The Lucky Titan

How to create your own luck in business With Bryan Clayton

November 10, 2020 Josh Tapp
The Lucky Titan
How to create your own luck in business With Bryan Clayton
The Lucky Titan
How to create your own luck in business With Bryan Clayton
Nov 10, 2020
Josh Tapp

Bryan Clayton is CEO and cofounder 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 and has over 100,000 active users completing thousands of transactions per day.

 Before starting GreenPal Bryan Clayton founded Peachtree Inc. one of the largest landscaping companies in the state of Tennessee growing it to over $10 million a year in annual revenue before it was acquired by Lusa holdings in 2013.

 Bryan‘s interest and expertise are related to entrepreneurialism, small business growth, marketing and bootstrapping businesses from zero revenue to profitability and exit. 

Show Notes Transcript

Bryan Clayton is CEO and cofounder 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 and has over 100,000 active users completing thousands of transactions per day.

 Before starting GreenPal Bryan Clayton founded Peachtree Inc. one of the largest landscaping companies in the state of Tennessee growing it to over $10 million a year in annual revenue before it was acquired by Lusa holdings in 2013.

 Bryan‘s interest and expertise are related to entrepreneurialism, small business growth, marketing and bootstrapping businesses from zero revenue to profitability and exit. 

Josh: What is up everybody, Josh Tapp here again and welcome back to The Lucky Titan Podcast and today we are here with Bryan Clayton of GreenPal and I really wanted to introduce him this way because this (ah) the prompt that he reach out to me with was how to create your own luck in business and for those who have been listening to this podcast since the beginning that was the initial prompt that I ask people, so I got all excited when he sent that to me but (Ah) Bryan, say what’s up to everybody and tell us something about yourself and most people wouldn’t know about you. 

Bryan: So thanks for having me Josh, I appreciate it (ah) yes so I am CEO ofGreenPal just like the Uber for lawn mowing, something that people don’t know about me (Ah) I am in (Ah) Martial Arts and so I don’t really like advertise that like I have a coach, Muai Thai Coach (ah) I love (ah) like the last 3 years I’ve been studying martial arts which I’ve been doing in my whole life. 

Josh: That is so awesome! You’ll be surprise it’s like I would say probably 70% - 80% of people coming to my show actually do some sort of Martial Arts it is the craziest thing. 

Bryan: … life in general and studying a martial art and it is not about beating somebody’s butt it is you know making yourself better and understanding like the art form like the discipline around it, but there’s a lot to match back to business. 

Josh: Yea, I feel like they cross over in a lot of place. 

Bryan: Absolutely. 

Josh: so I am gonna took your heart a little bit here, I wanna tell people cover a little bit about your results here because we are the cool parts of having Bryan with us is the sky has create a multiple 8 figure businesses, in multiple for industry the first one started your own lawn service company that passed 10 million in revenue which crazy how did everybody passed a million dollars in revenue with a lawn service company, I guess that’s experience that was my first business. 

Bryan: it is a tough industry.

Josh: well it is even tougher when you are 16 years old right, but the good industry to be here definitely an ever growing industry but then Bryan was able to take his knowledge there with the Brick and water business and now turned into a nearly 20 million dollar company basically like you said being Uber for lawn care so give us a little bit insight what actually means because I mean, how was that even applicable to a lot of lawn and care space

Bryan: Yea to your point by first business was this lawn mowing company I started cutting grass in high school, my Dad forced me to get off my butt and go to neighbor’syard one day, luckily he did and I started mowing yard to the neighborhood and  overtime grew that business to a real, real company although high school and college, like I graduate collage had to make a decision is I go get a job or double down on this landscaping business and I decided to go to business around and over 15 period time I grew that from 0 to 150 employees , 0 revenue just me and push mower  over 10 million dollars in revenue and 2013, that company was acquired  by one of the largest landscaping business in the United States, and so I learned a lot about business growing that company from scratch all that free nooutside capital and I learned a hard way in many cases, like how’d to bleed, how’d to manage, how to build a sales team, how to differentiate yourself in a competitive market and it kinda tied me up from my second business GreenPal which is kinda like Uber for lawn mowing it’s a tech an able market place in able home owners to hire long care service right of the shelves and we’ve been into that business  7 years just like you are saying and growning into 20 million in revenue , so going from like a traditional catalogue blue color of entrepreneur, dealing with thing  like  chalks lawn mower a lot of labors and like this managing, that type of business to a strictly 100% tech business it was a big gap between those two types of entrepreneurial journeys, one that I can underestimated and my naivety is kinda what one got me into my second business if I know how hard it is gonna be to learn things like how to code software, how to design software, stuff like this SEO like if I know how hard this stuff was I probably done it, but luckily I was naïve, I don’t know what I didn’t know  and I recruited two co-founders in my second company after selling my first and we just want to work on this, we are the definition of 7 year overnight success. 

Josh: (Laugh) I love it, and I wanna ask you this I know is it’s a total tangy question but what – do you think it was worth it to bring on a couple of partners instead of starting by yourself this time? 

Bryan: Yes, a short answer, but there’s a lot on new ones there, so ideally when you are, most company don’t need a co-founder, most business you can just start yourself and people think they need a co-founder ‘coz they really want somebody to do with them I think but most of the time you don’t need one but when you are starting a tech start-up like we were, there’s a lot of difference discipline to be brought to the table so for me you know I was bring like the tacit  industry knowledge to the table and then my other two founders were bring others skills but we didn’t realize that skills we actually needed so really when you are starting a tech start up you want to like a hacker and a hustler, you want somebody who knows the code, somebody that know the tech side of it kinda like get that going and manage that and then you want a hustler somebody good with sales, somebody who’s gonna make it rain figure out how to make thing work, those two people coming together is often times like a good dynamic, but in most cases you don’t need a co-founder , for me personally I recruited two people that I trusted, I knew that are hard workers, and quite frankly just wanted to make something of themselves, and so I saw that kind of passion and their DNA and I knew that if they had that we can learn everything else, and when you are looking for a co-founder, you need to look like it a marriage because in most cases it will last longer than most marriages do and it is actually be harder to unwind than an actual marriage, and so one thing we always reflects me is business owners that a coach they kinda look at the co-founder , recruitment process like there’s one that’s not as big of a deal, where in fact there is, this is set upjust like a directory how your life goes byfor the next 5,10, 15 years so, most time you don’t need one if you do get somebody who’s different from you are and he’s bringing to a complimentary set of skill to the equation. 

Josh: Love that. I was kinda curious on your take on it because there’s so many people that you know, that somebody takes on if you should have partner and I love how you talked about the hack and hustler, that’s Russell Bronze in concept that if you are familiar with him.. 

Bryan: yes, yes, and it’s a simple one, but it’s one like mostly people like overlook, they just start business with a friend and most of the cases that’s a recipe for disaster so most of the time like the killer of the starters, killer of new businesses a lot of times is that co-founder dynamic, so in my opinion is best to go it alone if you can but if you are like starting a tech business and you don’t know the first thing about writhing a software if might have who’ve you to hire and or co found a business with somebody that brings DNA to the table. 

Josh: Yea, 100% , that’s really awesome I know this is a total tangy question but I was just curious to take on it , you brought that up so let’s hop in to the main like on a main conversation today, you know it’s about making your own luck but I wanna talk about it in perspective with your company in terms of marketing and other practices because a lot of guest come on probably like episode number 10 or 15 you know hundred episodes ago, Elaine Keltz her name and she just said something that I found hilarious and awesome and she said “people are waiting (to open)for a door to open or to open the door” and she like I just put myself in the hallway with a lot of doors and started kicking them down (laugh) 

Bryan: Exactly! 

Josh: I love that, the visual aids of this iskinda do add a backdrop to our conversation todays,so give some insights on your marketing and how you are using it to create your luck in business. 

Bryan: yes so (ahm) I believe like many factoring momentum like creative your own luck is like – it’s just part of what it takes  to starting a business from scratch for me, you know I am not the smartest guy but like I will just hustle until to get something going and like many factoring momentum and like the guest Thomas Jefferson quote the harder I worked the luckier I got is why I’ve been you know I achieve some level of success and now two businesses and a book that is like a foundation on how I looked at business is the 7 habit of how to affect to people, and Dr. Steven Coby says in that book  that you have like the circle of concern which is everything  going on it could be like everything is happening with likecovid right now and like the election coming up all these thing in your circle of concern, that you really don’t have it all real like impact on, but inside of that circle, is a much smaller circle and that’s the circle of influence and that’s a circle you could like act in, that’s the small like feeling which you could do things in and as you do things in small circle it gets bigger, bigger, bigger, and so for me, that examples of that like when we started GreenPal our second business we don’t know the first thing how to write a code, we didn’t know how to design software and so we pay a debt shop here in Narshville,150,000 dollar to build the first version, we’d literally thought, we are going build that and launch it and market it and like be off to the races, and there’s a total otter flop, it was a failure, like a  total waste of over a  hundred grant but we didn’t give up, we figured it out, well let’s just get try to hustle up to people to use this thing so we get some feedbacks, we figure it out,  are on the right track or not,  are we solving a problem that people actually needs off and so we pass out door hangers all over national Tennessee like 200,000 things and In the hot summer of 2013, like hoofed it all over Tennessee pass in out these door hangers and I got bit by a dog like two times but we got a few hundred people to use the platform and we learn quick that like 10 customer per dog bite wasn’t a scalable user acquisition in this strategy but we are able to get an initial like early adopting like feel of customer that we could then meet with and talked to and like get the feedback around okay what problem we are solving for you what do you wish we would have done that we didn’t how do normally found the lawn mowing service all these things around like build the product and how to market it we were able to like extract that from these early users and that’s only because we are act inside our little circle of influence but which is we need users today, what was something we could do today so we could pass door hangers, we don’t wanna be passing door hangers 1,2,3, 5 years from now but we could do it today to get somebody to use these things so we can figure out if are on the right track or not, so acting in that circle of and like always taking inventory and what are the things I can do today, to get to the next level, and not even worry about anything else, is something that often overlook like this is like a video game like you have the first level and like you have to beat the boss in the first level and then like, we need to go to  second level it’s like totally different set of skills and the third and fourth  and fifth is like a total level  like pair done, but you don’t need to worry about that infact if you get the first level done, 

Josh: yeah, that’s awesome, it is really intriguing like to talk about your circle of influence because most of people feel like oh my circle influences is tiny but in already I mean everybody  has inter circle of people that’s any from 2 to 5000 people, I mean that’s opens the door for any business, I love it you use it like a testing ground for what you are doing because I mean you know the average from this is already a 7 figure entrepreneur okay I’ve gotten prove of concept  at this point, but I would honestly say, even after a million dollar if you haven’t really proven the concept yet you just … small nation people. 

Bryan: yeah, that’s a very very good point, this concept of a circle of concern and circle of  influence, I mean it scales the whole way up and then I read a book about this dude who wasa King and he commission this crown to be made  like thought like the jewelry’s like shorting him in the amount of like gold into it and you’re trying to measure like (ahm) how much gold was in this crown and he went to one of those the top like physicist of that time and like how do you measure how much gold is in this crown and he figured out when he was laying on the tomb one night and he laid bad at the tomb and the water raised and he understood okay why can measure how much gold was is in this crown by dipping it in water and then measuring the increase and how much volume of water has lifted and the moral of the story is a lot of times the answers to your questions and problem  is literallylaying in it so let’s say you’re running a million, five business like you are trying to get the 5, 10 million dollars, you don’t know how to do it, when the reality is literally laying in it like you have to figure out what your unit economics are, what’s your number’s are, what’s your competitive advantage is, what you are going to do differently fromyour competitor’s are, in the next level of video game, and a lot of times we can’t even need that stuff because it’s too busy, like, like , in our business is trying hold it together, when in fact we need to step down and be in our business and a lot of times Man, like practically that is means Saturday and Sunday that means coming in to the office on  Sunday afternoon and like pouring over your books and pouring over what you did that week  and looking at these thing and kinda figure them out and sometime you need a coach or like a counselor or some kind of consultant to come in and help clear the lugging but if you can like trying to get out in business  and into on it and literally look at like you are laying in solution youset the figure out that’s how you get different from 1 to 10 million dollars and most people stuck in 1 million dollars ‘cause they’re not willing to do these kind of work, cause frankly it is the hardest work to there is, it is so much harder to build a system  that’s solve  problem then you just do the problem resolve, but we have to remove our self as  business owners and thinking like pair time and hard to but if you force yourself to do it  over a year or two we are  in a very different world. 

Josh: Yea and that’s bring up a question for me as far as in your business you know being especially in tech sector right now the software service company I mean for you what was kind of life style difference I am not meaning you know Ferrari’s like that stuff, what was life style difference for you between a million and hitting that8 figure point. 

Bryan: yea, so in the second business going from like hustling the together first the million in revenue and now we are at 20, the first like three years were excruciatingly hard becausewe talk about on it and in it you know working in the business to trying hang crank this thing home owners signed up for quotes and actually got 3 o 4 in a minute and then when they hired one, to make sure the service provider actually showed up like all of these like this  the product makes happen in the real world, we have to hang crank these behindscenes  for a very long time, and so we build the software to like insure these things will actually happen and materialize and in the analog world and like the first two or three years we’re doing all that and also we are having to be like learning how to code, learning how to design software, learning thing like SEO and paid marketing and like, literally teaching ourselves skills we need it to execute, and so they were  was 89 or 90 hours a week, they were 7 days a week for 3 years and we’re not even able pay ourselves like peanuts and so for my lifestyle stand point it was like, we came to the table within an irrational obsession to make this business work, and I think a lot of times most business especially when you are inventing product that is brand new re-inventing something from scratch  you have to have this irrational obsession to breathe them to life, or else you’re not probably not like see through the first to three years because it’s gonna be a year for you to like get point on the right direction it’s like two years before you see anything and it’s gonna be three years before you actually believe have a business under you,- as long as count like from a life style influence that’s how the first three years went now, here we are at seven, and we are able to pay ourselves you know these salary but now are able (not) this is not just that.. team we are be able to build around us you know we have 23 people working for the company now, we have a team of engineer, we have a team of group of people, a team of designers, a team of content writers, and so now we are able to like move faster ‘coz we can delegate and we can delegate these things we’d just spend years doing our selves but we are able to delegate from the position of a 40 and not one at like somebody handle is, I don’t know how to do it is like okay you handle it because I’ve done it for three years and this is how we do it here and now it’s almost in a way its more fun like it is more fun when you have a momentum behind you then it is in a few years when you’re just operating like faith. 

Josh: right, you’re in this log and I like you say turning to crank yourself because there’s I know that it doesn’t stage as we are as a company right, like growing company requires a lot of manual effort  but I know  a lot of people who work with you who passed that 7 figure pointer saying okay, they have to decide what point, who they handle and crank toand what should I be focusing on, so you’re talking about get on the business lay in it, that’s something that I love that analogy so you know as you’re growing a company like this what are some of the top marketing strategies that you’ve been using specifically to grown you’re as a company.

Bryan: Yea so every successful business has to have some kind of like marketing engine at its core, but my first business is a sales team like we have the best kickass sales team and in the industry and our market and it was one that we cultivatedover many years we have a sales process just spank the pence of everybody else that’s how we competed this and how we won (ahm) now is very different you know overnight like  concierge  somebody on the web platform for a 33 dollar lawn mowing itself serves so we have to figure out like how do we get this platform and infront of people and they need this service that we can offer and we’d learn in our early days talking to people you know we would ask them okay how do you use to get your grass cut well I ask for referrals from friend and family and all call like three people and leaves some voicemails, nobody calls me back and the I might jump on Facebook can post something in Market places and in I may find somebody but he flick on me and then I’ll go to google and like search for lawn mowing service near me and then okay, let’s pack that little bit and so then instead of maybe we can compete in google search  and be like and option of last resort after somebody else already tried of those things and that’s the bet we made in the early days , we cover that, we understood very early that a channel for us is going to be google organic search and then we started to beat like confronted with the down thing reality of how hard that is to compete in that field  like it is almost like bet a company decision like we build great software, make lawn mowing as simple as  pushing a button that’s like our core confidence and the aside from that is like competing an organic search it like half of our ban with to like competing and win  that channel, but we bet the company on it in the early days as lucky thing we did because now  cause it takes 3 or 4 years to get some momentum doing in organic search that we have the momentum behind our back and we’re half of our users arrive to us just by typing in lawn mowing, and then what is this GreenPalthing I’venever heard of it, I’ll just tried it out that’s how like how our users arrive in our doorstep and so like every business you have to be constantly thinking about what is my goal strategy , what is may marketing engine like Jim Collins called it flywheel affects the author of good to great like every business has a way to reinvest profit back into the marketing engine to get more customers and if you are not thinking about that you’re gonna stall out and that’s why you probably you stuck in a million dollars cause you don’t have a marketing engine on your core, you don’t understand for every dollar I make, I will be able to make two dollars next year because I am reinvesting back in this flywheel and in every  business there is the ability to create a flywheel. 

Josh: Yeah, love that and it’s kinda funny because there’s a lot of scape I’ve talked to that’s been their primarily legend searches I am not sure if you are familiar with homely from the start of you talk help people with real state 

Bryan: yea 

Josh: .. like you guys growing really quickly (ahm) more recently and then there the kind of the same concept try it’s it is more about your content, that organic search getting people to attached and reach out to you and the onething that really stood out to the method towhole conversation Bryan is been that instead of I guest like the marketing, when you talk marketing pretty simple – it’s obviously it content is organic it is getting that growth yea and like you said putting a dollar or point 2 dollars in that way just a dream from everybody but really what seems to be your process that you’ve done better that almost anybody else and in my opinion it is the operation side of it, you’re saying okay, because you’re talking about these a few minutes ago as one of the reference, because you said, that your when people will come in to.. use come on to use your platform you’ve gone to make sure that the person who does make the quote like at least 4 quote and found from those 4 quote, somebody actually close their doors so how’d you’ve been assuring that your software actually provide the result for the end user? 

Bryan: yea, really really good question and everything you just said like sounds like operation and it is puts also a marketing because a lot of times business owners will like create their product and create their service whatever it isand then sprinkle some marketing on top of it and that’s not how a successful strategy works like marketing in growth and distribution is a big dig in into the business , so the business it like just the sheerlike movement of the business is making it grow and so for us we knew really quickly like there’s no reason like scale of acquisition if we could retain the people using the thing, and the only way we can retain the people using the platform is  to like deliver the promise and actually solve their problem which is push a button andgrass cut today or tomorrow at the latest and so it took us years to like figure that out but we are only in national Tennessee for 3 years and now we are in a major city in the UnitedStates but for 3 years we just concrete down industrial  to figure out the mechanics of okay between somebody has grass of 4 ft tall and they come to our website and hire somebody and the grass gets short and cut neatly like what are those 3000 things can go wrong between those two points and we de-solve every single one of them with software over and over and over again but first version of our product if I frankly stunk it is terrible, it barely work  but you know but there’s a little chat bubble in lower right corner, so anybody who’s trying use our service that we aren’t meeting their expectation they would hit us upand that chat feature like tie to our founders and myself like mobile phones , 7 days a week you’re get a hit up , who’s trying to use the software, and like the serviceplatform show up late their lawn mowing broke down they got sick, their employee quit , their equipment got stolen, they or the home owners called 7 people and somebody else showed up first and like they hire this person no their grass already cut by somebody else like solving them million thing can go wrong between those two points is where we spent 3 years doing because we know there’s no reason to scale them like in distributing and market the platform and so we had that right, and so now like half of users come from organic search and never heard of GreenPal but the other half comes from word of mouth and because people are delighted by the product they didn’t have to call people, they literally order a lawn mowing services of the shelve,  they tell people about it, they tell their neighbors, so that’s some marketing decision of creating like that magical experience and  like differentiate service it is actually in turns into a marketing channel for us retention like is  acquisition. 

Josh: Yea, I love that and I mean when you are talking about these is even creating an advocacy within your customer base because I love how you tied that in  to the marketing side, because I mean if you are making those strategic changes you’re going to create an advocacy within your customer base to extend to becomes  pre-marketing which is honestly the best form of marketing is that advocacy so that’s cool I really like that answer, good work. 

Bryan:  Yeah, you can’t  scale the business  until you have like that product like this button down and that seem obvious but Man, like building my first company you know I didn’t know these stuff and I would spend years where would run customer surveys and I went to a conference once in one of the biggest landscaping company like a hundred million dollar landscaping company and opened up their doors and like show us other system and process, I learn so much, and the owner, that business was like we talk to our customers we email them once a month and say how are we doing, what do you wish we do better and like use as a drive innovation in the business and it sounds like a very simple thing but at that time my business was like five million dollars and we didn’t do that because quite frankly I didn’t wanna hear it.

Josh: yea, 

Bryan: I don’t wanna hear that, I don’t need anymore problems you know, but you have to  create a system like a process inside of your business to have a real stream of feedback from users and customers to let that drive innovation prepare you from one to five to ten to twenty million dollar. 

Josh: so the question is part of that is when is you’re getting this feedback you know let say you are getting a pieces of feedback, which one is do you choose to work on first when you’re are getting all these because you and I both know this right when you ask that question you’re going to get so many answers right. 

Bryan: Yeah, it’s tough because you have to  prioritize and you have to look like if you wanna like put it in a quadrant what is like low effort high reward , that is what I always do ‘cause we get a thousand points of feedbacks a dayand so we are trying to like map these things out with what is the least amount of effort and highest return let’s just focus on that and not even worry about the other stuff and so a lot of times it can like come with the redundancy, like how often are you hearing these complains, a lot of times it will come down and like strategy like if we did this it would  actually help us with our marketing cause it will differentiate us and so you kinda like to like to synthesize qualitative feedback and the quantitative feedback ‘cause you also need a balance these user feedback with the actual real number in what your  business is doing and use let of those inform what it is and how you’re gonna take business, take the reality is most  businesses are not that complicated, like if you are running a customer survey and you are hearing the same thing things like let’s say like you run a roofing business and you constantly hearing customer’s pissed off  ‘coz there’s nails in the yard, the you know you need to create a new process around when we get done we run these magnets for the yards we clean up about the nails, simple thing but  most roofing companies aren’t running customer feedbacks surveys so like do doing them and making them it easy for homeowner to or consumers to talk to you as owner is like tables stake you need to put a place and like let that feedback drive in innovation in your business. 

Josh: love that and you know Bryan, we’ve been going for almost 30 minutes now you’re really good at this by the way let’s just scroll it up there you’re bring good stuff for the table, keeping my interest and that’s always important so a couple I ask questions for you the first one is how can people connect with you with GreenPa., 

Bryan: Yea so anybody life is too short to cut your own grass, don’t waste the weekend mowing lawn yard just jump on GreenPalyou can download it on app store or the play store you just put your email address and home address you’ll get 5 quote back in less than a minute, hire the service value you work with come out the next day and mow it, anybody wants  to reach  me, you can hit me up on linked in, Instagram @bryanmclayton, twitter @bryanclayton or you can email me

Josh: love that, so bear minimumgo down the app, I am gonna go download it , I am really curious with what you have so outside of that Bryan, final question before we sign off if you could give one final piece of advice to everybody and say hey there’s this one thing you got in this interview what would it wanted to be?

Bryan: oh wow, maybe like, look at your business as infinite game so a lot of times do entrepreneurs once naive myself  look at the business like a two or three or even a four year thing when infact like it is a lot longer than that in most cases so if you are starting a new business or where in your business you need to like an infinite game like this is the thing I am going to do to like win and like a pair offer would be like you look at the revolutionary war in Unites States like won a revolutionary war because we look at it like as an infinite game and when you look at the Vietnam war and is a very different outcome because we never look out at the Vietnam war as an infinite game and so if you look at your businesses though like by the fall I am not giving up and most cases that will get you through the low points and see why you success.