Unearthing Your Best Customers

Unearthing Your Best Customers | CEO Campfire Chat | The Sterling Woods Group

Bryan Clayton got the idea to found GreenPal after years running his own highly successful landscaping business. After selling Peachtree Inc. in 2013, Bryan set out to solve a problem he saw in the industry.

Finding a reliable lawn care provider was challenging. For homeowners, it involved sifting through Google or Yelp reviews, calling providers, waiting to receive quotes, and hoping the chosen provider actually showed up consistently.

With his idea for GreenPal, Bryan sought to change all that. He wanted to provide a one-click option: Homeowners could log into an app, put in their address and lawn care needs, and get back a handful of bids from qualified providers instantly.

Bryan’s experience in the industry gave him an advantage, but there were still specifics for him to learn along the way. When it came to identifying his target customer, Bryan started with the assumption that GreenPal would be most popular in more affluent areas. He distributed door hangers in the posh Nashville neighborhoods but didn’t get a lot of traction.

When he switched his sights to more working-class areas, however, suddenly app adoption took off. What he learned was that people with more modest lawn care needs often struggled to find reliable service providers. For established, large-scale landscaping companies, the economics of cutting a small lawn every other week often wasn’t worth it.

However, because GreenPal handled marketing, sales, and billing through its app, smaller service providers were able to turn a profit servicing smaller clients. Through listening to customers, Bryan came to learn that the best customers for the app were actually these middle-class homeowners rather than the wealthy families he initially targeted.

GreenPal’s model also aims to make it easier for entrepreneurs to start their own lawn care companies. Building a business on the platform takes the sales and marketing onus off the lawn care professional, and its services like billing and bookkeeping allow service providers to focus on what they know and do best: lawn care.

Bryan and his team apply this testing and learning approach each time they expand to a new city. The GreenPal team perfected operations in Nashville for three years before expanding to other markets. Inspired by the book Nail It Then Scale It, Bryan was committed to perfecting the customer experience in the company’s first market before setting up shop elsewhere.

That methodical approach has served GreenPal well. They now operate nationwide and serve over 200,000 customers.

Throughout the organization’s growth, Bryan has focused on listening to customers and service providers to improve the GreenPal model. He still spends time himself each week reading through customer comments and complaints to understand where the leadership team can improve the business. 

Taking customer input seriously and using it to inform future business decisions has been one of the biggest factors in GreenPal’s continued success.

Episode Transcript

Rob Ristagno: What inspires great entrepreneurs to start a business? For some, including today’s guest, it’s the desire to solve a problem they see in their own lives. Hear about how he’s taken his seedling of an idea and grown it into a nationwide service on this episode of the CEO Campfire Chat.

Announcer: This is the CEO Campfire Chat with your host, Rob Ristagno. Taped in front of a live studio audience, join us to hear successful growth stories from middle market companies, just like yours. Sponsored by the Sterling Woods Group.

Rob Ristagno: Welcome to the CEO Campfire Chat, recorded live in front of a studio audience of senior executives. I’m your host, Rob Ristagno, and I have the privilege of introducing you to Bryan Clayton. He’s the CEO and co-founder of GreenPal, also known as the Uber of lawn mowing. GreenPal currently has over 200,000 active members, and this is not Bryan’s first entrepreneurial venture. He also created and sold Peach Tree, which was one of the largest landscaping businesses in all of Tennessee. Welcome Bryan.

Bryan Clayton: Rob, thanks for having me on. Great to be here.

Rob Ristagno: All right. Well, 200,000 users of anything, it’s quite a feat. Tell us one part of the secret sauce.

Bryan Clayton: Relentless unwillingness to give up. Just a consistent bias towards action and moving forward. When we first started the business in 2013, my two co-founders and I didn’t know how to code, we didn’t know how to write software. And so we thought what we were going to do was just pay a development shop to build what we thought GreenPal should be and launched it. And when we launched it, it was a total flop, total failure. We couldn’t get anybody to use it. It didn’t have the features it needed, it was clunky. It didn’t fulfill the promise of push a button, get a lawn care service. And so when we launched it and we couldn’t even get a hundred people to use it, we were disheartened. And we were discouraged, but we were able to get enough validation, talking to people, to understand that they wanted it to work.

Bryan Clayton: They wanted it to solve the problem they had. And so that was just enough validation to keep moving forward. And over a three year period of time, we taught ourselves how to build software, taught ourselves how to code, how to design software, how to market software. And we just stuck with it and celebrated little wins. Our first goal that we set for ourselves was a hundred transactions in a week. Now we do a hundred every minute or so, but now our first goal was a hundred a week and it took us two years to get that. But when we did, we celebrated it. And so just continually moving forward and not giving up.

Rob Ristagno: Sounds like a series of small wins that build on each other and never giving up.

Bryan Clayton: That compounds.

Rob Ristagno: …And never getting discouraged if the results aren’t… You’re not going to get to $10 million on day one, I guess.

Bryan Clayton: That’s right. Yeah. And just celebrating those wins and then setting another goal.

Rob Ristagno: Right. Well, I want to hear more about this perseverance, this progressive goal-setting a little bit more, but before we dive in, just for the audience, could you tell us a little bit more about GreenPal and exactly what you do, who you serve and what your business model is?

Bryan Clayton: Yeah. So GreenPal is, in a sentence, the Uber for lawn mowing. So if you’re a homeowner or you rent a house and you need a lawn cutting service, rather than calling around on Yelp or Craigslist or Facebook, you can just download our app and you’ll get hooked up with a good lawn mowing service in less than a few minutes. After they do a good job on mowing your yard, if you want, you can set them up for the whole season. And it just kind of happens in the background. I’ve been at this eight years and we have over 200,000 people using the app. We’re doing $20 million a year in revenue. And so we’re kind of an eight year overnight success. Before GreenPal, I actually had a landscaping company and over a 15 year period of time, I built it into one of the largest landscaping companies in the state of Tennessee. And so I kind of was able to start GreenPal almost on second or third base, knowing kind of all the problems that existed in the industry. And it was kind of solving my own problem.

Rob Ristagno: Gotcha. Makes sense. That’s great when you can do that, use one company to find a new problem to solve in your next company.

Bryan Clayton: That’s right.

Rob Ristagno: Do you mind sharing with us a little bit more about how the company makes money? For example, you’re taking a percentage of every transaction. Do you have to pay to be on the platform, just give us a feel for the business model itself?

Bryan Clayton: Yeah, so it’s a true marketplace. So we’re in the business of connecting buyers and sellers. And so we take a small transactional fee for every transaction that we drive to our vendor partners. And that varies based on the amount of revenue that they’re doing on the platform. We also have a set of premium tools that we sell to service providers that they can use to run their business more efficiently. And we have around 10,000 service providers. Over half of them run their entire business on the GreenPal platform. They don’t do any work outside of the platform. So that’s really what we’re in the business of doing, where we offer a nice convenience to homeowners to be able to push a button and get this thing done. But really why we do what we do is to offer hardworking people, really, access to the American dream and ability just to plug into the GreenPal platform. All they have to do is work hard, do a good job mowing the lawns for their clients, and our platform kind of powers the rest.

Rob Ristagno: Oh, nice. Nice. So, yeah, so it sounds like you’ve thought about both sides of the market as your customer. You have the service provider and the end consumer. Just out of curiosity, which was harder to build up? Was it harder to convince the entrepreneur, the lawn care professional to join, or was it harder to convince consumers to download the app and hire someone?

Bryan Clayton: It’s kind of a fluid thing. You go back and forth on one side or the other and you over-index on one at the other’s expense and vice versa. And every marketplace kind of goes through this. Uber went through it with a surge pricing and so things like that where you’re trying to solve for problems on one side of the transaction, and then it’s at the expense of the other. So for us, it hasn’t just been static. It hasn’t been a case of, okay, this is the harder side of the equation to solve. It’s like you do this and you poke here and then this pops out.

Rob Ristagno: Yeah. Like whack-a-mole.

Bryan Clayton: Yeah. But in the early days I personally knew the first hundred plus service providers. I had a relationship with them. I would reach out to them on Craigslist or on Facebook. And I would pitch them on the idea. The product really sucked back then, it didn’t have the features it needed. But I would pitch them on the vision. And as part of a way to develop some stickiness, I would offer them free coaching and free mentoring on how to grow their lawn mowing business, because I know this business.

Bryan Clayton: And so that was a way we were able to get over the cold start problem of attracting buyers and sellers. Our first hundred service providers, we were able to hand crank, build a relationship with, and then they were kind of figuratively speaking, on the shelf, ready to be hired off of a shelf for the homeowners that we were able to market and get onto the platform. And that gave us just enough activity, just enough liquidity to figure out what the heck it was we were doing to where we could roll that into the second, third and fourth versions and develop some kind of playbook on rolling out into additional cities.

Rob Ristagno: I’ve heard said that all businesses need a secret advantage or an unfair advantage to get started. It sounds like your unfair advantage was you really knew this industry very well so you got over that cold start problem, as you mentioned, having the relationships with some of the service providers, which I’m sure got you out of the box, got you some momentum.

Bryan Clayton: Definitely, definitely helped us. And I recommend that to new entrepreneurs that are inventing a new product that does not yet exist. It helps to be solving your own problem, and that can help cure a lot of mistakes. Remarkably, eight years ago, when we started, the value proposition and the vision isn’t a whole lot different than what we’re doing today. We’re just doing it better and better and better every year.

Rob Ristagno: Now, one thing we talk about a lot on the show is your ideal customer. So it’s very tempting to cast a wide net, but companies that we’ve seen perform well are very clear about who is a good customer for them and who is not really a good use of their time to chase and/or serve. Can you say a little bit more… Now you have two different types of customers. Let’s start with the service provider side of your market. What’s an ideal service provider look like for you? What makes them a perfect fit for the GreenPal platform?

Bryan Clayton: Yeah. We didn’t know this in the early days, but what we came to find out as time went on, the ideal service provider is the smaller, the better, ideally just getting started. So then they can start their entire business on top of our platform. If you have a big business that’s got five or 10 employees, and you’ve got different crews out there, similar to what I used to run, we’re not a good fit because you already have your systems. And this is kind of an external thing that you’re kind of adapting to. And so, matter of fact, the guy that you’re paying to run one of those crews, actually we’re in the business of enabling him to be in business for himself. So it was like, why are you going to go run this crew for this big landscaping company and make $20 an hour when in fact you can just plug into this platform, be in business for yourself and make $50 or $100 an hour.

Rob Ristagno: Nice.

Bryan Clayton: And so we’re kind of in the business of solving a lot of the fragmentation and pushing it down even further to where anybody can be in the business and operate and know that they don’t have to go pass out flyers. They don’t have to do things like bookkeeping, everything just kind of happens for them. And then on the other side of the transaction, if you’re a homeowner, you really want that smaller service provider. You want the proprietor of the little business to be the guy or the gal who’s mowing your yard, who cares about the service quality, who’s taking their time to do a good job because they’re the owner. And so that’s kind of what we do. We enable you to get that big company experience, but with a small company kind of personalized service.

Rob Ristagno: Nice. And what about from a mindset or psychology standpoint, it’s clear to me who you’re targeting, but is there also a certain personality that works better for your platform?

Bryan Clayton: You have to have a good attitude, and we see this a lot. Thousands of service providers that just don’t have a good attitude and don’t believe in just simple fundamentals, like just being polite to people who they’re working for or don’t feel like being on time is important, or just don’t really want to work hard. If you don’t have those qualities, you’re not going to be a good fit for the GreenPal platform. If you have a good attitude and you’re willing to show up on time and work hard, you’re going to make material income on top of our technology.

Bryan Clayton: But that’s what our platform does. That’s the value proposition. It kind of sidelines these people who just aren’t cut out to run their own service-based business, so our homeowners don’t have to go through the headache of hiring these people and them not showing up, or them flaking on them. We enable them to sidestep all of that because we’re constantly measuring service providers on quality across a dozen different paradigms. And so we understand who those reliable service providers are and who the unreliable ones are.

Rob Ristagno: I see. Okay. The transparency is there, all the information’s there. What about on the other side of the market, your ideal end-consumer homeowner?

Bryan Clayton: Yeah, so when we started, I was just coming off of selling my business and a lot of my clientele was commercial-based, but we did have some residential clientele. And the residential clients that we worked for was super high end, multi-million dollar houses, the nicest part of town. And so that’s what I was coming to this set of problems with that experience. And the first thing we did when we launched the first version of GreenPal, we passed out door hangers all over Nashville, Tennessee, because we had no user acquisition strategy. And we went to the part of town where I thought our target market was, and we went to the nicer parts of town. And then we would exhaust that and then we would pass them out in some more of the working class neighborhoods around Nashville.

Bryan Clayton: And when we started really measuring where the signups were coming from, and it was almost like 90/10, your working class, dual-income, no kids, $100,000-$200,000 house, we’re not talking about million-dollar houses. And so we start understanding, wow, these people are using our services, whereas the wealthier parts of town aren’t. Why is that? And we really interviewing as many people that would talk to us. And what we came to learn was, is if you don’t want to spend a whole lot of money, lawn care services don’t return your phone call. If you only want a basic grass cutting service every two weeks, it’s like pulling teeth to get anybody to show up and then to keep them showing up. And what we came to learn was, well, it’s really not profitable for a lawn mowing service to go and do a $32 lawn mowing if they know they have to mail you an invoice, if they have to meet with you in person, have to drive out and look at it.

Bryan Clayton: So we started understanding that, okay, we’re making it efficient for lawn mowing services to serve the lower end of the market and be profitable. And that’s where our value proposition resonated with homeowners. And so we learned that really early on, and that helped us adjust our marketing, adjust our copy, adjust where we were focused on getting adoption. And that was just an example of talking to your users, talking to your customers and trying to glean insights to figure out what the heck it is you’re doing.

Rob Ristagno: That’s amazing, incredible story. You’ve got data, customer input, customer surveys, to make the better business decisions.

Audience Member: I have a question about geography and you started right around where you are in Nashville or where you were, and then how did you grow and how much of the country do you cover now?

Bryan Clayton: So right now, eight years in, we’re nationwide. We’re in every major city in the United States, and most every city with a population of a hundred thousand people. And currently we’re distributing the platform into the smaller towns and cities all over the country. But we spent three years just in Nashville. We read a book early on called Nail It, Then Scale It and what the book talks about is really honing in that experience, really figuring out how to keep customers and how to retain everybody that uses your product, and just really trying to dial in the experience before you, just blow it out. And that’s what we did. We stayed just in Nashville for three years, until we really built the reliability around the transaction and solved all the things that can go wrong between hiring a lawn mowing service and them actually showing up and doing a good job.

Bryan Clayton: And it really, it was tough because we wanted to scale and we wanted to build a big business, but we had to be disciplined about it and really look ourselves in the mirror and say, no, we’re not ready for it yet. We’re still getting all of these complaints from people who aren’t getting a delightful experience. Until we get those as close to zero as possible, we don’t need to go into our second market. And so that’s what we did. And we launched our second market in Tampa, Florida. Third market was Atlanta. And then after we got those three markets going, got the flywheel effect going in every one of those cities, we then developed a playbook to roll out city by city. And it’s a marketplace that’s constrained by geography. And so you have to build every single city from the ground up. You can’t just boil the ocean and go wide too fast, because if you don’t, then you don’t develop the critical mass of buyers and sellers, and you don’t kick off any kind of flywheel effect.

Audience Member: Bryan, what precludes a service provider from going direct to a customer once they’ve established a relationship? And if in fact they’re foregoing paying you a transaction fee based on their revenue. Right? And do you care about that?

Bryan Clayton: Yeah. So every marketplace, to some extent, deals with this. We call it platform disintermediation. And so in the early days, it didn’t happen at all because we knew every single vendor and we had a personal relationship with them. And then as we started growing from a hundred, to a thousand, to 2,000 service providers that were using the app, we started to see it just a little bit. And what would happen was, is a homeowner would reach out to us and would say, “Hey, I hired Joe’s Lawn Care, but they didn’t show up.” And then we would dig into the backend. It was like, well, actually you just used him one time last year. Oh yeah, yeah, yeah but then they stopped showing up later. So it was like, inevitably the recurring disappearing lawn guy problem would resurface.

Bryan Clayton: So that’s how we became aware of it. And what we began to notice was, okay, we can look at this one or two ways, is it happening to us? And we can have like a victim mentality, or is it happening for us? And we chose to look at it like, okay, this is happening for us. Let’s use this as a indicator for where we need to improve and why it’s happening. And what we began to understand was, if a service provider got over 20 customers with GreenPal in their first six months, they were locked in. They would not ever take anybody off because it’s just not worth it. A, it’s not worth getting de platformed and losing those 20 and B, once you already have 20 people in there and you’re getting an email every day and you know where you’re supposed to be, and the routes all optimized, and you don’t have to chase people down for your money.

Bryan Clayton: Once you can get to 20, then you’re locked in. But if you only have one or two over a 12 month period of time, then it’s more of a nuisance. It’s like, oh, I got to go mow this person’s yard on this thing. And I would rather not even mess with it. And so we learned that early on. And so we optimize for that. We figured, okay, well, we have to really throttle. We can’t have too many vendors in Indianapolis because if we do that, it dilutes the value proposition for everybody and then the whole thing breaks down. And so really focusing on balancing the supply and demand to where we have meaningful impact into our service providers’ businesses, to where we create that lock-in and that 20 plus or minus number is usually what creates that stickiness.

Bryan Clayton: That’s how we’ve combated platform disintermediation. And the goal is to get it to the point where you’re riding in an Uber and the ride’s done. It’s like, hey, would you want to cancel the ride? And you can save a dollar and I can say 50 cents? That never happens. And so that’s the goal is to create the experience and make it so much better than doing it the old way to where you have that lock-in and nobody wants to do it the old way anymore.

Audience Member: Right. Right.

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Audience Member: What’s your customer service functionality? Do you have that centralized, Bryan, or is that something that’s customized by either by market or that’s got to be a big part of your secret sauce, I would guess?

Bryan Clayton: Yes. So one set of a customer service team handles the entire platform nationwide. And we look at customer service as an R&D almost as, okay, this is where we need to focus our resources. Okay. We were seeing the same complaints over and over again. This is where we need to add this feature or fix this UI, or add this layer of accountability so the service provider does what they’re supposed to do. And that has been the river of feedback for us since day one, so we know what it is we’re supposed to be doing. And it’s funny, we’re doing thousands and thousands of transactions a day, and we have less customer service tickets today than we did when we were doing a hundred transactions a week.

Bryan Clayton: So as time goes on, you want it to be so reliable and so self-serve that… Because let’s face it, people don’t want to hit up a live chat. People don’t want to send an email, they don’t want to call you. They just want their problem to be solved. But using it as R&D to anticipate, okay, these are the things that people are dealing with, we need to solve that, still to this day, has been how we prioritize what we’re working on and how we’re improving the experience. Not only that, I still personally do at least an hour a day. So that way there’s no gap between customer logic and company logic. In most businesses, there’s a big gap there. And so if you make it this dead simple for users and customers to speak with you, the gap will never be there. And you always are never at a loss for what you’re supposed to be working on.

Audience Member: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Cool. Thank you.

Rob Ristagno: Yeah, I really like customer service as R&D. I think that’s a great mantra for companies to think about it that way. Excellent. Now you’ve done this bootstrap, and bootstrapping is hard, especially at first. Tell us a little bit about some secrets to the trade there in terms of how you used hustle and hard work to get there, where other people may have needed to spend money?

Bryan Clayton: For me, one of my personal philosophies in business-building is that revenue is the best form of financing. Revenue is constantly going to be keeping you on track for what you need to be focused on. It’s going to keep you focused on the user and the customer. Revenue is the lifeblood of the business. You’ll never get lost almost. When you raise a bunch of money, it’s easy to get sidetracked and not focused on priorities and working on things that don’t matter and building something this bloated. So if you can bootstrap a business, I think it increases your chances of success. The reality is for most tech startups raising a venture round, it’s usually a bad bet. Eight out of 10 of those go out of business and maybe even nine out of 10. And so for us, we made the bet really early on that we were going to bootstrap.

Bryan Clayton: We kind of did it almost out of necessity. Being in Nashville, it’s not a huge ocean of venture capital sloshing around Nashville. And so that kind of helped us clarify that thinking. And then also we never really wanted to. We just wanted to work on something and build a product and get it in the hands of people. We didn’t want to take six months off and go fundraise. And now we’re profitable. We’ve got a good business under ourselves here. And we’re basically making an angel round every week. And so that’s fun now. The first four or five years were tough, but I think it can increase your chances of success if you just focus on, okay, what do we make this month?

Bryan Clayton: And how do we deploy that capital to make more money? And just constantly be trying to reinvest what profits you’re making back into the business. I believe it can make a healthier business and a more sustainable business. Now, not every business can be bootstrapped. Two or three years ago, we had all these scooter companies popping up. And if you were in 2015 and you want to start a scooter company, it’s an obvious business, but it needed a ton of venture capital. You’re not going to bootstrap a scooter business. So not every business can lend itself to be bootstrapped, but most can. And most of the time, an entrepreneur thinks they can’t bootstrap when in fact they can.

Rob Ristagno: Excellent. Tell us a little bit more about, besides the relationships that you brought with you from your experience at Peach Tree, what are you doing differently this time? As a second time as a CEO and co-founder, what did you learn from the first experience that’s making you better in this experience? Besides having those critical relationships and understanding of the market.

Bryan Clayton: Yeah. Obviously understanding the business from the inside out, leadership, I had 150 people in my first business and so that was something that I learned the hard way in the first business. I didn’t have to relearn that on the second one. I did it wrong for many years and had to kind of develop and cultivate myself as a leader. And so that was one thing I was able to bring. One thing I under-indexed on was the difference between a blue-collar type of business, hand-to-hand combat in the trenches and a tech startup. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. And luckily I didn’t because if I did, I never would’ve done it. And so that was one thing that took a long time, like I mentioned, three years to kind of cultivate the skills that are required if if you’re going to play in the game of tech startup land.

Bryan Clayton: And so that was one thing that I kind of had to reinvent myself over, but a lot of just the things around grit and tenacity and sleepless nights and just how difficult it is to get something going from scratch. I had already experienced that before. And so when I started the second one, my two co-founders are like damn, this sucks. And I’m like, no, this is normal. This is how it is. I’m here to tell you, get used to it because it’s going to suck for another couple, two or three years. And it did, it was tough.

Rob Ristagno: That’s actually a really important point here. There’s probably a lot of entrepreneurs out there who start with the grit and tenacity, but you get punched in the face so many times that you kind of run out of steam there. How do you motivate your team besides telling them this is the reality of it? Do you have specific tactics? I don’t know, exercising or diet, or how do you reinvigorate yourself to get back to that grit and tenacity when you feel a little bit beat up?

Bryan Clayton: Yeah. I think as the CEO, co-founder, owner, whatever you want to call yourself, you get exactly the culture and vibe and the business that you deserve. It’s going to reflect your attitude. It’s going to reflect your disposition. And so it’s kind of like almost like scaffolding around you. I learned that in the first business, I didn’t make that mistake in the second one. And so for me, managing my own personal psychology and keeping the enthusiasm and not losing faith and hope kind of had to start with me. I had to set the tone and one thing I’ve done to manage my own psychology is just to understand, okay, no matter what, I’m working on my best idea, I’m working my ass off on my best project. And that’s it. There is no going back. There is no quitting.

Bryan Clayton: And I guess, luckily, I’m not very creative. And so GreenPal was and is my best idea. So it’s like, no matter how hard it gets, okay, we’re working on this. And so I would then try to figure out, okay, well, yeah, we want to be here, but we’re here. And let’s look at this like a video game. And let’s break this down in 10 levels and let’s just get through level one. If we can just get through level one, whatever that is, and then level two and then level three, and then breaking that down and celebrating the small victories and the incremental success and understand the compounding and being able to understand, okay, yeah, we’re doubling every year. The numbers are very, very small right now, but we’re still doubling. And just imagine when we get here.

Bryan Clayton: And then bootstrapping always being default alive, no matter what happens, we’re going to be here. No matter what happens, we’re going to be able to work on this thing. My two co-founders had really good jobs at Dell Computer that they quit, but no matter what happens we’re not going back to cubicle-land. We’re building this thing. And just celebrating the small wins and acting small, but still being ambitious is what got us through that cold start.

Rob Ristagno: Excellent. And that’s all about the start. What about the future? Where do you see yourself and GreenPal heading next?

Bryan Clayton: It’s finally starting to get fun. Right? It has been fun the last couple of years, because we’re making money and we’ve got a really good team. In the early years it was… I’m a terrible frontend developer and I’m hacking on code trying to make stuff work and it’s buggy as hell. But now I’ve got a rockstar frontend developer that just loves this stuff and is much better at it than I ever was. And so that’s happening all over the business and it’s starting to get fun and it’s easy to look back and like, wow, look how far we’ve come. But it doesn’t really feel that way. It still feels like day one. The Jeff Bezos quote, it’s still day one. We have so much further to go. Yeah, we’re doing 20 million, some-odd dollars in revenue, but this is a $80 billion industry. We’re not even scratching the surface. And so until GreenPal’s in the lexicon of the English language, much like Uber or Instacart or Airbnb, we still have a long way to go. We’ll be at this another decade.

Rob Ristagno: Maybe one day I’ll call my company the GreenPal of analytics.

Bryan Clayton: I hope so.

Rob Ristagno: Other questions from the audience?

Audience Member: I have a question about the breadths of services, obviously landscaping-oriented, maybe even during the winter people might do snowplowing, things like that, but where do you draw the line with fence building or kitchen remodeling? You could go way beyond.

Bryan Clayton: Great question. Looking back and kind of the way it’s always been, when you’re bootstrapped, one of the only things you have to your advantage and to your disposal is focus. Just focusing on a few things at a time and just trying to be the best in the world or the best in your market at those things. And that’s the way it was and still is. And so we have just focused on one set of use cases, just one thing and being the best in the world at that one thing and that’s lawn mowing. And so once you come to the website, even if you’re drunk or you’re Homer Simpson, you understand what GreenPal is and what it does. And we can’t afford to lose anybody because we’re self-funded and we have to convert as many people as we can.

Bryan Clayton: And so just that laser focus, so just being good at just one thing or a couple of things, is what’s got us to where we are and we’ve had to say no to a lot of things along the way. We’ve had to say no to pressure washing, pool service, gutter cleaning, roofing repair, locksmithing, you name it. Because the reality is, is every one of those use cases has a million different problems of its own. And you’re not going to be good at all of them at the same time.

Bryan Clayton: There’s already an Angie’s List, a Home Advisor, a Craigslist, a Yelp, a Facebook Marketplace. These are great directories and static repositories of information where you can go and you can get a list of names and numbers, but you still have to poll those people. You still have to call them, you still have to dial for dollars. There is no push a button, get a house painter. And so for us, the way we’ve been able to deliver that Uber-like experience of push a button and the service provider just shows up the same day or in the morning is because we’ve just focused on this one thing.

Audience Member: So to follow up on Jack’s question, Bryan, what’s holding you back from $50 million in revenues? Is it just sort of geographic footprint expansion?

Bryan Clayton: I like the way you think. So what’s holding us back is continued distribution and awareness, getting it into more homeowners’ hands, where we were and still are demand-constrained. And in most marketplaces, the side that is putting their credit card down is usually the harder one to get. And that’s certainly the case for us. And so continuing to develop that awareness around GreenPal and how it can solve your problem. Our competition is the status quo. Unfortunately people still do it the old way. They still leave voicemails. They still mail a check or leave cash under the mat or something like that. So that’s what we’re in competition with is chewing our way through that.

Bryan Clayton: And counter-intuitively, we have a long way to go deep in all of our markets. And for us, when we first started rolling out, the smaller cities would generate more transactions than the bigger cities. We would do more transactions in a Knoxville, Tennessee than we would in a Chicago. And we started learning, bigger the city doesn’t necessarily mean better. It means the smallest city is actually better because we can get the flywheel going in that city a lot easier. And we can develop those overlaps between buyers and sellers. And so that’s a lesson we learned early on was, okay, the bigger cities aren’t necessarily better. So how do we get the $50 million? We speed up that flywheel in your bigger markets and make it the default way you get this thing done.

Audience Member: Yeah. Do you have a member program where you’re going to remit 50 bucks remit if you’re bringing your neighbors aboard or something like that?

Bryan Clayton: We do. And it is not a big channel for us because we haven’t put a whole lot of fire behind it. It’s one of those things, particularly when you’re self funded, you can only really bet on one channel, maybe two. And so for us, we have bet on Google organic search, we throw the entire company’s weight into ranking for keywords, lawn mowing service in Chicago, or lawn care service Indianapolis. And to rank and compete in Google organic, it’s a bet the company decision. And so we’ve thrown all of our effort into that. And there again, we haven’t exhausted as a channel. We’re probably only capturing a third of the opportunity that we could from that. And so it’s like, okay, we’ve experimented with Facebook ads, Instagram ads, Pinterest ads, billboard, print, radio, TV, internal referral programs like you’re talking about. And we just can’t get the ROI for effort and capital that we can in a Google organic. And so we continue to bet on that one channel and just be the best at it.

Audience Member: That makes a hell of a lot of sense.

Audience Member: Bryan, part of your growth strategies you guys were talking about earlier was having that right user to service ratio as you go into markets either, A, not to over-flood or, B, to under serve, what is that right ratio for you? Or how do you know that you’ve hit the apex and okay, here, the city A is good. City B, we need to get more, either A users or service providers. What does that look like for you guys?

Bryan Clayton: Not enough liquidity looks like Bozeman, Montana, and you sign up and you get two bids back in 12 hours. That ain’t good enough. And so that means we need more service providers in Bozeman. And because our goal is to get you five bids back in 60 seconds. And if we can’t do that, then it doesn’t feel like Uber. Now on the other side, too much saturation is Nashville, Tennessee. And so you get five bids back in 10 seconds. And then there’s 20 other service providers that are clicking that link. And they’re getting up, they’re hitting the wall that says, oops, sorry, they already got their five bids. And guess what? They’re pissed off.

Bryan Clayton: And so we use these signals, these KPIs to understand, okay, we have too few here. We have too many here and we’re not kicking anybody off, but don’t let any more on in Nashville. Some will get tired of it and churn out. And this constantly trying to balance it city by city on a nationwide basis is a challenge. But if you don’t pay attention to it and you don’t put effort there, these markets either get oversaturated, and then it starts to degrade, or people don’t convert or they churn because they’re not getting that instant magical experience.

Audience Member: Right. Thank you.

Audience Member: Cool business.

Bryan Clayton: Thank you. I appreciate it. It’s why I get out of bed in the morning,

Rob Ristagno: Bryan, I learned so much and I’m inspired. Double whammy there.

Bryan Clayton: Oh, I appreciate it Rob. Thank you.

Rob Ristagno: What can we do to help you out? What can the audience do to help you out?

Bryan Clayton: Well anybody listening to this doesn’t want to waste time cutting their own yard, life’s too short to cut your grass, just download GreenPal in the app store or play store and you get hooked up with a great lawn mowing service in less than a couple of minutes. Anybody wants to reach me, you can hit me up on LinkedIn. I’ve been hanging out there a lot more lately.

Rob Ristagno: Excellent. All right. Brian Clayton, Bryan with a Y. Bryan Clayton, CEO of GreenPal. Thank you so much. And this concludes today’s CEO Campfire Chat with your host Rob Ristagno.

Rob Ristagno: To listen to more episodes or sign up for bonus content, visit CEOcampfirechat.com. See you next time around the fire.

Rob Ristagno: Like trees in a forest, your organization’s revenue problems can keep you from seeing a way out, even when the way out is right in front of you. Our data-driven solutions deliver the shortest, fastest route to increase sales and lower marketing costs. The trick is in knowing how to find and use the data you already have to reveal, test, and implement remedies in a matter of months, not years. When you can see the forest and the trees, everything improves. To learn more about our approach head to sterlingwoods.com.

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