Uber For Lawn Care: How I Built A $30M Software

Bryan Clayton
Founder, GreenPal
$1M
revenue/mo
2
Founders
47
Employees
GreenPal
from Nashville, Tennessee, USA
started May 2012
$1,000,000
revenue/mo
2
Founders
47
Employees
202K
alexa rank
27.3K
followers
3.05K
followers
market size
$1.2T
avg revenue (monthly)
$1.21M
starting costs
$22.7K
gross margin
25%
time to build
300 days
average product price
$93
growth channels
SEO
best tools
MailChimp, Twitter, ClickUp
time investment
Full time
pros & cons
43 Pros & Cons
tips
12 Tips
Discover what tools Bryan reccommends to grow your business!
Discover what books Bryan reccommends to grow your business!
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

I'm Bryan Clayton CEO of GreenPal which is best described as Uber for Lawn Care.

My two cofounders and I have bootstrapped our business to over $30 million a year in revenue, but the first five years were very very tough.

When we launched our business 8 years ago we had no money and no outside capital to get started with.

Like most tech startups we went on the fundraising circuit talking to angel investors and venture capitalists begging for money to get started.

However, our vision was just too broad in scope and luckily we got turned down and told no over 40 times.

I was fortunate enough to have solid personal credit and this enabled my team to secure an unsecured line of credit for $85,000 to get our business started.

We paid that off in the first year and this year we're going to surpass $30 million in annual revenue.

Good thing early investors told us no because with their capital they would have owned and controlled 30% of our business.e are self-funded and my cofounders and I own it all.

greenpal

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

I ran a landscaping company for 15 years before starting GreenPal, after growing that business to over 125 employees and eight figures a year in annual revenue I sold it.

Running that type of company I saw firsthand every day how difficult it was for homeowners to get hooked up with a good lawnmowing service.

The idea for GreenPal came to me while reading an article about Airbnb in 2012.

I observed what they were doing with crowdsourcing accommodations and just knew that a similar type of platform would solve the problems I was seeing every day in the lawn care industry, especially for smaller lawn maintenance providers. I guess you could say that was my lightbulb moment.

Fast forward 8 years since our launch we are now live in all 50 states with 200,000 homeowners that use the system every week to have their lawn mowed by a local lawn care professional nearby.

But the real reason why we do this is to help small business owners in the lawn care industry just like I was in high school.

There are so many hard-working independent entrepreneurs in this industry that just need an opportunity and a platform to plug into. We are building the operating system and platform for small lawn care companies to run their entire business through.

Take us through the process of designing and prototyping the original version of GreenPal.

The mouse has become a relic of the past.

The very very first version of our website back in the summer of 2012 was an entirely desktop-based interface

We had no clue what we were doing ... We hired a designer and he created a beautiful-looking desktop website of what we thought our product would be. We built it and launched it and it was a total flop.

Nobody is just sitting around on their desktop looking for home service providers and certainly, no lawn care professional is operating as a business chained to a desk or laptop.

We wasted about $95,000 building the first version on design and development it was a lesson we had to learn the hard way and we had to completely restart from scratch from the ground up with a web/mobile responsive UX design and native mobile apps for android and iOS.

Describe the process of launching the business and getting your first customers.

Our first customers came from passing out flyers all over Nashville Tennessee.

We focus 80% of our time on keeping the customers we already have and 20% of our time going and getting new customers.

We passed out over 300,000 door hangers in Nashville over three months and we were able to gather over 400 early users to try out the product.

We have met with every one of those users that would meet with us and we would interview them and ask them questions or want how they normally get a lawnmowing service etc. and we let that guide our next steps.

We have a motto… Test and then invest… We tried every channel available, Twitter ads, Facebook ads, Google ads, Instagram stories as well as Instagram posts, and the problem was we were setting money on fire by playing around on these channels.

We ultimately determined that our best time was spent on engaging and interacting with Facebook groups and helping people on a one-by-one level that’s literally how we got our first 10,000 customers.

Retention is the new acquisition… That’s how we look at it.

We focus 80% of our time on keeping the customers we already have and 20% of our time going and getting new customers.

The way we hold onto existing customers is through a heuristic called red flag signals.

Anytime a user is throwing up red flags such as inactivity, hasn’t booked a subsequent lawnmowing visit within eight days of their last lawnmowing visit, negative reviews, or not responding to our emails without making a personal phone call to them to ask them what’s going on and how we can help them.

Concerning local marketing we rely heavily on local search engine optimization to pull consumers to our platform, this is an entirely separate craft itself that we have gotten good at over the last three years.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Trust the future is getting over 1 million homeowners using the platform and over $100 million a year in revenue, we expect to get there in five years.

greenpal

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

How I hold myself accountable to get things done, stay productive and keep momentum regularly scares me.

I close my eyes and fast forward 1 year. I think about a year from today and things look exactly as they do right now. The realization that in a year my team and I have made little to no progress causes me to take action and also alleviates my fear of risk.

I call it fast-forwarding the story, and it always helped me have a bias towards action.

greenpal

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

To supercharge my entrepreneurial effectiveness I use the mobile app Fiverr.

This allows me to quickly offload tasks out of my queues such as quick design projects, Data organization, sales presentation creation, spreadsheet work, and others.

I'm able to create and delegate these tasks throughout that spot in my day like when I'm waiting in line at Starbucks or while walking on the treadmill at the gym.

The best part is most tasks I can get done for under $10 which is much better than doing it myself or paying a full-time salaried somebody.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

About two months ago I read the book Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. The authors discuss how leaders must take ownership of everything around them and their environment to achieve their objectives.

That goes for your subordinates your coworkers and even your superiors no matter in the business world or military life.

So often we are quick to make excuses as to why we didn't achieve certain objectives in our roles however when we exercise extreme ownership as leaders we are responsible for everything that goes on in our world.

When a group of Navy SEALs embarks on a mission there are no excuses if they cannot execute their objective and the same goes in the business world.

As developing leaders in small businesses and large businesses we must take total ownership of everything around us and by doing so that will further our leadership development and further our careers.

The book taught me that Excuses are for weak-minded people who do not want success in their small business or their career.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Before I started this company I ran a landscaping firm for 15 years growing it to over $8 million in sales and over 130 employees ultimately navigating the company to a successful acquisition by our largest competitor, a national firm in a multimillion-dollar deal

A few quick secrets I would point out to anyone considering selling their small business:

1) Manage your expectation as the process will take 10 times the work and stress than you believe it will.

2) Get your books in order and pay a CPA to get all of your accounting records in GAAP standards.

Trust me it'll be worth it when it comes time to sit down at the negotiating table it'll show that you have your I's dotted and T's crossed and give confidence to the buyer and less negotiating leverage.

3) Get a good attorney that specializes in business transactions such as these do not get a run-of-the-mill attorney, and don't be cheap when it comes to your attorney unless you want to get taken advantage of in a deal.

4) Be prepared for the journey to take a year to navigate the nuances of finding a buyer and at least six months to another year during the transition process over to that new buyer, so you need to at least be willing to give two years to the process. If you're not willing to do that you won't make it through the journey.

5) Lastly and most important, go through a broker that specializes in your industry, they do this every day, believe me, you are not experienced enough to get your best deal with seasoned negotiators.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

-  
Bryan Clayton, Founder of GreenPal
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story
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