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Bryan Clayton – GreenPal
program can be found at the podcast
link at DrawInCustomers.com.
We are locally written
by Bank of Sun Prairie.
My name is James Kademan, entrepreneur,
author, speaker and helpful coach to small
business owners across the country.
And today we are welcoming/
prepared to learn from Bryan Clayton,
the CEO of GreenPal,
the Uber of lawn mowing.
So, Bryan, how are you doing today?
I’m doing great, James.
Thanks for having me on.
Thanks for thanks for coming on here.
I am curious, what is the Uber of lawnmowing?
So GreenPal is an app that anybody can
download to order a lawn mowing service.
So rather than having to call around
on Craigslist or Facebook or Yelp,
you can just download GreenPal.
You’ll get hooked up with a great lawn
mowing service in less than a couple
of minutes hire them
the come mow, your grass.
And if everything goes well,
you can just set it and forget it
for the rest of the year and everything
that happens in the background magically.
And so it takes a lot of the pain points
of finding a good lawn mowing service
and paying them and just
manages it all for you.
Been at this, we’re around eight years.
Eight years? Been been at it for eight
years we’re an eight
year overnight success.
We have over several hundred thousand
homeowners using the platform to get their
grass cut and doing 20 million
dollars a year in revenue.
So we started off very, very humbly,
just me and to my co-founders
hacking away on the project.
We ended our first year
in 2013 with 20 customers.
Half of them were my friends and family.
Here we are, eight years later,
have several hundred
thousand people using the app.
You know, it’s interesting.
I have a call answering service and we answer phones
for a few landscaper lawn mowing people
and generally speaking, by,
they’re telling us that somebody calls
for service, just tell them we’re booked.
Yeah. That’s as far as lawn mowing goes.
It’s very common.
And then you get to your point.
My first company
was a landscaping company.
I started out I started a lawn mowing
business in high school as a way to make
extra cash stuck with that business
all through high school,
all through college, over a 15 year period
of time, built it into one of the largest
landscaping companies in the state
of Tennessee where I live.
over ten million dollars a year
in revenue, built it over 150 employees.
And in 2013, that company was acquired
by one of the largest landscaping
companies in the United States.
So building that company from scratch,
just me and a push mower to
hundred trucks going out every day.
Yeah. I learned a lot about
the landscaping business,
how it works from the inside out.
And to your point, yes.
People to make a living mowing yards.
They’re on a lawn mower every day.
It’s hard to reach them.
It’s hard to get them on the phone.
It’s hard to get them to quote
your your need for you.
And so our app takes care of all
that and actually helps the smaller
service providers that might be just
getting started, helps them really
get going and making material income.
Yeah, it’s interesting because there’s
other when I talk to other people about
lawn mowing services and all that jazz,
you’ll hear the the typical stories
that you hear with a lot of
service businesses, I guess,
where somebody showed up for a little
while and then they all of a sudden
just ghosted, they stop coming
no call, no show, no response,
or they’ll show up
and maybe their employees kind of did a
not so great job or it’s just cumbersome.
I guess it’s interesting that your
platform kind of gives it more
of a corporate feel as far
as a trustworthy foundation.
So that there is because I imagine
there are reviews and stuff like that.
It’s like an accountability
layer that that is. Right.
And it’s almost like,
you know, it’s almost like this is a boss
in a pocket for service providers.
They’re just getting started.
Don’t really know how to run a business.
To your point.
Yeah, the case of the
disappearing lawn guy is real.
They show up for maybe a month
and then they just disappear.
They jump off the face
of the earth. Our our app,
our platform enables homeowners
to sidestep all of that.
You can read reviews on on what people say
about them or how often they show up
on time or how many
transactions they’ve done.
How often do they get booked
for a second lawn mowing.
So you can make an informed decision
on this is why I want to work with and not
just have to take like a shot in the dark
and hope you get somebody good.
It really does solve a lot of problems
on the introduction and also making sure
that they show up on time
for months and years to come.
The other side of the transaction.
Why we really do what we do
is for the service providers.
That’s really my background it’s really
where our passion lies and like giving
them a platform to plug into to where they
can just work really hard mowing yards.
But everything was it relates to getting
new customers bookkeeping,
getting paid on time, optimizing your
route, keeping everything organized.
It just happens for them.
And so that’s really why we exist.
It’s really our purpose.
And our passion is to give these small
business owners a platform to plug
into to where they can just grow their
business and work hard doing it.
That is the part that I love about what
you have going on,
because it’s two fold, right?
There’s talk about the customers trying
to find a service provider,
which you solve that with.
That’s what I would consider to be
fairly easy as long as you can.
You as a business can get in front
of those customers. The back end,
where all these service providers,
we see that every day,
where they just don’t know.
They don’t know what they don’t know.
So their business, invoicing, scheduling,
all that kind of stuff is just like,
oh, I need to do that.
And that stuff is hard to learn
on the fly, especially when
you’re mowing yards all day.
You don’t want to do bookkeeping
when you come home at night.
So it’s our job to enable that that hard
working lawn care service provider to just
spend time with their family on the nights
and weekends, not like passing out fliers
or or spend it doing emailing out invoices
and all the stuff that they
typically would have to do.
So that’s that’s really our purpose.
That’s that’s why we exist.
And it kind of stems from my fifteen
years in the business.
You know, it’s hard to make
a living mowing yards.
You wake up at the crack of dawn every
morning, you sharpen lawnmower blades,
you do all that you’re
working for two hours for.
You’ve made a dime.
And and then you have to, like,
sweat your butt off all day doing really
taxing, taxing, physical, hard labor.
And then, like I was mentioning at night,
you have to do all the back office
things and so are our platform.
Alleviates a lot of that
for service providers.
And we’re really kind of helps is is,
you know, your firemen,
your school teacher, your police officer,
your you know, your your bartender,
these these these folks that want like
a side hustle or like a side gig,
you know, an extra way to a way to put
an extra thousand dollars
a week in your pocket.
The lawn mowing business
is a great way to do it.
And we kind of give them the toolset
to plug into to where all they got
to do is just show up on a day.
They’re supposed to show up,
do a great job mowing the yard for their
client and just follow
the process on the app and everything
else is handled for them.
And as it turns out,
that’s really the best kind of service
provider that you want as a homeowner.
You want the owner operator.
You want the person that you’re hiring
to actually be the person on the mower.
And we kind of help power
that relationship, power that matching
and make it all happen like it should.
Tell me why you prefer an owner operator
running the mower, so to speak.
So would you want somebody to come mow
your yard for thirty five dollars that was
going to make all thirty five dollars or
would you want somebody is going
to make twelve dollars an hour.
You know, you want the person
you want the person that’s going to,
that’s making the money
that you’re paying them.
And so you don’t want the hourly employee
you want, you want the proprietor because
they’re going to do a better job.
They’re going to make sure that your needs
are met, whereas the employee is in most
cases, just going to do as half ass
a job as they can,
because that’s just human nature.
And so in any case, you know,
if you go to a coffee shop, ideally,
it’d be awesome to have the owner
of that coffee shop making
you that cup of coffee.
And so that’s kind
of like what we empower.
We empower these micro entrepreneurs
to to get in business for themself.
Because like you to you,
like you mentioned,
we handle all the the really kind
of mysterious stuff for them in terms
of how do I get new customers?
How do I do bookkeeping?
How do I how do I how do I make sure
my accounts receivable
is is not like lagging.
And so that’s really makes
it makes it a better fit.
And also, like, if you’re running a big
landscaping company like I used to,
if you’re a crew foreman, you know,
making fifteen dollars or twenty dollars
an hour, why would you do that when you
can just jump on GreenPal
and make fifty dollars an hour?
And so that’s really
what we set out to do.
It’s our purpose is to it’s to lower
the bar for people to be in business for
themselves, in the lawn mowing business.
And it’s really our purpose in life.
So I’m going to ask you as far as
marketing or growing GreenPal.
When you first started it,
how did you get both customers and how
did you get service providers?
Because that’s kind
of a chicken egg thing, right?
You have the chicken and egg problem when
you when you’re building
a multisided marketplace like this.
And it’s really, really hard to get over.
It’s really hard to get that critical
mass of buyers and sellers.
The way we approached it was
just through focus, sheer focus.
We we were only in Nashville,
Tennessee for three years
until we figured out how to how to like
a repeatable process to roll
it out city by city.
it just took us that long
to figure it out.
And that focus in the early days was how
we kind of got over that cold start
and how we figured out
the playbook as we went along.
And the early days it
was it was door hangers.
We passed out hundreds of thousands
of door hangers in Nashville, Tennessee,
getting the word out about the platform
so homeowners would use it.
And then on the supply side for lawn
we would just cold call,
we would call call people off Craigslist,
and just pitch them on the idea of,
hey, you know, you can use this app.
It’s free to use if you
get any work on it.
There’s just a small transactional fee
and that value proposition resonated.
And the other thing, too,
that we did in the early years,
because our product really sucked.
We were kind of building as we went.
Oh, yeah, it was terrible.
It was it barely worked.
It was a piece of shit.
But we kind of like just hacked
away on it as time went on.
but but the way we kind of like the glue
that we kind of put into the dynamic was I
would give free coaching,
I would give free mentoring to service
providers coming on the platform.
And in Nashville, Tennessee,
I’m kind of a known commodity.
And the lawn mowing business,
I’m like the only guy to have built
a landscaping company to over
eight figures and to have sold it.
So if you mow yards in Tennessee,
you know my name.
like, when I would call these people,
I’d be like, hey, you know,
this is my new thing.
And is this really you like?
Yeah, this is my new thing I’m doing now,
and I really would love for you to try it.
You know, I’ll give you free coaching
and you’re like, hell, yeah.
And so that’s how we got our first,
like several hundred service providers.
And they were like on the platform
modulated ready to go.
And in that way, we could focus on just
the the demand side, the homeowners.
That was kind of how we held
it together in the early days.
And then by way of doing that,
we were able to learn, OK,
this is how we’re going to go to our next
city, our third city,
fourth city and so on.
And now we’re in every major
city in United States.
So when you see start out Nashville,
the thing the website or
the app is a little clunky.
Who was coding it?
Yes, great question.
You know, ideally,
when you’re starting a technology business
like this, you would have
a hacker and a hustler,
you would have somebody that knows how
to write code, somebody that knows how
to design software, who can just, like,
get the first minimal viable
product out the door.
And then you would have somebody who’s
just going to make it rain,
who’s going to figure out by any
means necessary how to market it.
And for us, I was passing out
door hangers in early days.
And so ideally, you’d have that.
We had three hustler’s we had me and two
guys I was recruited to co-found
the business with who were
just like really hard workers.
But we didn’t have anybody
that knew how to build software.
In fact, I didn’t know anybody
in my social circles.
And so, like, it just it
was just a nonstarter.
And so we we really believed
that we could outsource it.
And we paid a development shop
in Nashville, one hundred and fifty
thousand dollars to build
the first version of GreenPal.
So here we think.
Here we think, OK,
we’re going to pay these guys to build it
and then we’ll market it and then
we’ll just be off and going.
And they took them like nine months
to build it and we released it and pass
out all these door door hangers.
And it was a total failure.
It was a flop.
It didn’t work, didn’t have
the feature set it needed.
And it really wasn’t those guys fault.
the moral the story is,
is if you’re going to be in the tech
business, you have to be
able to execute it yourself.
You have to be able to build software.
And it was a really hard lesson,
the hard pill for us to swallow.
But we met with as many people as we
could get to use the first version.
And the the the feedback we constantly
kept getting was they were
disappointed that it didn’t work.
They were pissed off, it didn’t work.
They were upset that it didn’t fulfill
the promise they were let down,
that they had this problem
and this thing didn’t solve it.
And so, like all of that disappointment
was enough validation for us to know that,
OK, we need to keep going because
these people really wanted it to work.
It was really going to solve
a problem for them, but it didn’t.
And so we looked at ourselves
in the mirror and we decided, OK, well,
by any means necessary, we’re going
to learn how to build software.
We’re going to learn how to code, how to
design software, how to market software.
And we just, like, locked ourselves in a
room for three years and didn’t leave.
Like, we will read every blog we could.
We we we watched every video on YouTube.
We took every online course you could
and like, taught ourselves
how to build software.
And over a three year period of time,
we got a good product built ourselves.
And and then we started then
we were able to delegate.
We delegated too soon.
We had to like master the 80,
20 of software development and then
we were able to delegate again.
So are you saying the three of you,
the three initial founders?
The learned code.
We learned how to write software.
Yeah, I am I am a very, very,
very terrible front end developer.
But I knew just enough on how
to how to build build software.
And my my co-founder actually went
to a boot camp for six months that we we
spent like twelve grand for him to go to.
It was full time and he went from zero
to being able to build the back
end of the app in six months.
Now I’m not sitting here saying
that anybody can do that.
He worked really, really hard,
but it is possible.
That’s pretty cool.
Yeah, it was it was a hell
of a start and it was really hard.
But it is like you look at a lot of these
tech companies that like just come out
the gate, you know,
go from zero to one hundred million
in revenue in like three years.
What you don’t realize is like they’re
on their second, third or
fourth swing at the plate.
They’ve already crashed and burned.
They’ve already built like a two or
three tech startups that failed.
So they come to the like the starting
point of this winning company.
And they already know how to,
like, build software.
They already know how to market software.
They already know how
to do all these things.
And like you’re looking at like
three years of a 20 year period.
And so for us, we had to pay our dues.
And that’s just what it took.
Luckily, luckily, we were chasing
an idea that was not sexy.
Nobody else is looking at it.
And so that gave us a lot of time.
And so there’s a lesson there.
If you’re starting a business,
I think there’s a correlation between
the least like exciting
and sexy and like fun.
The idea, the greater
your odds for success.
Because lawnmower and no one wakes up,
I guess, when they’re seven years old
and says, I’m going to start to learn.
There’s something of that nature.
It’s just not it’s just not
the most glamorous place to be.
when I graduated college, I was mowing
yards and I went to business school.
I put myself through school cutting grass.
And when I graduated college,
I had to make like a hard decision.
Was I going to be like a grass cutter
the rest of my life?
Or was I going to go into the job market?
And I really started looking at it.
I was like, damn, I’m making more money
mowing yards than I could
starting out and in the business world.
So I’m just going to stick with this.
And I think that’s what.
Hangs up, a lot of people in business is
that they don’t want to be seen
as starting from the bottom.
They don’t want to be seen in the bottom,
like they don’t want to be seen as the guy
who is going to come out and mow your yard
or they don’t want to be seen as the guy
or gal who’s going to sell you a new
roof or cut your hair or or whatever.
I think that holds a lot of people up
and businesses like they don’t want
to be seen as starting from the bottom.
And for me, luckily, I was able
to get over that real quick.
And and so,
you know, like starting GreenPal all
over again, like I had to start
from the bottom again.
You know, I went from having having
a business that was doing 10 million
in revenue to now starting this new app,
begging people to use it for like twenty
seven dollars a mowing, you know,
so it was really humbling.
And that’s one of the beautiful things
about business, is it can be like this
feedback machine to cause you to be
a more humble, better human being.
You mentioned the the perception
that people have of the
perception of other people.
Because I used to deliver beer for a living.
And I used to always joke that if
any given person was given a gun with two
bullets and they had to shoot two out
of three people, and there was the pope,
the president and me,
the beer guy, I’m safe.
Last man standing man.
Yeah, you were just I mean,
you made nothing for cash.
You’re working all the time.
And outside of being in shape,
you really had nothing going for you.
But oh my gosh, man.
It’s a lesson in reframing to the outline.
Like you reframe, you can reframe anything
like and for me, you know,
the way I looked at it was, yeah,
I might be on a weed eater.
But I own my own business,
I’m in charge of my own destiny,
like like I don’t have to do what I don’t
want to do and I like to think
I have unlimited upside.
And so the reframing that was kind of what
got me through a lot of those early years.
Yeah, it’s interesting because I had
a printer repair company when I first
started that even I shouldn’t say when
I first the whole time that I had that.
When you say printer repair guy and people
started, knowing you as the printer repair guy
they still like, oh,
he’s blue collar or whatever.
Yeah, but I’m thinking
you’re hiding behind
some whatever company.
A Fortune 500 company.
Tell me you’re like the vice
president of banking or something.
You’re a bad market away
from being homeless.
And you’re in a cubicle.
And, you know,
I might I might fix printers for a living,
but I have I have the unlimited upside
and I’m in charge of my destiny.
And, you know, small business is tough.
It’s not for everybody.
But I think it’s one
of the best decisions.
If you’re willing to throw your entire
life’s force into one thing
and you are like sufficiently like
dedicated to do that and willing to make
the sacrifices, it can be the best
thing you do for your life.
And oh, absolutely.
I believe that like
to live an interesting life, you have
to have an interesting storyline.
And I think business
can be that storyline.
It can be the thing, you know,
if you think about your life
in the context of a story and you’re
the main character, like
every main character and every hero
of every story overcomes these these
obstacles to get to the mountaintop.
And, yes, you know, it’s it’s you passing
out fliers for your printer repair shop.
It’s me passing out door
hangers for my app.
You know, I got bit by a dog
two times doing that.
That’s that’s a that’s that’s a fun like
scene in the story, you know,
and like so my business is like the thing
that lends an interesting
storyline to my life.
That’s fair to be the hero.
You always believe that you wanted to be
here and your business can be the cure.
And the business can be
the arbiter of that.
It can be the thing that causes
you to have an interesting story.
Yeah, that’s cool.
Versus the guys versus the guy
hiring you to fix the printer.
He doesn’t have a very interesting story.
Well, what’s interesting,
though, full circle here.
When I started the call answering
service, which evolved
from a print repair thing.
Now I get to deal with people that have
interesting stories all the time.
Yeah, here you go.
So it’s kind of cool.
I want to ask you or shifting
to the competition thing.
So when you were first starting
in Nashville and you start
reaching out to these
service providers, did any
of them consider you competition?
If you don’t do a good job of explaining
it, they could,
but I was able to kind of understand their
position because I had lived it for so
long, in many ways, I was kind
of solving my own problems.
And I think that’s important for any
business owner or any entrepreneur.
If you can start like the starting line,
start solving your own problems,
that can help that can help
increase your odds of success.
So for me, it wasn’t like
I’m in competition with you.
I want to become like the thing that helps
you double your business this year.
I want to be the thing that you rely
on or that helps you get a new truck.
I want to be the thing that that helps you
pick up 20 new customers in the zip
codes where you’re already working.
And so it was never it was never like, oh,
we’re the big guys in town and we’re going
to put you out of business
if you don’t join us.
It’s hey, are the only reason we exist
is to help you grow your business.
And if and if you win, we win.
And if you don’t win, we don’t win.
And so we always have tried to align
the incentives and goals of the platform
and its growth with how our service
providers are doing and and how they’re
making material money and sticking around
and using it year after year after year.
It’s been a real healthy way
for us to build the business.
And we’ve bootstrapped this business.
We haven’t taken on any
capital or any outside.
And so when you do that,
like it offers like a really singular,
like clarity to where it is you’re doing,
because you have to, like,
do it right and you have to make money.
And so that’s that’s kind of how we have
approach to building
this thing sustainably.
You know, it’s interesting,
when I had that printer repair company
and I think this relates to the lawn care
business, I was telling a buddy of mine
who was working for a big corporation.
I’m like, I’m essentially creating jobs
because I had a few employees and all this
kind of stuff, we weren’t exactly
hiring hundreds or anything like that.
It was a few handful.
And he said, no, I don’t think you are
because people needed their printer fixed,
whether you did it or somebody else did.
So essentially you’re just moving jobs.
And I challenged them a little bit
because I said I think that there are
an X number of volume
of printers that are broken.
And if it’s a pain in the butt to get
that thing fixed, either finding a company
to do it, getting in touch with them,
having them show up,
having the person with a skill show up,
all that kind of hierarchy to happen,
then that printer is
not going to get fixed.
So we were doing everything we could
to make the customer experience
as good as possible.
And I think in the neighborhood of lawn
care, there’s people that they
essentially have a choice, right?
Either they can cut it themselves or
they can reach out to someone else.
And I personally have never even
considered reaching out to someone else
because I was just afraid that, one,
they’re not going to answer their phone.
They’re going to ghost me.
This is going to be this huge pain.
It’s going to be more of a pain to deal
with them and therefore, my wife,
than it is to just mow the lawn myself.
So you are making it easier
for us from a consumer standpoint.
That’s a great way to look at it.
Yeah, any time you can make things more
efficient, cheaper, more reliable,
win win for everybody, engage it.
It unlocks value.
It unlocks abundance.
It’s like the beauty of capitalism.
And so, you know, however
you want to look at it?
Like you look at like
Door Dash, Postmates, Uber Eats.
They make it so damn simple and easy to,
like, get food delivered in a way
that never was before possible.
So now look look at everybody who’s
winning the restaurants,
winning because they’re getting orders,
especially now in covid.
Like, these are like this.
This revenue stream is the only thing
keeping a lot of these restaurants alive,
like the the single mom who just got home
off of like a 12 hour shift
at the hospital, who doesn’t have time or
like want to cook, can just order food,
like, affordably, like everybody.
And the app is is growing.
There’s engineers and designers and people
working for that after stakeholders
in that app that that are winning
like everybody is winning.
That’s a beautiful, beautiful
thing of of of capitalism.
It’s it’s like you look at any any
country city culture that’s doing well.
It’s like it’s because
businesses are winning.
And and so I think,
like technology can accelerate
that and a lot of ways and and to your
point, like, you know,
you had your printer repair company,
you know, that person that was working
for you, that that was fixing printers may
or may not have had a college degree,
you know, and so, like,
they probably didn’t have a whole lot
of of opportunities for high paying jobs.
And look, look, now you’ve created this
thing where they can be good at it
and they can save stuff
from going to the landfill.
And the business owner
can save 50 percent on.
I mean, dude, everybody’s winning there.
And so, like the the person
that told you that is a cynic.
And they don’t they probably
didn’t own a business.
No, afraid to own a business.
And that’s probably the rationale.
And so it’s like whereas you you know,
you’re giving this person a job
and they’re making good material
income and everybody’s winning.
That’s the beautiful thing about business.
So I want to ask you,
when you were in that three year stint
where you guys were learning,
coding and all that jazz,
did you shut down or did you just maintain
with what you had and said,
hey, by the way.
We have a timeline for improvement.
Yeah, you know, I think momentum is
a principle to business that
that can’t be overlooked.
You have to keep moving forward.
You cannot stop it.
It’s like you see these crazy people
training for marathons and and
you see them at the stop,
at the corner, at the stoplight.
And they’re still jogging in place.
Well, you know, you’re like,
what the hell’s that person doing?
Well, what you don’t realize is like when
you’re trying to train for a marathon,
it’s it’s more painful to stop.
Take a break.
At that stoplight and then start again.
That it is to keep jogging
a thousand times over.
And so it’s like that little parallel
can be applied to business and you’ve
got to keep moving forward.
You can’t stop.
And so for us,
you know, we stuck it out with the piece
of crap product that we had
in the marketplace
and just kept that out there as much
because we weren’t like two
bent on sales and transactions.
All we cared about was learning.
OK, so for the first two year, two years,
we were really on this like customer
development, looked kind of like
journey where we really just wanted
to know what problems people wanted
to solve, where we saw,
where we needed to improve.
And even then and now, eight years later,
that’s still how we operate.
We you know, in the early days,
the product was a piece of crap.
It barely worked, but we still had a chat
bubble in the lower right hand corner.
And it was insanely simple for anybody
to talk to me or my two co-founders.
And so seven, seven days a week,
anybody’s pissed off, could hit us up.
And like the the the chat software that we
were able to embed in the in our software,
you know, hit us up right here.
And so, like, you would be out to dinner
with your family on a Sunday night and it
would be like, OK, what’s going on?
OK, somebody in Denver, Colorado,
didn’t get their grass cut today.
Let me figure out what happened here.
And it’s like when that’s happening
on a daily basis, hourly basis,
you’re never at a loss for what you need
to be building,
what you need to be fixing, what you need
to be focusing all your resources on.
And that simple little heuristic is what’s
kept us, you know,
has kept us in the game.
And we still still use to this day.
It’s it’s like make it insanely simple
for your customers and your users to speak
with you, and you’ll never be at a loss
for what you need to be doing.
That’s interesting that it was going right
to you guys, but you would see you can
see patterns for where the problems are.
Oh, yes. What are people looking
for that they can’t see?
Or maybe something exists.
But people aren’t able to find it
where they’re confused,
where their expectations aren’t being met
What doesn’t work, what’s you know, how
do you you know, like just things like,
you know, on the service provider side,
we would we understood,
like, really quick, like.
You need to show up tomorrow for your
customer to mow your customers yard
rather than Mrs.
Smith has an appointment for tomorrow.
That’s like, no,
you like using the pronoun you you need
to show up for your customer
tomorrow to service your customers.
You are like understanding
how to use that pronoun.
And that really shifted a lot
of the perception of like, oh, OK, now
I understand, like this is my customer.
GreenPal helps me get my customer
and GreenPal gives me the tools
to schedule and get paid for my customer.
But I do need to be there for my customer.
And like, just that insight, you know,
comes from speaking with people,
speaking with people on a daily basis,
either on the phone or on chat
and just making it really easy
for removing all the friction
for people to speak with you.
So essentially making the.
The service provider themselves
the hero rather than you guys the hero.
Exactly, yes, utility bills.
We are the thing that helps
the hero get what they want.
And we aren’t your lawn mowing service.
We are not your landscaping company.
We are the thing that makes it insanely
easy to order from your landscaping
company, just like Door Dash
is not your restaurant.
Let’s talk about pricing,
because I imagine when you’re dealing
with some of the people that are
just doing it more as a
hobby, but as a secondary income.
I just talked to a guy Friday
who was doing handyman services and he was
charging is charging 50 bucks an hour.
I said, dude, there’s no way that you’re
making a living at 50 bucks.
So at any rate,
for the the people that have,
I’m going to say legitimate without being
derogatory to people that using
as a moonlighting job.
Let’s say the legitimate business like
this is my full time gig is mowing
lawns and landscaping or whatever.
Working as well with the people that are
doing this as a second gig or
a supplementary gig,
I imagine that there’s a price
variation between those two.
How do you deal with that?
Yeah, so we don’t set the price.
We don’t tell you is going to be thirty
five dollars, mow your yard,
we deliver you five bids and then
you can hire who you want to work with.
And so we it’s our job to get you the best
fit lawn mowing service
you might just have.
It might be a rental property and you just
want the grass knocked down twice a month
or it could be a million dollar house
that, you know, is your you
know, you’re proud of the property
and you want a great looking lawn.
So that’s a different
type of service provider.
And so it’s our job to provide you
with five different options and they’re
going to be on a spectrum of price.
And that way you can make the best
informed decision that you
want to work with.
And now to your point,
your smaller providers can be
a little more price competitive
than your your bigger providers.
But but that’s you know, that’s fine.
Like, that’s that’s our job is to make it
more affordable and make it more efficient
and more convenient to hire somebody.
And so it’s really kind
of what we empower.
Now, that said, when we first started,
we really thought that it was our job
to deliver the cheapest lawn mowing
We thought we thought with a competitive
bidding structure that we could,
like, reduce the cost of lawn mowing.
And after we started meeting with,
like the first several hundred
people using our product.
We kept coming across the feedback.
It’s like they’re like, no,
I don’t want the cheapest.
I just want somebody to mow the yard.
I need somebody to mow the yard tomorrow.
My last guy flaked on me.
I’ve been I’ve been through three
different service providers
in the last year.
I just need some I don’t want
a twenty three dollar lawn mowing.
I want a thirty five dollar lawn
mowing and I want them to show up.
And so we started understanding that we’re
actually in the business delivering speed
and reliability and not cost savings.
Here you go.
But is it just has to be in the market.
It’s not like somebody wants
a twelve dollar yard mowing.
They just need somebody to show up every
two weeks when they’re supposed to.
And so that’s that early feedback really
informed how we built out the platform,
how we built the product to ensure that
that we really do connect to a point,
weed out the bottom feeders
because they’re not reliable.
If you’re if you’re only making twenty
dollars an hour mowing yards, you’re not
going to be in business for long.
And so it’s our job to.
Yeah, make sure the pricing is
competitive, but not necessarily just
the craziest, cheapest solution.
The people are going through a pricing
thing like that’s a super good price.
It’s just not available because
the person is unreliable.
It’s like Uber.
And Uber is not
that much cheaper than a taxi.
I mean, in some cases they
might be more expensive.
In some cases they might
be like a dollar less.
Yeah depending on time.
I mean, it’s like it’s
in there and it’s like Uber.
You use Uber because it’s just
they’re going to show up.
You don’t have to call dispatch.
You don’t you don’t have to get
in a stinky cab like you don’t
you don’t have to like haggle over
the price and then like,
wonder how much you’re supposed
to tip them and all this stuff.
It’s like Uber is I mean, at times it
might be cheaper, but not all the time.
And so it’s like that’s kind
of the dynamic we’re in.
We aren’t looking to cut
the bottom out of the market.
It’s what we’re trying to make it more
reliable, easier and more
convenient and more efficient.
So you guys, they understand correctly,
you guys take care of the invoicing
and accept the payments
and all that jazz as well.
So when a homeowner books a lawn mowing
service, they say, OK,
I want to work with this person.
They will reserve them in a much the same
way as you would like reserve a hotel room
and they put a credit card number on file
and then after the job is done,
the card is charged.
And so we handle everything from
from getting them, like,
exposed to people who want to hire them,
getting them hired,
getting the payment on file.
And then after they get done
with the service, they upload a photo
of the completed job homeowner approves that.
And then and then they’re paid.
They don’t have to like,
sit on like thirty days of invoicing.
I guess as you’re talking about this,
I think the scheduling thing had to be
pretty challenging to code because,
you know, you got to figure out
the calendars for thousands
And everybody was being hired and what
days and when they’re supposed to be there
and then reminding them
that they’re supposed to be there.
And if they don’t show up at a certain
time of the day, nudging them again,
and if they didn’t show up,
making sure that they show up the next day
and if they don’t, then then
scoring them a certain way.
So where they don’t get hired again,
all of these things have taken us years
and years to figure out just
through trial and error.
And is that stuff that you
or you and your crew are still coding or
have you brought coding people on board?
Yes, time went on.
So we made a mistake in the early days.
We delegated too quickly.
We didn’t really know what we were doing.
And so we delegated
from a from a position of weakness.
I guess, you know, we didn’t really
understand how to build this stuff.
So we delegated from, like, abdication,
like, oh, you handle it.
And that didn’t work.
And so we learn how to do
all this stuff ourselves.
And then we we made a second mistake
of not delegating too soon.
We delegated we we sat on it
too long for ourselves.
And so far it’s like the next five years,
like we were seven days a week, 80,
90 hours a week, like
twelve hours a day coding and just trying
to build this thing to where it worked.
And we were almost afraid to delegate.
And so it took a little too long for us
to figure out, OK,
this is how we hire engineers.
This is how we bring new software
developers onto the team.
And now we have a team of twenty four
people, most of which are engineers.
And so now we’re able to like,
delegate this stuff and like build out
a spec and our product roadmap
and understand, OK,
this is stuff we’re working on and this
is what engineers are building and why.
So taking us took us a long time to learn
that if I if we had to do it all over
we probably could have we probably could
accomplish in two years
what took us eight.
Well, in hindsight, yeah.
That’s how it goes, interesting.
What have been some of the other
challenges that you’ve had to deal
with over the course of the eight years
that you didn’t really anticipate?
You know, like when you’re building
a a multisided marketplace, like.
This you have kind of like two customers,
almost, you have the wants and needs
and desires of of two
And so, like every marketplace deals
with this, like Uber dealt with it
with what they call surge pricing.
I don’t know if you remember that, but.
Oh, yeah, they got raked over the coals
for surge pricing and that was their
attempt to try to balance
supply and demand.
And anybody that knows anything about
building a marketplace would look at that
and say, yes, that’s very reasonable.
But but to a consumer, they’re like,
oh, what is this all pissed off?
And and so it’s like that’s
a challenge they dealt with.
And so we have dealt with similar
you know, having to figure out how
to balance the wants and needs of both
sides of the transaction
to where everybody wins.
It’s really hard, like in our case,
like homeowners that would use this thing.
They don’t really understand that this
is almost like a subscription business.
It’s like you hire somebody.
And if it worked out well,
you need to book them for the season.
If you want any kind of reliable
what they would want is they would hire
somebody on Tuesday, like the Fifth,
and then they would say, OK,
no, I don’t want to book
anything just yet.
I’ll call you when it needs it.
And it’s like it doesn’t
really work that way.
And it’s like now, well,
that’s what I want.
Well, it’s not that kind of business.
You need to book them
and like, be set for the year or you
need to, like, not use GreenPal.
And like, that was something we had to do.
We basically had it like through
how we have built our product.
It’s like, yes, you can use this for one
but after that you have to book them
for weekly or biweekly for the season.
You can’t you cannot just use
it for one mowing at a time.
The whole season.
So they’re not on call.
You will not get a you will not
get a desirable experience.
So it’s not like, OK,
I use them on Tuesday and then three weeks
later I call you on a Friday and I
want you there by the afternoon.
That is the expectation of a consumer.
And so but that’s not how
lawn mowing services operate.
They’re not just riding around with
eighty thousand dollars of equipment
saying, oh yeah,
I got twenty seven dollars lawn mowing
across town, let me run over
there and go do it.
We got a hot one.
It’s not how it works.
And so we’ve had to like
craft the messaging on both sides
of the, of the transaction.
Understand like no this is how this works.
And if you don’t want to do it this way,
you know, go back to Craigslist.
And and so that took us a long
time to figure that out.
So there’s a little bit of education
that has to happen with
the with the end users.
And it took us a long time
to figure out that messaging.
And even as that evolved to the point
where it’s cool now, it’s it’s cool now.
And but when we first started out and when
we first started out,
we made the ability where
the person could just order
services on demand and and like
service providers weren’t having it.
It’s like, no, no.
I was there three weeks ago and it was it
was out of shape when I
got there three weeks ago.
And now you’ve let it
grow this tall again.
You want me to, like,
make it pristine again?
No, take a hike.
And so they wouldn’t they wouldn’t pick up
they wouldn’t, like, show up when
that person hired them again.
And so they came to fruition.
It’s like if you want any kind
of consistent experience, this is how
it’s going to be or else don’t use that.
And it took a long time
to figure that out.
It was kind of funny.
Yeah, it is funny.
It’s kind of like using
open table, which is like
an app for reserving.
Yeah, and like on Valentine’s Day,
at like six o’clock at night, expecting
to, like, push a button and get
into the hottest restaurant
in town. You go on the app!
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
I want to ask you about the service
provider headaches that you’ve had,
because I know that one,
you’re solving a lot of those headaches
for them as well as for the consumer.
But I also know that I guess in the world
that I’m in, we answer phones for all
kinds of service providers
and some of them are very good at what
they do for their professional skill.
But communication or anything
beyond their skill is a challenge.
So I want to know how how you
guys learn to work through that.
Yeah, ideally, in a perfect world,
everybody would just know how
to run a great business, right?
That’s just not how it’s just not
how it works like me especially.
And so what we do is we kind of like
lower the barrier to entry into business.
And so we get a lot of folks that just
don’t really know
the the common sense like bare things you
need to do to to run a reliable business.
And so our biz, our platform is kind
of like an accountability layer.
So every every service provider has a
series of metrics that we score them on.
And it’s very clear that’s their score.
They have a reliability rating where they
are scored based on if they hired you for
Thursday, did you show up on Thursday?
No objective things.
Score goes up.
No score goes down.
And it pisses a lot of these guys off
because this is a layer of accountability
that does not exist in the analog world.
Oh that is beautiful.
I have a business partner in a contracting
company is essentially and he’s having
people like general contractors maintain
the time frame that they promised
and the general contractor gets the label
or list essentially what
that timeline is going to be.
And when my business partner asks them
to sign this document,
for them to essentially keep the promise
that they just made,
they’re like, whoa, whoa.
You want me to actually keep a promise?
Yeah, come on.
And the thing is, is a lot of, you know,
in the contracting world and lawn mowing
world, maybe in the home cleaning world
and the roofing world,
these types of really
manual labor intensive types of businesses
don’t tend to attract the most
sophisticated business operator.
And so that’s really the platform’s job
is to offer that layer of accountability.
It’s like, no, you’re being scored.
And if you want to use GreenPal
to make a hundred grand this year, then
you’re going to use it in such a manner.
And if you don’t, then don’t.
But it’s that’s that’s
the that’s the dynamic.
And so, like it or not,
you can either be reliable and show up
on time and get a high score and get
hired more and make more money.
Or you can show up three days late
and your score go through the floor
and you probably won’t get hired again.
And so that’s kind of what our technology
is there for, is to is to sideline service
providers that aren’t reliable, that for
whatever reason, don’t show up on time
and and to promote the ones that do.
And it’s funny, like
we have a Facebook group where thousands
of these of these contractors are
members of it and they share stories.
And, you know, we celebrate
a lot of the wins in that group.
A lot of people are like, oh, you know,
I was able to save my home
from foreclosure or I was
able to get a new truck.
I put my kids through school.
Thank you, GreenPal.
Like, it’s a lot of fun.
And then there’s there is some griping.
It’s like there are there are contractors
that will say, well,
I can’t win any new business.
And it’s like, well,
what’s your reliability rating?
OK, well, that’s the problem.
You’re not reliable.
That blows my mind that that would even be
acceptable to a human
just to move that way.
Hey, check it out.
Check it out.
I was like, well, yeah,
I had a yard last Thursday,
but I was sick and I couldn’t go mow it.
It’s like, listen, you don’t understand.
You’re in business for yourself.
You don’t call in sick.
You got to you got to make it happen or
you got to have somebody else go do it.
And so it’s like this educational process
of getting folks to understand that,
no, you don’t work for anybody.
You working for yourself is something
that our platform does on the fly.
And it kind of demotes the ones that don’t
get it and it promotes
the ones that do get it.
As a homeowner
you just get to hire the best ones.
You don’t have to deal
with the B.S. That’s so crazy.
I was late for more than four
out of five appointments.
How come no one’s hiring me?
Really? Bless their hearts,
you know, I mean, maybe business
ownership isn’t for you, but guess what?
There’s dozens of other contractors
in your zip code that are
kicking ass on this platform.
And those are the ones
that we want to help.
Part of success is showing up
in much the main part.
Yeah, I asked you, I guess you
alluded to it a little bit just now.
If someone is sick or their equipment
breaks or whatever,
or they can’t do a job,
can the can the service provider
use your system to essentially.
Get a backup person to take
care of the customer.
No, we don’t want that.
We want the homeowner to hire
who they’re working with.
So we don’t want this trading game.
What a service provider can do is they can
cancel and they can cancel,
but canceling hurts their rating.
And so, like as a homeowner.
You don’t care.
You don’t, my child is sick,
my equipment got stolen.
My back hurts.
A pump went out.
Well, I don’t care.
You own the business.
You need to have that stuff
figured out like I’m hiring you.
And so, like
at the platform scores you
on a binary basis,
whether you did it or not.
There’s no gray area.
Yes or no.
So and so that’s that’s how we are able to
offer up these reliable services that you
can hire right off the shelf,
because over time, our platform
has figured that out for you.
You know, if you order an Uber
or you order your food,
your dinner from door dash.
You don’t want to hear any excuses, no,
a thousand times, no,
I’m totally the no excuses guy.
Yeah, my my my General Tso’s
chicken better show up hot.
I don’t I don’t want to hear
that your child was sick.
And I mean, yeah, that sucks for you.
But I’m hungry. Like the American consumer
is selfish, egotistical, narcissistic,
like and I’m guilty of it.
Like when we push a button we
expect from magic to happen.
And so that’s that’s
why we push the button.
That’s why we put our credit card down.
We don’t want to hear
a bunch of excuses now.
That’s what our platform does.
No, it’s like I’m tired and hungry.
I don’t want to hear about somebody
else’s life problems.
My grass is four feet tall.
I didn’t I don’t want to hear
that your equipment got stolen.
You should have some extra equipment.
That’s that’s what that’s what happens.
That’s what I not that these
things happen all the time.
Like these like all of these like negative
scenarios happened less than
one percent of the time.
But it’s our platform’s job to make
sure that they happen as less as possible.
And I imagine the guy
that’s doing a really good job every once
in a while, he’s going to have a bad day.
The mower’s not going to start a flat tire
on a trailer or whatever
where he can afford the dock
in the rating to solve that problem.
You can reschedule you can cancel.
I’ll take care of it.
It might be later tonight
or something like that.
But just take care of the customer
as long as the customer knows.
That’s then that’s the key thing,
is the communication between
the people in the transaction.
And that’s the that’s the the way
to operate a business that are that our
platform encourages the operator
to do it that way.
The ones that just don’t interact
with the system or no call, no show.
They get sidelined real quick.
So, Brian, I’m listening
to what you got going on.
And I so I feel like this could apply
towards many other industries
besides just lawn mowing.
Is that in the works or is it.
You know, I think.
For our business and most any business,
it’s important to focus on being the best
in your thing in your market.
And so for us,
we’re the easiest way in the United States
to order a lawn mowing service,
we’re not the easiest way to order
a roofer, a gutter cleaning,
pressure washing service, a locksmith.
We have focused on one thing
and that’s that’s lawn mowing.
And, you know, a lot of these
contracting businesses, like
from the outside can look similar
like like a plumber, a roof repair guy,
a home cleaning service,
a lawn mowing service.
Until you’ve actually
made a living doing one of these services,
you don’t really realize there’s
a million unique problems.
That they all have.
And so they’re forced to offer like
the Uber like experience of I push
the button to hire this person.
They showed up and made
my lawn look great.
We have focused on just
this one thing now after.
The lawn mowing goes well, you can then hire
that same contractor for things like.
Shrub pruning, seeding, mulch fertilizing,
gutter cleaning, all these things,
but that’s downstream after, like, we have
nailed the experience on this one thing.
And so that’s that’s how
we’ve approached it.
And and the other thing, too, is,
is communicating that value to somebody
who doesn’t know a damn
thing about what you do.
So somebody comes to your website or your
app or page like you need
to answer three questions in less than
five seconds, really
less than three seconds.
Where am I?
What can I do here and why does it matter?
And you have to be able to answer those
things above the fold or else,
boom, they bounce.
And so it’s like, OK,
I have my grass that needs to be mowed boom lawncare
made easy click to get free quotes.
I’m in. Not
do you need, you know,
the easiest way to get home service
professionals say OK,
well I need a painter.
How do I find that.
OK is ok.
So that’s not you know,
being like self-funded and bootstrapped.
We’ve had to focus on this one thing.
That’s all right.
It’s a big thing.
It’s going back.
It’s a big market.
Big, big market to 80
billion dollar market.
We did twenty million dollars in sales
last year, so it’s a long way to go.
All the way to world domination.
Well Bryan, thank you so much
for being on the show.
How can people find you guys?
So anybody listening to this doesn’t
want to waste time cutting their grass,
they can download GreenPal
in the App Store or play store,
get hooked up with a great lawn
mowing service in less than a minute.
Anybody wants to reach me,
you can hit me up on LinkedIn.
That’s the best way
to reach me these days.
OK, and is it greenpal.com?
Or you can just download GreenPal
in either App Store. yourgreenpal.com.
I love it.
Thanks for being on the show Bryan, this is super cool.
I really appreciate you having me on.
This has been
Authentic Business Adventures the business
program that brings you the struggles
stories and triumphant successes
of business owners across the land.
Who knew that there was so much going
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That is cool.
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Whoa, I’m jumping ahead here.
My name is James Kademan
and Authentic Business Adventures is
brought to you
by Calls On Call offering call answering
and receptionist services to growing
businesses across the country, on the web
at CallsOnCall.com. As well as
Draw In Customers Business Coaching
offering business coaching services
for entrepreneurs in all stages
of the business, on the web
at Draw In Customers.com. And of course
The BOLD Business Book, a book
for the entrepreneur in all of us
available wherever fine books are sold.
We’d like to thank you our wonderful
listeners as well as our guest,
Bryan Clayton, CEO of GreenPal,
the Uber of Lawn Mowing.
Bryan, thank you so much
for being on the show.
Hey, thanks, James.
I appreciate it.
Yeah, this has been cool.
that you grew your own landscaping
business that big, that quick
mean it probably seemed day to day
that it was taking forever, but.
It’s a healthy size company.
That was that was a hell of a journey.
I was I was I was done after that.
But then I got bored.
And that is how it goes.
It’s the joy of selling a business then.
I got to get back in the race.
I got, I got to have something to get out
of bed in the morning for. That’s fair.
Past episodes can be found
morning, noon and night at the podcast link
found at DrawInCustomers.com.
Thank you for listening.
We’ll see you next week.
Want you to stay awesome.
And if you do nothing else,
enjoy your business.