Bryan Clayton is the Co-Founder and CEO of GreenPal, an online marketplace that connects homeowners with local lawn care professionals. GreenPal has been called “the Uber for lawn care” by Entrepreneur magazine, with over 300,000 active users completing thousands of transactions daily.
Before starting GreenPal, Bryan founded Peachtree Inc., one of the largest landscaping companies in Tennessee, growing it to over $10 million a year in annual revenue before its acquisition by Lusa Holdings in 2013. He has extensive expertise in entrepreneurism, small business growth, marketing, and bootstrapping businesses from zero revenue to profitability and exit.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- [03:22] Bryan Clayton shares how he broke into the entrepreneurial world
- [04:44] Leadership lessons Bryan learned from his dad
- [05:34] The experience of growing a lawn mowing business as a student
- [08:22] The challenges of growing a business
- [10:42] Bryan discusses some employee training tactics that work
- [15:41] How to improve customer satisfaction
- [18:57] Leveraging customer feedback to grow a business
- [28:36] How to build sales systems
- [31:52] Bryan talks about content and SEO strategies
- [37:07] How GreenPal acquired long-term clients
In this episode…
Growing a business can be an exciting and rewarding experience, but it also comes with its fair share of challenges. From expanding your customer base to managing your finances, many factors can impact the success of your business. The key to overcoming these challenges is having a solid foundation of systems in place.
According to Bryan Clayton, one of the most critical factors in the success of any business is having effective systems in place. Whether it’s employee training systems, customer satisfaction systems, or sales systems, these processes help ensure businesses run smoothly and efficiently. He shares his journey investing in these systems to streamline his operations, improve customer satisfaction, and ultimately increase his bottom line in his lawn mowing businesses.
In this episode of Inspired Insider Podcast, Dr. Jeremy Weisz sits down with Bryan Clayton, Co-Founder and CEO of GreenPal, to discuss the value of having systems in a business. Bryan shares his entrepreneurial journey in the lawn mowing industry, the challenges of growing a business, systems to incorporate in a company to thrive, and content and SEO strategies.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
- Built to Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You by John Warrillow
- The E-Myth Revisited and other books by Michael E. Gerber
- John C. Maxwell on LinkedIn
- “[Sweet Process Series] How to Build a Business That Can Thrive Without You with John Warrillow of Built to Sell” on the Inspired Insider Podcast
- “[Sweet Process Series] How to Make Your Business the Next McDonalds of Your Industry with Michael E. Gerber” on the Inspired Insider Podcast
- “[Top Chicago Business Series] CraftJack: How to Acquire Paying Customers – With Ross Gordon [Customer Acquisition-Sales]” on the Inspired Insider Podcast
- “CraftJack: Have you ever tried to make a cold call and just stared at the phone while sweating? How do you get over that? with Ross Gordon [Sales and Revenue]” on the Inspired Insider Podcast
- “Why It’s Important to Provide Value and Build a Great Team with Greg Smith Co-Founder of Thinkific” on the Inspired Insider Podcast
- “There’s literally no excuse to not systemize a lot of these aspects of your business these days.”
- “If I can’t get a sales process, a sales system, a sales machine at the core of this thing, then I don’t have a business.”
- “Big companies that are doing very well put out more content than a lot of new agencies.”
- “With SEO and getting in shape, you don’t see results for a very long time — you have to stick it out, you have to work it day in and day out and keep the momentum.”
- “When you’re in business, everything is your fault.”
Sponsor for this episode
At Rise25, we’re committed to helping you connect with your Dream 100 referral partners, clients, and strategic partners through our done-for-you podcast solution.
We’re a professional podcast production agency that makes creating a podcast effortless. Since 2009, our proven system has helped thousands of B2B businesses build strong relationships with referral partners, clients, and audiences without doing the hard work.
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The Rise25 podcasting solution is designed to help you build a profitable podcast. This requires a specific strategy, and we’ve got that down pat. We focus on making sure you have a direct path to ROI, which is the most important component. Plus, our podcast production company takes any heavy lifting of production and distribution off your plate.
We make distribution easy. We’ll distribute each episode across more than 11 unique channels, including iTunes, Spotify, and Google Podcasts. We’ll also create copy for each episode and promote your show across social media.
Cofounders Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran credit podcasting as being the best thing they have ever done for their businesses. Podcasting connected them with the founders/CEOs of P90x, Atari, Einstein Bagels, Mattel, Rx Bars, YPO, EO, Lending Tree, Freshdesk, and many more.
The relationships you form through podcasting run deep. Jeremy and John became business partners through podcasting. They have even gone on family vacations and attended weddings of guests who have been on the podcast.
Podcast production has a lot of moving parts and is a big commitment on our end; we only want to work with people who are committed to their business and to cultivating amazing relationships.
Rise25 Cofounders, Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran, have been podcasting and advising about podcasting since 2008.
Insider Stories from Top Leaders & Entrepreneurs…
You are listening to Inspired Insider with your host, Dr. Jeremy Weisz.
Jeremy Weisz 0:22
Dr. Jeremy Weisz here founder of inspiredinsider.com where I talk with inspirational entrepreneurs and leaders today is no different I Bryan Clayton of yourgreenpal.com. And Bryan, before I formally introduce you, I always like to point out other episodes people should check out of the podcast. We were just chatting before we hit record here. John Warrillow, run Built to Sell. Great book, he has a great podcast. So check out that episode I did with John. Also Michael Gerber of the E-Myth. I know Bryan, that’s one of his favorite books. And check out the interview did with Michael Gerber. It’s a classic. And Ross Gordon, he talked about how he started CraftJack, and how he sold it to Home Advisor. CraftJack is a similar to Your GreenPal in a lot of ways but in a different space for contractors and Your GreenPal, obviously for lawn care. But he talked about how he built up and sold it and then he runs Mystery Tackle Box. So he’s grown it, if you are a bass fisherman, or you know someone check that out. It’s a great company that he’s built up there. But this episode is brought to you by Rise25. At Rise25 we help businesses give to and connect to their dream 100 relationships. How do we do that we actually help you run your podcast or an easy button for a company to launch and run a podcast we do the accountability, the strategy and the full execution. Bryan, we call ourselves the magic elves that work in the background to make it look easy for the host and the company. Kind of like you guys your company does for lawn care. And for me, the number one thing in my life is relationships. And I’m always looking at ways to give to my best relationships. And I found no better way over the past decade to profile the people and companies I most admire and share with the world what they’re working on. So if you’ve thought about podcasting, you should if you have questions, you can go to rise25.com, or email us at [email protected]. And I’m excited to introduce Bryan Clayton. He’s the CEO of GreenPal, which is an online marketplace to connect homeowners with lawn care services. And often it’s referred to as Uber for lawn care. And GreenPal is growing to over 300,000 active customers. And you can check them out at yourgreenpal.com. Previously, he actually built in sold in eight-figure lawn care business himself. So he knows this industry intimately. He’s going to share his journey. And it’s always a pleasure and talking to someone who’s built up a significant company and then they’re willing to start over and do it again. So Bryan, thanks for joining me.
Bryan Clayton 2:57
Jeremy, that was a great introduction. Thank you so much for having me on.
Jeremy Weisz 3:00
I want to talk about early on. Because early on, your dad kind of pushed you to make money. You want to make money. He’s like, go make some money and you got a lawn mower, and you started hustling and doing that. Okay. And you built that up. And it sounds like he was pretty significant even in high school.
Bryan Clayton 3:22
Totally he I think he just got tired of watching me play Nintendo all day and he said get off your butt. I lined up a gig for you. You’re gonna go mow the neighbor’s yard and made me go because he lined it up for you. Okay, yeah, line it up, negotiated the price and everything and not only that, but after I went over there and I thought got the job done. He then walked me around and showed me all the spots I missed. So really helped me get started giving me that push in the right direction. But something clicked because I got paid 20 bucks for like an hour worth of work. And the first thing I did was pass out a bunch of flyers all over the neighborhood and yeah, I was mowing like 30, 40 yards a week in high school, making 500 bucks a week as a kid. It was awesome. I stuck with that business all through high school all through college for like 15 years and built it up into an actual business.
Jeremy Weisz 4:14
What did your dad do?
Bryan Clayton 4:15
My dad was in the military and then he went into manufacturing. So the household was ran from a top-down military style of management and leadership. So this was not a request. This was a direct order.
Jeremy Weisz 4:29
What did you learn from your dad in leadership that you brought into because obviously you built up your lawn care business to over 150 staff and now you’re building GreenPal, what did you learn about leadership from him?
Bryan Clayton 4:44
Authenticity, and you have to lead from the front. You have to actually do it. You got to really be in there with your people. It’s not lonely at the top. You don’t know what that means because you’re there in the trenches with your people. I learned that from him. He raised us that way. And then I kind of also watched him and his style with how he ran his businesses. And so yeah, that is how I would describe my leadership style to this day, is I try not to ask anybody to do anything that I have not done myself. Because every time I do that, it always blows up in my face. So that was his style. And I hope it’s my style today.
Jeremy Weisz 5:29
Did you have other high schoolers working for you? What was it like your senior year? How big was the business now?
Bryan Clayton 5:34
Yeah, I had maybe two people helping me and I learned a lot of hard lessons around unit economics around you can’t just throw bodies at a problem, you can’t just bring on more labor because the business may not sustain that. And there were many weeks where my helpers got paid more money than I did. So what’s awesome about a business like that the lawn mowing business, a home cleaning, business, whatever, you can learn the 80%, the 80/20 of what it means to run a business in such a simple little business like that. And so in those early days, I learned some hard lessons around, keeping track of labor hours and making sure I’m pricing work appropriately and making sure we’re running an efficient operation that still, are ingrained in how I look at things today, 20 years later. And then, as time went on, I went to college and went to night school and mowed grass during the day. And I think when I graduated college, I probably had five employees, and then made a business plan. And as time went on, eventually grew it to 150 people.
Jeremy Weisz 6:34
That’s what I was gonna ask about the transition from high school to college because you have a business making money. Some people after college are making the same that you were making in your senior year, but you decided to go off to college, but you were still running the business at the same time that you were going to college.
Bryan Clayton 6:52
Yeah, and it was a hard decision when I graduated, because…
Jeremy Weisz 6:56
Were you thinking like, I’m not even go to college, I’m just gonna do this full time.
Bryan Clayton 6:59
Really, that’s what my gut was telling me. And looking back, I probably should have skipped school. But my mom was a professor, she was a Ph.D. English professor. And so I didn’t want to let her down. And at the time, I really wasn’t totally certain that I was going to be a lawn guy my whole life. When I graduated school, I was like, okay, I just have a business degree now. And I’m going to be a lawn guy. I mean, that sounds like that sucks. But then I was able to make the distinction like, no business ownership could be my lane. And this business is working pretty good. And I was very lucky in the sense that the Middle Tennessee Nashville area was booming then, and is still booming now. And so the environment around me was growing and prospering. And so there was always new opportunities to grow my little business for new neighborhoods, getting built new apartments, new offices, you name it, and they needed my little humble services that I was offering. And these were, I guess, more shots on goal for me to test out sales and test out getting new contracts and test out growing my business. Had I not been in such a vibrant community. I don’t know, if I could have grown that business as fast as I did. So I got very fortunate that I was in that environment.
Jeremy Weisz 8:18
What were some of the growth pains you experienced in that business?
Bryan Clayton 8:22
Nobody teaches us how to run a small business anywhere, like we’re not taught this in high school, even if you go to business school, you’re not taught how to run a profitable business for yourself. You mentioned earlier the E-Myth by Michael Gerber, one of my favorite books that walks you through step by step, what it means to work on the business and not necessarily in the business and it took me like five years to like, learn that simple thing just through trial and error. And the first maybe five or six years I was self-employed, I didn’t have a business and I had to really make time to work on the business, I have high turnover, I got to get a better employee training system. I’m losing more customers than I’m getting what’s going on, I want to get in a customer satisfaction system in place. What does my sales system look like I’m just kind of ad hoc, making phone calls when in my spare time, I need to get like a system in place. And so that took another few years. And then there was like another unlock to the game. dovetailing off Michael Gerber’s book, working in the business working on the business, and then the third thing working on myself, I realized that I didn’t have the tool set to get where I was trying to go, I didn’t really, my leadership style wasn’t fully baked to my management was kind of half-ass. I didn’t really have a formalized kind of like sales strategy. And so I had to grow my skills like I had to work on myself and that was hard. But it was something that I made Looking for? And maybe you’re eight or nine, I still try to do to this day.
Jeremy Weisz 10:04
Yeah, Bryan, I asked that because, this applies to any business, I don’t care if you’re a lawn care, I don’t care if you’re a SaaS business agency, things that you mentioned. And we’ll talk about yourgreenpal.com. But you mentioned the things that were growth pains, employee training, you had to solve customer satisfaction system, a sales system and a leadership, the leadership piece, what did you do from an employee training perspective, that work that other people should think about? You had over 150 staff. So yeah, a lot of people.
Bryan Clayton 10:40
The industry itself has very high turnover, just because it’s very labor intensive, we were doing better than the industry averages. But it still is a high turnover business, in terms of staff. And so that’s one of the big bottlenecks and choke points for growing a services-based business like that is how do you take, like, McDonald can run off of average people anywhere in the world, right, their systems are so good, and you have to kind of like McDonald’s eyes, that type of business. And so I was looking for ways to do that. And I created Lawn Care University and was able to train somebody up in two weeks, what would normally take like, nine months, and everything from how to properly mow a yard to properly identify plant diseases or properly identify insect diseases properly maintain equipment the right way, how to do it safe and not to break windows and throw rocks at cars. All of these like things that you pick up just through like on-the-job training, I spent a year and just created Lawn Care University, and what put somebody through this, and within two weeks, they were up and going and ready to like be built, be able to put into our system. That took a long time. It wasn’t fun, but it was the hard work that needed to be done to solve that piece of the bottleneck, I guess you could say, it’s like, in business, there’s a difference between hard work and difficult work. The hard work is like beating your head against the wall training people and then leaving training and just doing that over and over and over again, the difficult work is investing the time coming in on a Sunday, making the videos for the training series, running it by some of your key people tweaking it, writing the content for the next module of the training series, experiment and getting to people look at that. That’s the difficult work. But if you do it once, then you don’t have to mess with that anymore. And that was something I wish I had learned way earlier in my journey.
Jeremy Weisz 11:11
Right? What was the delivery like, for that? Because we’re talking someone who’s mowing the lawn, right? So are you giving them a video to watch? Is it a manual? How do you deliver that so that they consume it because like, that depends on the people in the niche also.
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