December 14, 2020

The Virtual CMO Podcast

Starting a business can be challenging – especially if you have minimal capital. The business you've worked hard to build can go to waste if you don't take the right steps become profitable. When you are self-funding your business, sometimes you need to get creative. A limited budget forces you to be intelligent in handling your scarce resources. Take a step at a time in bootstrapping business. Appreciate the journey and learn from the mistakes along the way. Be smart in your decision-making, and do not let the monetary limits dictate your innovation and creativity range.

In this episode, The Five Echelon Group's Founder/CMO Eric Dickmann has a conversation with business expert and GreenPal CEO and Co-Founder- Bryan Clayton about bootstrapping business and the most effective ways to engage your target market.

Bryan Clayton is a business expert and the co-founder and CEO of USA's No.1 "Lawn Care Near Me" Service- GreenPal. GreenPal has been called the "Uber for lawn care' by Entrepreneur Magazine and has over 100,000 active users completing thousands of transactions per day. Clayton also founded Peach Tree Landscapes- one of the largest landscaping companies in Tennessee. Peach Tree grows over $10 million a year in annual revenue before LUSA Holdings LLC acquired it in 2013. His interests are entrepreneurship and growing small businesses. Bryan's passion is to help young enterprises to grow from zero revenue to maximum profitability. Bryan Clayton is from Nashville, Tennessee.

What it Takes to Become a Successful Entrepreneur

To be a successful entrepreneur, Bryan Clayton suggests that business owners should prioritize having a relentless focus on our customers despite the many fundamentals they may need to learn about doing business. Despite having numerous competitors, businesses need to stand out and find their competitive advantage. Understanding a business's value proposition is a critical component of success. It is not enough for us to work in our industry; we should WORK ON our business.

Delegation is also part of the process as companies start to grow. Learning to step back and delegate tasks to other employees helps owners manage their time more effectively. You can't do it all and will burn yourself if you try. Building a team of trusted co-workers is important. It's an important part of building a mature business.

Motivation for opening a business

Not every business achieves success instantly; most of the time, businesses have to wait before they see positive results from their investments. According to Clayton, bootstrapping business is the best way to build a business from scratch, and revenue can be a great way to finance it. In his early days, Bryan would listen to radio host- Dave Ramsay about building businesses, living debt-free, and using debt as sparingly as possible. Clayton used many of the ideas he learned from Ramsey to grow his business from one truck to ninety trucks rolling nationwide.

The Perils of Debt

Bryan Clayton may not have the resources to start his business, but his ethos of discipline and relentlessness allowed him to focus on the things that had the biggest impact. One of the things that he avoided was accumulating debt to finance his business. Building a debt-free business with no outside capital allowed Bryan to focus his efforts in a way that his competitors couldn't match. Clayton said that bootstrapping business is hard, but with discipline and a positive work ethic, he was able to achieve increasing sales and build a sustainable. debt-free company. You should view a limited budget as an opportunity more than as a hindrance to success.

Top Funding Sources of Bootstrapping Business

Being Competitive in a Crowded Market

In many industries, the barriers to entry are low but risks are high. This is why businesses need to weigh the potential risks and benefits first before making big investments. Bryan tells us that in a hyper-competitive market, you should establish that competitive and structural advantage over your competition. For Bryan, It was essential to determine his active and inactive customers to reduce the costs they had to spend going from one location to another. Much the same way UPS schedules the most efficient routes for delivery. By focusing on a concentrated and active client base, it can save you the time and hassle of engaging with a pool of people who are not yet interested in your products or services. Having this structural and operational efficiency allowed Bryan and his company to grow and run consistently over the fifteen years.

Percentage of Businesses that are profitable

Reducing Friction in Your Business

Reducing the friction in your business is one of the best ways to provide better customer service and grow your revenues. With dozens or even hundreds of service providers in an area, customers may have difficulty choosing the right business for their needs. Business owners must learn  to adapt to their client's needs and provide them excellent customer service. As an example, people now prefer cashless transactions rather than leaving cash under the welcome rugs to pay for lawn cutting or other services yet many business still only accept cash or checks. One of the keys to success at Green Pal was allowing customer to easily make online payments. The service also offered a simple digital marketplace to get price quotes, read reviews, and gain valuable tips and recommendations.

A good customer experience is so important in today's world because many companies are striving to set a very high standard. If you're not looking at things from a customer's perspective, you can miss points of friction that you need to work on as a company to improve the overall experience. This is especially true when you're bootstrapping a business. You need to identify friction and understand how to can make your customer service more accessible, more reliable, and faster. Often, we make decisions based on company logic and not on customer logic. Business owners need to get in their customer's shoes continually to understand how customers view service interactions. Customer preferences change, and we have to adapt our marketing approaches to stay in the game.

bryan clayton

Self-funding your business is like Matt Damon in The Martian. Self-funding forces you to be innovative and excellent at your businesses.”

How to Get the Word Out

Businesses may have different playbooks with their sales techniques. Just like building a city from the ground up, companies go through some trial and error before they discover the best appropriate approach to generate sales. According to Clayton, around 30% to 40%  of the company's bandwidth needs to be focused on growth and user acquisition.

Bryan tells us how to market our products and service to those who choose to engage with you and doubtful about transacting with the bootstrapping business.

  • Grind out some PR
  • Try to get local media coverage
  • Use free sites like Craigslist
  • Call and make local connections

Bryan recommends a bootstrapping business to attach itself with big and familiar networks like Craigslist or Angie's List so that their products and services can be visible for the people in their area of operation. Keep in mind that you may not be creating a better good or service than your existing competitors, but a customer experience can make all the difference. 

Top Digital Channel among small business owners

Have a Functional Website 

With his two recruited partners, Bryan Clayton was able to pull a $150,000 together to start a digital model with a development agency in Nashville to build the first version of their app. Despite the strong concept, the idea flopped because none of them had expertise in technology and software. They had to go back to the drawing board and reinvent their idea. Even though it was disheartening to invest so much on a failed concept, Clayton and his team listened to feedback. They identified the problems they should be solving. Once they were able to understand what solutions they could offer, they finally understood their real value proposition. They baked all their knowledge into building and enhancing the second version of their program. Bryan and his team spent around 50 hours a week learning how to create, build, and market software online from YouTube videos, podcasts, boot camps, and code schools. It took them three years to go from not knowing the first thing about the tech business to being able to execute and build a web application properly.

Common reasons for startup failure

Clayton advises business owners to invest in organic search and advertising to improve a business's online visibility. You may be using Google paid ads, Facebook ads, or even Instagram posts and stories to market our products and services, but you have to figure out what channel will most likely drive customers to your site through trial and error. Trial and error takes time and effort, but that is the only way you and your team can test the waters and see first-hand the results of your marketing strategy.

Your company's goal should be to make your service and website visible on search engines; once you have done that, it will open so much room for your business to expand and upgrade to additional platforms. Bryan tells us the organic search is daunting because, aside from making sure you fulfill the SEO requirement, you also have to work on creating enticing and creative content for your customers. SEO is a tough thing to crack. Your team may be doing their best to get backlinks and achieve the high SEO technical scores, but in the first months, you may not be able to see the fruits from your hard work.

According to Clayton, it typically takes six months or even a year to make your website visible and articles ranked. You may rank for some keywords and get traffic, but others may not get Google's attention. Despite all the inconsistencies you may face with SEO, Bryan Clayton encourages all businesses to appreciate the journey and keep learning along the way.

Forbes gives us 10 essential steps to building a great business website:

  1. Obtain a good domain name
  2. Purchase a secure, scalable website hosting with good tech support
  3. Prominently display a clear description of your business
  4. Implement the best content management system
  5. Choose a good e-commerce platform
  6. Create an interesting, memorable, and engaging website user interface
  7. Optimize your small business website for search engines
  8. Regularly create and publish quality content
  9. Install webmaster tools
  10. Implement a website maintenance plan

The Importance of Customer Reviews to a Successful Business 

Customer reviews can be crucial to the success of your business. Customers are honest with the ratings and reviews they give to your products or services. If they had a positive overall experience, expect five stars; if you give them otherwise, then do not expect a good score. Bryan advices us to be wise in reviewing the qualitative reviews and feedback so that businesses can tweak the algorithm to their favor. Build a system to collect reviews from your clients and then reach out to the people who loved your service so that you can encourage them to talk about the fantastic experience they had with your business.

Majority of Customers read online reviews

Advice for Bootstrapping Your Business

Bryan Clayton gives two essential pieces of advice to young companies who desire growth:

  1. Necessity is the mother of invention. The goal of your business should be successfully solving the problem of the market. Even if you have limited resources, you should be disciplined in financing your business and ensuring your business operates profitably. Limited resources should not hinder your creativity because great things are born from the most straightforward concepts and the strongest of wills. 
  2. Focus on your circle of influence and not on the circle of concern. With all the hassle and social issues going on right now, not to mention the effects of this pandemic on the people, everything can seem disorganized. Despite all the things that you have to fulfill by bootstrapping business, it is still essential to determine the things you need to accomplish immediately. Bryan tells us that focusing on things not beneficial to your business's welfare can cloud your judgment, making it harder for you to operate purposefully and make sound decisions. 

Bootstrapping business is tough. As it grows, so do your tasks on hand. Even if you have established your reputation in the market, it's still essential for you to find areas of improvement in the product or service you are selling. There may be a hundred things on your to-do-list or a couple of activities your team has to accomplish by a given deadline, but you always have to keep in mind the big picture and long-term goals. If you want to succeed as a business owner, you should always have your guard up and ensure consistent service and a stellar customer experience When innovations stop, so does your company sales.

Live Stream Replay


  • Bootstrapping business is tough but building a business without the overhead of debt can be a powerful advantage.
  • Invest in organic search and paid ads to help strengthen online visibility. 
  • Customer reviews are crucial to the success of your service.
  • Your resources should not hinder your creativity!

Episode and Guest Links

Eric Dickmann - Founder/CMO of the Five Echelon Group, can be found online on Twitter or his personal website.

Bryan Clayton  - Business expert and Founder of GreenPal can be found online on LinkedIn and Twitter.

  • Get your grass cut with ease with USA's No.1 "Lawn Care Near Me Service"- GreenPal!
  • Download the GreenPal app on Google Play Store and App Store to get your next day lawn service from a lawn care pro near you.

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