Introduce yourself and tell us about GreenPal?
I have been in the landscaping industry my entire life. The last company I grew myself with a push mower to over 125 employees. In 2013 I sold it to a national organization. I started the GreenPal platform to help small lawn care business owners manage & grow their business. It also helps connect homeowners that require lawn care services.
Technology advancements like finding, scheduling and paying should be easy as pressing a few buttons on your phone.
Three years in GreenPal has 20,000 users in nine different states growing our lawn mowing service marketplace can be daunting.
One of the challenges we face is getting the word out and not overspending on marketing. The lawn care industry’s margins are very tight and it’s just the nature of the business.
However the journey is the reward, and the part I love about what we are doing is seeing business owners that start with our platform with just one push mower just like I did and grow their business to multiple crews all because they are connected up with GreenPal.
They are why we do what we do.
What do you wish you knew before starting GreenPal?
When we first launched our mobile app in the summer of 2013 we started off by outsourcing our android app to an outside contractor. At first, things seem to be going good however about two weeks in the project I knew we had made a dire mistake.
While very smart and intelligent, the contractor we hired had a mindset to over-analyze and overthink things to come up with complex technological solutions that satisfied his intellectual curiosities more than solving a problem for our customers.
I knew when the relationship had reached the point of no return when we were in a meeting with him about some changes to the user interface and while we were talking he was solving a Rubik’s cube.
Long story short the contractor was magnificent at writing code however refused to realize the realities of crafting a product that solves the consumer’s problem.
My advice is to work with a user experience designer first and create a prototype for your product before engaging a developer contractor to build it. We learned the lesson the hard way.
How are you marketing your business?
We gain new customers through Facebook GROUPS. Especially local Facebook groups. No matter your niche or vertical there is a FB group that you can participate in to contribute to the discussion, answer questions, and develop a presence to refer people to your business, often times when they are looking for exactly what you offer.
FB just launched a dedicated mobile app to support their group’s communities so now it’s easier than ever to manage the groups that you participate in, monitor the conversations, and participate while on the go throughout your day. This tactic is very effective for our marketplace.
We monitor local and neighborhoods’ groups, and when anyone asks for a recommendation on a lawn care service, we kindly let them know about the GreenPal community.
When we track the success and 60% of the time we make a recommendation, they signup for our service. This tactic can work for almost any business in any niche.
What did you learn from your biggest failure?
The first thing you need to nail down when starting your business is your buy-sell agreement. Forming your buy/sell agreement with your co-founders can feel like meeting with your divorce attorney on your wedding day.
Fortunately, I was able to get most things right when we founded the legal structuring of our company. However, there was one critical oversight that we failed to plan for. That was what do we do in the event that one of us gets a divorce? As bad luck would have it our team is currently going through that very situation.
Our co-founder is going through a divorce and we are faced with the possibility of a third non-interested party as a major shareholder. As a result, a key cofounder who stakes has been cut in half and hence vested interest also diluted.
We are weighing our options and it looks like we will have to buy the spouse out of the company with cash.
This could’ve been prevented had we determined a preset price per-share to pay for such equity. However, because we failed to forecast this life event we are now scrambling for our best solution which could’ve been made very smooth and easy had we had the foresight.
The lesson learned is to legally structure on how to handle every major life event for the next 10 years.
What advice would you give a new entrepreneur?
I would say one big mistake entrepreneurs make when starting is their failure to understand their value proposition.
What is it about their product, service, and offer that compels people to say yes? Until they know this, any marketing efforts or spend in any channels will be like pouring gasoline on wet leaves.
For instance, when we launched, we thought people would like our service because it’s cheaper. What we found through testing using ad-words and FB ads is that the customer’s ability to get same day service is a much more effective and compelling subset of our value prop that drives more visitors and more conversions on our landing pages.
Nailing your value prop first is crucial.
What sacrifices did you make to become successful?
My favorite quote about resiliency and businesses by Mark Cuban
He says the following…
“It only takes one win to become successful. “The beauty of success, whether it’s finding the girl of your dreams, the right job, or financial success, is that it doesn’t matter how many times you have failed, you only have to be right once”
I love the quote because he’s right.
What is your favorite book and how has it helped with your business?
My father gave me a classic book in high school from the 1930s called “the richest man in Babylon”
The book talks about the concept of paying yourself 10%-20% first each month before paying bills. When you are forced to pay yourself first it acts as a forcing function to live within your means. This discipline combats the phenomenon of how large our income grows our expenses and lifestyle always grow along with it.
If you desire to purchase a car you must first acquire the asset that will deliver the rate of return to purchase it.
I’m so glad that I absorbed this book at a young age because I practiced its teachings for 15 years and have now over time acquired 12 paid for rental homes. Now I’m in my mid-30s and it has allowed me to pursue my dreams of building a successful tech company.
The future goal for GreenPal?
To build a nationwide network of lawn care professionals and homeowners using our platform.
Most satisfying moments in business?
Reaching profitability and doubling our business every year for four years straight