Bryan Clayton is a serial entrepreneur and cofounder of GreenPal, an online marketplace connecting homeowners with local lawn care professionals through their mobile app and website.
As CEO of GreenPal for the last 3 years Clayton has been responsible for the strategic vision of the company as well as overseeing the day-to-day execution of GreenPal’s product roadmap and growth milestones.
Career Success Q&A
What do you like most about your job?
The thing I like the most about working in a tech start up is that you really have to be at the forefront of your capabilities at all times. You’re always pushing yourself to grow and to learn new skill sets.
When working in a fast-growing company in the technology sector, there is no room for complacency. The company and yourself always have to be growing bigger and faster.
This type of environment is not for everyone. However, if you get bored quickly and don’t like doing the same ole-same-ole every day I highly recommend it.
What kind of formal schooling do you have?
I have a master’s of business administration from Middle Tennessee State University.
What kind of experience did you have before you began your current role?
All of my formal business experience comes from running my previous company which was a landscaping company that I grew from just myself to over 125 employees and $8 million in annual revenue.
Everything from management, to sales and marketing, to business leadership I learned the hard way; through trial-and-error building the business.
Much of the scar tissue and muscle memory that I have from building and selling that company over a 15 year period of time I have managed to apply at GreenPal.
Do you have a mission statement or a guiding philosophy for your career?
My personal philosophy, [which] we also apply to our company is as follows: start small, always be growing, and never give up.
What excites you most about your career right now?
We have a motto, “Serving those that serve others.” Our guiding mission is to grow tremendously the businesses of small business owners.
Every week the small businesses that operate their companies on our platform share stories about hiring new employees, buying new equipment, or buying their first home.
These stories are why we do what we do, and it really gives myself and my team a sense of fulfillment. When every little task you do is part of a constellation that connects back to a central ‘why,’ it makes getting out of bed easy.
What excites you about the future of your career?
The connected mobile world is what excites me about the future and the possibilities for our company.
In 5 to 10 years every task, every chore, and everything you need to do throughout your day will be accomplished through your smart phone.
Are you an avid reader?
I’m a believer that if you’re not learning and growing then you are dying. I try to read a book every two weeks.
I keep a stack of books by my nightstand as a constant reminder of how much I have read and how much I have yet to read.
What book would you recommend to other professionals?
I highly recommend The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by the late Dr. Stephen Covey. The book gives readers a roadmap of personal change, personal growth, and personal accountability.
Is there another type of media you consume as a means of continuing your professional education?
I regularly listen to the podcast This Week in STARTUPS.
Jason Calcan is on the program every week to discuss topics on how to grow your business and he regularly interviews rockstar entrepreneurs that we can all learn from.
On YouTube there is a weekly show called Both Sides of The Table by a renowned venture capitalist named Mark Suster.
I recommend watching his program because he discusses what it takes to raise capital, to start your business, and the realities of building a company from scratch.
Do you have a regular routine that ensures you’re always improving?
How I hold myself accountable to get things done, stay productive, and keep momentum is by regularly scaring myself.
I close my eyes and fast forward 1 year. I think about a year from today and things looking exactly as they do right now.
The realization that in a year’s time my team and I have made little to no progress causes me to take action and alleviates my fear of risk.
I call it fast forwarding the story, and it always helped me have a bias towards action.
Who has had the most influence on you career?
Jack Welch in my opinion is one of the greatest business leaders of all time for his emphasis in rigorous candor in his leadership style.
In case you’re not familiar with Jack, he led General Electric to marketplace dominance for 25 years and is well known for his candid approach to leadership. Jack pioneered a leadership process by which the bottom 10% of performing team members in the General Electric organization were dismissed on an annual basis.
This tremendously improved the performance of GE by encouraging its top performers to remain great and cutting out the weaker performers within their organization. While it may seem non-sympathetic, real leadership takes courage and the leader must be willing to take steps that are better for the team, even though they may be uncomfortable and unpleasant.
Do you have a journaling practice?
About two years ago I forced myself to begin the daily habit of writing in a journal every evening before I go to bed.
I take about two or three minutes and just write down in one page, in a little small black notebook I carry with me, any of the things that were positive that occurred that day.
This helps me build self-awareness and also helps me with the process of externalization. I find that documenting my thoughts on a piece of paper really helps me organize them, and figure out what I’m going to do for the next day, week, and month.
This daily habit helps me in maintaining a smooth consistent virtue of positive psychology. I find that by documenting daily, two or three positive things that happened helps me stay centered and keep a positive outlook on what I’m trying to accomplish.
What is a professional challenge you’re still looking for a solutions to?
Our biggest challenge is with respect to how we craft our sales strategy moving into 2017. Sales in small business seems to be full of dichotomies.
My biggest leadership challenge is balancing customer feedback with the strategic vision for growth of the company.
My question is, how do you know when to implement customer feedback versus ignore it like Steve Jobs would, and building what you know they [really] want and need?
Are you currently working on any projects we should be aware of?
We are 3 years into our journey and have over 20,000 active customers in seven different states. This year we have surpassed $3 million in [gross merchandise volume] and next year should get to over $10 million.
We have chosen to self-fund our growth, and to defer raising outside capital. The reasons for this is mainly [that] necessity is the mother of all invention.
So often when entrepreneurs raise outside capital too quickly it affords them a level of comfort. [They] turn over tasks that really need to be handled by the founding team members.
When you raise capital you can hire customer support agents to handle that pain of speaking to customers on a daily basis. A smart entrepreneur however, still does this every day and let’s that guide the product development roadmap.
Staying close to your users allows you to organize and execute around priorities that drive the business forward.
When a team raises a few million dollars in a seed round or series A it enables them to distance themselves from the customer experience, which ultimately causes death to most startups.
While we get interest from outside investors – both strategic and venture-capital – on a weekly basis we are in the nice position to defer those conversations until later down the road.
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