Career Crashers Podcast: What Employers Really Want In a Job Application with Bryan Clayton

One of the best things you can do is show and not tell. These days, a resume almost doesn’t matter. Where you went to school almost doesn’t matter. The more you can show evidence of things you accomplished, that's really what correlates to my best hires. And that’s over a 20 year period of time, hundreds of people.

One of the best things you can do is show and not tell. These days, a resume almost doesn’t matter. Where you went to school almost doesn’t matter. 

The more you can show evidence of things you accomplished, that’s really what correlates to my best hires. And that’s over a 20 year period of time, hundreds of people.

This week on Career Crashers, Joel is joined by Bryan Clayton to share what he looks for when he’s hiring!

You don’t motivate people. You hire motivated people, and then you make sure you don’t demotivate them.

Bryan is CEO and cofounder of GreenPal an online marketplace that connects homeowners with Local lawn care professionals. GreenPal has been called the “Uber for lawn care” by Entrepreneur magazine and has over 200,000 active users completing thousands of transactions per day.

Before starting GreenPal Bryan founded Peachtree Inc. one of the largest landscaping companies in the state of Tennessee growing it to over $10 million a year in annual revenue before it was acquired by Lusa holdings in 2013.

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Show notes

  • How Bryan got forced into entrepreneurship.
  • Paying his way through college mowing lawns.
  • Building two successful businesses in the same industry.
  • 5 books you should read before you start your first business.
  • How Bryan’s last hire approached him that made the decision to hire him on a no-brainer.
  • The two things to do to stand out from the crowd immediately.
  • Why it’s so powerful to have a public body of work.
  • How Bryan uses the same techniques to get his own clients.
  • Why it’s better to spend 50 hours on selling ten prospects than on selling 200.

Connect with Bryan

Full Transcript:

Welcome to Career Crashers, where we tell the stories of those who are not content to wait around following rules and hoping for good things to happen. Great careers are found. They’re forged.

It’s time to crash the party.

Super excited to be joined by Bryan Clayton, who is CEO of Green Pal. Green Pal is an online marketplace that connects homeowners with local lawn care service providers. Bryan is a serial entrepreneur, having founded Peach Tea Inc, a market leading landscape construction firm in Nashville, which he grew to over 125 employees.

Really excited to dive in with Bryan and talk about this entrepreneurial mindset and how can that apply to to launching your career. So welcome, Bryan.

Thanks for having me on. It’s great to be here.

I pleasure really excited. So I’m curious to hear first your sort of backstory, the the first beginnings of diving into the business world and getting that first job. And what was that like? And what perhaps seeds got planted that helped you later found your companies?

Yeah. So 20 years of entrepreneurship. In 60 seconds, I actually was forced into entrepreneurship by my father on a hot summer day. He said, Hey, get off your ass, you got a job to do, you’re gonna go mow the neighbor’s yard. And made me go mow the neighbor’s grass. And after I mow the neighbor’s yard, I got paid 20 bucks.

And ever since then, I was hooked on owning my own business. I actually just stuck with that lawn mowing business all through high school and college. I pass out door hangers and flyers. And by the end of that first summer mowing grass, I had like 15 customers and just stuck with that business.

Paid my way through college mowing yards. And when I graduated college, I had to make a decision was I going to go into the job market and like essentially take a pay cut, or was I just gonna stick with this lawn mowing business.

I didn’t really want to be a grass cutter my entire life. But I just decided, Okay, well, let’s just see where this can take me. And I laid out a little business plan and, and just went to work hard on it. And over a 15 year period of time, I built that into one of the largest landscaping companies in the state of Tennessee where I live, got it over 150 employees over $10 million a year in revenue. And in 2013 sold that business to one of the largest landscaping companies in the United States.

So over a 15 year period time, I kind of learned the hard way of how to build a business from scratch, how to hire team members how to build a team around me how to build a sales team how to build a management team. And I did everything wrong every which way you could do it wrong until I figured out how to do it right.

And when I sold that business, it was kind of a you know, it was it was a it was a sad time because it was it was part of who I was. And I took some time off and realize, wow, I need to be back in the game. Being in business is what I love to do. And so I decided Okay, time to start the next thing and the next thing was Green Pal, and which is what I’m working on now. So green power is the Uber for lawn mowing.

So homeowner needs to get their grass cut, they push a button, someone comes mow their yard. Been at this business for eight years. Got it over 200,000 people that use it to get their grass cut. It’s doing $20 million in revenue a year now. So eight year overnight success. Now I’ve had to learn again, how to build a team but a little bit different this time now as engineers and designers and content creators instead of people running lawnmowers and driving heavy equipment.

So that’s 20 years of entrepreneurship and business in one industry.

That’s impressive that you as a teenager just were inspired right away to lean into that entrepreneurial spirit. And I’m curious what lessons you learned what, what, what would you tell your 15, 16 year old self with the lessons that you’ve gained so far?

Luckily, I had some pretty good not necessarily mentors, but influences in my life. I listened to Dave Ramsey every day on my headset when I was mowing yards. Didn’t particularly like him. But But he was between his show was between two shows that I wanted to listen to.

So every day I’m cutting grass like 16 hours a day, you know, and, and, and I’m listening to two hours, three hours of Dave Ramsey every day. And one of the things he talks about is building a debt free business debt free lifestyle using debt very sparingly, like living under your means like protecting your cash and like live and trying to save money we can like, those influences were like key as I was building that first business and still follow through to this day, how I’m building my second business.

And so if I could like talk to myself and my 15 year old self, I would I would like reinforce that. And I would reinforce those those learnings because I didn’t, I did deviate from that at times.

And then the other thing I would tell myself is is to figure out ways to delegate quicker and and delegate faster and figuring out ways to build systems around how you’re going to delegate these things.

And and, and then I would probably like put five or 10 books in my hands and make sure I read them. Because I didn’t pick up reading until, like maybe when I was 30. And so and so like, if I had started reading when I was 20, I probably could have saved myself years of time through trial and error.

Any quick recommendations of those books?

Man, the E Myth. Everybody’s got to read that. Good to Greats, another awesome book. Four HourWworkweek, another awesome book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Built to Sell, I would read those five books before I even started my first business, and that if you can read those books and apply those methodologies in your life and in your in your business that can help you know, help you move quicker and help you help you get success.

Love it. So you mentioned building out sales teams and managing people. I’m curious, you know, as a entrepreneur, and someone who’s hired a lot of people and worked with a lot of people from that standpoint, leading the business, what traits do you look for?

What are some pitfalls people might fall into when they’re trying to get hired? And, you know, we’re obviously this podcast geared towards someone who’s looking for that job. So tell us the other side of the, you know, the other side of the aisle, what, what tips do you have for someone who’s looking to break in?

You know, I think that one of the best things you can do is show and not tell. You know, these days, a resume almost doesn’t matter. Like, where you went to school almost doesn’t matter. The more you can show through what’s stuff that you’ve done hobbies, you’ve worked on, projects that you’ve built, things that you’ve done, the more you can show, and have lights that evidence of, of things you’ve accomplished is really what correlates to my best hires.

And that’s over a 20 year period of time, hundreds of people I in fact, I just hired a person about three months ago, that came to my company GreenPal and said, Hey, you know, I’ve noticed SEO is a big thing of what, how you guys acquire customers. And I do SEO as a freelancer. And I noticed these 12 things and these, these 12 things were really dialed in.

So what we were working on and what what we’re trying what we’re struggling with and and they offered up solutions or how to fix these things. And I mean, yes, done. Sold, like, when would you like to start? Like that’s a no brainer, rather than, hey, you know, I’ve got this certificate from Google and I’ve got 12 years experience and you know, it’s like nobody like everybody’s got that it’s like, show.

Show me what you can do. And add value before you ask anything. I think are two like principles that can lead to building a successful career finding the job on the right team. Or even building a successful business like imagine if you had done that with like Airbnb back in 2010.

And you could have been like higher number six at Airbnb or higher number 10. You’d be a billionaire today. And and so I think the ability is to like find your spot on that rocket ship really relates to show and don’t tell an add value before you ask anything.

Man, we’re speaking the same language. I’m glad you mentioned Airbnb because that popped to mind in a couple of ways for me one was there’s this site Nina for I’m not sure if you heard of that.

They made this this value proposition a few years back where she redesigned I forget the details of what the value prop was but she made this whole mock up and I think marketing plan and whatnot and tried to pitch Airbnb in that way and that show don’t tell.

It actually didn’t end up getting the offer from Airbnb, but she had all these other offers coming in people engaging with that. So there’s a lot of power in just taking on that mindset of show don’t tell and giving value. Even if you don’t get that particular job that you pitch, you’re sort of building the mindset, right? And then you can take that pitch mindset and go on to the next opportunity and you just start changing who you are.

Absolutely, yeah, yeah. And that’s how you break in. That’s how you cut your way into it and and even if it’s just like starting your own business and like selling your first 10 clients, or trying to go get that job at that sweetheart company that you want to work for, like there’s a story like that the CEO of Uber. I can’t remembers name, this guy is probably a billionaire now too. But he actually got his start at Foursquare back in like the O6, 7, 8 period.

And how he landed that job at Foursquare was he, like popped up. I think it was Chicago for Foursquare and said, hey, look, I love what you guys are doing. I actually signed up these 20 restaurants onto the app. And and I’ve actually signed up these, these 50 friends of mine, and I’m just trying to help you get it going, and Chicago, love what you’re doing. If you’re looking for an ops person, I would love to join your team.

That’s how he got on to Foursquare. And it was that track record with Foursquare that enabled him to get get get on it at Uber. So like, there’s two lessons, there’s like adding value before you ask anything show don’t tell. But then also like, looking at the the the journey as an infinite game like this is going to take a 10 or 20 year period.

Because that’s, you know, you look at what this guy’s achieved is over a 20 year period of time. And so like those are like this fundamentals and and principles, I think that they get forgotten a lot. It particularly by the by the younger generations in today’s job market. And if you can really like you said change your mind. You’re like change your your philosophies, and like have a mind shift to operate in this manner over a year, three years, five years. Before you know it, you’ve improved your station in life.

Yeah, 100%. It’s, it’s an investment in yourself, it’s gonna pay off for the rest of your life.

So you’re telling me that you haven’t really as a hiring as a CEO, hiring people, you haven’t had typical job postings, and you check all the resumes. I mean, how I mean, this person who who did the pitch on the SEO was was that for an opening that was advertised? I’m curious.

It actually was. We, we had a we advertise the position. And they didn’t even come in through the front door. They came in they the person reached out to me via email, found my email, which is not that hard. But this goes to show you that there’s, there’s just, you know, just put in the effort.

And then it’s like, not even like this email me directly. It’s like, when you email me, like, should I really capture my attention as to why it’s worth my time reading and responding. And that goes for when you email anybody, or when I email anybody. And then really adding that value and taking the time to go in and figure out, okay, you know, X, Y, and Z, and here’s how I can help and here’s why it matters.

And maybe even knocking off a couple of those things like, okay, I went ahead and did this, you know, I found where you have this one thing that’s messed up on your site, and I went ahead and fixed it, or, I went ahead and put rent pulled down the reports, and here’s what we need to do. That’s how you get noticed. And that’s how you that’s how you get hired.

And, you know, I mean, yeah, you might you might do that 10 times, and nine times it is it’s a waste of your time, but you only have to be right once. And and if you do that 10 times, and to the 10 companies you really want to work with within that that? I mean, would you much rather do that and waste three years working for a dead end company?

Yeah, it’s like, Don’t get confused about results that you think you’re getting from working hard. Like, just because you’re working hard doesn’t mean you’re gonna get the results you want. You want to be pulling the right levers, right.

So if you are choosing those 10 companies you truly love, then yeah, if you just got got in on one of them. That’s that’s time well spent, you know, it’s time well spent. So you don’t, it’s not just about grinding on the job hunt and blasting out resumes and you worked hard, you should get results, right? Not necessarily.

Plus, you’re not gonna necessarily like the results you get, because you’re not focusing in on something that you really, really enjoy, you know?

Exactly. And it goes for like pitching yourself on the front end. But then also following up. Let’s say you get that interview, well, then, you know, you need to follow up in the same manners like, Hey, you know, we talked about XYZ on the interview and how I can come in and maybe help you with some things, I actually dug a little deeper. And here’s something that I didn’t realize and in here, and here’s actually where I think I can really get in and help you guys figure out you know, what you’re doing wrong.

Or in let’s say, you let’s say you’re trying to get a job as a, as a conversion rate optimization person, you know, maybe you, you like, download the entire onboarding process for whatever company it is, you’re you’re wanting to work for, like screenshots, and then you like, mock up things that you would suggest that they test and like, like, if you did that, you’ll get the job.

Now, it might take you three hours to do that. And, and you’re doing it purely on speculation. But you know, you’ve probably increase your chances of getting that job by 10x.

Yeah, absolutely. And, again, it’s just gonna build the mindset. And even if you’re off the mark, we’d like to emphasize this. Even if you’re off the mark with a project you create, hey, I went ahead and did this.

Oh, then, you know, the business owner sees that and well, that’s not exactly what I really need. Doesn’t matter so much because you are seeing the signals that they’re sending, which is, Hey, I’m taking initiative, I’m thinking about your pain points. I’m thinking, from your perspective, this is this is the overlying messages, think from the company’s perspective. Rather than me, me, me, me, me, me, right, I have exactly this degree, I have this background.

Yeah, you’re looking for those signals as as a as a CEO, as a hiring manager, whatever you’re looking for those signals. And yeah, even if it’s an off the mark a little bit, you’re still looking for somebody that demonstrates that initiative.

And one thing that I’ve learned 20 years in business running my first company, Peach Tree, and my second company, GreenPal, hundreds of people I’ve hired over the years, probably 1000s, more like, and one thing that I’ve learned is that you don’t, you don’t motivate people, you hire motivated people, and then you make sure you don’t demotivate them.

And so there’s nothing that the CEO can do to motivate somebody, they just make sure that they bring on motivated people onto the team and get them onto the bus. And so if you can demonstrate that you’re motivated, you know, by by doing the things we’re talking about.

And it also some other passive things, let’s say let’s just go back with like the, the conversion rate optimization expert, or the SEO expert, or the product design expert, or the sales person, you know, whatever.

Like, if you have like a blog, or an account on Medium or something that shows like, you’re really interested in x, and you’ve documented these things, and you write your thoughts about them, or even if it’s just like a track record on Korra, or something like that, you’re demonstrating that, that you have domain expertise that you take initiative in it, that you really are interested in it, that is your it’s like why you get out of bed in the morning, and that makes like bringing you onto the team that much easier.

If I can look at your body of work on Medium, or look at your body of work on Korra or even your own personal blog on WordPress or whatever. And it let’s say your your your product design person. And maybe you’ve just taken like tear downs of like the top 20 products you like, and you’ve torn them down. And, and you’ve you’ve outlined what it is you like about them and what things you would do to improve them.

And I can look at that, I can say well, this is a, this is a really, first off this person knows what the hell they’re doing knows what they’re talking about. And then also, this is a motivated person that goes the time that creates this body of work for what they’re interested in. Stuff like that, you know, can help you land that job that’s twice as good as you would have gotten without that evidence.

It’s good stuff. So Career Crash listeners, this is a CEO speaking about everything we’re teaching, right? Body of work, value propositions, this is this is proof that this is the mindset that business owners really desire. And I love Yeah, there’s there’s sort of two elements there, right?

The value proposition of figuring out the company’s perspective, and what problems you could solve. And then also you can talk about yourself, but don’t just list things show up. Again, show, don’t tell if you can create that blog, medium account, document your work, learn out loud, tell stories of how you overcame adversity.

If you if you write a blog post about any sort of triumph over adversity in your life, which I think everyone can can find that story, you’re going to jump to the top of the applicant pool, just by the fact that you are writing on the internet.

I mean, most people still are not starting personal websites, or not, you know, writing blog posts, it’s more and more common. But if you hop on that train, then you’re gonna have that that first mover advantage.

Absolutely. Like, let’s say you wanted to apply for a job as a CMO of green pal. And let’s just say this job paid, I don’t know, 100 200 grand a year, 250 k a year, whatever. I mean, it’s it’s like a, it’s a it’s an executive executive level position. One thing that you could do that was set yourself apart is you would actually, before you even like applied or had the interview, you would actually like be a customer of GreenPal.

And you would say, Hey, I live in Sacramento, California, I downloaded the app. And here was my experience. Okay, I downloaded the app, it took, you know, three minutes, I got five bids, I hired the person I wanted to work with. They showed up a day late, but that’s okay. And they did a pretty good job. And then I booked them again, and here’s all the things that I would recommend we do. If you brought me on to the team to make the experience better.

Like if you did that, odds are you’d be the only person that did that. And you you would increase your chances of getting the job by 10x. And so like, and then let’s say let’s just say let’s just say you you didn’t get hired, but then you would take all of that work and maybe put it on your Medium or put it on your on your Korra or put it on your WordPress and as part of this thing that you do where you do these tear downs and and you really try to figure out how to improve customer experience because that is your field of expertise.

Rather than And rather than just like throwing an like a resume out to say, oh, I’ve got this certificate from such and such State College about product design, nobody gives a shit about that.

100% 100%. And so I wanted to give you the chance to tell this little story. And this, this speaks to this in terms of finding ways to show what type of person you are and prove your value.

I came across this little bit about your story of your first company, Peach Tree, I believe was at this company where you relayed the story of doing the grunt work, where we had one client where you were doing this landscaping at on the property of McDonald’s, and you had to like pick up cigarette butts. And like, that was no fun.

Like, but like there’s an opportunity there like this. This is I’m curious to hear you ellaborate on the story. But the point here is for the listener is there’s an opportunity in any experience, you have to extract, extract the soft skills, reflect and extract and show and talk about the soft skills that you’ve developed. So tell us that story.

Yeah, so rewind my first company, Peachtree was a landscaping company. And one of the things that is tough in the landscaping business is to grow it from like, your first 500k to a million, million to 5 million. I got that business over 10 million in revenue. And the way you can kind of scale that business is to break into the commercial market.

And when it’s difficult to do that, because really, nobody wants to take a chance on you because like these are big contracts and and it’s hard to it’s hard to go from just mowing single family residence hall homes, to, to getting big commercial contracts. And so for years, I was just beating my head against the wall trying to cut my way.

And you know, I had several 100 customers, but they were all homes and I was trying to do restaurants, banks, apartments, office parks, things of that nature. I never could like break my way in. So I just kept cold calling this one operator in the town where I lived because I knew he owned seven or eight restaurants. And and I and I kept like, trying to figure out how you give me a chance I’ll just one restaurant.

And he never would even like let me bid on it. And so finally, like one day I came to the conclusion like, Okay, I gotta figure out, like, how do I align what it is I’m selling, which is lawnmowing services to this guy selling more hamburgers. And so how do I align our value proposition with what his goals are.

And I I was in the drive thru one day and just looked down and it was just just nasty as hell, there’s a cigarette butts everywhere and chewing gum and this paper and wrappers and it looked like crap. And I said to him, I said, you know, the first thing we did is is my crew and I went through and we cleaned out, we took pictures of before and after.

And we just cleaned out all the cigarette butts and it’s made it really nice and clean and neat. And I said okay, uh, Frank here is what your drive thru looks like. And then and then here, we went ahead and just you know, for free of charge, we cleaned out all the cigarette butts in the drive thru.

And here’s what what it would look like if we maintained it on a weekly basis because we believe that if your customer comes to your drive thru and they look down and they see nice flowers and plants and mulch and is free of trash debris, and cigarette butts that they might more be inclined to upsize the meant the the hamburger or supersize it or you know get a pie or a shake or something.

And I don’t know if that was true or not. But it made it made like reasonable sense. And so I put all that work that all up into an email and cold emailed him and before and after pictures and along with the pricing. He said you know what? Okay, I’m going to give you a shot on this one restaurant. And so we did that restaurant for two years.

And we did we fulfilled that promise of every week we mow the grass and at no extra charge, we would make sure the drive thru was clean of all kinds of debris. And after two years, he finally let us bid on the other restaurants. And then and we finally got all seven of his restaurants and then and then we developed a really good relationship with him off of off of that one value proposition.

And then also other things we were doing. And then he went to bat for us on on the entire portfolio of McDonald’s properties in Middle Tennessee. And so and so he gave he enabled me to get the opportunity to pitch in front of like 30 other franchisees and also McOp co which is like the corporate owned stores. And so, over a 10 year period of time, we were able to get all of those restaurants to the tune of about five $600,000 a year in revenue.

And probably something like over 70 locations and so, so 10 eight, nine year period of time, one location to 70 or 80 you know, $4,000 a year to 500 $600,000 a year in revenue just one customer and then and then also we were able to use that customers evidence to other clients, other restaurants banks, restaurant owners things like that.

Like hey, you know we do all the Middle Tennessee McDonald’s, you might want to give us a shot, you know Hardee’s Taco Bell, younger And whatever. And so that was how we cut our way in, and it was doing something different. And then trying to put ourselves in the shoes of our, of our prospect and try to figure out what we could do to solve their problems.

Man, talk about you know, investing in yourself, you offer to work for free. You create a value proposition you, you create value you ran and did the work. And then all that success follows that right. You use lasered laser in your focus on helping this one prospect. And it wasn’t just, it wasn’t just spray and pray, right, it was focusing in on one, hey, how can we really crush it with this one client, and then you have just an explosion of positive ripple effects? In the next, you know, coming years?

Yeah, to that point, I think you’re, you’re probably in almost any sales process, you’re probably, if you’re gonna spend 50 hours pitching or selling yourself or whatever, you’re probably better off spending that on 10 or 15 prospects rather than 200.

And by that, I mean, like, really dialing in and just being like, like Steve like that, that quote, Steve Martin, quote, be so good they can’t say no. You can’t do that over 200. But you can do it over 10. And, and it really just looking at it like, okay, I just know, one of these has to hit. And I think it’s a better strategy.

Amen. Good stuff. Yeah. Our founder, Isaac says, five pitches, beats 500 applications.

Absolutely. Yeah. This isn’t just a cold email. It’s like really getting in there and figuring out how you align whatever it is that you do with whatever it is their goals are.

Absolutely. Hey, Brian, this has been a blast. So much gold nuggets in here for our listeners to take in and apply. I hope it can happen execute on it. So the website is I believe

That’s right. Yeah. anybody listening to this that doesn’t want to cut their own grass. Just download the app in the App Store, Play Store, you’ll get hooked up with a great lawn mowing service.

Great. Any other places people can find you?

LinkedIn. Yeah. Anybody want to hit me up? LinkedIn is a great place to get me. I’ve been hanging out there more. If you have a specific problem with your business that you think I might could have some advice on? You know, hit me up. I’ll be happy to help you out.

Yeah, absolutely. All right. Thanks so much, Brian. It’s been an awesome podcast, so much good stuff. So take it easy. Appreciate your time.

My pleasure. Thanks for having me on.

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