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EP 80: Cutting Grass. Making Millions. Bryan Clayton, CEO Green Pal

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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

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Show Transcript

Tony (00:00):

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.

Tony (00:45):

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.

Tony (03:19):

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.

Tony (03:49):

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.

Tony (