EP 80: Cutting Grass. Making Millions. Bryan Clayton, CEO Green Pal
This week on The Millionaire Choice Show, Tony talks with return guest Bryan Clayton, CEO of GreenPal about how he went from cutting yards as a teenager to multi-millionaire businessman. They discuss life principles of success, business, and leadership.
About Bryan Clayton
Bryan became a millionaire through one of the most common professions for teenagers, lawn care. Starting his lawn care business in his teens, he took the entrepreneurial route to becoming a millionaire. Over a 15 years, Bryan built his landscaping it 150 employees and over $10 million in annual revenue before selling it to one of the country’s largest landscaping businesses. While his story is impressive, the most impressive part is that he did it debt free.
Upon selling his business, Bryan turned his attention to the digital world and taking his landscaping experience into a path with GreenPal, where he and his team connect landscaping and lawn care professionals to people who need their services. He’s grown Green Pal to 22 employees and over 200,000 customers.
Discover more about Bryan Clayton and Green Pal at https://yourgreenpal.com/
Take advantage of Complimentary Life and Money Mentor Session with Tony or Download FREE eBooks.
Welcome back to the millionaire choice show. And today we're gonna have a repeat guest. If you guys wanna hear a little bit more from Bryan Clayton, the CEO and co-founder of your GreenPal and noted real estate investor, he was on the show back around episode 20. So, if you wanna go hear some more about him, there's extra hour of a conversation, but I'm glad to see Bryan back on the show. He's been growing his business. I'm gonna go and throw this out there, you can talk about it more, but when you got a business guy that can grow his business 40-50% a year for four years in a row, you must be doing something right. And you have got wisdom to share, Bryan.
Bryan Clayton (00:42):
Thanks for having me back on your show. It's great to be back on here.
So, we were talking in the pre-show about your story, so let's start there. You didn't grow up with money. You didn't grow up as a millionaire, you had to figure it out. Where did you start though?
Bryan Clayton (00:57):
I started off very- you could say middle class or lower middle class. My folks were working class folks in the lawn care business. I was dragged into it, kicking and screaming by my father on a hot summer day. He said, "Hey, get off your butt. I got a gig for you. You're gonna go mow the neighbor's yard." And I wasn't living in a, democratic household and this was an order and he made me go mow the neighbor's yard. And luckily he did cause I made 20 bucks an hour, "I thought this is incredible. Why doesn't everybody just do this? This is awesome." And I made a bunch of flyers and by the end of that first summer, I had 15 customers and kept with this landscaping business all through high school, all through college, graduated college and had to make a decision.
Bryan Clayton (01:42):
Was I gotta go into the job market and take a pay cut or stick with the landscaping business. I thought, well, I really don't wanna be a lawn guy my whole life, but let's just see if I can use this business as a way to level up as a way to make something of myself. So, I made a little business plan, I guess you could say I had a chip on my shoulder and over a 15 year period of time ended up building one of the largest landscaping companies in this state of Tennessee eventually getting it like over 150 employees over 10 million a year in revenue. And in 13 was able to get that business acquired by one of the largest landscaping companies in the United States. And so going from just me and a push mower to me and like 90 trucks going out every day, I learned a lot about how to grow business scratch.
Bryan Clayton (02:25):
And at 32, I took some time off. I basically retired and got bored and thought, "what now? Well, what am I gonna do now?" And I thought, "well, I wanna start another business. An app needs to exist for the lawn care business. And so there needs to be an Uber for lawn mowing and I thought, well, why can't I just build that and recruited two co-founders," and it was kind of naivete as an asset. We didn't know how hard it was gonna be, but we just got in there, got in the trenches. And I guess you could say the company I'm working for working with now is GreenPal is a 10 year overnight success. We're now 10 years in, over 300,000 people using the app doing close to 30 million a year in revenue, facilitating law, knowing services. And so it's 22 years in one industry, two businesses. And just focused on just one thing for a long
time, I guess that's one of my keys to success.
I love the energy there and the story, The journey, the story of the journey, because when you really chase your roots back, it started with a young guy, and his dad saying, "get off your butt and go make some money," and you went out there. And so really you could honestly say you built a multi-million dollar business off of $20. Like when you really get back to the core.
Bryan Clayton (03:42):
Started with 20 bucks and, borrowing a push mark and just snowballed from there. So I guess the key is get started.
You gotta get going in the right direction. I think that's a, that's a good principle because I think in wealth too, like when I was 25 and broke doing stupid stuff, I didn't know enough, man. It's like, looking back at my 25 year old self- I'm like you- you thought you knew a lot more than you really did, but you knew enough to get started. That's the big thing is if you can just get moving in the right direction and keep moving in the right direction, long enough, you can really make something happen. And I think that's kind of buried in your story there, your dad started that little match for you. You like kinda lift the fire a little bit and you fan the flames. So, when did you earn enough money to buy your own lawnmower?
Bryan Clayton (04:29):
It's kinda funny. The lawn care business teaches you so many principles of business ownership that apply to pretty much all business. And one is like, as a business owner, as a founder, you take on this role of capital allocator, which, basically money comes in and you figure out where to invest money to make more money. And, and so like, this is a fundamental thing in all business and really maybe even how to build wealth. And so, "okay, how am I making money and how am I putting money back to work?" And so I learned really quick, just like, "okay, well, I got this little piece of crap, 20 inch Murray hundred-dollar lawn mower that the family has to cut their grass, but it's breaking down all the time and it's taken too long. And if I bought this other one that drove itself and had an extra three inch wide deck that I could maybe increase my productivity," like these were like legitimate conversations I was having in my head at age 15 and what an awesome like way to learn those principles at an early age and at a simple business, because that applies to all business.
Bryan Clayton (05:34):
And, I thought, "well, okay. So if I can save up, $450, I can buy this better one." And so I would say by the end of that first summer, I had my own equipment and I was buying commercial grade stuff by end of the next year. And that's you in that business, it's like you learn that you can invest. You can make capital investments into and assets and make more money and you start to figure out, "okay, well, I can make that back in a year. That's a pretty good bet. This other thing is a three year payback. That's bad." And, it's kinda, it's kinda funny how I learned those lessons, in the owning business. One thing I tell people; they have these big business ideas, they wanna start a 10 million business, whatever; I'm like, "well, maybe we should start a simple, I don't know, a simple service based business that you can get into for five grand rather than trying to go get financing, for this other big thing, when you don't have any track record." Service businesses are great to kind of cut your teeth on, on getting a business going.
I think the principles, you get so much rich knowledge, worked into that, what you just said. I mean, you should probably write like five books just off of what you just said.
Everybody's gotta share their wisdom, but you, as a kid being a 15 year old, analyzing, just learning business principles and going, "Hey, how do I make this better? I'm working, learning to work smarter, not harder." I had people telling me that, as a young guy and, you're figuring that out, like, get me three more inches of lawnmower, get me a better lawnmower. That makes my job easier. That means I'm multiplying my productivity. But even what you said, simple concepts, money wise, how do you make, manage and multiply your money? And even in business, you've gotta learn how to multiply those assets.
Whether it's through marketing or sales, but I love what you said about, from the business mindset. Because I think a lot of us, we're starting our businesses invisioning millions in the future. But if you, if you keep your eye that far down the road, you're gonna miss what you need to do in the, the beginnings, which is, Hey, you just gotta get to profitability. Like, if you can just get to profitability, then you can go on forever. You can, it doesn't matter what happens next year. As long as you reach the profitability, mark, you can continue to, reinvest and, and the thing will grow, You're gonna figure things out along the way. You may make some bad decisions. I'm sure you made some bad decisions along the way. But I love that the inspiration. So did your dad, when you got that first 20 bucks and said, "Hey, I wanna turn his $20-" You weren't thinking, "I'm gonna turn his $20 into like $3000 this summer." Like you were just like, "Hey, I got 20 bucks. Let me go mow another yard." Like, what was your thought process as a 15 year older? Or is that too far in the past to remember?
Bryan Clayton (08:28):
No, I remember it very well. And, for me, it's almost like looking back 22 years of business ownership. It really is like a video game in a way where there's 10 levels and you're just getting through one level at a time. And to your point, a lot of people use the metaphor, they worry about Bowser when they're on level one and it's like, you shouldn't worry about Bowser. You just get through level one, throw up the flag, and get to level two. And so, to your point, you gotta get to a profitability point. You gotta get to what I call default alive, which means no matter what; you're gonna stay in business. You're not like running outta cash. And, going back in those early days, like, like level one consisted of, "wow.
Bryan Clayton (09:19):
If I could make $300, I could like buy a pair of soccer cleats that I wanted." And then I realized, "okay, I bought those cleats, but what if I could make like a thousand dollars, and then I was like, "well, what if I could buy a mower that I could ride on? And what if I could buy an extra longer trailer? And then what if I could get two of these trucks and trailers? And then what if I could get three of 'em and then what if I could pay somebody to manage all of this where I wouldn't have to do," this was like the first maybe level one.
And it's a big level one, man.
Bryan Clayton (09:56):
It ultimately ended up with like 90 trucks going out every day, and hundreds of employees and, and all kinds of this organized chaos. And so, that might have been level one or two, but you just learn. You try stuff, you fail, you learn from that experience, you apply it, and you make it better and better and better. Just work your way through those levels. It's like in entrepreneurship and business ownership, you have to do two things at once. You have to have this big goal. To your point, "I wanna be doing 10 million in revenue," but then you also have to think and act very, very small. It's like, "okay, well, I have five customers. I need a hundred. How am I gonna do that? Well, I need to like send a bunch of cold emails out, or I need to make a bunch of cold calls, or pass out a bunch of flyers, something, these are like very mundane, small menial tasks. So you have to have like a very big audacious goal. And then you also have to be will to think and act very small until that begins to compound. That's the way I've experienced it.
Well, for the listeners, the future millionaires listening, we may have to interpret your language a little bit there, who is Bowser?
Bryan Clayton (11:06):
So everybody, that's not, I guess you would be 30 years old or older to know who Bowser is. Bowser was the final boss in the original super Mario world. So, Mario Brothers, I think it was 10 levels might have been 12. And he was a mean S.O.B. And he was hard to beat. And everybody knew who Bowser was and knew he was the end of the game. And if you could beat him, you beat the game. The thing is like, there's all these other bosses at the, at the end of these levels before him that you have to beat first. And, in business, we worry about Bowser when we don't even have 10 grand a month in revenue. And it's like, "don't worry about Bowser. Hustle up some customers. Cause that's what you need right now. You need the feedback from the customers to figure out if you're on the right track. And so I see that mistake a lot. I made it myself.
Oh Yeah. I went from the corporate world. I'm kinda struggling with that a little bit right now in the last couple years, because I was in the corporate world, till I was 46. And then now I'm an entrepreneur. I wouldn't say I'm a wildly successful entrepreneur. I'm, getting by, but I'm mostly living off investments. I made some good investment decisions. Living off of those, but you get programmed with a job mindset and I'm analyzing that. I'll probably write a book about it someday, but where you really, when you have a job, it's kind of easy. I don't care what kinda job you got because I had a pretty complicated job. Like I had to figure out problems, problem solve, do business stuff.
I was working as a CIO, chief information officer, chief operations, officer VP. So, I had a lot of business problems to solve, but you still have a framework, a business framework or money making system. As I all a business is just a system to make money. And it, different businesses make, business money in different ways. and so I was inside of that system, but when you go to work, you pretty much have your day defined for you. there's, 80% of it's probably already spent before you show up there's things you gotta do. There's people, you gotta deal with projects. You gotta check in on and you, you might have 10 to 20% of your time where you get to do something new and interesting that you're kind of saying, Hey, I need to work on this.
So, most of your itineraries taken care of. So as an entrepreneur though, you've got a whole different set, cuz you have to come up with that, You have to come up with everything that you do, especially until the business gets to a certain level where you have more employees cuz as you get more employees, then you get back into that same kind of model that you had before you, oh I gotta take care of these things every day. I gotta make sure. I'm sure you had a list of things that you had to do every day as the business crew, but as it was in its infancy, like you said, probably the most important thing. And I'm eager to hear your opinions, it's sales. It's like, what are you gonna sell today? Like what are you gonna sell? And if you're an entrepreneur that is like the dominant question every single day that you have to create until you can hand that question off to somebody else, like somebody else that's gonna take care of the sales. But that has to be like one of the top two, three things,
Bryan Clayton (14:13):
It really is, going from zero to one, I have nothing. Now I have something. It it's like pushing on a string and sales and is being able to drive the ball down the field. A lot of times is the difference between success and failure in my world, GreenPal, we we've built a tech product and there's this saying that first time tech founders worry about product. They wanna build the best product. They wanna build like the best solution to a problem for us. It's pushing a button, getting your lawn mode and they obsess over a beautiful, well built product. Second time founders worry about distribution. All they care about is how in the hell am I gonna put this product in people's hands? And how am I going to get people to find out about my product, use it, try it at out, continue to use it.
Bryan Clayton (15:13):
And that's all I care about. good product is like table stakes. We have to do that too. But I don't even care about that. I care about good distribution, which is how can I get the product to spread itself? How can I get the product to people's hands without having to like buy a bunch of TV, ads, billboards, Facebook, ads, whatever. And so I believe that to be true. And I, and I've experienced that now in both businesses, it's like you have to have a growth kind of marketing mindset and build a good business at the same time or else you're, you're, you're gonna be dead on arrival, like bad, bad distribution, bad marketing kills, more businesses than bad services are bad products. So that's been the experience for me. And, and if you get like a co-founder or, or if you do this alone, you kind of have to have this, hacker and a hustler mindset.
Bryan Clayton (16:07):
So the hacker is, like in a tech world, like what I live in the hacker is writing code is building a software and you have to have a hustler. You have to have somebody who's willing to look at, "OK, what are we doing? We got, we don't have any customers. How are we gonna get five customers? How are we gonna get 10? How are we gonna get a hundred?" And so having that growth mindset, that marketing mindset is like, you have to innovate on a problem and solve a problem, but you also have to innovate on growth and marketing at the same time. And a lot of people under index on that, a lot of people under emphasize that. And, the other thing I see a lot too, is this concept of what they call 'the pivot,' which is you can just pivot from one thing to the next and kind of find some magical thing that works.
Bryan Clayton (16:50):
And, what that does is it gives founders a license to not do the hard marketing. Cause it's like, "oh, I did this for like three months. It didn't blow up, so I'm gonna do this other thing." And it's like, if you build it, they will not come. You have to have a marketing strategy. And it's not just like throwing a bunch of acronyms in a box. It's not like saying PPC, SEM, CRO or whatever. It's like, "okay, this is how I'm innovating or getting people to find out about what I'm doing." You have to look at it that way. And so sales cures all.
And I think that's interesting because, I hate to say it, but you have to go through some of these things, even though I was successful in the business world, doing it on your own is a totally different animal because you don't have support infrastructure in place. every company I've ever gone to work for was probably about 3 million, at the start when I joined them. some of them were much larger than that, but when I'm, I'm talking about rela where I yielded any kind of real authority in the organization, and then, my last stint, I was there helped grow that company from 3 million to 125 million and was instrumental in a lot of the decisions, the strategy, the execution, the technology, but I was really never that responsible for the, the, well, we, we were able to, we were kind of cushioned with the marketing, like the, the mark, the, the primary marketing engine was already there and kept growing on its own.
I was more of responsible for, capturing the sales from that marketing engine. So now I'm in that, that position. And I'm more of a builder guy. Like I have to go, like what kind of an entrepreneur? I think somebody outta publish a book on that about, help people identify what, what their own skill sets are in, within the entrepreneurial world. Cause you have, like you said, people who can code and those guys can be entrepreneurs, but they have to understand what hats they're missing. Like you can be a good product guy and build a good product, but if you don't have people using it and you don't have a skill set to find your users, then you're, it's a dead product. That's a dead business and a dead product. And I'm more of a product guide than I am. I'm more of a builder.
I've always been a builder since I was little, I built things, made things. and the sales part of it is the most difficult side of it for me. but I liked what you said earlier and this, I think this might be a fun conversation cuz you brought Bowser in and super Mario brothers in and I've kind of gotten to the point where, I'm going businesses, gamification. Like if you can gamify your mind around your business, where you're motivated by punching numbers and seeing numbers grow and, and it, it can really capture your imagination. And I'm a gamer too, from the old days, way too many hours, game. And I think I confessed on the show. I've probably spent between 10 and 20,000 hours video gaming since I was about 23 years old, you know?
And people go, how in the hell did you get that many hours in gaming? Well, you keep doing, you keep doing it for 25 years. It adds up after for a while. You don't realize how much your time slips away from you. But fortunately I was able to do some positive things with my time too. and and still have some success, but business is gamification. I think some of your most successful CEOs and business guys, they do get motivated by the numbers. And, and so therefore their behaviors just like in a video game, they're getting their dopamine hits from accomplishing, gamification levels like destroying Bower, whereas business guys, Business guys get their dopamine hits in the brain from, seeing the numbers go up, whether that's sales or customers or products or whatever. And, they do you find that true to be about you with what you're doing and what you've done over the years.
Bryan Clayton (20:33):
I'll throw another one at you. I promise, I don't look at everything from the lens of a video game, but another one that makes sense to me is, you mentioned when you joined up a couple organizations, they already had two or 3 million in sales. And, I think a lot of people that, that makes sense, like you don't have to start something from scratch and reinvent the wheel. You can be employee number 10 or 20 or 30 at, at a, and get a, get a, get a spot on the rocket ship. And that's a, in many ways, a better path. That's ultimate like success in wealth building then trying to build the next Uber for X Uber. Like, the first couple years of the building, the Uber for lawn mowing were really hard. Cause we, we, there was no roadmap.
Bryan Clayton (21:16):
We had to figure it out and we had to be like 80, 20, good at a lot of different things. And you couldn't go like, couldn't just be like one thing you had to be, you had to be a good software developer. You had to be a good marketer. You had to be a good product person. You had to be a good designer. Good per good at culture. Good at branding, good at copywriting. Good at all of these things. And like going back to another video game metaphor, one of my favorite games back in the day was old schools who Mario cart. And so you had, you had, you had like five different drivers to choose and super Mario cart back in the day you had, toad, princess Bower, Mario Luigi. And every one of these drivers was really good. At one thing like princess was the best accelerator.
Bryan Clayton (22:01):
She was the fastest off the line. And toad was the best handler around curves and Bower and donkey Kong, I think had the best top end ultimately, but they were, they were slow off, off the line. And then you had, you had Mario who was like, halfassed at everything was like pretty good, pretty good at everything. Wasn't the fastest, wasn't the best accelerator. Wasn't the best handler, but was pretty good at everything. And as it turns out, if you were a newbie to the game and you were trying to learn how to do the game and maybe just acclimated the game, you probably wanted to start with Mario. And for me, starting businesses from zero revenue to getting on the first million, 5 million, 10 million, revenue's better to be Mario than it is any of these other drivers, because you're gonna have to like all these different hats and you're gonna have to be pretty good, not awesome.
Bryan Clayton (22:53):
Maybe you're awesome at one thing and then pretty good at the rest, but you you're gonna have to be pretty good at everything. You can't just look at it from like, a, a software developer standpoint and nothing else, or you can't just be only a business guy or gal and not have these. You gotta have all. And that's, that's, that's what, what I have found to now, if you can start, you can join a team. That's already doing a million revenue or two or 3 million of met per revenue. They have found product market fit. They have found a solution to what customer, to a problem customers have. Those customers will buy, will pay them money and continue to do so. And then now they need your really good skills to help take them to the next level. That's a great place to start, but if you are starting with no product, no customers, no revenue, it pays to be Mario, cuz you're gonna have to be good at a lot of different things.
Until you can hire the first person. I think, that's one of the pieces of, entrepreneurial advice I see from some successful entrepreneurs is as soon as you can afford to hire your first person, so you can offload, something off your plate. So that allows you to focus, start, micro focusing or, honing your focus into the things you're really good at because most of us, even as entrepreneurs, you might be able to wear a lot of hats. There's usually that one, two or three things that you are really, really good at. And that's your, where you should be operating every single day. in my days with Dave Ramsey, when you look at the success of his company, he's been producing that radio show for three hours a day, five days a week for 30 years now. And, his marketing engine, like he was very fortunate to, to land that marketing engine, very early in his business. And while other people are paying for marketing, he's out there getting paid to market himself, and, and that works pretty, pretty well. You don't have that, 10 to 20%, marketing line item on your budget.
Bryan Clayton (24:39):
That was the innovation, innovation distribution. And goes back to my earlier point. You have to think that like not only did he have to produce a good product in the marketplace and not only did he have to solve a problem that people actually had and they were willing to pay for, he also had to innovate on getting awareness and, and distribution to the product. And most people don't even know they have to do that. Most people don't when they're starting a business, don't even think about that piece. They only think about the product and the solution and they just think if they build it, people will come and they don't. So you have to, you have to innovate on growth, marketing and distribution or else you'll never take off.
And, and challenges to business, but let, let's explore what you said, just a minute ago. Cause I think that's clarity. Cause some people are going well, how do I, how do I get ahead? Where do I get? I'm stuck. And a lot of people, I've got some relatives and friends that are what I call income stagnant. They're kind of stuck in the J B that they've had for 10 or 15 years, their income. hasn't gone up a lot. It's, within probably 10 or 15% of what it was for the last five or 10 years, which is, is not good. You should be training your mind to go, okay, how am I gonna make an extra 10 grand this year? How am I gonna make an extra 10 grand next year? Cause the reality that's possible like that.
I didn't understand that, growing up in a lower income house, if you had told me as a young guy, I could make a hundred thousand dollars a year, I'd be like, you're crazy, man. I'm a, I'm a, I'm a 30,000, 40,000 year guy family. And I kinda stumbled into the hundred thousand dollars a year salary. I, my intention was to make more money, but work less hours. So, but I, in my mindset, I was like a $50,000 a year guy. And it probably a few years before I realized, oh, I could, I could probably make 60, maybe I could make 60. and when I got outta college made 30, I think I made $39,000 my first year outta college. And when I found out my mom was making about 35 grand, I'm like, man, she's been at this game 20 years longer than me.
I'm already beating her out. I'm I'm winning. Like I'm winning it. I'm doing good. I was like, so not true. but, but the growth, but businesses are systems, jobs are systems to make money. They're just not a great system to make money. they, you can make money that way, but, and even if you go corporate, you can, you can get a little bit more money, like the potential, like there's potential. So how do you, you get on that track comes down to personal development, self development, like what kind of self development things you're doing now, what you talked about was, another money making system, which is joint, a company that's already in play that has, I guess the best way to say it right. Is a lot of runway. They have a lot of potential, to go some businesses, let's say the restaurant business, for example, the margins are really low. They're low at like two to 3%, net on restaurant businesses. There's not a lot of what I would call runway and restaurant business, make, do you, maybe you get shake shack or something like that, that, that hits big on the stock market. So get in early, which is kinda what I did. your, your company still, how many employees do you have now? Bryan,
Bryan Clayton (27:55):
We have 42 people, that work in the business. And a lot of the hires we've made were people that recognize that they could get a little slice of equity and, and something that was growing fast and added value before they asked anything. And this is a playbook that can help anybody get a seat on a rocket ship if you're willing to add value before you ask. And so an example would be, we hired a, a of, of search engine optimization last year and she came to us over the course of like 90 days, just offering free, advice about what we should be doing with our search strategies. Like, Hey, would love to build a relationship with you, work together at some point, but here are 10 things that I noticed just by looking at your, from the outside in that you need to fix.
Bryan Clayton (28:49):
and if you get those fixed, let me know, and I'll help you with, with some other stuff for free. And she did that. And over time we started to work with her on a contract basis. And then over time we hired her full, full, full time. And now she has a slice of equity in the business. And so that's an example of how you can earn your way onto a rocket. One is you gotta acquire the skills. you gotta work on yourself and acquire skills in something that's in high demand. It could be, it could be product design. It could be, it could be user experience design. It could be copywriting, it could be search engine optimization. It could be AI. It could be, it could be whatever that's in high demand right now. And you to work on yourself to develop those skills. And then you have to be willing to kinda wedge your way in and, and offer value before, before you ask anything, and this, this, this works. I mean, there's a, I, I, I, an article about the tweet of all time that was ever sent, or maybe the most, most valuable tweet was,
Was it by Elon Musk? Was it by Elon Musk
Bryan Clayton (29:48):
Could have been, this is about a guy that Travis Callick CEO of Uber hired. He said, "Hey, starting a new company, big people involved, big money behind us, great product it's on mobile." This tweet was sent like 2011 and, looking for a head of BI ops. And, this dude saw the tweet. He said, "Hey, here's a tip; DM me. And so Travis Callick DMs him and hires him in an equity package that I think ultimately ended up being worth something like five or 6 billion on IPO.
Bryan Clayton (30:32):
But, that guy at the time, was working at Foursquare. And the way he got on at Foursquare was he said, "Hey, I'm using Foursquare in my town, but I noticed you're not in these other towns around, around the, Chicago land area. So, I went ahead and built out communities. I got 10 restaurants and all of these suburbs all over Chicago, cause I love Foursquare so much." And Foursquare ended up hiring him at the time. Foursquare was like the next Facebook and, dead now. But at the time it was a rocket ship. So he got on Foursquare. He was biz-dev there. And so he had a track record. So when he sent Travis that tweet, he already had a track record. Like here's a locally based app driven business. I know how to build communities. I could do that for Uber. And he did. And I think he's probably worth 5 million now. That's an example of adding value before you ask anything, this guy did it twice and I've seen it done on me as, being a CEO and founder of this company. So if you're trying to go from zero and you have no connections, you have no track record. That's a way to do it.
Well, it's interesting you say that because, when I was in college and I still remember, this is so funny. I don't think I've told this story on the show before, but I studied engineering. If you guys don't know that, listening future millionaires, I was studying engineering, bachelors science, mechanical engineering. And I went home in the summer, went to the library, picked up the Thomas registry, which I don't sure if those were around anymore. But back then you had a listing of companies in the country and people paid to be in it. And I started looking for engineering jobs. I could go, do internships with, and I made a list of about, probably about 30 companies. And I'm like, "I need to call all these companies to see if I can land a summer job."
And, I was at college, you're a little bit lazy. Sometimes we getting in trouble. I didn't get any trouble, but I was a little bit lazy at times. And so I take afternoon naps before my afternoon classes, I'd eat lunch, go back and crash for an hour. And, one day I couldn't sleep and I'm like, "man, what am I gonna do? I can't sleep." So in my underwear, sitting in my boxers, I pick up the phone and start calling this list of companies. And, I call through 'em and I got through all of them and I'd heard that, if you can't land the job, then volunteer. And so at the end of 'em, I would try to pitch and see if they were taking interns. And then at the end, I would say, "well, I need to get the experience.
Would you be willing to let me come in and work two or three days a a week to get the experience I need to build my resume, for free, let me come in and work for free, just cuz the experience," and pretty much all of them blew me off. And I got down to like the last one and I'm looking at the clock and I've got like five minutes to get the class and it's about three minute run across the campus and I'm still in my boxers. And I hear this voice that's like, "call the last one." And I'm like, "all right, let me call 'em." So I called the last one on the list. I finished off my list and I got the sec, the secretary front office and I said, "Hey, this is my story.
I'm looking for a job, engineering student," and they said, "oh, I'm gonna put you on hold for a second." They put me on hold. And then they patched me through to the president of the company. And this company was about, probably about, about 3 million dollar family owned tool and die shop in manufacturing. And, the guy didn't even know- they're like, "there's a call you online one or something." He didn't know who he was talking to. And, he picks up and he said, "hello, this is Jeff." And, I started talking to him and I gave him the same spiel. "Hey, I'm an engineering student. I'm looking for summer work. Would it be okay if I came in, do you have anything available? He's like, "no, I don't have anything available." So, he's blowing me off and I said, "well, would be possible for me to come in."
And he, and he says, can you say that again? And I said it again. Same thing, "I'm looking for experience, build my resume.' And he's like, "what's your name again?" And I said, "Tony Bradshaw." And he goes, "Tony, I promise you, I will give you a call back." And, and sure enough, he started calling me. That was like on a Monday, I think. And I didn't talk to him, I think until it was about a week and a half. And when he got through to me, he says, I've been trying to get in touch with you since Friday. You're a hard man to get in touch with. So he didn't just try once he called me repeatedly and that was my first manufacturing engineering job, but I was willing to give some value, like you said, for that opportunity.
Now, the story goes there is I did work there for the summer. I did work there for the following winter and then I didn't work there the next summer or when I got outta school. But then I went back to visit and I was still looking for engineering jobs. Cause it's hard to learn jobs outta college. And he brought me back in and that was actually became my first engineering job. And I spent my first six and a half years outta college working for this guy. And I learned so much, man. He was a great mentor to me. I still have lunch with him now, 30 years later, I met him 30 years ago. And he's retired and family, but I totally agree with what you said, add value.
And then, I actually, my first, true marketing director when I worked for Dave actually did an internship for me. He came in and started helping me with the internet marketing cuz I was trying to expand that side of the company and grow the business. And he volunteered working for me. I think he just wanted to learn and came in and handled a few things for me a couple days a week. And after about six months of him doing that, I gave him a job and he stayed at that company. I think he started around 2006 and he stayed with Dave for 10 years. He was a 10 year employee after volunteering for two days a week for about six months. And so, I totally agree with what you're saying, and I think it's a great way to do it for anybody looking to shake the dust off the typical job and grow their career some.
Bryan Clayton (36:13):
You have to manufacture that momentum. And, if you don't have any momentum, you're not going anywhere, it's really hard to manufacture that get started. But, once you get rolling, then stuff starts to happen. And the best way I've heard it articulated is in the book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by Dr. Steven Covey and what he talks about in that book, he spends a whole chapter on this concept of your circle of concern and your circle of influence. And so your circle of concern is all the stuff in the world that you're concerned about. And so in the world we live in today, it could be all of the, all of the COVID stuff going on. It could be, "is the market gonna crash? Are our interest rates gonna go up?"
Bryan Clayton (37:00):
It could be, "is technology gonna eat my business alive?" It could be all these things you're concerned about. That's your concern. And then in the, in the middle, you have a much, much smaller circle, and that's the circle in which you can act, it's the circle in which you do. And really, you should only worry about that circle. And so it's like, "what are the things I can do today?" I mean, actually do, and it might just be doing a hundred, cold calls. It might be calling up all 10 of my only 10 customers. It might be, sitting down and talking with my five best employees and, and figuring out what their concerns are and whatever it is, it could be running a blog post. It could be whatever you can do today. And if you're willing to act in that circle enough, it grows and it gets bigger. And, then your options begin to multiply. The problem is people stay lost in that circle of concern and they don't act inside the circle of influence. And it's important to understand the distinction between the two and understand; you can actually do something today. It might be small, it might be menial. It may feel like it's beneath your abilities, but if you're willing to do that over and over again, it gets bigger.
I love that. Is there another way to say that? The way I look at is that busy as not always productive. So, try to make sure you're on the things that are actually producing results for you and especially as an entrepreneur, because, there's always something that you can get busy with, but if you don't use your, if all you have is time and not money, you have to make sure that that time resource goes towards the right things until the money comes. And, how do you do, let's talk about that close out the show with that. What do you believe are some of the top priorities that an entrepreneur needs to put together every day to go, "Hey, I need to spend the bulk of my time in these one, two or three things, if I'm gonna be a successful entrepreneur?"
Bryan Clayton (38:57):
When I was building GreenPal, I spent a lot of time lost in what I call fake work. So it could be the stuff that just doesn't matter. It just doesn't drive the ball forward. And, and, we get lost in this quadrant of things that are, that are, that are but not important. And so it's like all of the BS, emails, all of this comes across our plate. We just get, we just get lost in that urgent, but not important. And really where you wanna be is you wanna try to carve out time and it may just be one day a week and things that are important, but aren't urgent. And so that could be things like, like what is, what is, what is the, did the landscape look like? What does our, what does our growth strategy look like?
Bryan Clayton (39:39):
What does our marketing, like, where do customers come from and how do we get more of them and where are we losing them in the funnel? And, and, what is the culture? if I have five or 10 or 20 or 30 people what's that are, that are, but aren't urgent. They're not the things you have to do Monday morning at, at eight o'clock in the morning. It's like the things you have to really kinda make time for, if you could just be cognizant of, of where you're spending your time and listen, this stuff's hard, but if you can try to set aside one day a week, or maybe an hour a day to do the things that are, that are important, but aren't urgent. And a lot of times as the founder, there's only, there's like, there's things that, that you need to be doing that only the founder can do.
Bryan Clayton (40:23):
And so, so that's like setting the standard for the business, the quality standard, like what is, what is the standard of, of excellence in the business. I'm setting that standard and I'm doing it and I'm, and I'm literally embodying it. It's setting the culture, it's setting the strategy. And it's figuring out as a capital allocator of the business where you're making your bets, in the next quarter, the next year, the next three years. And so, like, these are only things that only the founder can do. And in the early days, it's a lot of times it's, it's in the business and it's not on the business and that's okay. But as time goes on, maybe you're spending 10% on the business, 90% in the business, you need to invert that to where it's 90% on the business, 10% in it. And you get there by, by sales, making money, reinvesting that money, hiring people, delegating, building out a good org chart around you, and is where ultimately you get to a place where you are spending 90% of your time on the business, high leverage activity in the business, in the minutia.
Bryan Clayton (41:24):
And it's taken me at times five years. Sometimes it's taken me 10 years to get there.
And energy. So energy is a big thing. I think that's what I'm learning in the cycle is, it takes, it takes a lot of energy to get something, especially when you're starting it from scratch. And you're the only guy, but then, and that's why you would go well, instead of doing it yourself, why don't you just hit yourself to some people that are going in the right direction, because you get an energy multiplier in that, that formula. Like, you're not the one providing the energy that the business needs because every business requires startup business requires an inordinate amount of energy. That's gotta be, it's gotta be provided for somewhere. when you think about, I'm, I'm just looking at my own self because I think because I've had enough capital to like enjoy life for five years, that I haven't put the 60, 80 hour work weeks into the business that most startup business guys do, I've been mostly focused on my family and my family time.
I got six kids. They're a little bit demanding. I got a wife, I won't call her demanding, but, but she has needs, and, and time needs. And, so, I've been enjoying life while nudging this thing along, moving my business along. And that that's worked, that's my lifestyle. But if I was a startup, didn't have money. It's gonna be a different formula. I'm gonna operate a little bit differently, but regardless, if you wanna have a successful business, it's gonna take an inordinate amount of energy to get it off the ground, to get it to, I guess, what you call like cruising out or something like that. And, and I think that's the thing as a new entrepreneur, I got to jump into a business that had already done that initial heavy, like energy push to get that thing to 3 million bucks.
Like I think it takes a lot more energy to get it to 3 million than it does to go from like three to 10. Because you have, you have a system, you have a system that's proven to be effective. Now you gotta just do like Jim Collins says a flywheel. You gotta do more of the same. You do more of the same, but they've already built the flywheel. You just gotta, keep adding a little bit more energy in it and picks up speed. So, Bryan man, it's been a wonderful talking to you again. I'm glad things are going successful to you. I was just, kept thinking, man, a hun 90 trucks, 150 employees. That was a lot of yards, man. That's a lot of grass.
Bryan Clayton (43:41):
And I mean, it's funny. I mean, running that first business was, was, was organized chaos, but I'll tell you the second company green, Powell's been 10 times harder. One thing I love about business is that, it is levels of a video game and there is always a new boss. There's always a new dragon display at each level. And I think if you're doing business right, you evolve as a new person, every three or four years. So, I love that. I've been able to experience that in my life. And, I love that my business has always been the thing that's made my life interesting has always caused me to level up. I've read so many books that I never would would've ever read in a million years because my business required me to read them. And so, that's the cool thing about it. And that's thing. I would encourage anybody to listen to this, like, I mean, think about starting a business, dedicating a decade of your life to it, dedicating your life's energy to it. Cause it could be one of the best things you ever do with your life.
Awesome. Well, how are people gonna find out more about you or hear you talk more?
Bryan Clayton (44:42):
Life's too short to cut your own grass. Don't need to do that, work on your business. So, download GreenPal in the app store or play store. You get hooked up with a great service in a couple of minutes and anybody if wants to reach me; Instagram. Great place to me. @bryanmclayton just hit me up there. Shoot me a DM. I'll hit you back.
Well, Bryan, it's been a pleasure, man. I wish you a good rest of 2022.
Bryan Clayton (45:06):