July 23, 2021
Bryan Clayton is CEO and co-founder of GreenPal an online marketplace that connects homeowners with local lawn care professionals. GreenPal has been called the “Uber for lawn care” by Entrepreneur magazine and has over 200,000 active users completing thousands of transactions per day.
Before starting GreenPal Bryan Clayton founded Peachtree Inc. one of the largest landscaping companies in the state of Tennessee growing it to over $10 million a year in annual revenue before it was acquired by Lusa holdings in 2013.
Bryan‘s interest and expertise are related to entrepreneurialism, small business growth, marketing and bootstrapping businesses from zero revenue to profitability and exit.
As part of the 100th episode special, Robin Waite welcomes GreenPal Founder and CEO Bryan Clayton onto The Fearless Business Podcast. Through his looking back on his experiences with founding his lawn care company GreenPal, Brian advises listeners on starting their own tech company from scratch.
Like most successful entrepreneurs, Bryan had to start his business from scratch once upon a time. During this period, through the many ups and downs, Bryan learnt the fundamental qualities and steps involved in launching a tech start-up. First, Bryan recommends being fearless. Bryan formulated the idea for GreenPal back in high school, which later became the “Uber of lawn care”. However, he often mentally hindered himself because he didn’t know anything about software, mobile apps and the amount of marketing required to enable his app to launch successfully.
This lead him to start small, Bryan alongside his two other partners, decided to identify their strengths, apply what they knew and put the product together. First, they marketed it locally in Nashville via flyers encouraging people to download the app. They then spent the next 4 - 5 years collecting feedback from customers, expanding their knowledge and making themselves one of the best lawn care companies in their state. Once they had done so, they started to expand statewide, which eventually lead to their incredible success today. Bryan recommends reading the books The Start-Up Owner’s Manual and Eric Ries’ Lean Start-Up for any start-up business owner.
Running one of the most successful tech-startup companies in the United States undoubtedly can be challenging at times. This is why, in Bryan’s opinion, you as a business owner need to understand why you really want to get into business in the first place aside from monetary purposes. It’s all about appreciating the customer and understanding what they want and how you can help them. Bryan quotes, “you’ve gotta change your perspective; everything that’s going well in your business isn’t happening to you, it’s happening for you”, this is why entrepreneurs have to always appreciate the customers. Without a solid customer base, businesses would amount to nothing.
“The one thing I love about the customer is that she is always discontent” - Jeff Bezos.
Bryan claims that the customer should be one of the main driving factors in your business. They constantly cause companies to reform, learn and therefore grow. As Robin highlights, how can you have a business if you don’t appreciate your customers? Customer feedback and behaviour drives you forward as an entrepreneur, ultimately leading to your success as a company.
So, what’s the best formula for launching a start-up? Do you do it by yourself or as part of a partnership?
According to Bryan, he claims that he was very fortunate to find his ideal business partners before launching GreenPal but generally recommends entrepreneurs to go it alone. In Bryan’s opinion, finding the ideal business partner is just as tricky as finding the ‘one’ in relationships. If you want to start a business with someone, ensure that they are your “business soulmate”, as you’ll be spending more time with your co-founder than most people do with their actual spouse.
If you proceed as co-founders, make sure that your roles and responsibilities are split. For example, Bryan advises that one person should handle the technical side of things whilst the other is more sales driven. He likens this to Paul Graham’s “hacker and hustler” analogy where one person’s skills make up for where another person is lacking and vice versa.
Of course, when you start out as an entrepreneur, it’s completely natural to have feelings of self-doubt—especially when your business is your primary source of income, and you have a family depending on it. When the business is slowly progressing, it can lead to arguments with your loved ones which leads you to question why you are even bothering in the first place.
To combat this, Bryan again uses his philosophy of starting small; except this time, this was for measuring goals. Keeping your goals small and attainable allows you not to get overwhelmed by the bigger picture and instead helps you keep the faith by celebrating the small wins. According to Bryan, if you start to celebrate the “small goals that are hard but achievable”, these will gradually turn into big leaps for you and your business.
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