Ever mow a yard? You start on the edge, mow all the way around, then move in a little and make another circuit, then another, then another. It can take a while, and progress is just one row at a time, but eventually, you get it looking the way you want it. That’s the way building GreenPal has been for entrepreneur Bryan Clayton and his partners. It’s a nationwide online marketplace; an Angie’s List only for lawn care.
Seems like a great idea, right? But even great ideas take time, and Bryan says “the graveyard of failed marketplaces is very full.” His advice? Be prepared to spend a decade to make it work. “We’re just now, six years in, figuring it out.”
Rise Grind Repeat Podcast
powered by EIC Agency
Hosted by Dustin Trout
Produced by Andrei Gardiola
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| Rise Grind Repeat 079 |
My businesses have always been the vehicle for my own personal development, they’ve been the vehicle that causes me to level up and do things that I never would do on my own. And so my first company, you know, having to learn how to like hire people and fire people and manage people and lead lead teams and and train people and all these things were were skills that I had to acquire over time that I had no interest in doing. I had no interest in and learning these things. But it literally like my business made me a better person.
On today’s episode of Rise, Grind, Repeat, we talked to Brian from Green Pal, he’s a serial entrepreneur has created a marketplace for landscapers and those who need landscaping services. Let’s dive right in. Brian, thank you so much for joining us on another episode of Rise, Grind, Repeat, I’m, I’m excited because you know, looking at your past looks like you’re a bit of a serial entrepreneur, and would love to learn more about that, maybe share some insights of learnings that you’ve had along the way to, to help other entrepreneurs that are starting out. And we’re part of our audience. But before we get into Green Pal, and where you’re at now, we’d love to hear how your kind of journey started as an entrepreneur.
Yeah, cool. So thanks for having me on Dustin, I appreciate it. So I have a lifelong entrepreneur, I’ve never had a job. I actually started mowing yards in high school as a way to make extra cash. My dad forced me to mow my first yard. And I saw just kind of got drug kicking and screaming into entrepreneurship. And so so I started mowing yards in high school as a way to make extra money. And by the end of my first summer, I had like 10 customers that I was mowing yards for. And I stuck with that business all through high school all through college. By the time I graduated college, I had to make a decision was I going to go into the job market and take a pay cut, or was I going to double down on this lawn mowing business. And I decided to double down on the grass cutting business and grew that into an actual company, over about a 15 year period of time, I grew that to 150 employees, over $10 million a year in revenue. And in 2013, that business was acquired by one of the largest landscaping businesses in the United States. So growing that company from just myself and a push mower to 150 people, you know, four or 500 lawn mowers, 70-80 trucks going out every day, I learned the hard way of how to build a business from scratch, how to build a team, how to lead how to manage how to market, how to build a sales team, like all of those lessons, I kind of learned by by hacking my way through it. And and then and then after that I retired, I kind of took six months off. And I got bored. And I decided, Okay, it’s time to start the second company, I started Green Pal, which is kind of like the Uber for lawnmowing. us, if a homeowner needs to get their grass cut, they just download green power, they get hooked up with a good lawn mowing service and less than a few minutes. And we’ve been at this for seven years. And we’re at the definition of a seven year overnight success, we’re going to do $20 million in revenue this year. We’re nationwide, a few 100,000 people using the platform. And so now I’ve kind of had to like do the same business but but strictly as a digital startup as building a marketplace to enable the the transactions to happen smooth and seamlessly. And I learned a lot you know, on the second go around on how to how to build software, how to scale software and how to distribute it. And it’s been a lot of fun. I’m glad I got started on
you are literally the epitome of the American dream. Ah, really, really, really cool stuff. I mean bold, bold companies from zero to 10 plus million. I mean, that’s huge. What was the deciding factor going from? You know, I want to try and find a job to starting this because I mean, that’s a go to college, you paid all that money to go to college, most people would want to see the ROI in that degree and go pursue a career. So well. What was that whole thought process? And what made you steer towards running your business? Yeah,
I really appreciate that. I like to think that I am kind of the embodiment of the American dream, to a degree because I’m not the smartest guy. I didn’t come from money. I had, like a humble, lower middle class upbringing. But But I was just able to learn business quickly, and learn it early enough and, and just execute and work really hard on my businesses. And that kind of improved my station in life. And so I like to, like tell people that they’re like, Look, you can make something of yourself by starting your own business and growing your own business. So I appreciate you saying that. For me, like my businesses have always been the vehicle for my own personal development. They’ve been the vehicle that causes me to level up and do things that I never would do on my own. And so my first company, you know, having to learn how to like hire people and fire people and manage people and lead lead teams and, and train people. And all of these things were were skills that I had to acquire over time that I had no interest in doing, I had no interest in and learning these things. But it literally like my business made me a better person. And now now with Green Pal, you know, it’s a completely digital business, we have a team of 23 people here that I, that I that I help lead. But I’ve had to learn all kinds of skills, building this company, you know, how to how to design software, literally how to how to build software, I taught myself how to code in the early years to help out with building this project. And I like my companies are always the thing that causes me to level up causes me to keep pushing the ball down the field, acquiring skills that I have no real, genuine interest in acquiring, but like in order to compete in order to be successful, you know, the business is going to is going to require a view that of you. So that’s one thing that I love about my businesses, I always have. And it’s something that keeps me in the game keeps me starting companies keeps me you know, with my sleeves rolled up. And quite frankly, is what I love to do. Now, like I I’ve been on this second project seven years. And you know, we had many, the first three years were 70-80, in some cases, 100 hour weeks, but I haven’t worked today is seven years, I am only working on what I want to do what I enjoy doing, and that is building this company and seeing it flourish. And I think that’s a great place to get to in business is to, you know, literally work on your company, because it’s what you want to do. It’s what you enjoy doing. And I’m very blessed and fortunate to have gotten to that point.
Now. That’s awesome. I mean, you seem super scrappy. I mean, starting from from nothing and building big teams. I mean, a lot of this audience I mean, very, very small entrepreneurs, small business less than than five employees or so, I mean, what is the the one thing? Or is there one thing that that you really saw work to really grow? Or scale the business? Is it more than marketing? is more of the sales outreach in the process? Is it more building a team? Or is it a little bit of everything? I mean, do you have any insight into maybe what some of those activities or actions are that really excelled? Your both your companies?
Yeah, the answer to your question is everything you just mentioned, and more. But,
Here’s an analogy that I like to use is to treat business as a video game. I stole that from Brian Chesky, the founder of Airbnb. And so if you think about a video game, like there’s these skills that are required for level one, level two, level three, and so on, and there’s like a final boss DNA of each level and, and like the skills you’re going to need and the things you’re going to need to do, and master and level one are totally different than what’s going to be required to you and like level seven, eight, or nine. But the reality is like, you don’t even need to worry about level seven or level eight when you’re on level one. And so like level one is like getting started getting your first $1,000 in revenue, $100,000 in revenue, and by any means necessary, be scrappy, and being resilient enough to get to that point, and they get past level one, which might just be your first $100,000 in revenue. And so then you think about, okay, now I’m gonna start level two, which is okay, I want to get to 250k in revenue. Okay, what am I gonna have to do to do that? Well, I gotta hire my first employee. And that’s a big moment in any business owners life, because basically, you’re like, doubling your business, it’s you plus one person. And so and so that’s like, the final boss of level two, maybe. And then you look at level three is like, okay, now I need like a team of five. And and now and now, the things we’re doing to grow, sales are starting to peter out. And so we have to create some kind of sales engine at the core of this business and figure out what that is, and figure out our value proposition and figure out what channels and marketing work better for us and do a lot of testing, experimenting with those. And so maybe that’s level three, and it ends like this goes on and on and on. So we’re like level 10, like, you know, you’re, you’re leading a team with 70-80 people, you have departments, you’re recruiting like, senior level people to help you build this thing, you might be raising capital, it’s like all of these high level things, which in reality, you don’t even need to worry about until like, you’re on that level, you have to conquer those things. And so, I think that’s one of the things that that a lot of entrepreneurs and new business owners get discouraged about is like, they get inundated with all of this information, all this stuff that they should worry about, like, and when in reality is like, Don’t even worry about that, like, focus on your little circle of influence in the middle of, of, of this big circle of stuff that you could worry about and act in that little circle. And and just get to the next level. Whatever you define that to be, and then you can worry about some more stuff when you get to the second level. And I think that’s one of the beautiful things about like the internet and YouTube and podcasts like this, like these days is like you can access the information you need at whatever level you’re at. So it’s like maybe you’re just getting started, maybe you just want to start a side hustle, well, then you need to be consuming content around starting high side hustles or starting a business part time. And there’s a bunch of podcasts and YouTube channels that focus on that. But maybe you have like a million dollars in revenue, and you want to get to $10 million in revenue. So now you’re looking at things like systems and processes, and and how to how to build a flywheel in the middle of your business. Okay, well, then you need to be reading books and, and and listening to podcasts, about people that talk about that, and so delineating these different things that are going to be required of you starting a business from scratch and growing and scaling, it is important for your focus, and also for you to be consuming the content and the knowledge that you need at that level of the game.
I absolutely love that and appreciate that. It’s funny that you mentioned I’ve never actually heard that use before. But I mean, I just I mean, we’re a marketing agency. And I joke that literally, it feels like we’re just in the middle of a video game. And you know, with all the data and analytics, it’s how do you how do you beat your high score every time, whether that’s, I mean, people are reaching and all that. So it’s, it’s funny that you mentioned that. And, you know, one thing that you brought up is not trying to focus too far ahead to where you get distracted at what’s on your plate. Now, I think that’s a big struggle for a lot, a lot of business owners, especially those that are that are starting out. I mean, do you have any tips on how to not think that far ahead? Or is it just a matter of being disciplined? or? Yeah,
it’s hard, because there’s so much out there and you again, you’re, you’re a newbie, and you don’t know what it what you’re supposed to be looking at and what you’re supposed to be doing. So two things one, on, one of my favorite books is the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Dr. Stephen Covey. And he talks about this here ist the thing I just mentioned, which is your your circle of influence, and your circle of concern. And so circle of influence is everything is, is everything is going on a business, it’s like watching some other competitor or some other company, that’s just crushing it and you wish you are them. It’s like COVID, it’s the election, it’s all new technology that’s coming out, that doesn’t necessarily pertain to what you’re doing, I guess everything is happening, that you’re getting distracted by. And then there’s your circle of influence, which is a much, much smaller circle inside of that. And that’s things that you can act on. So let’s just say like, you know, you got your first $100,000 in revenue, and you know, you need to hire your first helper, well, then that circle of influence is creating like, a, like a job description, literally like creating, like a process manual around what this person’s going to do, defining that role, like creating the goals for that role, documenting all of this, and literally, like you maybe even doing that job for a while, so you can understand exactly what it is, that’s inside of your circle of influence. And so like holding yourself accountable to what’s out there, and what what’s in your circle of concern, but really like acting in your circle of influence, is something that helps keep you focused. And also it helps like, drive the ball down the field. And, and the funny thing is, as you are working in that circle of influence, it gets bigger and bigger and bigger. It’s weird. The other thing that that that little heuristic that I’ve heard, and I didn’t invent this, but it helps me is is the concept of output metrics and input metrics. And so output metrics is whatever it is sales, its market share its number of customers, it’s like the goal. And you have to have a goal. And because without a goal, you can’t score. And so you, you define whatever that goal is, maybe as you’re doing like half million dollars, and you want to do $2 million in the next in the next year. Okay, well, then that’s, that’s the output metric. But then you need to work backwards, and you need to like look at all the things that are going to go into making that come true. And so if it’s like, if you’re, if you’re you say you got a construction company, or or whatever, and like you need to, like get more more remodeling jobs. And you know, you need to get more people to call your office and to get what people would call your office, maybe you got to do more direct mail, or door hangers, or Facebook ads or customer referrals, like these are all the input metrics that you need to like, drive forward to get to the output metrics. So you almost need don’t even need to worry about anything else. Other than like the daily, like, a quota for whatever the input metrics is, maybe it’s calling 100 people a week. Maybe it’s like you like managing a campaign is gonna send out 10,000 postcards every month, whatever that input metric is, you need to distill that down to a weekly set of activities, that you got to hold yourself accountable to actually execute. And then you’ll you’ll you’ll wake up in a very different reality a year later if you just rinse and repeat and work that process.
Yeah, no, I couldn’t agree more. I mean, what it comes down to is a lot of people are good at goal setting, but I think the thing that gets missed is reverse engineering and what activities need to be done that’s going to get you there. And then being consistent with that, and I mean, from previous guests, I mean, that’s, that’s the biggest piece is is the how I’m going to get there. And then maintaining consistency in order to achieve those goals. But I mean, having those goals, whether it’s on a monthly or a quarterly or annual basis, whatever it may be, I think is the big, big first step into what does the future look like and actually steering, steering your ship, rather, basically being proactive rather than reactive and kind of letting the business run you.
Exactly. And so that that’s kind of like, segues to another heuristic that I like to beat in my head and other people’s heads is, is the concept of working on your business and not in your business. And so the early years, you know, it’s going to be 99% in your business, you’re doing everything you can to just hold it together and, and get a few customers service them and get get get paid and reinvest that money. And so it’s so it’s like it you’re all in. But the problem is, is most people just stay in their business, they never get outside of that. And so basically, they just built themselves a job. And with a lot more headache, and a lot more stress, and a lot more risk than a normal job. And, sadly, many business owners spend 5-20 years or a lifetime stuck in this trap of building themselves a job, they’re essentially self employed. And they don’t have anything that even like resembles a real business. And so you have to really look at, okay, I’m working in my business, I understand that. But I need to like peel away layers of the week to work on my business. And so maybe it’s a Saturday activity, maybe that’s a Sunday activity, you have to allocate time to do that work that is important. But it’s not necessarily urgent. And those are the things that that will help you work on your business. And when I feel like the difference between in your business and on your businesses, let’s say you a let’s say you run a digital marketing agency. And, and you and one of the things that you guys do is you create, I don’t know, you create email marketing campaigns for people, and somebody has to like design that, and somebody’s got to research that and somebody’s got to, like execute that. And, and you as the business owner, say you’re a one man shop, and like you literally do all those things. Well, that’s great. Um, but as time goes on, you need to like create your proprietary process for how you do that, and how you do that better than your competitors. And a thing that is like a routine, it’s the way we do it. It’s the way we do it here. And this is why we do it here. And this is the way we do it every single time. And if somebody’s not a good fit for that, then we don’t take them on as a client, because we’re creating a repeatable and scalable model here. And it might just be you. It could just be you in one helper, but you have to have like start with that process that’s repeatable. And so this sheer act of creating that process is a working on your business activity. And it’s not fun. It’s harder work than actually just doing it. But it’s one of those things you have to hold yourself accountable to do. And it could be something that you got to do on nights and weekends while you’re doing all the other things just to keep your business afloat.
Yeah, no, I couldn’t agree more. It’s literally something that were gone through I mean were two years old and it’s I’ve been 100% in the business and slowly but surely trying to peel back some of those activities to work more on it. And it’s it’s amazing, the snowball effect, as maybe it’s only an hour a week that you can work on it. But as you do that, it opens up in 30 minutes. And it’s just taking advantage of that time when it does open up not watching Netflix or whatever. But continue investing your time and energy into it now now at a point towards almost split 50/50 in here pretty soon, it’ll be working on it. And so it’s it’s such a huge piece. But I think the biggest thing that you mentioned is one setting the goals on how you’re going to do it and two just being accountable and actually doing it, which is tough.
It’s tough. Because it’s not like our days are dominated by the urgent but not important. And so we’re reactive, we’re in a state of reaction all day. And like, it doesn’t matter how good you get at this stuff. Even even me personally I struggle with it daily. It’s like we’re dominated by notifications and email and, and, and push notifications and phone calls. And like we’re in constant where to constant reaction running our businesses. And we’re dominated by things that are urgent but aren’t important. And when in fact, we need to or even worse, they’re, they’re not urgent and they’re not important, like a lot of people spend their time to and where you got to like move into is like that high leverage activity of important but it’s not necessarily like burning the house down right now. It’s not necessarily urgent but as important as processes and strategy is differentiation in the market is customer research. It’s talking to customers is talking to your teammates is trying to understand How to strengthen your value proposition. Like your messaging around what it is you’re doing and how it relates in like the competitive landscape and how you can differentiate that. It might be a B testing, if you want a digital product, to try to get more insights about what your customers thinking, like, all of these things are hugely important. But they aren’t required to like keep the business open today. And so the problem is, we never get around to them, because we’re just dominated the bias data reaction. And so like you said, You almost got to, like, turn off Netflix, and spend nights and weekends. Like, you know, if you’re watching Yellowstone, you know, that was 12 hours you spent this week, you know, you could you could literally like spent six of that working on your business and in and leveled up, got to the next level.
Yeah, do you do anything with like time blocking or anything like that, because I used to really struggle with every email that came in whether it was important or not, I felt like I had to respond within seconds. And it’s tough to get away from there. But I started time blocking on maybe every hour, I respond to emails for 10-15 minutes, or whatever it may be. And once I started organizing my day, and kind of owning it started feeling more of the less, less reactive and more proactive on the day. But I mean, do you have any tips for entrepreneurs on how to accomplish that. So I think that is something that a lot of business owners entrepreneurs deal with,
I’d love to tell you that, um, I had this stuff mastered and like, and I didn’t react to email, and because but I don’t, what I have done is like the book, The Four Hour Workweek, you try to like, you read that book. And you know, that book is not about working four hours a week. That book is about delegating, trading systems automating and working 100 times more efficient, and more effective than you are right now. And so rather than like, beating myself up about checking email, 20 times a day, I began to look at the root cause of things I was having to deal with, and, and create systems and processes to solve those to where I could delegate them quicker, or never have to do them again. And so a lot of times, you just you you try to focus on Okay, Nick, how do I prevent myself from ever having to do this again. And, and that will clean up a lot of your inbox, because a lot of your inbox is just dominated by stuff that is routine. And it’s stuff that could have been prevented, if you had just like asked why five times as to why this person needs this thing. And a lot of times you can like reduce the flow now, you know, I get it, some people can’t just because the nature of what what they’re doing. But you know, start that first because you as the business owner, you need to be doing things that only the business owner can do. And those are like the things I mentioned a moment ago, those are the things that only you can do. And so if somebody is like following up on like, why an invoice is hasn’t been paid. Or if somebody is following up about a certain note saying that your team dropped the ball on? Well, then you need to look at why did the team drop the ball and prevent that from ever happening again, and then that will help reduce some of the flow?
Absolutely love it. Lots of lots of great tips for entrepreneurs, but would love to spend a little bit of time on green pal, I mean, going from a landscaping business really, you know, pushing the mowers and all that to creating a marketplace, same same vertical, same industry, but very, very different business models. What was that transition transition like?
Big Big your you’re very astute for understanding that the difference? They are totally different businesses, the only thing is similar is that we’re making grass short. But man, I didn’t know what I didn’t know starting the company. And so I was very naive. And my naivete is what got me in the game, if I had known how challenging and difficult it was going to be, I probably would have got it would have gotten scared off, I never would have started this business because you’re building a digital product. For two, two user bases, you have the end, you’re building a marketplace to connect them. And then you’re trying to orchestrate the delicate balance between suppliers and consumers and striking like the balance between the two of them, because their interests are not always aligned. And then the economics of making all of that work for all three parties, the supplier, the the homeowner and the platform us to be to have an economic engine at to keep us going. It was really, really hard. And so the only reason the way we got through it, my two co founders and I was that we just did not give up. We we were rewarded with a little bit of validation every step of the way to know that we were working on a good idea. But a lot of it in the early days was just an exercise of faith. And quite frankly, I didn’t have a better idea to work on. And so this was my best idea. And so by default is the thing I’m going to work on. And so I think a lot of times, you know if you’re in business, you’re you’re trying to look at it as though it’s an infinite game. is like something you’re just going to be doing until it’s it’s done. And in however long that takes is however long that takes, I think is the way to kind of get through those first 2-4 years out of the hardest. And that’s how we got through it. You know, when we first launched our first product, it was a total, total dud total piece of crap. And we didn’t know how to code, we didn’t know how to do any of this stuff. So when we launched, we paid like a development shop in Nashville, something like $150,000 out of our own pocket, financed it with credit cards, and what little savings my co founders had. And, and we launched this thing, and it was a total flop. And we we were just disheartened. And but we realized that, okay, we if we’re going to be in the tech space, if we’re gonna build this digital product, got to learn how to write code, we got to learn how to design software. And so we just went to work on half of the week learning the skills we needed to learn and the other half executing and took three years to get good at this stuff. And you know, little by little we were our user base was increasing or making a little bit of money. And as we were doing these things, we began to understand, okay, this is how we’re going to build out a team around us. And these are the skills that we need to hire for. And we started little by little getting more and more helpers, and freelancers and employees. And now here we are today, you know, we’re seven years in, we have 23 people working on working on the project with us and and we’re profitable, but it sure didn’t start that way. And in the first three years was very much an exercise of faith.
Yeah, and how much was AB testing and using data and and all of that, in growing the business because I were just huge on analytics and data and everything that we do is reverse engineered based off of off of that data. And
I’m so interesting answer that question. So we we started testing and spending time on that too soon. Um, man, there used to be a guy by the name of Startup L. Jackson, who would tweet on Twitter. And he was like this character that would like give startup advice, but like, is Samuel L. Jackson’s voice. It was hilarious. And, and he was talking about ABX testing for startups. And, and I think that the quote was, you don’t need, you don’t ask don’t need a 3% lift, you need 10 orders of magnitude more customers. And I read that one day, and I was like, Oh my god, this is so true. We’re sitting here wasting our time, like AB testing button colors and, and stuff. And when in fact we have we had like 1000 visitors to the website last month, like, like, we need to, like there’s no reason to optimize the checkout experience. We had to figure out a way to get more traffic and get more people to try this thing. And I, we wasted so much time testing and doing that crap too soon. So we had to revert back to like, just hustling. What were the things we needed to do to cut, cut to compete, and to get more customers, and we just focus on that for about two years. And then we got enough traffic to where testing made sense. And now we do you know, we’re running 20-30 experiments at all times, up and down the acquisition, funnel and and in the product. And we’re always learning new stuff. And so, you know, on the one hand yet always helps to kind of like, do some testing and early days. The fact is, you probably don’t have enough traffic to do it. But you can test in the channel like on AdWords and, you know, test copy on Facebook ads and stuff and try to get a get a better understanding around like, what makes your user or your customer say yes, yes, that’s always good. I mean, I guess it’s good to start that early. But I think a lot of news specifically like tech entrepreneurs, like over index on AV testing and, and conversion rate optimization in the early days before they even have like a product. And because it’s what I call fake work. It’s just like, something you think you’re doing is helping and it’s not like when in reality, you need to be like talking to customers talking to users, like understanding how they think understanding what it is they want, and then figuring out how you’re going to get more of them. Like, that’s really like, the activities for the first few years. You know, Unless Unless this is your second or third, go around, and you’ve raised a bunch of money and you’re gonna move super quick, which I don’t advise, um, you know, that’s not the reality most most business owners find themselves in, in the first years, like spend a bunch of time AB testing that’s more like your three, four and five, at least from my experience, and it can be super helpful. You know, we made one change to our check out a that like increased sales like 7% just saying,
Well, what was that? Do you remember what that was?
We designed and added a little badge and we tested like eight different badges underneath the credit card form. You know, one was like, Better Business Bureau verified one was backed by the Green Power guarantee Money Back Guarantee one was million dollars in insurance coverage. Another one was reviews off of our Trustpilot page. And then there were two or three others and some different variations of those. And like the winner gave us a 7% lift Wow, of people filling out the credit card form. That’s huge, huge, huge, but when you have 100 customers, yeah, doesn’t really matter. And not only that, uh, you know, the time you spent designing that test and the engineer working on it, and you you could have been doing two or three other things and and like and and and move the ball forward on that you’ve been sort of you probably should have done so like, that’s why he could distract us.
Yeah, no, I couldn’t agree more. It’s funny how it’s pronounced flip flopped. A lotta younger, smaller businesses, AB testing, like crazy, haven’t hit critical mass don’t have a ton of people know them. And then you have these when we’re doing the client doing over a billion a year in revenue. And it’s like, not doing any email doing no testing. And it’s, it’s, it’s crazy, the different just getting insights into that on who’s doing what, and what’s driving business.
Yeah, I think I think like scarcity is the mother of invention. And so trust, we’re bootstrapped and, and we’re self funded. And man, it’s been really hard. But I’m glad we did it this way. And so that we have to look for ways to pick up revenue, we just have to, like, we have to look for ways to squeeze out more dollars, and connect more people with the value that we have. And so that’s why we’re testing like, because it makes sense. Now, you know, if we were making, you know, $100 million a year, and I was talking to you right now on my yacht, I probably wouldn’t give a damn about it. But that’s not the reality we find ourselves.
Yep. No, no, I couldn’t agree. And I mean, what you created is a marketplace. I I think they’re awesome one, it just, it helps owners, it helps those that are fulfilling the service, and it helps those that are looking for the service, just get what they want. It brings the cost of service down for the consumer, they get more competition. You know, there are more and more these marketplaces showing up. I mean, what do you think the future of marketplaces are? Are we going to grow in marketplaces? And are they going to get very niche down? Or what what do you think the state of marketplaces looks like in the future?
Yeah, so on the one hand, we’re in like, a minute to have day one of online marketplaces, or the first like, awesome marketplace was eBay. And then in the in the 90s. And now here we are, there’s probably 100 really successful marketplaces that are publicly traded. And so on the one hand, yeah, marketplaces are great business, because they had they, they employed network effects, which, which increases defensibility for the business. And they they create value, they unlock value, they make things more efficient, they create experiences that, that ordinarily were not not possible. And so marketplaces are really good business to try to build. That’s on the one hand, on the other hand, there is like a graveyard of failed marketplaces for everything under the sun, that billions and billions of dollars has been crashing to the ground, trying to get them going. So, you know, on the one hand, they’re great businesses, on the other hand, they’re really, really, really tough. And they usually they’re very capital intensive to even try to, like figure out if they’re a good idea or not. So I don’t, I don’t recommend, like everybody try to just go go run out, and it’s like, sort of marketplace for, for a problem that they have. Because you got to really think through that, you know, whatever it is, you need to be, like excited about spending the next decade of your life pursuing because that’s how long it takes to get a marketplace business off the ground. And yeah, there’s outliers. You know, there’s a, there’s companies that have raised a ton of capital, like Uber and Lyft. And, and even Airbnb, but, but, you know, those are great marketplace, businesses, they take a lot of money to get going. And you know, now there was, you know, 50, some odd 100 $200 billion. But for most entrepreneurs, a marketplace is going to be a tough slog. And it’s one that you’re going to need to really be adaptable and nimble to try to figure it out as you go. Because there’s so many different layers of things you’re trying to figure out you’re trying to balance the needs and desires of two sides of that transaction. And you’re trying to architect the economics of how that marketplace is going to work. But when you get it dialed in, and you know, you can you can really move and so we’re we’re just now you know, six years in figuring it out, you know, figuring out how, how it works to where service providers can make meaningful money on our platform and homeowners can get a great lawn mowing service in minutes at a cheaper price at about quality. It took us a long time to get here.
Yeah. And without giving any trade secrets or anything away, I mean, what is the difference between those that are in the graveyard and kind of what you guys are building where you guys have been in business for a while you’re seeing success? Is it the fact that it takes a lot of capital to even test an idea? Or are there different things in how the marketplace is getting built out? That might be the nuance and success and defeat?
Yeah, so it’s, it’s a multitude of reasons, it’s not one reason why all of them failed. So some of them some of the reason is they raised too much capital. Uh, you know, homejoy is a good is a is like a great example of a marketplace that connected homeowners with maid services. And they raised like $50 million in a year and a half, and they had to, like spend it all on growth, and they just, they just didn’t have the model figured out yet. And so quality suffered. And at the end of the day, nobody gives a damn about how good your tech technology is, like, all they wanted was a clean floor. And so that’s an example of probably raising too much capital and, and trying to commoditize a service that didn’t need to be commoditized. But they could have built a really good business, they just approached it differently. If they had approached that business, like, we’re like, we are approaching ours, they could have built a really good business and in maid cleaning. So like, that’s, that’s one reason. Another reason is is, is the economics of particular business that the marketplace is looking to revolutionize the founders really don’t have any idea, like what the what the economics look like. And so they they kind of naively like, like, go like head charge into the business, and they don’t really understanding that, like, there was two or three marketplaces that tried to like, bubble up around laundry service. And none of those, none of those founders ever spent the day of their life in a dry cleaning shop, you know, if they had just taken a year and like, been the assistant manager at a dry cleaner, they would have understood that, there’s no way you can clean somebody’s laundry, take it up, clean it and deliver it for $12. Like, you just can’t do that. And so, but they would have figured out something else that would have worked, right. And so I think a lot of times, the founders aren’t solving their own problem, they’re trying to apply and throw technology at, at a at a industry that they know nothing about. And so for us, like, you know, I, my two co founders, and I didn’t have any technical acumen when we started this business. And that was really hard, but at least we were solving our own problem. Like I knew I knew the industry, I knew, I knew how it worked. And, and so I knew kind of like what we needed to build, at least in the beginning. And so that that helps. Some other reasons are like a low frequency, no, no recurring frequency, you know, it can be can can hurt a marketplace, because you’re, you know, to cost so much to get a consumer and then, you know, unless it’s a really high ticket item, it’s hard to make back the customer acquisition costs. So there’s probably like, dozen, a dozen reasons for failure. And there’s probably like, a dozen reasons for success. And, and so it’s not one thing, but but as a as an entrepreneur, if you’re going to try to start and anybody listening to this, who’s gonna wants to start a marketplace, you know, you need to be like poring over every blog post and YouTube channel, you can have people talking about marketplaces, and there’s tons of them. I listen to them, like, I don’t watch TV, I watch YouTube on my TV. And I watch, I watch a YouTube channel called Everything Marketplaces, and all this guy does is interview CEOs of marketplaces. And that’s what I watch every night because I’m still learning. It’s hard, but it can it can be done. Totally can be done.
Yeah, no, there. It sounds like there’s quite a few different things that determine success and, and failure. I mean, similar to everything else. And it’s not one one particular thing, knowing that I mean, what are you guys working on to continue your success in the next three to six months? I mean, I know a lot of people like to talk about long term visions and all that. But what are you guys working on right now to continue your guys’s growth over the next three to six months? Yeah, so
we’re in relentless search of friction, to make the process of finding somebody to cut your grass as easy and as cost effective as possible. So even seven years in, we’re still tackling one problem. So that’s like a good lesson for any entrepreneur is like focus on one thing and be the best in the world at one thing, that’s what helped us like, get to the point we’re at. And so even seven years in, we’re still trying to make it more reliable, more efficient, more cost effective. And so one thing that we’ve spent the last six months working on is a feature called auto bid, where we take all of the data that our system generates in terms of what average loan costs are per zip code per square foot, and we surface that to service providers and we the good ones, that are really reliable. And then I have done a bunch of work on the platform and have good ratings. We we enable this feature for them to set auto bid prices for people that are looking for lawn mowing services. So let’s say you sign up in a zip code and and this, this lawn mowing service has 12 customers that same zip code, they know they can mow your yard for $37. And so you instantly see it, you don’t have to wait on them the quota. And that’s improved our conversion drastically on on helping connect people with somebody who wants to cut their yard. But we wouldn’t be able to like do that, like right out the box, you can only like offer that type of intelligence solution until somebody has achieved a certain number of transactions in that particular area. And has proven themselves as reliable and has proven themselves as somebody that that would offer a delightful experience this homeowner, and so it’s something that’s taken us seven years to build and or seven years use the point we could build it and and so that’s what we’re still working on. It’s like, Okay, how do you make it like reinforce the flywheel effect of you get bids quicker, or instantly, you get a better pricing, you get the service done on the day you want, you get a great job done. And then and then you can book them for the rest of the lawn mowing season. Like if you we fix all of that. And then more vendors get make more money off of it. And the more vendors that make more money off of it, the more vendors that want to use the platform, and then the more vendors that want to use a platform that reinforces everything else that I just laid out in that flywheel so like constantly like reinforcing that flywheel and, and looking at the activities we need to do to speed it up is still what we’re working on.
Yeah, no, I bet you when you guys do that, you’re gonna see such huge improvements in terms of how long it takes for a bid to go out until it’s actually approved. I mean, that one feature I think is gonna be huge and propelling the business and so I can’t wait to watch and follow and watch you come out with them. And we can do around to you on how how this particular thing has impacted the business. Yeah, I love that. Awesome. Through this. I mean, there’s been a lot that you talked about you watch YouTube, you uh, you know, you’re you’ve written or you’ve written, you’ve read some books, by some pretty big people. I mean, it sounds like you’re always learning and educating yourself on how to become just a better business owner operator, what is one piece of content or one book or whatever it may be that that has just kind of blown your mind or open your eyes and really just help change your career entrepreneurial path?
where do I start? One of my favorite quotes is Mark Zuckerberg, he says Don’t be a know it all be a learn it all. And you think like, that dude was like running Facebook. I think they turned down a billion dollar acquisition and he was 23. Like, that’s just insane. Like that dude was 19 when they started that business, so like, but his secret power is he is constantly learning and learning quickly. and applying that knowledge and not that like I’m drawing any parallels between me and that dude, yeah, except for the fact that you have to like have that principle at your like core to understand that you you don’t know, you don’t even know what you don’t know. And so you have to be constantly be looking for information and knowledge from people who are smarter and have done what it is you’re trying to do. So that said like, I’m always trying to like read at least one book a month, ideally two, and and I don’t watch much television other than like YouTube on my TV. Because I really enjoy it I actually enjoy learning more stuff because because like I said I I was a C student college like I’m not the smartest guy but but it’s I’ve kind of like been satisfied by how what I’ve been able to learn building this business. So for me, it’s in a certain level was kind of fun. Some books that I’ve that I’ve gotten value out of zero to one by Peter Teal is a good book to just kind of like helps you crystallize the idea of like incremental innovation and like and and just like making a big bet that I could try to create a winner take all business. That one is is like a big macro, like high level thinking business book, but then all the way down to other books that are more like hands on and tactical, like the E-Myth by Michael Gerber is a book about like, how to, it’s more related to like, how we started this conversation like, how do you build a team? How do you build how do you create an org chart for your business? How do you how do you think about like, like, defining the roles and goals of your business delegating and build a business right the first time. So thank God that we live in a time now where all the stuff so accessible and easily consumable. You know, when I was building my first business in the late 90s, like I literally like had to go find like cassette tapes and put them in my cassette player to like, try to find some stuff now. You can dial anything. up on YouTube. So basically,
you just talk to your phone and it shows right up. Yeah, no, I love that. I mean, I say same thing. I don’t watch TV other than with my wife for maybe an hour what she wants to watch but everything else is podcast. I don’t read a whole lot but podcasts and YouTube videos and always love learning not might not be a genius at one thing, but I know a little about a lot. So yeah,
like I’m not saying don’t ever watch TV never. But like create a deal with yourself to where like for every hour of fun TV, you watch an hour of something that’s gonna help you learn. There’s like for me marketplaces are where I learned. And like, there’s a conference in San Francisco called the like, the the marketplace conference. And it’s like, two grand to go to I’ve never been to it. But you can watch the whole damn thing on YouTube. And that’s, that’s actually what I’m watching right now. Like, I’m watching the one that they had a few months ago. The whole thing that’s right there, like, watch these videos like, there’s like a like, like the head growth lead of Uber in year two, and he’s just talking about how they did it. And like the video has 12 views at it’s insane.
It’s insane. Like this stuff is out there. You just have to like, be willing to seek it out and learn. And you can like, do this stuff.
Yeah, no, I can agree. I mean, this has been a great conversation, I think to kind of wrap it up, I would love to hear like I said, a lot of our audiences are entrepreneurs and small business owners, those who are just kind of starting out, what’s the biggest piece of advice that you’d have for them?
Anybody that’s just getting started, like starting is the hardest part. Um, focus on, like, focus on the two or three things you can do this week, and do them to get started to get closer. Like you need to know that the only way you’re going to learn is by doing and the more you can do, the more you’re going to learn and it’s like everybody is like wants to hire somebody else to do it. Or they think they have all these barriers to entry you really don’t like take it as far as you can. Whatever it is like and get your first dollar made. And then and then and then re evaluate and like going back to the levels of the video game like get in the game. Because only when you’re in the game it can you win.
Had I love it couldn’t couldn’t have said it better. Brian, this has been great. I can’t wait to to have a client that does lawn care. So I’m going to introduce him to to the platform. Brian, thank you so much for your time, lots of great knowledge that you shared, excited to watch your growth and see what the near future looks like for you guys.
Awesome. Thanks for having me on.
Where To Find Bryan Clayton
LinkedIn: Devin Butler
Check out the previous episode of Rise Grind Repeat featuring Arizona Entrepreneurs Devin Butler who created “a community for like-minded people to connect, learn, and grow.” Watch the episode here!