Andrew: Hey, they’re freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy, where I interview entrepreneurs, usually in the tech space about how they built their phenomenally exciting, successful businesses. Joining me as someone who was on, we had tech issues and we lost the interview. And I can’t stop thinking about the conversation that I had with him.
That’s because Brian Clayton started out basically just pushing a lawnmower and the fact that he was able to get his previous business peach tree, as big as it got. And we’ll talk about how big it is doing. Just the kind of stuff that I think is almost invisible to us when we’re out in the world. Like if we’re going past a fast food restaurant and there’s someone who’s mowing the lawn, we don’t think that that’s a whole industry.
That’s a whole business and how big it can get. Anyway, Brian took that business. Peachtree grew it and then sold it. I want to find out about that. And then the next thing he did was he realized, you know, most people don’t want to invest in as much, um, lawn care as say the local McDonald’s, they just need a $30 quick job and he wasn’t doing it back then.
He said, there’s an opportunity to kind of connect the people who need that quick job with maybe the kid down the block who can do it, or the more experienced pair of hands who can do a bigger project who, uh, who work the neighborhood, but people don’t know about them. Anyway, he turned that into a company called green pal.
I invited him here to talk about both those businesses and we can do it. Thanks to two phenomenal sponsors. The first you might see all these mega wealthy people invest in art. You hadn’t thought about investing in it yourself. is making it accessible. And I’ll talk to you about how you can do it.
Um, when I talk about them and the second sponsor will help you send out email and SMS and other marketing and intelligent way and keep prices low. It’s called send in blue. I’ll talk about both those later, but first, Brian, good. You here. Thanks for doing it again,
Bryan: Hey, Andrew. Great to be here. Thanks for having me on.
Andrew: dude. How big did you get, um, the previous company?
Bryan: Yeah, so Peachtree, I started with just myself in a push mower. Uh, actually I was forced into the business by my father on a hot summer day. He interrupted me playing super Mario. So get off your butt. I got a gig for you to go to do. You’re going to go mow the neighbor’s yard, made me go cut the neighbor’s grass.
And I made like 20 bucks. And ever since then I was hooked on owning my own business. I thought this is incredible. Why doesn’t everybody do this? And I, uh, pass out flyers all over the neighborhood and got like a dozen customers that first summer. Just stuck with that. Lawnmowing business all through high school, all through college.
And after I graduated college, I kind of saw business ownership as my lane to maybe make something of myself, maybe, uh, do something interesting with my life. And I thought, what if I could grow this into a big company?
and, uh, over a 10, 12 year period of time, I grew it to one of the largest landscaping companies in the Southeast, uh, getting, getting it over 150 employees over 10 million a year in revenue.
And I learned a lot about growing a business, uh, in that company. I think the lawnmower business is great for that. It’s kind of, it can kind of teach you the nuts and bolts of how to grow a business. And I just took it one level at a time, almost like a video game, I guess you could say like just one level at a time work each level and, and ended up getting it over eight figures and then it got acquired.
It got acquired actually, uh, by a company out of Austin, Texas on nationwide landscaping.
Andrew: Where I am right now. How much did it get acquired for?
Bryan: Uh, well, I can’t say that I’m under NDA, but multiple seven figures. It was doing eight figures in revenue in that type of business, you usually get five to six times EBITDA, which is pretty standard.
Andrew: You know, the other thing that stands out for me, and I want to break down how you built up the business. Cause I thought it was interesting to see how you grow your clients. But the other thing that stood out for me was I think you bought a Ferrari temporarily and then you sold it before you started your current business, a green pal.
And the thing that you said to me was, you said, I just realized I didn’t enjoy it largely because people just kept staring. And ever since you said that, I noticed you’re right. People will stare. I will sometimes if I’m with my kids and they’re into cars and more than I am, they’ll ask me to slow down on the highway next to a car.
That’s like, like a Ferrari style car and I’ll do it. That can’t be.
Bryan: Yeah. You know, it’s kind of funny, everybody says this and it’s so cliche and you sound like you sound like a Dick almost when you say something like this, but. Until you get those things, you realize those things don’t matter. And I had to learn that for myself. I think like pretty much everybody else.
When I was, I remember when I was mowing yards when I was 20 years old, 22 years old, and I was mowing lawns in a neighborhood that was like the richest neighborhood in town. And I thought if, if I could just live in this neighborhood, uh, and have the car I want, by the time I’m 30, I’ll be happy. And I will consider myself successful.
And I did that by 28. So here I am, I’m 28 years old. And I’m living with, you know, in the neighborhood where all the doctors and lawyers and other businessmen and, and, and I bought a Ferrari. And, and that was fun for about. A month. And then I started noticing you get an exotic car like that you drive around and it’s just like, it’s just a production.
And I guess I’m kind of introverted. I don’t really want to talk to five people at the gas station and, and, uh, and have to have a conversation every time I parked somewhere. So I found I’d never drove it. And, uh, and it just sat in the garage and I thought, well, that was a waste of money. And, and, uh, and I, and I had it for three or four years and, and drove it maybe once, once or twice every other month.
And, and so when I, when I sold that company, I kind of went through a, uh, a period of life where I almost became a minimalist. I sold pretty much everything I had. And, uh, the idea for green pal came about, and, and I sold the Ferrari and I said, however much I can get for the car. I’m going to put into green pal.
And, and, and however long it lasts, that’s it. And so we had to make that money last. That
Andrew: Is that right? You basically parlayed a Ferrari into a tech company.
Bryan: That’s right. And that’s the only
Andrew: How much money you get for Ferrari? I have no sense of what.
Bryan: so, uh, look, I got lucky. Um, it was a five or six year old one, uh, and I bought it in 2000, uh, 10 during the, and that was right at the bottom of the economic meltdown. So I bought it for like a hundred, a hundred grand, 120 grand. And, and then when I sold it, I sold it three, four years later when things started to rebound and I actually sold it for more money than I bought it for. And So so that was kind of a lucky thing. I think I ended up getting $150,000 for it. And so
Andrew: green pal was just bootstrap with nothing more than 150,000.
Bryan: that’s it. And
Andrew: And what’s the revenue now.
Bryan: uh, multiple eight figures a year in revenue, we’re closing in on $30 million a year in
Bryan: we have, self-funded this thing the whole way through now, now
Andrew: down how you did it. Let’s come back to you. We’re pushing a lawn mower. You started getting a little bit of money. What’s the next step? Was it just going door to door and asking other neighbors if they wanted their loans?
Bryan: Yeah, that business is, is one of, uh, literally like levels of a video game. You, you try to, uh, first get your first a hundred customers and you can usually service those yourself, and then you get a
Andrew: it. Let’s stay level by level. So how did you get the first hundred
Bryan: uh, hoping it, hoping it all over the neighborhood
Andrew: walking, knocking door to door. Hi, my name is Brian Clayton. I’m mowing your neighbor’s lawn. Can I mow yours?
Bryan: Nailed it. And, uh, got the doors slammed in my face. Uh, but more times than not, but learned a valuable lesson. Sales learned, learn how to develop thick skin learned, learned how to do that the hard way. And, and that was something that the business taught me that I never would have learned otherwise. And so, yeah.
Andrew: of a hard thing where people did. They literally slam the door in your face.
Bryan: Yeah, many times. Uh, yeah. And, and you know, many and, you know, I was just a kid. I was, I was just a teenager, but still, yeah. Literally would slam the door in my face,
Andrew: that you even are trying to bother them and sell to them. You know what I told you that we finally found a house here in Austin. One of the desperate measures that we took was because we knew the area that we want to live in. We just sent out letters to the six or 700 people who live there, maybe two or three letters.
No, I know not maybe I know it ended up being three letters and there was one guy who was so upset. He went to whatever neighborhoods app they’re using. And he started complaining about this guy, Andrew Warner, who sending letters. And I, and I thought, boy, this is such a pain for him that he’s opening up a letter from me and that he’s got to go and complain about it.
So I guess if you’re opening somebody’s door, they’re going to be even more angry.
Bryan: Yeah, you learn early on. There’s probably five or 10% of people that no matter what you’re, you’re not going to please them and you just move on. That’s all you can do. And I learned that at a very early age And looking back 20 years in business, the business has always been the thing caused me to learn lessons that I never would learned and, and, you know, getting my first a hundred lawnmowing customers, you know, that’s how I had to do it.
Andrew: And you did it yourself over, like what was there two days a week on the weekends that you would go and Mo
Bryan: Uh, Yeah.
so, uh, nights, uh, you know, when I got out of school and told dark every day and then Saturdays and Sundays, and the thing I liked about it was. I always had more money in my pocket than my friends did I, anything I wanted to buy, I could buy it. And that just felt great to me. And in the early years, you know, that was the fuel that, that motivated me.
And, and then, you know, your motivation evolves over time. You know, as I grew that company to a hundred, you know, over a hundred people, it took on a new meaning, but in those early days, it was very much about, Hey, I can work my butt off and make as much money as I want.
Andrew: How’d you learn how to charge? I feel like there’s a little bit of embarrassment when you’re trying to charge someone that you’ve knocked on their door and you don’t know what to charge.
it took a, it took me like two or three years to figure out that I was in the business of selling man hours. I thought I was selling grass cutting. I thought I was selling, you know, beautification of your landscaping, but no, I was selling, selling man hours. They were just my man hours. And, and I learned this lesson the hard way when I started getting more work than I could handle.
And I was starting to hire my friends or hire employees. And then I would realize that that the unit economics weren’t making sense that literally, like I was, it was costing me more to, to have this person help me than I was making. And then I really started putting pen and pad and understand you’re selling man hours.
You know, you have 10 or 12 hours at a day and you’re selling those to clientele and recovering your costs in the process. And it was a simple lesson that took me a while to. And even to this day, you know, with, with, with the business I’m in now green pal, that’s what we do. We, we, we sell, we sell people their time back.
Andrew: Oh, so you’re saying, well, I guess what you’re telling me is that you were undercharging when it was just you, it wasn’t until you were being charged by someone else that you realize you need to charge your people more so you could pay more. Okay. And then let’s take it to the next level of the video game.
First level, Brian’s going knocking door to door. It gets a hundred customers. Great. What’s that?
Bryan: Next level of the game is you try to figure out duplication. You try to figure out, okay, it’s just me. And I’m, I’m working 5, 6, 7 days a week. Um, I’m doing a hundred K or 200 K a year in revenue. What if I could get two of these trucks out there? Or what if I could get three or four? What does that begin to look at?
And you start to do the math and you start to understand, um, this. Could be a scalable little business. If I could just get more clientele and reliable team members. And that’s a hard thing, that’s a hard thing in any businesses to hire your first employee, your second employee, because you’re effectively doubling your business in one swoop.
And if you get it wrong, you know, you can, you can lose money and you don’t have money to lose at this stage of the game. And so, and so that was a level two, I guess you could say it took me a while to figure it out. And another thing, another mistake that I would make is I would, I would throw bodies at a problem, uh, meaning we had too much work to do so I would just hire more people, not really understanding the economics behind it.
It was like, no, you really can’t put four people on this, on this route because you’re actually losing more money than you’re bringing in. And so figuring that out was, was tough. That would be level two or three, I guess, metaphorically. And,
Andrew: Are you a spreadsheet person? I keep
Bryan: I am not, I’m not.
Andrew: did you do it? How do you figure this stuff out?
Bryan: You your grit, your teeth, and you and you, and you make the spreadsheet.
Andrew: Oh, I see. Even though you’re not, you sit down and you
Bryan: still got
Andrew: you got to do this or else you’re gonna lose money.
Bryan: You still got to, you still gotta be in count. You still got, you know, at the end of the day into the weekend and, and you have to be in count and you have to understand, okay, we, we have this many labor hours out there. We’re charging X number of dollars per labor hour on average, are we making money?
Are we not? And, and you, and the business forces you to do that. And in those early days, you know, I started to really learn the differences between working in the business versus on the business. Uh, you know, like, like Michael Gerber says, and, and, and, you know, my, my little rule of thumb was Monday through Friday and the business let’s make sure all of our customers get taken care of.
And then Saturday and Sunday, it’s on the business. It’s okay. Why are we not making money.
Where we should be? How are we getting new customers? Uh, how are we training? Our people is taking me six months to get somebody trained. I need to like get that down to six days. Uh, so I needed to develop a training system.
So really trying to balance my time on, in the business and on the business that took a lot longer to learn than it probably was.
Andrew: what type of skills are you teaching? And people back then
Bryan: So we had a little, uh, so after I got past maybe five employees, I started to develop a little, a lawn care university, if you will. Uh, because. We have high turnover, you’re going to have high turnover in that business. Um, and, and so you might get somebody and keep them for six months. It can’t take you six months to train them.
And so I had a little obstacle course that, that, that I was in my, uh, my mom’s backyard actually. And I would literally put, put my new recruits through this obstacle course of how to trim the right way, how to mow the right way, how to not damage a yard with a lawn mower, uh, how to apply chemicals the right way.
And, uh, and I would grade them on, on this and, and I could get somebody trained up in, in a week rather than several months. And the problem is, is what it takes several months to train somebody in your business. Like they’re screwing up orders. They’re screwing up the experience for the, for the, for the customer.
Like somebody who’s brand new at a restaurant, you know, when they’re brand new, because they screwed up your order. Uh, ideally, You know, you have a process in place where they don’t screw up the orders and then they don’t screw up the service for the clientele and, and they, they hit the ground running, took me a while to figure that out.
Uh, maybe employee five or 10, I got pretty good at training people up. And it was one of those cool things you have, you learn as you go and the business requires you to learn it.
Andrew: You told me before that one of the things that you did was you started looking at what was making other companies successful. And in Nashville, there were these new apartments, shopping centers, subdivisions that were going up all the time and you decided I’ve got to beat them to those jobs, right?
Bryan: Yeah. When you’re growing that kind of business, a service-based business like that, you begin to understand really quick. I can’t make a five or $10 million business on residential clientele. It’s just really hard. And I needed to go after these bigger contracts, the
Andrew: Because someone like me would be paying like 50 bucks to have their backyard mode and maybe doing it every month and maybe for away for a month on vacation, we might cancel. So it’s, it’s just not enough money to build up.
Bryan: hard. It’s hard to scale that. Yeah.
It’s a lot of moving parts. The margins are really thin. You start to, you start to understand that. Okay. Well, if I’m going to build a big business with 20, 30, 50, a hundred people, I need these big contracts and well, how do I get these big contracts? And you start to understand, wow, this is really competitive.
There’s a lot of guys or gals that have been in the game for decades, that who are already, you know, have this stuff locked up. So you kind of have to cut your way in any way possible. And a couple of ways I did that. Um, uh, our first, our first commercial contract we ever got was McDonald’s and, and. I got that over a three-year period of time.
I just so happened to look up and, and mow the residential property for a McDonald’s franchise. Or, and he had three restaurants, I think. And every year I would beg him, literally beg him to, to let me, you know, take care of the landscaping at one of his restaurants. He’s like, nah, I’m in a multi-year contract.
Corporate makes me use these guys so on and so forth. And so, so one day I went to one of his locations and I thought, what can I do different here to make it better to where this guy gave me a shot. And, uh, and I was in the drive-thru ordering a number two and I noticed the drive-through was full of cigarette butts.
Like most fast food restaurants have, you know, like the drive-through just looks nasty. And, and I thought, well, what if my crew, we picked up all these cigarette butts. Every time we came out to Mo. And so I, I did that. I, I brought my crew over and we just like, just did it. We cleaned up all took pictures back then.
These were old school, uh, literally Polaroid pictures of before and after. And I said, I said, okay, Frank, every time we come to service your property, we’re going to clean up the entire, drive-through clean it up of all the cigarette bloods, all the gum, all the nasty stuff. And I believe that, uh, it’ll help sales.
And so just let me try it for a year on just one property. So you know what, that’s a great idea. W w what’s your pricing look like? He’s like, okay, it’s kinda in line. All right, let’s do it. And so we did it and he liked it and he, and then the next year he let us do his other two restaurants. And then in three years later, he let me come in and pitch the regional.
Uh, group that the, uh, franchisors and corporate owned stores, and we ended up locking up like a, like a half, half million dollar a year contract, uh, for all of the, of the locations, about a hundred locations throughout the region. So that was one way I was
Andrew: years, three years to get him to say yes. And then another three years, four more restaurants within the. To come in and say yes.
Bryan: That’s right. And so, so five or six years, total of just not taking no for an answer and looking for creative ways to solve the customer’s problem, uh, and do things different than, than what my competitors were doing. And, and I looked up and, and, and stumbled upon a, I guess, a sales strategy of we weren’t selling grass cutting.
We were selling more extra value meals. We were selling apple pies, essentially, because we felt like if, if we could beautify the environment that their customers were in, it would translate to increase sales. Um, I don’t know if it actually did or not. Maybe it did. Maybe it didn’t, but, but that’s how we were thinking and how we were approaching framing.
Andrew: And then did he have to wait until his current contract ran out before he was able to work with you?
Bryan: Yeah, he did. And, and that was one of the things that helped me up in, in the, in, in the early days with him was that he was in a, I think a two year contract. And, but he still didn’t. The apprehension was, he didn’t wanna take a chance on a new service. You know, we, we didn’t have a track record in commercial maintenance.
And so he was taking a chance on me. I’m just one location and I made damn sure we didn’t screw it up. And then having that. That proof point with his store and in three stores and is selling other franchisors and eventually getting the corporate stores. We were then able to use that to then go after other multi-location contracts.
So yum brands who owns taco bell pizza hut. Uh, we got all of those. Uh, we got a bunch of banks. We got, you know, at the end of the day, uh, when we weren’t in that business, we were doing thousands and thousands of locations throughout the region. Um, and it all started off of that one store and having that testimonial, how having that proof point and cutting our way in to getting the shot or shot at it, that’s how competitive that business is.
And probably most every business.
Andrew: All right. Let me take a moment. There was another thing that you did that allowed you to get in an environment where it seemed like everyone already had a landscaping company that they were working with. But first I should tell you about masterworks except, you know, masterworks. What do you know about masterworks?
Bryan: From what I understand you can invest in high-end works of art, and I can’t afford a million dollar painting, but maybe I can afford 10 grand on one. It does. Does it, does it chop it up into a fractional ownership?
Andrew: That’s it essentially, that’s it? What you’re looking at? Like, so when, when you read that, like Oprah Winfrey sold it, I don’t even know how to pronounce his name, dev Clint painting for $150 million. She had a $90 million profit on that after three years. And you realize, well, all these rich people are buying art.
There’s a reason why they’re buying are not only just the profit of it. It’s beautiful. It’s tangible. And frankly, how are outlast all these companies that we’re looking at? Right. Remember when IBM was the big thing that was less than a hundred years ago and now. It’s practically gone in our world and give it to a hundred more years.
It’ll be gone, but you know what? Picasso will still be there. Basquiat will still be there. People are still going to be interested in it. And it’s more than just an emotional thing. It has outpaced the S and P 500 contemporary art prices outpace the S and P 500 for total return from 95 to 2020 by 164%.
It’s stable. When the markets plummeted back in 2008, 2009, you remember this the S and P 500 tanked 57% from its peak to its trough. This asset lost only 27% of its value. In fact, since 1995, it trounced other conventional what we call safety, hedge investments like gold and real estate, which have turned, um, uh, which have returned 360, sit and wait, what does that part part, I’m going to be honest with you.
I’m now starting to read talking points, which I don’t really believe is what I should be doing here. I should be telling you. Masterworks does what you talked about, Brian. It basically takes these works of art that rich people have invested in for our reason over time and says, you don’t have to be rich to do it.
You can break it up. There was a time when, if you want to own a company, you have to own a company. And then one of the beauties of America is com stock. Um, Ownership. So you can own a piece of a business. There are 400,000 members right now in masterworks. This is an amazing company that allows people to do this, to buy works of art, stable growing, and, um, frankly, just a fun thing to own.
If you want to be a part of this, I urge you to go to masterworks.art/mixergy. Yes. You’re going to see about how phenomenal this has been as an investment over the years. And of course it is because it’s scarce because it lasts for a long time. But also you’re going to see that you can get ahead of other people, wanted to be involved in this, and just in fact, schedule a phone call with someone, talk to them, see if it’s a good fit.
If it’s a good fit. Great. If it’s not, you’ve lost nothing, but you will understand about this investment opportunity. All right. I should say, since this is an investment opportunity, we have disclosures for you firstname.lastname@example.org slash CD. All right, but that’s not the URL I want to send people to. I want to tell you to go do what I did go to masterworks.art/mixergy and go find out more about this.
All right, Brian,
Andrew: how soon do you think you’ll be?
Bryan: Amazon, Amazon may not be here in 50 years, but Picasso will.
Andrew: That’s exactly right. That’s
Bryan: I mean, I’ve never thought of it that way, but that’s that’s, I mean, that’s, that’s the truth. I like that. You never would have thought Sears would have gone away, but they went away.
Andrew: You know what, as a kid, I used to like going to the Hillcrest library and getting these books about famous companies, and there are things like lifesavers and how they were started and how somebody would have an idea for an impulse buy at the cash register and all that. And the sad thing about businesses.
I can’t even tell my kids that story because yes, they’re eating candy, but who knows what a lifesavers is anymore? A lot of those businesses that we were amazed by are just gone.
Bryan: Picasso will always be there.
Andrew: Yeah. All right. The thing, the thing that I was teeing up was I had trouble thinking about how big green pal could have gotten, because I kept thinking who would want to get in this business.
These people have lifelong relationships with people they’ve worked with forever. And then you told me one of the things you did was you would wait for a building to go up and you’d say, I would be the person who would install their irrigation. I’d be the person who would help them out in the first six months.
You would even take a hit financially on them. Right? As a way of getting in, in the beginning, because those new customers didn’t have existing relationships with landscape companies.
Bryan: Yeah, we, we, uh, we wanted to build our book of business so bad that we would take on the strategy of a loss leader to, to get our foot in the door. So, so we would take note of, okay, there’s a new, there’s a new apartment complex coming down, uh, on, on, uh, Memorial Boulevard. And we know What’s going to break ground, uh, you know, in six months, let’s reach out to the ownership group and pitch them on the idea of installing the landscaping, shrubs, trees, and irrigation.
Almost at cost, uh, beating the pants off our competition. If they would lock in with a three, four or five-year contract with us on the maintenance, nobody was doing this. Um, it seems like a pretty obvious strategy and, and I’m sure I’m sure people are doing it now, but back then nobody was doing it. And we cleaned up.
We, I mean, that was like an inflection point for us in terms of building our book of business from a hundred K a month in revenue to half a million a month in revenue. And it kind of stung on the front end, but we always made it up on the back end. And these folks are always doing enhancements are always adding and changing things and stuff.
And those were high margin jobs. And so yeah, taking a loss or, or, or breaking even, uh, to develop that relationship. So long-term, we could get the revenue from the maintenance was a strategy that, that I employed probably about year six or seven. And it worked well for us. It was, it was crazy at the time, but it worked.
Andrew: What’s that sales process, like the sales process of going door to door and knocking and trying to get somebody to hire you make sense. And it’s clean and simple. The sales process of building a landing page and having somebody go and understand what you’re offering and even doing a demo over the phone.
Clean, make sense to me. I get it. This seems so fuzzy. Can you help me understand? What was it like to sell to them?
Bryan: Yeah, it, you know, I guess about that time when you, you’re going through these levels of the game and, and now maybe you’ve got 10 or 20 employees and you’re, you’re hustling together, you know, 8, 7, 50 or a hundred or a million dollars a year in revenue. I’m trying to keep the lights on. You start to understand, okay.
At this stage of the game, now I am, I am creating a sales organization. I am no longer in the grass cutting business or landscaping maintenance business. Now I am in the sales business and I am creating a repeatable, uh, root routine of a process. If you will. That. Maybe different people at different stages of the process operator run, or maybe it’s me doing the whole thing at first, but that’s now the game.
And so it’s, it’s now, how do we identify and understand what new projects are coming into our market? How do we find those people? How do we develop a relationship with them? How do we then pitch them on the idea of working with us and why we’re different and why we’re a better alternative than their other options.
And then how do we close that deal? And then how do we keep them on as a customer for a long period of time and in breaking that down into steps and the early days it was me doing that end to end. And then, and then I slowly was able to put somebody in who was a really good prospect or put somebody in who was a really good, uh, deal closer, put somebody in who was a good account manager and break those out into separate roles.
But in the early days it was me doing the whole thing. And then, and then codifying that process and developing it into a repeatable routine way. That we, that we do business. And, uh, you know, I read a book, I guess, about five, six years ago called predictable revenue. And that’s all that book is about. I wish I had that book 15 years ago.
It would have saved me a lot of time, but yeah, great book and that’s, and, and so that, uh, that is what we did. And I started to realize we’re in the sales business, we’re actually in the sales prospecting and closing and, and retention business. And it has very little to do with cutting grass.
Andrew: And so what, how do you prospect for something like this? I know I’m getting so deep in the weeds on this, but I want to understand the details of something like this, to understand how a business, frankly, how, how to sell services, like, like you did, what’s a prospecting opportunity.
Bryan: These days is a lot easier. Um, in many ways, uh, business ownership and business development is more approachable than it’s ever been back then. We didn’t have LinkedIn. We didn’t have we, I mean, we had Google, but Google was, was, was a
Andrew: Even with LinkedIn, frankly, I don’t know how to look for business for buildings that are going up and know who to, to, to contact over there. What’s the process.
Bryan: Yeah, you look for, uh, you look for who are the developers who are, who are bringing these things out of the ground. So who, who is buying the raw land and who, and who plays at what stages of the game, because some developers will build an apartment complex and then literally sell it after they get at least out some, uh, developers will, will buy and hold for a long period of time and knowing the difference and knowing who those people are.
Andrew: a building relationships with them and taking them out for dinner, that kind of thing.
Bryan: Yes, to a degree I never was, uh, because I don’t like that. I, you know, I get people calling me all the time, you know, whether it be financial managers, Hey, let me take you to a nice lunch.
Bryan: I, I can buy an, I can buy a nice lunch, pitch me on how you’re going to get me a better return than these other things that I’m doing. Right.
Like, So that’s how that was my,
Andrew: it’s cold calling them and saying, I know that you’re about to build a bill, then here’s how we work. Here’s how we think we can help increase revenue, reduce your cost with us. That’s you.
Bryan: Exactly and, and, and, and, and, and tailoring it to the sector. So for multifamily, for apartments, um, whether established for new, we would say, Hey, we understand. That the, uh, the average occupancy, uh, for, for apartments in this county is, is 83%. We believe that if you work with us, we can get that closer to 90%.
And here’s how, uh, we, we believe that if we install this kind of floral display around your model unit, uh, your close rate may go up uh, a couple of points. We believe that if we, uh, install an eye-catching display at the street, that.
and with this kind of signage, that you might get more, more inquiries for, for, for leases, we really try to speak the language of our customer, try to figure out where they were going and help them get there.
And so guess what? Now we’re no longer in the business of selling grass, cutting at the cheapest price. Now we’re in the business of let’s help our customers get where they’re trying to go. It’s harder to do it that way, but we close more deals with that, with that approach at better margins.
Andrew: it harder to do it? It feels like it would be.
Bryan: Well, it’s crazy.
And, you know, in business, if you do things that are hard, business will be easy. If you do things that are easy, business will be.
hard. And so the easier, easier proposition is, Hey, w we’re we’re 5% cheaper than your current contracts, which to us, and that’s an easier proposition, but in the longterm, it’s harder because then you’re having to cut corners.
Your customer is pissed off, and they’re going to fire you in a year. If you do the hard thing and really try to figure out what their motivations are, where they’re trying to get to understand how their business ticks and then frame your solution to be congruent with that, we’ll begin then, guess what?
You’ve got a partner for five years, which is unheard of in that industry. And so that’s how we, that’s how we approached it. And it worked. Um, it took me a long time to learn that figured out, but, but that’s how we, you know, in, in 10 years, went from zero to 10 million in revenue and that in that kind of industry, and it doesn’t happen very often,
Bryan: you know, it’s a. It, it, it, it hit me like a ton of bricks. One day. My business is, is the thing that causes me to, to level up in life, to take on new challenges, to learn things I never would have learned. And it’s always done that, uh, Tony years, whether they’re running that business, running my current business.
And I, and I had this weird, like feeling where I had plateaued personally business was doing good. Uh, we were making money. Um, I enjoyed running it, but personally I had plateaued. I wasn’t growing alongside the business anymore. And so I had no plan to sell it. I literally thought I was going to, uh, own it for my entire life.
Andrew: coast on it.
Bryan: yeah, and, but then I, I, I had this feeling where it’s like, you know what, I, I’m not challenged by this anymore. And, and I really kind of want to do something different. And so from the moment I had that notion, I thought, well, maybe. Yeah, explore an exit. You know, I’ve seen it done in a couple of other markets bigger than where, where, where, where we were in Nashville and I’ve seen it done.
And maybe, maybe we could, uh, get this business sold from the moment I had that thought to the moment we got it done was over two years. So, so it was really, uh, it was, it was hard to get done. And there was a lot of things that I didn’t have in the business. I had to kind of reverse engineer,
Andrew: Like what.
Bryan: Well, so, so a lot of people want to sell a business because they’re burnt out, they’re tired of running it. Uh, they feel like they’re killing themselves and they just want, they just want the good life, I guess. And so they want out from under it, and that’s not the position from which to sell a business like.
If you’re going to sell a business, you’re going to be in love with it. You’re you’re gonna, you’re gonna love it. It’s going to be running smooth because, because anybody is going to buy your business. They’re going to expect all of these processes, all of these systems, all of these layers of, uh, of management and accountability, that where the thing can literally run without you.
And I didn’t have that. And I had to like reverse engineer all of those things and build them back in to get it to a point where I could sell it. And I had a good, a consultant that I was working with a broker that, that was kind of like coaching me along the way. Looking back if I had the book built to sell, I could have just read that book.
And, and, uh, it has done everything that book said, and it would’ve saved me probably two years,
Andrew: John Warrillow I I’ve had him on a couple of times. He’s he’s fantastic. His whole idea is systemize your business, organize it so that you could sell it at some point
Bryan: Yeah. And everybody.
Bryan: Yeah. and and, and he really gets into the trench into the weeds of like how to do that. And, and so I wish I had that book. I didn’t have it Uh, so I had to like, kind of, you know, like, like just fumble my way through that. But, uh, by the time I got it ready to sell, I had fallen back in love with it, I guess, because it was challenging.
It was challenging to.
do all of those things. Um, but it was time. It was, it was a point of, of, of necessary endings. It was time to move on and I’m glad I I’m glad I got it done. And the company that bought it is, uh, has grown it even more. They’re making more money running that company than I ever did. So it worked out well for him.
Andrew: Then you, I hate to say this, but I highlighted this so many times in my notes. You said I was getting fat. I had no purpose. I was getting sloppy. How did, how did you spend your time afterwards
it’s a weird thing. It’s a weird thing. When you get everything you want, uh, you know, and it wasn’t like I was a super wealthy or anything, but I had gotten to a point and I was only a 33 years old, but I had gotten to a point where I had no. Uh, had good sound investments. I didn’t have to work anymore.
And it was a weird thing, man. I got out of shape. I got, I got like just dumber. Um, I didn’t have like the challenges that were keeping me sharp and, and I didn’t like where this was heading and it, I guess about a year after getting the business sold, I, I had this weird, like, uh, just almost like an itch to get back in the game.
I didn’t want to run that kind of business again because you know, I’ve been there done that, but I wanted to do something new and I thought, well, what, what could I do? And I, I, and I saw like Uber and Airbnb and Lyft were doing, I thought, you know, somebody is going to build the app that is like the Uber, but for lawnmowing somebody is going to do it.
It might as well be me. Why not? You know? And, and. Luckily, I didn’t know what, I didn’t know. It was kind of naivete as an asset because if I known how challenging it was going to be to build green palette, I never would have done it, but recruited two co-founders, we got in the, in the, in the trenches and we just started
Andrew: Y co-founders Brian, you did it before. What do you need other people for?
Bryan: great question. Um, I got lucky. So I optimize for two guys that kind of had a chip on their shoulder. They, they wanted to do something bigger, what their life, they, they want it to be more in life and the business could be the vehicle to get them there. So that’s all I was looking for. I recruited two guys and we started working on it, looking, looking back, you know, I don’t know that I would have been able to get to where we are today without them.
It’s so it’s, it’s a tough thing because. But I also coach people and tell them not to get, co-founders try to go with a loan, uh, because getting a co-founder is, is, is, is a serious situation and the decision is getting married. Um, it, a lot of people will date somebody for two or three years where they get married, but they’ll start a business with somebody they’ve known for two or three weeks.
And if the business is going well, you’re going to spend more time with this co-founder than you are your actual spouse. And it’s actually harder to unwind the cap table than it is to get a divorce in many, many, many ways. So my advice is, uh, try to go it alone, but I got extremely lucky with the two people I recruited and, and I don’t know that I’d be, we’d be here without them.
So, and I think a lot of people get co-founders as a coping mechanism too. Um, if somebody else is crazy enough to start this business with me, maybe I’m not crazy. And it kinda is a validation
Andrew: logic to that. And then also when things are terrible, I’m not in it alone. And I’ve got somebody to help cope.
Bryan: There’s a little bit of benevolence there. When, when you, when you are really going through hell and you, you want to give up, but you don’t want to give up because you don’t want to let the other person down. That could be the thing that saves you. Um, there have been some moments in, in the journey of building green pal that were like that.
Um, so maybe that there’s value there. You know, if you have two people who are just unwilling to give up, um, so, you know, I’ve seen, I’ve seen bad co-founder dynamics kill a lot of businesses, so just take it like, almost like you’re marrying your business soulmate.
Andrew: All right. I’ll tell you about send in blue, my second sponsor. And then I’d like to continue with the story because ni none of you had the one thing that it takes to build a tech company. I think actually you did have it, but one of the important pieces, all right. My sponsor is sending in blue. It’s basically, I call it email marketing, but they do so much more.
Yes, they do chat. Yes, they do SMS. Yes, they do. Um, landing pages, sign up forms and everything. It’s so much Brian like the email marketing software that we’ve seen forever, that sometimes it’s even advertised for free. The problem with a lot of them is that they’re either missing features like the ability to segment people.
So if they buy one thing, you don’t keep pitching them. That thing, you can pitch them on the ad-on, et cetera. If they’re, if they’re interested in one topic, you continue with that topic instead of sending them a general list and so on and so forth and all those different, uh, smart marketing automation features that are usually reversed for the more reserved for the more high end software send a blue, has it, what send it, what the others do is they say, Hey, this is completely free.
And you sign up and sure enough, you know, when you have a few thousand people, it’s even not that expensive, but price goes up. And then when you get to the serious email list, when your business is cranking, it starts to cost so much that it’s almost punitive Brian. And the problem is yes, they say, you can take your email list and go, but it’s really hard to take your email list and go, the email sign up forms are embedded in your site.
Your tagging system is in your software, et cetera. And you’re stuck paying what becomes your most expensive software subscripts. And often it doesn’t even have the features that you need, but you didn’t think you needed them when you got started? Well, the beauty of sending blue and the reason that it’s been working so well that we keep running ads for them, they bought more.
So if he keeps seeing them return, there’s a reason for it. It’s they have all the features. People are looking for one of my guests that I like this. I like them a lot, but we do SMS marketing more than email. They got SMS. They have all the features that you want, but they start out inexpensively and they continue to stay inexpensive.
All right. If you’re out there and you’re listening to me and you have any interest in adding email to your marketing, um, uh, mix and frankly, everyone should have email as much as I, I don’t, I don’t love email Brian, but it works. Um, if you need email marketing software, if you need marketing automation, software, go check out, send in blue.com/mixergy.
When you use my URL, you’ll be giving me credit and thank you for doing it, but you’ll also get a Digger, a bigger discount than others. Get, go check out email@example.com slash Mixergy.
Bryan: We use it we’ll use and then blue. Yeah. Yeah. Eh, particularly in the early days, use the hell out of it. One, one way that we, uh, got some of our early customers is we would interact with and participate in local realtor groups. And we would aggregate lists of realtors and property managers and email addresses.
And we will send them newsletters about how green pal can help them with a big headache, which is you’re showing a house. Grass is three feet tall. You need somebody today to cut the grass before the showing, uh, use green pal. And so we got the word out to a lot of realtors or property managers through send them blue.
Andrew: Oh, that’s great. Send it in blue.com/mixergy. And you know what? I didn’t realize that that green pal would allow me to find somebody to do it quickly. Like today, tomorrow we’re having a party over at our house. I told you, we used to let our place go in San Francisco periods. Let it go for a little bit.
It would go get big. And then we’d realize we’re having people over. And like having a backyard in San Francisco is a novelty. People don’t see it. So we wanted them to go outside, but it’s the lawns ugly. You feel a little too embarrassed. I had no idea.
Bryan: Yeah. Yeah. So that’s one thing we keyed in on building green pal. When we first launched it, we thought we were selling the cheapest way to get your lawn mowed. But as time went on, we spoke to our early customers. We realized we’re actually developed. We actually deliver speed and reliability yet just wants somebody to show up on the day that you want them to show up on you.
And you want him to show up fast and do a good job. That’s what the platform does. And so, you know, realtors, they love it because they show a house. They just order a lawn, mowing service, like an Uber. They come out and do it. And everything just takes care of.
Andrew: I think that is just so clear. You know what I’ve told you about a bad experience I’ve had with Thumbtack? I don’t want, I don’t want to become a lead. I just want a person. I don’t want my stuff to go out and then maybe this person’s good. Maybe not. Are they going to call me or not? Anyway, the thing that you didn’t have at GreenPower was development chops.
Like you, weren’t a developer, your two co-founders weren’t developers. How did you imagine you’re going to solve that?
Bryan: Naivete. Uh, we, we literally believed in the early days, so we three guys, uh, we all have a chip on our shoulder. We, we want to build, we want to build a breakthrough app that a lot of people use, but none of us know how to code. None of us know the first thing about building software, none of us had ever even built a website.
Uh, we believed all we had to do was. Pay a dev shop to build what we thought green pal should be. And then we would market it and we will be off and going. Cause we had three hustlers. We just didn’t have any hackers. Ideally you have a hustler and a hacker like Paul Graham says we have three hustlers.
And so we did that, took these guys like eight months to build the first version of green pal and we quote unquote launched it. And it was a total failure. Uh, didn’t have the features that needed. It was clunky. It was buggy. Um, it didn’t
Andrew: so disappointing. Is, is it because you didn’t know what needed to go into it or because they weren’t able to build what you want.
Bryan: looking back. It would, it would be kinda like a wanting to sort of five-star restaurant, but never having cooked a steak in your life. And uh, and, and wondering why your restaurant was a failure, you know, Like, we didn’t know what the product should be. We didn’t know how to code. We didn’t know how to design software.
So it really wasn’t the dev shops fault because we couldn’t really direct them. And the cycle times were just too slow. Uh, you know, when you’re building a new piece of technology, you gotta be able to iterate quickly, fix things, improve things, listen to feedback and act on it. And if you’re having to farm all these things out, it’s just, you’ll never make it.
It’s like starting a restaurant with no chef. And that’s the mistake we made. With the first version, we got it out there. And we, we were reading a book at the time called the startup owner’s manual by Steve blank, and then also a lean startup by Eric Reese and those pages. Uh, those books have like, you know, four or five books, they’re all on kind of one topic, 10, you know, 3000 pages of texts that tell you one thing, get out of the building and go talk to your customers.
And we took this advice to that. We passed out flyers taking a page out of my former playbook out of a former life. We passed out like a hundred thousand door hangers all over Nashville, Tennessee and hustled up around 500 people to use this first version. And we would meet with as many of them as, as, as that would meet with us.
Well, you know, coffee, you know, coffee shops, kitchen CA, kitchen tables, things of that sort. And they would always tell us a lot of the same things. You know, I hired somebody, they didn’t show up or a hired somebody and it was too high of a price or a hired. Somebody in their lawnmower was too big for the backyard or they did a crappy job or they, or, or they just didn’t show up.
That happens quite a bit, but we never saw apathy. We never heard, I don’t need this. Or I wish, you know, this is a stupid idea or this doesn’t need to exist. We never saw that. We always, like, we always saw that they were pissed off and let down. And we took that as validation that, Hey, let’s keep moving.
And we came to the reality, the conclusion that was that, Hey, we got to learn how to code, build software. If we’re going to do this. And it was a real gut check, but. Uh, luckily, uh, there was this a school called Nashville software school,
Bryan: which was a six month bootcamp and it was a non-profit organization still exists.
So shout out to NSS natural software school. And my co-founder went to the first, uh, cohort, uh, for backend programming and he went nights and weekends and worked on green pal during the day. And then I, uh, became the world’s crappiest front end engineer, uh, learning how to build websites, learning how to code up front end stuff.
And the two of us, we in tandem hacked together. The second version completely from scratch, uh, baked in the feedback we were getting from the first a hundred people. But Nevin w you know, th they, they, they tried the product. I think they felt bad for us, and they kept using it because they liked us and what their feedback.
We, we built the second version and that’s the same platform that we’re iterating on today. And now we have a team of 40 something engineers, but it started off with just me and another guy, neither of us knowing what the hell we were
Andrew: Did he enjoy coding it up? Did he enjoy learning it, building it or was it. We had to do.
Bryan: Ideally, you know, you get somebody who’s wired to want to do these things, but all of us hated every moment of it. I mean, uh, he hated it. I hated it. Uh, it was not fun. Um, it was not enjoyable. It was not the kind of thing we were wired to want to do. You know, a lot of, a lot of folks, a lot of guys or gals, they just want to get by on a laptop and code.
They don’t want to go talk to customers. They don’t want to do the sales piece, just let me code. And that’s great. That’s not how, that’s not how any of us are wired. We just did it. Cause we had.
Andrew: Yeah. I’d want to talk to people but not code. And I know that my brother would just sit in a room and code all day long and not get to talk to anybody.
Bryan: Yeah. Yeah.
Andrew: so why didn’t you say we’re going to go look for another co-founder we’re going to go find our technical co-founder this time.
Bryan: Ideally, um, if you’re going this alone and you want to get a technical co-founder these days, you can kind of, de-risk the idea through a lot of low code, no code options and get something crappy together and then validate it. And then maybe a, a technical co-founder, you know, will want to join your cause.
You know, that’s, that’s a good way to approach it. And I coach a lot of, uh, of new founders to do that. We didn’t have that, uh, as an option because. Those platforms didn’t exist back then. Um, and so you kind of had to do it the real way and, and, and, and flat out, we didn’t know anybody that that knew how to do any of this stuff we attended.
Meet-ups we, we sent out, you know, cold pitches, cold emails, and there were already three of us. So there really wasn’t any meat on the bone for a fourth co-founder. So we kind of had to learn it. We had to become a technical co-founder essentially. Uh, and, and, uh, and only by way of doing that, then when we were able to, to build out a team around us, it’s really hard to delegate something that you’ve never done, and you don’t know how to do.
And in fact, most of the time that is a recipe for disaster, we had to get the 80 20 good to be able to delegate from a standpoint of stewardship and start building out a team of engineers around.
Andrew: The supply side, getting the people who would go and take care of people’s lawns and gardens that came from Craigslist, where you posting ads and looking for responses.
Bryan: Yeah, it was very much hand cranking. Uh, I personally knew the first 500 or so vendors that use the platform and, and so the way we attacked it was this. We had to, you know, to customers, almost consumers that use the app to get a lawn mowing service, and then vendors who use the app to, to operate their business.
And the idea was, and it still is still is, is one platform for vendors to operate their whole business. And then, and then they’re kind of teed up to be hired off the shelf by consumers. The problem was back then, we didn’t have any of the tools for the supply side. Uh, the, the, the, the interfaces in the app for the suppliers was barely usable.
It was, it was horrible to be honest, but we were focusing on all of our firepower on the consumer side, because we felt like if we could just get thousands of consumers to use it, that the suppliers would follow. And so we kind of had to hold together the supply side and hand crank it. And the way we did that was I would call these guys and gals meet as many female, uh, uh, operators in this business.
And. I would pitch them on the idea of, Hey, I’m starting this new platform. You know, we’re going to get you a 40 or 50 new customers a month is free for you to use you just pay a transactional fee for the work you do through the platform. And I’m going to give you, uh, an hour, a week of coaching for free on how to grow your lawn, my business.
What do you think? And nine times out of 10, they say, Hey, sure. And so that’s how we got this first several hundred, uh, lawn mowing services to use the platform and continue to use it, despite the fact that it really sucked. And so Lee, at least they were there providing a price and showing up and doing the work for the homeowner that hired them.
We were kind of hand cranking that. And so we, until we got the consumer side dialed in, and then we came back to the vendor side and built out all the tools they needed
Andrew: they would need at least the calendar system. Right. So they could mark off what they use in the thing I’m hearing about this type of businesses, the professionals don’t like to use a calendar system, they often will do it on their own system or even paper and pen. And if they don’t have everything in your system, it’s, it might as well be nothing because otherwise they’re going to have double bookings.
How did you resolve that?
Bryan: Really challenging. And so, and so in the early days it was spreadsheets, it was, it was my co-founder and we would run a Google, Google doc. Here’s all of our Google, Google sheet. Here’s all of our customers, here’s their dates. Here’s one of the vendors supposed to be there. Uh, we need to call them the day before to remind them, we need to call
Andrew: Oh, wow.
Bryan: that it makes sure that it was very much hand cranking.
And then we were able to build out, uh, the, the automation for all of that.
Andrew: But you would say to them, give me a handful of days that you can work and I’ll fill it up and let you know if it’s full, but that’s it don’t book anything else on those times.
Bryan: We would take it further up the workflow. So here’s an opportunity to mow Mrs. Smith’s yard on main street. She wants it done on Thursday. If you’re available Thursday, submit a price. And if she hires you, you better, you better darn well be there on Thursday and then as time as time. And so then, and then, so we’d get alert. Okay.
Mrs. Smith booked a Joe’s lawn service on Thursday. Let’s put it on the spreadsheet. Let’s make sure he shows up. I mean, we, we ran a hand, a hand cranked process all the way up to probably a thousand customers that way. And then that informed what we needed to build from an automation standpoint. I think we’re a lot of new founders go wrong is they try to start with the automation beforehand, cranking it any, you don’t know what the build, you don’t know what, what processes you need, but that’s how we approached it.
And now, you know, we’re doing tens of thousands of transactions a week and it happens.
Andrew: Did you enjoy life when you had to do that schedule with people? Call them up? No. How did you keep going when suddenly this is your life.
Bryan: it was really challenging and real, you know, looking back. Um, I think one of the greatest things a business can do for you as a founder is humility. Um, it can really offer you humility and offer you the ability to be a humble person. Cause here I, you know, I had gone from, you know, uh, having an eight figure business and, and hundreds of employees and, and in my little kind of microcosm, I was the man and then sold that had start all over.
Now I’m passing out door flyers. Now I’m calling, uh, guys, you know, Hey, will you go do this yard for $27? And it was very, very, very humbling, but we celebrated the small wins and we knew that, uh, one of my favorite books is the snowball effect by, uh, the Warren buffet autobiography. And that book takes you all the way back to like Warren Buffett’s first like $300 investment and how he became the richest man in the world.
And I kind of took that philosophy and building green pal was, Hey, we’re only doing 20 transactions a week, but if we can get that to a whole. May, and I think we can get it to a thousand. If we can get it to a thousand, we get it to 10 and so on. And so we just celebrated the small wins and really kind of looked at it as if we were bending the world to our way.
And, uh, and, and, and knew if the numbers would compound eventually would become something. So that’s how we got through it, but no, it was not fun. Um, and I think that’s a lot of, uh, something that, that a lot of new founders skip over is that the first three or four years is really a slog, but it’s worth it.
Um, but you really going to have to do the hard work to get through it. And, and I S I see that kind of like glossed over a lot with a lot of new founders. And so that’s a message I’d like to convey
Andrew: I think that makes sense. But I think also that it is not fun at those periods. It’s just such, that’s not what I signed up for. I signed up for analyzing a business for talking to customers about how to double our, like what else they need. So we can double our business and significant growth, not get another
Bryan: ever. Every movie you’ve ever seen about entrepreneurship. Like, like what, like, uh, the, the Ray crock movie, uh, with Michael Keaton or yeah, the founder or the social network or, or every movie you’ve ever seen about, about entrepreneurship. Like the hard part of like getting the business going from scratch is usually set to like, like a musical montage.
Like it’s glossed over. It is never, it is never something that’s enjoyable to
watch or observe. It’s just like, it’s really awful. So I think that’s what seduces a lot of people into, in the.
founding of business. But if you don’t give up, it’s worth it.
Andrew: How did you know it was worth it? I guess the way you knew it. If I can, if I could answer it with my own question is when you were running, uh, your previous business, what was it called? Why am I blanking on it? Um,
Bryan: Peachtree was the first one.
Andrew: So, when you were wondering Peachtree people would call you on a regular basis to say, I’m looking for someone to just mow my lawn.
He you’d say that’s too small for us. At some point that was too small. You had a list of like five to 10 people that you’d refer them to. So you knew there was some demand when you were building up green pal, you were talking to customers is Steve blank says, get out of the building. That meant you sat down and you talk to customers and they might’ve told you about a problem with your software, or they might’ve told you about something else that was going on.
But you saw that there was an interest in a need. And those two things, the experience before the conversations now told you there’s enough of a demand. If we could do this right, then the customers will be there. Am I right about all that?
Bryan: Yes exactly. Kind of solving my own problem. I think authenticity can be a competitive advantage when you’re going from zero to one. And so I had, I had this kind of deep understanding with how the industry worked and where there was a gap, like you said, every day 40 or 50 people would call my office running, running my first company, wanting us to do their basic services.
So I knew there was some kind of problem with discoverability and understanding who can come do this service for me at what price. And I knew an app could help make all that run smoother. And so that was enough to, to give me the, uh, the confidence to get started the first year. But then what do you do after the first year?
And you only have 20 customers, you know, how do you keep going? And you really kind of have to look at. Do people want to use this and are they continually coming back to use it? And the reason why they’re not using it is because of 10 or 20 things that you can fix. And as long as you have that evidence that if you improve these things, the numbers will grow.
I think it’s worth, uh, to keep pressing forward. So there’s this like flexible persistence, almost that, that, that is required in the, in the early years. And, and I don’t want necessarily to say faith, like, it’s not like it’s just faith based initiative where you just work your butt off for 10 years and something will happen because a lot of times that can lead to a dead end.
It’s a combination of, uh, faith and hard work. But also there’s some kind of evidence that, you know, if you do these next two or three things, those numbers will grow and they will compound. And that’s what got us through the first four or five years. We really didn’t have anything until year four and couldn’t pay ourselves a salary until year three or four, like literally living on.
Uh, hundreds of dollars a week, like a couple hundred bucks here and there. Um,
Andrew: you mean to live, to survive or did you run into your own savings?
Bryan: Me personally. Uh, I, I didn’t have to pull a check out of the company for, for many years. And so that helped, but my two co-founders didn’t have that luxury. And, you know, we had the seed capital that we talked about earlier, and once that was gone, that was gone and I had no appetite to go out and raise money.
I just didn’t want to go that route. I felt like it was a bad bet. And so, uh, my co-founders still work day jobs for like the first two or three years night and like literally nights and weekends and, and, you know, roommates, $10 a day food budget office with no windows. You know that the three of us shared, you know, 200 square foot office.
It was very much like control as much burn as you can. And you know, one of my favorite quotes is mark Cuban. He says the least you can live on the greater your options. That was certainly the case for us in those early years, we didn’t need a bunch of money. We could, we were like cockroaches. We could survive off of very little.
Andrew: I do dig, um, that you keep coming up with these quotes, with these books. Is there anything you’re reading now, anything that you’ve read recently that is helping you think about your business or your life today?
Bryan: Yeah. I struggle with this because sometimes. Should you read the same five books every year that are key to your philosophy and your approach, or should you just read every new thing that comes out and I kind of bounce back and forth? Um, I think maybe it’s a combination, like, like most things it’s probably, and, and not, or, and so, uh, the new book just came out is Andrew Chen, the cold start problem.
Great book about getting a flywheel going, uh, in a multi-sided marketplace and how hard that is. And he talks about like how the guys at, at T uh, at Tinder, uh, would go to like frat parties and say, Hey, and they would sponsor the party. And they would say, Hey, for you to come into the party, you got download.
I mean, that’s how they got their first. That’s how they got their first a hundred users or a thousand users like, so taking it all the way back to the scrappy things to, to kickstart a flywheel, that’s a great book. So that’s a new book, an old book that I try to read at least once a year, seven habits of highly effective people by Dr.
Stephen Covey. I’m starting to come to the conclusion that if I just read that book once a year and didn’t do anything else, I would probably be a wiser person.
Andrew: I do see you sharpening the saw a lot, like this is you getting better and if you’re not getting better than, it’s just not interesting to you, what are you doing now to get.
Bryan: so the business is always the thing. That’s the forcing function to get, to get.
better. Uh, Yeah.
it’s, it’s, it’s like, it’s like, as you go through levels of the game, you know, now we’re multiple eight figures. I gotta get this thing to a hundred million in revenue. I’ve never ran a business that big. And, and So a lot of what you’re doing is blocking and tackling for whatever stage of the game that you’re in.
So now, you know, I’m trying to learn how to, how to hire people, who, who, who do things a lot better than I could ever do them and how to, how to coach them and manage them and lead them. And these are things that I’m not necessarily good at. And what I’ve come to the conclusion is that I’m going to continue running the business as long as I’m good at it. And as long as I’m having fun. And once I realized that I’ve kind of hit a point of diminishing returns, it’s time to put somebody else in or may or maybe maybe sell the business. You know, we have, we have opportunities to sell the business all the time. And so that’s kind of what I’ve learned at this stage of the game is, is that, is that if, if, once I’ve reached the point where I’m no longer good at it, uh, it’s time to make a change and ton of time to explore something.
Andrew: So good at it. I love the details I put in the new address of the place where we, I told you we bought a house, I put it in it’s in there and I love how, not only do you service it, you also show a satellite photo of the place, and then you make everything so clear. Um, like what else do you need? Um, what’s going to happen.
Step-by-step was there, um, I don’t even know how to convey the simplicity of, and the beauty of this form.
Bryan: Well, thank you. I appreciate that. It’s it’s a.
Andrew: would S I would skip it in a heartbeat, but it just looks so, I don’t know. Approachable.
Bryan: We design for Homer Simpson drunk. That’s how easy it has to be. And, uh, when it comes to product design, I read a book, uh, on product design. And there’s this one little simple here is that called the, uh, the law of the red route. And in London, uh, there’s this red line that goes down the center of the street and that’s the line at the bus goes down and it can only go one way.
And so the law of the red route is when you’re designing a product, the user can only go one way. Uh, could literally you start here yeah. In here and you can’t go anywhere else. I think a lot of new founders look at, uh, established companies like Airbnb or Expedia or whatever. And like, you could do all these million things with it.
You’re not them. You gotta do. You gotta be the best in the world at one thing. And that’s how we’ve approached building green palette. It’s the best in the world of getting so many, come make your grass short.
Andrew: The one challenge I think you have now is not the one, but the big one is the URL. People are going to go to green pal.com, but it’s not the URL. It’s your green pal.com. Right?
Bryan: We just got
Andrew: You got it. Get out. Oh, that’s great.
Bryan: It was a guy, it was a guy whose last name was green and he just would never sell it to us. And he’s like, ah, I just like it. I don’t know what I’m gonna use it. And we had to pay, we had to pay probably 10 times what it was worth,
Andrew: Uh, how much did you pay?
Bryan: dot com. Uh, I, it was 150 grand and it was probably, it was probably worth maybe 10.
Andrew: Maybe way less than that way. Less even than
Bryan: that hurt,
Andrew: you need it. It helps a lot. Okay, good. And
Bryan: had to have It
Andrew: says it. Um, yeah. Green pal.com goes there. So everyone who’s listening can go to green pal.com and it’ll automatically redirect to your green pal, the old domain for I’m assuming a limited time, I suggest that people just go try it out because the beauty of the form is just so inspiring.
This is, this is a form that makes you want to fill it out. And I fricking hate forms. Um, all right, great. But I know that’s not why you, why are you here by the way? Is this just like to get links? I can’t imagine that you’re here to try to get more people to have their lawns taken.
Bryan: So going back to sharpening the saw, I love doing podcasts, love doing interviews. I find that if I’m going to be on somebody’s show, I better stay sharp. I better keep reading books. I better keep attending conferences. I better keep going to YouTube university watching good podcasts like this one. Um, so it keeps me sharp.
I get 99% of the value is for me, keeps me on top of my game. And then I like sharing my story. The whole, the one thing I hope somebody gets, uh, out of listening to an interview with me is if that guy can do it. I can do it. So, and so that’s why I like doing it. And if people hit me up, uh, from time to time asking for advice on how to get their business from one level to the next, I like helping them, it’s just a hobby of mine.
And so that’s, that’s why I do it. And then, and it may be a little bit of good PR for the business green pal, but, but most of the reasons I do it is because I just enjoy it and,
Andrew: I’m glad you’re getting out there. I feel like you’re not getting as much coverage in the tech presses as you deserve, considering what you’ve done. And frankly, you’re in the space that they usually cover. I don’t know. I know why actually here’s why it’s because the big thing they look for is funding.
The funding number is what makes the whole article exciting is what satisfies. I don’t know what, but this whole market gets satisfied by that. And when you don’t have it, it’s really tough to stand out. Anyway. I’m glad that you’re here for everyone. Who’s listening. The website is green pal.com. And if you heard me talk about my two sponsors, the first email marketing software is send in blue.com/mixergy.
And the second, if you want to get into investing in works of art, go to masterworks.art/mixergy. Ryan. Thanks so much for being on here.
Bryan: It’s great to be here. Thank you for having me on. I really
Andrew: Thanks. Thank you. Bye everyone.