding, and so it keeps me in a state of expansion and that's just good for me as a CEO, good for me as a founder, to constantly be in a state of expansion, because it's just a good place to be. And so that's why I do podcast interviews, and so I do one of those a day. You know, personally I get up pretty early, dues, do an hour of exercise of some sort and then I come in and I try to get good five hours a day. Maybe as little as three, sometimes four, sometimes five, rarely more than that. And a lot of what it is is checking in with members of the team that are executing part of the plan that we've laid out for that month. So it could be a talked to a person who's head of conversion, right optimizations like it. What experiments we running? What are those look like? I check in with our CT okay, what are the ten or twelve Dev's doing and what have they gotten done and what does that look like? We've got a person who's had a QA and all they do all day is just test all...

...four APPS and make sure that this stuffs working correctly, and I look at the tickets they're logging and I'm making sure that we're getting those fixed. And then I also do at least an hour, sometimes two hours, a day of customer support personally, because I want to like I don't want there to ever be like a loss of understanding of what it is we suck at, where we're pissing off our users, what we need to be focusing on. A lot of times, as you build a company, a gap exist between customer logic and company logic, and so the customer is seeing it from one angle and the company, the founder, seeing it from another angle. If you do an hour of support every day, it closes that gap and so where you're almost like never had a loss for what you need to be working on, and so that's how I keep that gap closed and keep us focus. It's almost like free Rd. so checking in with probably ten or twelve like of my leads, whether it be data Seo, conversion rate optimization, our devs, our designer, our content team, like they're all executing. And if they're not, where's the log jam? Are you waiting on somebody else? You know what do you need? Let me get you what you need and then rinse and repeat. Do that every day, and I do that five or six days a week and there's some days I might do five hours or some days I may only do an hour. I also travel a lot. I travel for five six months out of the year. So I kind of run this business from anywhere in the world and I don't want anybody listening to this to hear. Oh, so you mean that you can start like a market place and in this spend the whole world traveling, like spen whole time? I like, no, you can't, like put in a good six seven years and then you can do that, because the first five years it was me and my cofounders locked in office with no windows for six and seven days a week to get this thing going. Yeah, I think you've turned off anyone now from the first five years. They they all wanted to the travel part, but not that, the hard work at the start. Yeah, my advice is don't do it. And if you hear that advice and you don't listen to you still want to do it. Okay, that's great. It's like, but don't a step one. Don't do it. If you still want to do it, then this what's going to be like doing. Yeah, okay, great, great advice, I think. Brian. What websites? I know obviously you're green piled outcom. And if you guys have got green powercom yet, hey, check it out. Check it out. We just bought Green powercom after eight years of like operating without it. We just bought it like literally like three days ago. So we celebrated that. So, yeah, you go to green powercom when you link to it, linked to your green powercom because we have an executed on like the SEO changeover. But yeah, or you can net look green pound APP store or play store, get hooked up with a great lawnmowing service and listen a minute. Awesome. Okay, Green Pilcom. That must be very satisfying getting that the main name said. That's time. Yeah, congratulations. Well, keep out with the good work. I, obviously, Ryan, will keep tabs on this because I feel like, although you don't want to sell them now, there might be at one point of a very, very big exit in your future. So might be nice to get you on the show to talk about how that went down, and maybe then you'll be flying on the the private jet. So the hey. There you go. I guarantee it. What if that happens, friens all it will come back on and tell you how it went down. Okay, thanks, I appreciate your time and give up the good work. Awesome, thanks for having on the show. Well, there you go. I hope you enjoyed that interview with Brian and you're feeling extra motivated to start your own business. You have to be, based on the number of times Brian was talking about how hard those first five years were, the early stages of a new company, and I'll wrap up the episode by mentioning my company Inbox. Donecom it was actually quite interesting to hear Brian Talk about what his role with his co founders are. Ultimately calls it a resource allocation role. You know how to spend your money and your time. I mentioned my cofounder and I. We often have discussions like that. Where do we want to invest our energy and our time in terms of growing our company, and I think that ties in very much to what we do. So we provide email management services for you. For entrepreneurs or busy professionals that have too much email and if you're finding yourself allocating a lot of time to clearing your inbox, applying to messages, treating your email like a to do list for your life, that may not be the best allocation...

...of your attention, your time and your energy, and you should learn to delegate an outsource to specialists for tasks like that. So we can provide you with a dedicated inbox manager or two or three to step in and manage and reply to all those messages for you, leaving you with only the absolutely critical messages that might be decisions you have to make or people you have to maintain relationships with. But we take you out of the loop completely with all the tasks that really don't need you to be part of. So all that kind of how do I find this information, or passing on an email from one person to another person in your team, you know, from a query to the ID department to the bookkeeper. Those are processes you don't necessarily need to be a part of. So we'll take you out of those. Will reply to the messages, will update the software or the people in your team and then you just deal with what is the five or maybe two percent of emails that do need your attention. So inbox Donecom is where you can go to hire us and we will take over managing any of your inboxes. That can be email, can be your help desk, can be your social media in boxes, direct messages with twitter, Linkedin, facebook, instagram and so on. We are here to help pretty much with any kind of messaging issue. We can build a system to manage it and reply to those messages for you. That's INBOX DONECOM head there, learn about the service and then book a discovery call. Okay, thanks again for listening to this episode of vested capital. You can get all the episodes at my blog, why Aroro dot blog this look for the podcast tab or subscribe spotify, Amazon, apple, itunes, tune in, stitcher, soundcloud, I'm everywhere you can find vest the capital and even on audible. If you're ebook listener, it's available there under the podcast area of audible. Okay, that's it for me. My name is yarrow and I'll speak to you on the next episode.

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