Thomas Green here with Ethical Marketing Service. On the podcast today, we have Bryan Clayton. Bryan, welcome.
Thomas, thanks for having me on the show. Great to be here.
Great to have you. Would you like to take a moment and tell the audience a bit about yourself and what you do?
Yeah. So my name is Bryan Clayton. I am CEO and co-founder of a company called Green Pal. And so Green Pal is a mobile app. It works like Uber, but for lawn mowing. So if you live in the United States and you need to get your grass cut rather than calling around on Craigslist or Yelp or Facebook, you just download our app and something will come out in your yard the same day. Been at this business for nine years, I guess you could say we’re nine year overnight success uh, started off in Nashville, Tennessee. Now we’re nationwide several 100,000 people using that, doing over $20 million a year in revenue. And what’s unique about us is we haven’t taken on any outside capital. No, no institutional capital. Everything is this funding officer song revenues And it’s kind of kind of rare in, in a, in the tech world, especially in marketplaces. So we’ve kinda had to sing for our supper every step of the way.
Before Green Pal, I actually had a landscaping business and over 50 period I’m built up one of the largest landscaping companies in the southeast. Getting it over 100 and 50 employees over 10 year in revenue. So growing that business is for me and a push mower to be in 100 50 people. I learned a lot the hard way they’ve got to get a business going. So that’s 22 years of worship in in one industry. I’ve kind of seen it from every angle you can see it from before an episode. I’ll sort of agree on a topic of conversation, so it’ll be a particular business topic, but every now and again I think I’ll hear what the story is and I’m like, yeah, I want to hear a little bit more about that. So the Building 2 8 figure businesses from scratch and not only that, but kind of exiting as well, so it’s kind of like a closed loop, so remind me again which was the first business, the first business was the traditional blue collar landscaping business. And so I kind of learned this to trial on air how to build a scale of business in that type of service based business.
And I learned how the, the landscaping industry worked from the inside out and then I kinda, after 15 years of that sold the business retired, didn’t have to work anymore, which is nice, but then I got bored and thought, okay, I’m gonna start a tech company and boy, I didn’t know what, I didn’t know, I didn’t know how hard that was going to be, but I took everything I learned and rolled it into the, to my tech company, Green Pal and learned the tech side, learned how to build software, learned how to write code, learn how to develop software. And so kind of combined the blue collar with the tech entrepreneur kind of sides of the world and was able to kind of build Green Pal without having to raise in the outside capital because I kind of had all of that knowledge to roll into it. So before you started your first business, how did it, how did it come about? So you, are you an employee or you, what’s the situation there? Yeah. My first company actually I was forced into the business by my father on a hot summer day said get off your butt, I got a gig for you, you’re gonna go mow the neighbour’s yard.
And I wasn’t living in a democratic household. And so he made me go cut the neighbour’s grass, luckily he did that because something about that stuck with me, I made $20 for an hour’s work and I thought this is amazing. I mean I can just do this, why wouldn’t anybody do this? And so I passed, like the first thing I did after that was like passed out a bunch of flyers all over the neighbourhood and got like 10 or 12 customers that first summer. I never looked back just stuck with that little lawn mowing business. Uh, year after year all through high school through college. Eventually, you know, when I was in college, I had like 10 or 12 employees. And when I graduated college, I to make a decision was I going to go into the job market and take a pay cut or stick with this landscaping company I had built and I didn’t really want to be a long guy my whole life, but I thought, you know, this could be the thing, this could my lane uh, to, to make something of myself, to, to make something that matters to build something. And so I thought, well, let’s just, you know, I learned a little bit in business school, let’s make a business plan.
And, and uh, and, and let’s have a five-year business plan and I got everything you’ve done and two or three years and it’s just never look back and eventually grew into eight figures and over 100 100 people and, and got the business sold, which doesn’t happen very often in the landscaping industry, these businesses are usually not acquired. So how long do you, do you do that business before you consider hiring someone? You know, uh, it’s one of the hardest decisions in a service based business, really, any business, but in a service based business, it’s one of the hard, hardest businesses because effectively in one decision, it’s probably the only moment in business where you’ll make one decision and it doubles your business. Like you go from just you’re doing all the work. Now you’re hiring somebody, you effectively have to double your business over overnight. So it’s really tough and it’s a make or break decision in many cases for many companies that first our first higher or two. And so for me, you know, I did it wrong, I did it wrong for about a year.
The guy I was paying was making more money than I was making. so I figured out I figured this is not working and I really had to really look at, okay, well what are the units, what’s the unit economics of this business? Even though it was just me mowing grass? I was like, okay, it’s really just hours. I’m selling hours of the day and that’s it. And I have to figure out, ok, how many hours a day can we sell and how many hours can I work? And if I, if I hire somebody what can I what can I sell their labour hours for and still make a margin. And it took me like three years to figure that out because back then, you know, this is the early two thousands, we didn’t have blogs, we didn’t have YouTube, we didn’t have podcasts. So you kinda have to figure this stuff out on your own. And so this through trial and error. I was able to figure out that okay for every man that I stick in the field, I could sell those labour hours and make a margin on them if I’m doing everything right. And from there, you know, it was just, it was duplication and all, you know, eventually up to 100 you know, over 100 people.
So you said you got it wrong for three years. Does that does that mean the team size stayed the same for three years? Yeah, for three years. It was basically me, me and a helper, maybe me and two helpers. And uh, and I was just really trying to figure, okay, how do I price work To be able to send people out uh, to execute the work with me and where, you know, not only do they need to be building out, you know, 35 or $45 an hour, but my time needs to be at least that too. And then how do I recover all that? And then how do I find the type of client that will pay that? And really trying to figure that out, took about three years. And then from that moment you go from, okay, well now I want to send out like a crew, just those guys and then I’ll go run another crew. So that’s a big moment and then you do that again and you got three crews. I’m still running one of them. And that’s a really hard part of the business because you’re doing the sales, the book-keeping the answering of the phones, equipment maintenance and you’re doing the physical labour, so you’re very much on the business and in the business did that for two or three years and it’s really just working your way through kind of like the metaphorical levels of business is kind of how I got through that first business and you know and I started a second company, Green Pal, but at this one for 10 years, you know it’s very different, but in very in many ways it’s very similar, you’re working your way through the levels of business, you know, you just focus all of your intensity to get through level one, whatever that is and it’s don’t worry about anything else until you get through level one.
And for me, you know it’s like that for 20 years, that’s all I’ve done is just get through one level at a time and it’s figure it out as you go and that’s what’s worked for me in both businesses, getting them to eight figures. So when you when do you decide to sell the first business, what’s the thought process there and how did it go? You know ideally? you work an exit plan, you work a plan that’s like five years and you work backwards. And so you ask yourself like okay I want to sell this business and what would have to be true for me to be able to sell it. And so you would say well I gotta get sales to this and I gotta get my, I gotta hire these types of people and like this equipment needs to be upgraded and these types of customers, whatever, I did not do that. I was running like an eight figure one of the largest companies in my market and I just hit me like a ton of bricks one day that you know my company is the thing that lends like an interesting storyline to my life. It is the thing that gives me purpose, it is the thing that causes me to drive forward and to level up in life And for 15 years my company was doing that for me, but I kind of hit a plateau and I noticed that took about a year for it to really set in and I was like you know, I’m just really not getting the purpose from this business that I once was and once I felt that I thought well let’s explore selling the company and from the moment that I had that that that idea in my head, from the moment that I was able to get the business, so it was like a little over two years, so it was two years of excruciating like pain of reverse engineering a lot of the systems into the business that need to be in it fixing up a lot of the accounting making hires that I didn’t have, you know, a lot of these kind of like these things that I should have been doing all along had I worked a proactive plan, I could have had a much better outcome, still had a great outcome, but I probably could have double the outcome if I had worked a five year plan.
So for me, you know, I kind of did the wrong way, but I still got it done, but ideally you work like a five year plan. And the other thing is the way you run a business that you are ultimately going to sell versus the way you run like a family business that you’re gonna keep forever is vastly different. There are very different strategies. They’re very they’re your decision making is different between the way you run the business and those two types of scenarios. And so how do I know and I’ve done it differently, but it still worked out, so who ended up or how did you find the buyer? So the one of the, you know, I made a lot of bad decisions, but one of the smart decisions I made was I worked with a broker at that size. You know, it was it was it was between seven and eight-figure deal and at that size, you’re better off working with a broker. So in the world of business acquisitions, there’s brokers and then there’s investment bankers and brokers usually deal in like the one, the 500K to $10 million range.
And so that was one of the smarter decisions I made, I worked with a broker that had spent basically his lifetime in the landscaping industry selling companies, he had the rolodex, he had the deals, he knew the players. And so he was able to very quickly look at okay, yeah, you guys are missing this, this and this. You guys need to work on this and, and then we get X, y and Z together, then we can take it out. And so he was without him. That would have never happened. and you know, he made, He made good money made really good money selling what I took me 15 years to build, but it was worth it because he helped me get the deal done. And how does it feel when the money landed? Yeah. You know, it’s one of those moments, it feels good. But on the other hand, you know, it’s like When you, when you run something for that long, you know, for 15 years, it very much becomes part of your identity, you know who you are. You know, especially like a very hand to hand combat style business like that, you’re very much entrenches with your people.
And so really that becomes your family And you end up spending more time with them than you do your real family, you know, like that business was 6, 7 days a week. And so it was almost like a piece of me was no longer there, it was, it was really strange. It was like a melancholy that set in, It was, it was a mourning period and so it caught me by surprise that that was the case. It was no longer my baby. You know, this thing was my, my purpose, this thing was the reason I got out of bed in the morning and it was no longer mine and now somebody else owns it. So that’s a very strange thing. It’s kind of like, if you were married to the love of your life and then all of a sudden like another man moves in and like, and, and, and then you gotta tell him like how to be how to be her, her husband. And it’s just a bizarre thing that I, that was totally not prepared for. and so I got it done, got through it, but, but it didn’t feel like I thought it would. But you know, it was the right move because now, you know, I started Green Pal, which is a tech company and I think if you’re doing business right, you should evolve every two or three years into a completely new person And I’m not even the same person I was 10 years ago.
And that’s because of my business Green Pal, you know, it has caused me to learn new things, learn new skills, tackle new challenges and, and that was what I was needing at the time. So although that period was more difficult than you thought it would be, it was still the right decision you’re saying? Yeah, absolutely, it never look back, never regretted it. Never wish that I hadn’t moved on and started the next chapter because life has just been, you know, it’s just like for 20 years, it’s just been an awesome like movie for me, like it’s just been an awesome storyline. It’s been an awesome, interesting story and the business has always been the thing that’s cause it to be interesting. And so, and so I was getting to a point where there was like that boring part of the movie and like nothing happening. Well, you, you know, you, you cut that part out and so for me, you know, it was the right move right time. I looked back. I’m so, I’m so glad I did it and I am not any earlier either. I don’t wish I had done earlier. It was actually worked out perfectly. And what do you do day one after you’ve essentially gotten rid of your business?
Yeah, you know, well, so, so day one, you’re still in there, you’re, you’re, you’re helping with the transition. And so it’s that weird part, you know, it’s like, it’s like, you know the new husband moves into the house and, and uh, and you’re still living there. So that was weird. Um, and so that, that was like what they one through six months look like. And then so after that after you kind of phase out and then you realise holy crap, I don’t have to drive to the office anymore. What am I gonna do today? That’s when like the real identity crisis sets in and you’re like, well, you know, for the first time in 16 years I can go on a vacation. and so, and so I did. And so I travelled a bunch. I went to Costa Rica for like a month. And, and just, and then realise a lot that like you can only lay on a beach so long. You can only, you can only, you can only like screw off so long. Like I remember like one time the biggest challenge I have faced an entire week was the bar ran out of my favourite type of tequila and I was like, well this is, you know, I’m wired and cut out to solve bigger problems of this.
So you realise that about yourself and you realise that that the business is the thing that lends purpose to your life. The business is the thing that makes life important at least it was and is for me. And so then I thought, well I need to start another company, I, I need to get back in the game. And uh, I didn’t wanna work that hard again, but I kind of wanted to get my hands dirty and so I thought, okay, well that was really tough. Almost killed myself starting and selling that company. I want to start an easy company now and, and so I wanna start a software business because that would be so much simpler. And uh, boy, I didn’t know what, I didn’t know it was naivete as an asset and recruited two co-founders had the idea for Green Pal. I’ve been sitting on that idea for a long time because I was kind of solving my own problem and we went to work and, and you know, never look back here. We are a decade later. We, you know, we’ve, we’ve built a decent business. How long before you get the idea for it? Or maybe because if you had that idea for a while, how long before you start implementing and what do you do, had the idea and it wasn’t like a big aha moment.
It was just one that it was, it was just annoyed and thought it should exist. So running that company, You know, we, we were, we were like one of the bigger companies in town and so we had all these trucks going out every day, 90 trucks and so we were very visible in our local marketplace and we would get calls every day, 30, 40, sometimes as many as 50 phone calls every day. Well you come just mow my yard. and we didn’t do those types of basic services anymore. We did big like office parks, apartments, airports, things like that. And so we would have to kindly tell these people, you know, well, you know, we don’t do that. But one of the values we had running that company was to always be helpful. And so we would keep a list of names and phone numbers by the phone and we will refer out smaller service providers that really wanted that kind of work and it would be a win/win. You know, they would be happy, the homeowner be happy. You know, maybe we got some good karma out of it and this is what we did. But what would happen a lot of times is those people would call back and they would say, hey, I called those 11 people left five voicemails, two of them, you know, didn’t pick up one guy was supposed to give me an estimate.
I hired one guy and he didn’t show up. Um, do you have any other names? And so it’s kind of like one of these, no good deed goes unpunished things. And so, and so I just saw every day, you know, somebody needs a basic service done. The service providers that are, are ready, willing and able to do those services are just hard to find, it’s hard to get pricing, it’s hard to hire them and it’s difficult to pay them. And so I thought an app needs to exist to just make all this happen magically. And this was pre Uber, this was pre, you know, Airbnb, I just thought, you know, something needs exist to make that happen. And then I saw, I saw like Uber come to life and I was like, hey, yeah, that see that, I just need that. But for lawn mowing, somebody should build that. It wouldn’t be that hard. And I thought, you know what, screw it, I’m going to do it. And I recruited two co-founders thought we would have it built done and, and nationwide in a year and uh, it took a decade. Wow, why does it take a decade?
Well, so what’s funny is like the original vision of, I should be able to push a button, get quotes and hire somebody to mow my yard and they come out the same day, that’s what it was 10 years ago, that’s what we do today, that didn’t change. But it’s like the strategy and the way you bring that to life is change is a million times. And so that like iterative process takes a long time. The other thing too, that under index on and I think a lot of new under uh, new entrepreneurs don’t really understand this. No, I know I didn’t, there’s a big difference between building a business, starting a new restaurant, starting a new lawn mowing company, starting a new marketing agency, starting a new hair salon. That’s tough. But there’s a big difference between that and inventing a brand new product that does not yet exist that nobody’s ever seen or used. Like those two are vastly different. They’re almost not even the same game. And, and this point is an order of magnitude harder.
And I didn’t understand that until I got in there and I saw the holy crap, like there’s no, there’s no road map for what we’re doing here. We’re kind of like nobody, nobody’s pushing a button and getting their graph cut. And, and even furthermore, lawn mowing services aren’t accustomed to doing business this way. So it took a long time to try on air to figure out the product how it needed to look and strike like the delicate balance between the wants and desires of both sides of the transaction because homeowners want somebody to come mow it for $20 and do a perfect job and once a month and you know in front of them to show up in 30 minutes. Well, it doesn’t necessarily work that way. Whereas service fighters want somebody to sign up for every seven days and they wanted to pay $50 and they want to go on the day they want to go on and, and maybe sometimes they don’t feel like blowing off the back patio, you know, and, and uh, if their child was sick then they should be able to take off that day and like there’s just, there’s a million things that can go wrong between somebody wanting the service done and, and the service provider getting it done.
And so like solving those things one at a time with technology took a long time, a lot longer than I thought it would. Uh, but we kept seeing like validation along the way that yeah, this is working. Yeah, we’re on to something, you know, uh, we’re talking about those more metaphorical levels of business. You know the first level was just getting our 1st 100 customers and uh, we passed out door hangers to do that. Like we pass out flyers and we knew we just needed to get 100 customers so we could learn from them. They would, we would meet with them and they would tell us every which way we sucked. Um, you know, the guy didn’t show up. He did a crappy job quotes are too high. I got a quote but he didn’t have any reviews. I hired him but he, but he rescheduled four times I hired him but he mode and uh, the grass was wet so he left clumps everywhere. I hired him. He mowed, he left my back gate open and the dog got out. Um, I hired him, He mowed once, but he didn’t come back the second time or I hired him and he saw our grass was tall and he raised the price on me a million things to go wrong. And so they would tell us where we suck. But they never told us.
I don’t need this. We never heard that one time. We never saw apathy. Uh, we never saw like that meth. Yeah. Yeah. You know like they wanted it to work, they were pissed off that that it did not work out. And so that was validation to keep moving And so like that validation has always been there every step of the way. I can certainly see how that would keep you busy, all those problems. But is there any I guess principle or insight that you would share as to how you went about solving all those issues Because I can see a lot of people, maybe not in this particular example, but a lot of people being like maybe I won’t go ahead with this particular idea because of all the variables or what could go wrong. What would you what advice would you give those people? Yeah. Yeah. Some things, you know, it’s tough. Like there’s no, there’s no one single civil silver bullet answer. Like just keep going and sort of every, every part because some things are just are too nuanced and uh, you know, there will never be an Uber for wedding photography. Maybe there will be um, but, but so for us, we saw the opportunity to smooth out all the rough edges little by little and, and, and 11 methodology that we used, uh, was the Toyota lean manufacturing methodology of the five wise.
And so any time something goes wrong, you ask why five times. And so it’s like, okay, the guys showed up, but he showed up. Okay. So I’ll give you an example. Uh, the guy showed up two days late and he was late because it rained. Well, what went wrong? Well, it rained. Okay. Well, why didn’t he know to reschedule it ahead of time when it was gonna rain? Well, because he really wasn’t looking at the weather? Well, why wasn’t he looking at the weather? Well, because he’s got to, you know, we don’t have weather in the app. Okay. Well, okay. Well, well why don’t we? Well, because that’s backlog and we got these nine other things. Well, let’s move that to the front. Let’s build that. Let’s say along with the appointments, we say it’s gonna It’s got a 90% chance of rain on Thursday. You’ve got nine lawns on Thursday. Do you want to go ahead and mow them a day early and so like, okay, so working through, okay, working through the product solution to solve that problem or he left the gate, he showed up, but his lawn mower deck was too wide for the gate size.
Okay. Well, why didn’t he know that the gate size was too small? Well, because the homeowner didn’t tell him. Well why didn’t the homeowner tell him? Well, because we don’t have anything in our on boarding that talks about gate sizes? Well maybe we should put another little step in there. Do you have a gate side? Is how wide is it? Like so going through this over and over and over again asking why five times until you get to the root cause of what the issue is and then so and figuring out the product solution to that over and over and over again is is how you can solve these problems and it’s what’s worked for us. So you’ve got a very intricate app is basically what you’re saying. Yeah. You know it’s everything that’s like magical, you know, like great technology should seem magical and I don’t know who said that, but it’s a quote and it should be indistinguishable from magic. And so when you push a button and a Uber shows up in three minutes it’s magic. But it would like make your head spin as to how many probable billions of lines of code have gone into making that experience happen and how many like thousands of employees have gone into making that experience happen.
And so for us it’s like not on that magnitude but it’s pretty similar. Like you know, there’s a million things we’ve done behind the scenes to make that experience happen reliably and predictably. So what about the tech side of this? Because almost, I mean it’s a recurring theme for me where someone in an attempt to start an app, um, they tend to say it was very expensive and we had to go through loads of people in order to find someone that was actually good. Have you had any of those experiences? Yeah, obviously we, you know, when we started, none of us knew how to code and so this was like the big first mistake we made. So we, we thought, you know, this is naivete as an asset. We thought all we had to do was pay a development agency to build what we thought Green Pal would be and we would market that. We would just from going. So we did that and we pulled together like our own money and spent like $150,000 doing that and they took them nine months to build it, we released it and it was a total failure.
Have the features that needed, it was clunky buggy. And in their defence, we didn’t even really know what it needed to be. And so it was just a total failure and we, we were confronted with the reality of if we’re gonna be in the tech business, we’re going to have to learn how to build software, like there’s just no way, there’s just there’s just a million things that have to be done and built, we can’t like change order this thing to death and rely on a third party or a freelancer to do it, we have to do it ourselves. It’s like, it’s kind of like if you want to start a five star restaurant and you don’t have a chef and you’ve never like, nobody has ever like developed a recipe. it’s impossible you have to have these things in house. And so for us, we came to that we were confronted with that reality. My co-founder went to software school to learn back in programming took nine months. and he came out just dangerous enough to work on the next version. And I did the same thing with front end, I learned how to become awful front end engineer, but enough just to be, you know, just to hack together the second version and we did that for like three more years, just hacking on this thing over and over and over again, Getting it up to like maybe three or 4000 customers, making just enough money to where we could afford to bring on more developers.
And but they were under our purview, then they were under our, we were delegating to them. So there’s a big difference between delegation from education and delegation from stewardship. So delegation from abdication is like I don’t know how to do this, I don’t want to do it, it scares me, you handle it, that’s a recipe for disaster. What you want to do is delegation from stewardship. It’s like okay this is how we do this here, this is why we do it this way, this is what the goal is, this is what the vision is just what strategy is and here’s the specs, here’s what I expect from you and here’s what I want it by and by the way I know how much it should cost and so that’s delegation from stewardship. And so it wasn’t until we had like the 80 20 acumen on development that we were able to build out a team of developers around us and we did that and it was only because we learned it then then with another funny thing You know it’s for your three, I was coding, my co-founder was coding, my third co-founder was doing a lot of the PR.
A lot of the content and a lot of other things back link building for SCEO and things like that but he still had some time and we were like you know you should learn how to at least do front end so you can help us and he could not pick it up. this could not pick up but back then you could drive for Uber and make it like 30 or $40 an hour. So we figured out that he could drive for Uber. and every hour he drove, we could find, we could afford the hour of death time. So there was like a swap, we did that for like a year. So it worked, it was a thing at that level of the game we had to do to get to the next level. He doesn’t drive for Uber anymore, obviously, but that was the thing we had to do to get to the next level. Well, from I’ve no third party perspective, it sounds like you’ve just got like a lot of Uber perseverance if you like, but at the point where you spent the 150,000 on an app and you said, I think you said it was a complete failure. Are you having any doubts there?
Or you just ploughing on saying until I’ll get it until it’s done? It was a big, big punch in the gut and the stomach, it was a big demoralising. Because here we thought, you know, and I think a lot of the grind and a lot of this flog comes down to expectations And so we expected fully that we were gonna like take $150,000 for harder money release it and go get a million users in a year, That’s literally what we thought would happen. So it was a big let-down. But like I was mentioning earlier, you know when we were, at the time we were reading a book called the Startup Owner’s Manual by a guy by the name of Steve Blank. And in that book he really beats into your head like get out of the building and talk to your users. Talk to your customers were like, well we don’t have any users have any customers. I guess. We gotta go get some. I don’t know how to get any. Well, I know like 15 years ago when I was starting my first lawn mowing business, I passed out flyers.
Let’s just do that again. I know we could do that. We passed out like 100,000 door hangers and we got a couple 100 people to try it when we talked to them. It was that validation of you guys suck. But I wish it worked. And it was the – I wish it works saying that kept it going. Had we not heard that we would equip, had we not met with those people we would have never known. And so we were following that methodology that Steve Blank outlines. It’s like a customer development process, all of this stuff laid the groundwork for the lean start-up, which is a famous book. And so those two are kind of synonymous. And so we were following this lean start up methodology of release something that’s shitty, get people to use it, Talk to them learn build measure, learn build measure, learn over and over again. We did that for three years and until we finally got a little something going well, you touched on something, which I think maybe it’s my perspective, but I think that both the tech and also the getting people to use it are probably the two most difficult things around launching an app and how have you managed to get the service providers and also the consumers to the level that they’re at now.
Yeah, getting people to use it is almost 75% of the game, maybe even more. I see this a lot with new entrepreneurs. It’s like great product, great business plan, great idea, no acquisition strategy, no distribution strategy. And it’s like they build this thing and then they want to Sprinkle on marketing at the end and it just doesn’t work that way. Like you have to you have to innovate on problem solving, You have to innovate on solving a customer’s problem, you have to innovate on products, but you also have to innovate on distribution at the same time. And so for us, you know like working through these metaphorical levels of the video game of business, the first level was we need 100 people and 20 vendors. Well let’s go pass out some fliers and let’s cold call a bunch of vendors and so for us, you know, I was able to, I’ve personally knew the 1st 500 service providers that use that. They had all had my cell phone number and I would talk to them.
And one thing that we, that we offered them was free coaching. Uh, you know, I offered them free coaching on how to grow their lawn mowing business as a way to kind of like be the honey and the glue for them to use the crappy version of the app and continue to use it and to kind of be there when people signed up. So they would quote, they would mow the yard, do a decent job because we didn’t really have the features they needed. Yes, we were kind of able to like hack that side of it and then we can focus on the consumer side. And, and as we, as we passed out flyers and met with homeowners, they would always tell us, well, you know, normally I would, I would go to google and I would just search lawn mowing services and I would just start clicking and calling and that’s how I, that’s how I usually find a guy. And so we’re like, well, you know, maybe that could be a channel for us. And so we started really looking at, okay, how do we compete in google search and we started doing AdWords and that was a failure. We couldn’t afford to play in that game, but we started thinking, okay, well maybe we can compete in the organic side of it and we, we really kind of through all of our weight into that one channel in the first year and we haven’t looked back since we’ve been, we’ve been 89 years and google organic search doing the things you need to do to compete and get traffic from google organic search and like that’s half of our companies, bandwidth goes into that one activity, wow, interesting.
So in terms of, you mentioned initially about you should have had a let’s say, exit strategy, a five year plan. For example, what you’re, what your thoughts regarding the exit of Green Pal, do you have one and or what your goals if you don’t have an exit yet? Yeah, you know, we’re where 89 years in and so it’s like, it’s easy to look back and like the first year, I remember the first moment I, I had where I was like, this could work was like in year two or medium been here three, it was a Saturday we were working and I and I counted 30 something people signed up and I didn’t know who any of them were and that was a big moment because up until then it was very scrappy hand to hand combat, but this was like an indication that that, you know, we could bend the world to our way that 30 people could sign up and I don’t know how many of them were. And so you look back at that moment, very humble and then now today as we speak, thousands and thousands and thousands of people are, are conducting transactions on our platform.
You look back at like, wow, look how far we’ve come, but it never ever feels that way. It always feels like day one, it always feels like, man, we have so much further to go, like there’s so much white space, um, you know, we wanted to go quicker, you wanted to grow faster and, and so, uh, So for me, you know, I’m still very much like in day one of this thing and so, and I’m having fun, you know, to be honest, the first five or six years were not fun. They were really tough, but now, you know, I’ve got a team of 30 something people, they’re all smarter than me in some way, which is awesome and I, you know, we get stuff done on a daily basis. We, we hit our goals and it’s fun. So I’m gonna keep running the business until it’s not fun anymore. Um, I think every business has kinda like three phases, which is like the, the idea phase, you know, the grow up and then the scale up like, like there’s so like, you know, I’m pretty good at the idea and I’m, and I’m, you know, the start-up to grow up in the scale up, so I’m pretty good at the start up, pretty good at the grow up.
I’m not, I’ve never been in the scale up, don’t really have a desire to like build a another company over 100 people and have managers and managers like, that doesn’t appeal to me, so when that time comes, I’ll probably hire a professional CEO or sell the business but, you know, that’s probably a ways away and, and for now, I’m having a great time, so I’m gonna keep doing this so long as I’m having fun because I haven’t worked a day in nine years, this is what I’ve wanted to do, and uh, it’s a great place to be, if it doesn’t feel like work, why would you bother selling it? Right, what else am I gonna do? You know? Well, this is until you get your next idea, though, right? There you go. Well, luckily, so luckily I’m not terribly creative and uh, and that’s something that people ask me, like, well, why didn’t you quit, Jesus? You didn’t pay yourself anything for three or four years, why didn’t you just give up? And, and, you know, rational person would, but for me, it was like, I’m always going to be working on my best idea and that’s just it, like, there’s no, like that’s the default, so you’re always going to be working on your best idea, fortunately I’m not terribly creative, I don’t have any other good ideas.
So this is it like, it’s, it’s the only way to move us forward. And that’s what got us through those, those hard earlier. Well you’ve learned or you’ve achieved rather a lot more than most people have in business and so given your experience and what you’ve achieved, what are some of the key learnings that you’ve taken away? Okay. Yeah, so in entrepreneurship, there’s a lot of dichotomies, there’s a lot of, of paradoxes and one of them is you got to have this huge goal and you also have to think and act very, very small. And so that’s one thing I’ve taken away. It’s like a lot of this stuff is just, is acting really small day in day out over a long period of time and the stuff adds up and so you have to be willing to do that. And I think a lot of lot of founders, a lot of entrepreneurs want to skip that part, like a part of like grinding out a bunch of blog posts, the part of reaching out to a bunch of journalists, the part of, of learning how to code and doing it in writing code, like a lot of that stuff just can’t be skipped over and so thinking and acting small over and over again is, is something that I’ve learned that pays off in the long haul, you know, I, I watched the interview with this dude who, who interviewed, he was a coach.
He interviewed Kobe Bryant and he was like, he was like, I just want to watch you practice to see what you do. He’s like, okay, come watch me practice. And he watches Kobe Bryant practice for like 45 minutes and like Kobe is doing the most basic like high school middle school level layups over and over and over again and then like the most like, like bounce passes and free throws. And he’s like, he’s like, what? Why I figured you’d be doing 3 60 dunks and stuff. And he’s like, no, it’s the fundamentals that makes me great. I think like business comes down to that a lot of it is the fundamentals over and over again and playing like running the running game over a long period time is what builds, builds a sustainable business. Sure sometimes you see these, these principles broken, but most of the time there are no overnight success is a lot of time. It takes it takes a decade when you described all the various problems and the fact that you solved a lot of those problems within Green Pal, it does make sense that if you’re the person willing to go through all of that. Um, and keep going with it and keep making it better.
That’s kind of like maybe the recipe for quote unquote success. Yeah, I agree. And I watched a documentary yesterday. It’s called, it’s on Netflix right now and it’s called The Movies That Made Us. And it’s like a behind the scenes of how they made like a dozen movies. And so Back to the Future was one of mine, love that movie. And so for an hour they show you how they made Back to the Future and the million things that went wrong trying to make that movie and like you’re like Cali they just would not give up. I mean, it took the script writers 10 years to get somebody to take a chance on it. And then, and then they couldn’t get Michael J Fox and they got some other guy and then he sucked. But they were still gonna release it and they realised they couldn’t do it anymore. And they convinced Michael J Fox to do it. And they shot the whole movie with just him and none of the other actors, which I didn’t know this. And like all of these things that went wrong Trying to make this movie. And I’m like to that’s my life in the last 10 years trying to build this company. So you realise none of these doesn’t matter what you’re doing. A lot of, lot of these breakouts, none of them are easy.
They never are. They look easy from the outside, but on the inside they’re never easy, well done on your success. Yes, I’m glad I heard the story. is there anything that you’d like to mention that I haven’t asked you about today. Yeah something that’s this top of mind. I listened to an interview with Michael with Mark Anderson. Yeah Mark Anderson who is the inventor of the modern web browser, like he wrote the first web browser and he’s a famous venture capitalist and he’s talking about when he moved out to San Francisco in 1993 and took some job making $7 an hour And was working on the first version of what they called Mozilla Mosaic at the time, which was the first web browser in 1993. But he said when they moved out, moved out to San Francisco, they got there. They literally felt like we missed it, we’re too late. All the great computing companies were built in the seventies, they scaled up in the eighties IBM Apple Microsoft, they dominated it, it’s over and we missed it and we’re too late.
It’s over. And I mean how comical that is like the internet and the world wide web and everything like cloud computing and everything that’s happened, you know social networking and crypto and all this stuff has happened since then. It’s just hilarious but that’s the way he felt and so I know we’ve all felt that as entrepreneurs at one time or another like well I’m too late. I missed the gig economy or I miss crypto or I miss cloud or I miss sas or I missed, you know, I missed all, I miss social whatever and it’s like it always feels that way and it always gets bigger and that was what I took away is like it always gets bigger. It always gets bigger. It’s always going to get bigger. It’s always going to be abundant. So don’t feel that way, like move now because in 10 years you wish you had and like, I have to tell myself this all the time. So that’s one thing. So if somebody can take any of that any that take anything away from this interview, that’s what I would leave them with. Well, thank you for that. And especially thank you for sharing your story where’s the best place for people to find you and maybe check out Green Pal.
Yeah, anybody listening to this doesn’t want to waste time going there you are, just go to greenpal.com. Anybody who wants to hit me up, I put all my time in Instagram Bryan M Clayton.
Bryan, thank you very much.
Thomas, I enjoyed it. Thanks for having me on.