Imagine owning a lawn care services business and having to deal with serious allergies.
You will discover how he literally avoided working on the field by systematizing his business, the exact steps he took to train his employees and how as a result, he now lives every day like it’s Saturday!
OWEN: My guest today is DJ Carroll and he’s the president and founder of EasyPro Property Services. DJ welcome to the show.
DJ: Hey, I appreciate it. Thanks for having me.
OWEN: This podcast is all about getting entrepreneurs like yourself in here to talk about how they’ve been able to systematize their business so it runs successfully without you. And before we even go right I want to give the listeners something to keep their interest throughout the entire interview. So what will you say are some mind blowing results that you now experience as a result of going through the process of systematizing and automating your business?
DJ: Right, absolutely. I want to appreciate you having me on. Being a young entrepreneur of 27 years old I’ve bought, sold, or started over a dozen businesses now. I’ve come to the realization that basically there are three types of entrepreneurs. There are the freelancers, and I call those the enter type entrepreneurs. These are the people that normally live in their mom’s basement and either do software design stuff or strike it rich because some Palto Alto company comes in and buys them out. So you got the inventors. But then we also have the sales and the managers. So with me, my natural strong suite is in sales. It’s easy for me to go out and just hustle day in and day out. It’s in my DNA. The problem with that is, and what I quickly come to realize in business is that normally the front line sales guys are the worst managers. Because all I want to do is I just want to go out and sell. I don’t want to hand hold and lead people along. So the problem that I had early on when I started growing my business was that I saw that I didn’t want to be in the field every day. I started mowing grass. So I quickly realized that systems and processes were going to be my way out. My way to give employees a how-to guide on their job so that they could repeat it day in and day out without me having to continually come back and check up on them. And what was really amazing was that when I gave up my college football scholarships, and I decided I wasn’t going to be the first person in my family to go to college. I wasn’t going to take these scholarship moneys, and I was going to start my own business, and I was going to start mowing grass. I know a lot of people that told me, “You’ll never be successful. It’s not going to work. What are you going to do? You’ll just mow grass for the rest of your life. So I had all these pressures against me. And what was really neat was in a short matter of time I was able to get out of the field and actually be owning a business versus just being self-employed. And it was neat, and I think that’s probably the mind blowing result that you’re talking about, is being able to step back. And basically I live every day of my life like it’s a Saturday. Every day it feels like a Saturday to me. It’s pretty awesome.
OWEN: Wow. That’s it. Every day in your life is a Saturday. How would you say your company has been transformed as a result of systematizing your business? In the pre-interview you mentioned something about you don’t have to be in the field anymore. Let’s talk about that specifically.
DJ: Okay. And so what happens is with a lot of landscape type business you have to understand that it’s very labor intensive. It’s one of those things where I had to duplicate myself quickly if I was going to earn more than $30,000 or $40,000 a year. And I remember the first year that we broke $100,000 I was like, “Oh my gosh, this is crazy.” My mom and my dad together growing up. My dad working two jobs and my mom working a job. They probably did good to grow $80,000 a year all combined. So it was nice to be like, the college education and the way that allowed me to do that is that I had to balance and diversified type of business because I had other guys out there working for me. And what was nice is because I didn’t have to do it every day so it’s fine if I took a vacation or if I got sick or something happened to me. I think that’s network marketing, big buzz, it’s happening right now. Network marketing industry’s growing humongous and I think their big thing is they’re playing on a lot of employees to say, “If you get hurt who’s going to pay your bills. And so that’s the kind of a cool thing with an entrepreneur is that if you have systems and processes in business and you’re not that solo-preneur or freelancer person then you can honestly, your business should run without you. Given it’s not to the capacity yet where I’m 100% hands off and all I do is look at financials I still do a lot of the selling. But I enjoy that Owen. And so to me if you get to wake up every day and go do what you enjoy, some other people that don’t enjoy it might call it working, but man, if all I got to do is sell, man, I’m in heaven. Like I said, every day’s a Saturday.
OWEN: And so this one thing to have systems and processes and hoping to transform the business, but I’m also curious to know how your personal life has been transformed as a result of systematizing your business.
DJ: Right. I can tell you, today’s Friday. I slept in today. My girlfriend is off to work. She normally doesn’t get off during the week and it’s been busy. So I kind of slept in today. We’re going to do this interview. I’m going to go get a mani-pedi after this and we’re going to go watch a movie this evening. If people can’t read between the lines there I tell you that I will take a cut in salary to have more free time. So pay me less if I’ve got more free time to enjoy life. Because I think the problem that a lot of people has… If you’ve ever been to a network meeting everybody says, “What do you do?” And it’s like, “I’m an engineer. I’m an attorney. I’m a doctor. I’m a property manager.” We define ourselves in American culture. We define what we do and who we are by our profession, versus saying, “I live life. Every day’s a Saturday. I get manis and pedis. I go on hikes. We go on vacations.” You have to enjoy life, man. We’re only here one time. When I was 23 or 24 and we’re doing a couple hundred thousand dollars a year I always made sure that I kept my cost of living very small. I make sure that I was smart with my money. And I think the problem is small businesses start to grow, maybe they implement great products like you guys have to help them to put systems in. Because a lot of people aren’t just naturally geared to systems, policies and procedures. I was going to be a chemical engineer. Hello, engineer here, I’m all about how things work. It was probably a little easier for me than most people but what I realized was by implementing these in I didn’t have to have a manger, the systems were a manager for me. Now, then you just come down to the question of you just have to hire the right people, but that’s a whole another subject. And it was one of those things to where I don’t get stressed out as much anymore as I did early on because I don’t have all of the burden placed on me. I have other people I can… And I think one of the biggest and most powerful by products of systematizing your business and creating process is that now you can delegate. Because once you teach someone how to do something… So you put the process in place. You can now say, “Hey, I need you to handle this.” And you don’t have to tell them how to do it, they already know how to do it. It’s like I can just take a big chunk of time that it would take me to do something, say invoicing, or paying bills. My office manager Owen for example… I know we didn’t talk about this before but I just want to put this out here because I think it’s really important. I break my company down into three sectors. Sales and marketing, administration, operations. I have an operations manager and that was a first segment that I got out of the business. So operations handles itself. Now I have an office manager. The office manager handles all the bills paid, balancing bank statements, balancing credit cards, all of this tedious office work that I would just rather throw up into. And it’s nice because I come in on Thursdays and the checks are in a pile. I look over them. It just says checks and balancing. I sign them and then that’s all I have to do for the office work. It’s really nice. And then I just get to worry about sales and marketing which I enjoy. I think everyone needs to determine what they want their lifestyle to be before building their business. So if you enjoy the operation side, don’t try to force yourself into selling it just because I make it sound awesome, because every day’s a Saturday. It’s one of those things where you have to figure out what you’re good at and then build a team around you that can support you through your weaknesses.
OWEN: I’m curious to know, that you have systems in place in the business what will you say is the longest time you’ve actually been away from the business?
DJ: Okay. This is a cool story. I love this. About a year and a half ago I went to Grand Cayman for about 8 days and I met a business associate there. Have you ever been to Grand Cayman Owen?
OWEN: No, but I heard of it.
DJ: Man, it is beautiful. Seven mile beaches, one of the top 10 beaches in the world. It’s just the coral reef, the water, we’re out snorkeling in 60 feet of water. You could see the bottom like if it was 5 feet deep. It’s just beautiful. A business associate lives down there, and everybody’s getting ready to leave, and I’m like, “Man, this is a bummer” because this is like in January. I’m Kentucky but we still get a lot of snow because I’m in the northern part of Kentucky. We’re coming back like in the teens so it was really cold. And he says, “DJ, you can stay another week if you want.” And I was like, what? So I stayed there and while I was down there it just so happened there’s a giant snow storm blows in. My business did $20,000 while I was sitting on the beach for 17 days It’s one of those things to where it’s so amazing to be able to be in a foreign country, on a beach enjoying life while your business is still back here cranking away, making new money, and paying your bills. It’s awesome.
OWEN: That’s good. Just so the listener has more context as to what your business is really all about, what exactly does your company do and what big pain do you solve for your customers?
DJ: I’ve got six companies now. The EasyPro is my exterior service company. That’s the one that curb appeal for the exterior, basically property management companies, commercial companies. So we specialize in working with them. But then I’ve got other businesses. I’ve got Elite Fitness which is a 60-100 square foot fitness center. We’re actually looking to branch out and franchise two more locations right now. I’ve got an aviation company where we help student pilots. My partner and I, he’s got over 4,000 hours of flight training. And then I also do sales training across the entire United States, and actually worldwide I’ve got a huge social media reach. People can check me out. Just hashtag Coach Carroll is the easiest way to find me. The opportunities are endless because here’s the thing Owen, when you’re an entrepreneur you find opportunity in everything. So I also mess with real estate. I’ve got billboards. But it all comes down to you only have 24 hours a day, and this is where I want your listeners to understand that processes and systems are so important because it allows you to buy back time, right? Everyone’s heard the saying, time is money and money is time, that couldn’t be more wrong. That is the wrongest statement… Wrong is probably a numeral word, but the most wrong statement that’s ever been put out there. You have to understand that money is money, and time is time. You only have a certain limited hours every day, you can always make more money. And the way that you make more money with your limited hours is you put processes in place to help other people produce for you and it’s called duplication. You can duplicate yourself throughout multiple businesses.
OWEN: Yeah. And so because the focus of this interview is on the long tail business I’m wondering for that very business how many full-time employees do you have?
DJ: In the off-season we lay off a few guys. But the full-time business we probably have 10 people. It’s one of those things that in the lawn care business it’s not like…
OWEN: Seasonal, yeah.
DJ: Yeah, it’s not like, “Hey, here’s the schedule for this week. Everybody check out when you’re working.” It’s one of those things where we just closed a $35,000 landscaping job that has to be done before the snow starts to come down. So we got maybe 2 weeks to get this done. So it’s like we’ve got to scale back up and get some guys in here to get this work done, and then we’ll scale back done. It’s stressful in itself but the way that I can do that is it allows me to… I’ve got the systems and training in place where it allows me to bring people on and we can downsize, and then some more jobs bring people back.
OWEN: Okay. Is the company profitable? What was last year’s annual revenue and what do you expect to do this year?
DJ: I pride myself… I look at my PNL, so a profit loss statement for those that don’t know. I will get my profit and loss statement on a weekly basis. A lot of times small business owners won’t look at their PNL’s until they meet with their accountant once a year. I think that’s a terrible mistake and I think that can get you in trouble really quickly. I use my PNL kind of like my temperature gauge of how my business is doing. And I pride myself. We have been profitable every year since we’ve been in business. All of my businesses have. Last year out of everything we did, just over $670,000 and we’re shooting for the million dollar mark this year. And it’s going to honestly depend on if we get a snow in December, if we hit that mark. But it’s one of those things where it’s nice to have your goals in front of you. If you guys could see my office I’ve got a giant gold board that hangs around above my computer. has my quarterly and monthly goals all broken down and what we did the prior year. So I think it goes hand in hand with systems and processes, your goals have to be systematized and processed just as well.
OWEN: We’ve been talking about the results you’ve achieved as a result of having systems and processes in place but it’s not always been this case. So we want to take the listeners back to when the business was not systematized and automated like it is now. What was wrong with it at that time?
DJ: Right. It’s one of those things where I never really had that oh no moment like everything’s falling apart. But on the flipside of it the cool thing was that because I had so many haters that came out of the woodwork, so I decided not to go to college. Man, they’re funny. And the thing is this, for anybody who’s listening, if you have a business and you don’t have anybody hating on you yet, you’re not doing it right. So let me just digress for a second. When I stared my business, now that I drive a BMW and I’ve got these companies, people just attack me every single day. I have enemies, haters out there. They talk, they chat amongst themselves, they don’t like DJ for whatever reason. The thing is this. I want to know where those people were at when I started my company with $300. I had a push mower, a rusted out pickup truck. I couldn’t afford a leaf blower so I was push grooming off the side with [Unintelligible 00:16:12] the grass clippings and off the [Unintelligible 00:16:14]. Those people weren’t around when I was doing that. One you start to hit this level of success those haters will start coming out of the wood works man, and you got to look for them, you got to love them. Those people get upset and discouraged but if I know they’re there I know I’m doing the right thing. You’ll never see a dog park at a parked car.
OWEN: …saying that even before you started you had to system because of the haters. So when you hit at that point the business was not even where it is today. So how did that relate with haters, I’m just wondering.
DJ: It’s one of those things where the business… I use that. It’s like my fire and my jewel. When people told me, “Owen, I had a teacher that I actually looked up to. She’s my chemistry teacher. She told me I will never… She looked at me and she said, “DJ, you will never be successful,
DJ: Yeah man. That was… Oh my goodness, because I wasn’t going to be a chemical engineer. She said, “You’ll never be [Unintelligible 00:17:09].” I had friends that picked on me because I brought my mowers to school. So what happened was I was bound and determined that I wasn’t going mow grass for a living, I was going to have a business. So I sit down and I started making an organizational chart. And for those that don’t know what an organizational chart is, you basically have this hierarchy and say, okay, there’s going to be a CEO. Underneath him there’s going to be department managers, underneath them there’s going to be crew leaders, and then technicians. And so you write down what your company would look like if you had 100 employees, what would all of their jobs be? And what happens is as you do this it’s kind of like writing down your goals. It has so much more power than just thinking it through. So I sit down and I evaluate what’s good, what’s bad, what’s ugly, make an organizational chart. And we’re going to see how one of my company run. And I did this when I had two part-time guys. They just kind of help me. And I already had this chart but it’s one of those things to where I think that a business is never fully systematized. Like you never have it all figured out. And so it’s one of those things where even though I’ve always been systematized that doesn’t mean that I don’t have problems. But I want to give you guys a little tip and Owen I’d love for you to share this with your people. It’s one of those things where when a problem comes up it’s a great time to put in a process. Look at it as an opportunity to make sure that it never happens again.
OWEN: Can you give us specific example of maybe something back that have happened and how you use this, and the problem comes up as an opportunity.
DJ: Absolutely. A prime example is my guys hop in the truck. They go out to mow one morning. They drive 45 minutes in one direction. They get to this giant state contract that we have, and I get a phone call that says, “Hey man, we don’t have any weed eater string with us.” So they had to drive 45 minutes all the way back to the shop, pick up the weed eater strings, drive 45 minutes all the way back out there at work and drive… So they basically made two trips. And I said okay, I’m going to solve this problem right now. So I made a checklist of everything that needs to be loaded on the truck every single morning. So now they have a system and a process in place, and they say, “Okay, before we leave the crew leader needs to check, do we have gas cans, weed eaters, mowers, fuel, trimmer line, whatever they may need for the job. They checklist it before they leave. Hindsight’s 20/20 so that sounds like something that’s very elementary. But I guarantee you, if you’re listening to this right now, there is something in your business that is so elementary but you’re overlooking it because something bad hasn’t happened yet. It’s kind of like nothing really pops out of the grass or nothing really sticks out to us until there’s like a cause and effect. So until those guys, they could’ve win another 2 years before someone forgot we need to shrink again before I would’ve been like, “Oh man, we need a checklist.” I think that it’s one of those things where when something bad happens look at it as an opportunity, and Owen, that’s just how I look at life in general. I’m just a positive spirit, positive outlook, nothing good comes from negativity so find a way to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. Solve it instantly so put the weed eater string in the truck and get the guys back out the door. But then you as the owner, you come in and you write a process down so that never happens again.
OWEN: Going back to when you didn’t even have the business, you were at early stage of the business when you were actually trying to systematize. What was the very first step you took to actually systematize the business back then?
DJ: It’s one of those things to where I think you sit down…
OWEN: I think you mentioned something about the operations binder. That’s what specifically you said during the…
DJ: Yeah. What happens is you have to start writing down. If you ever plan to have employees you start writing down every single thing you do. For my operations guys they have binders, they have flow charts. And it’s kind of funny because I do take some college courses and one of them was computer software development or something, it was like computer programming. And so we got this really cool software that was made for flow charts, right? We have the flowcharts to show how the program is going to work. When I took that same program I was like, “Heck, this will work for my business so I started making flow charts on how to do stuff. “This is how you weed, this is how you mow, this is how you unload the trailers, how you load the trailer. And I started documenting every single step so that now we have a binder that literally we can hand to a guy and within 10 minutes he’s up to speed on how we want to do everything that we do in our business on the operation side. For the office side because it’s a lot like the admin side a lot of that’s on the computers. So what we actually did was we used Screencast-O-Matic and we just did screencast. And so now, everything that the office needs to do is on a Screencast. So if I had to hire another office manager or maybe we scale it, maybe we blow up and do another extra million dollars next year for a big contract and I need to hire more admin support. Boom, I put them in an office, I say, “Here’s the YouTube channel, they’re all private videos, and I need you to go through here and watch them. And then also if you have a question you can always go back in there and see how to do it. So creating a virtual binder and then that hardcopy binder, it’s a way that you can help your people perform more efficiently, but also take a lot of stress off of you as the owner.
OWEN: But people in the office, you created stuff that was more screenshot related on the computer. And then people on the ground they have something physical that they took with them on the ground to do the work, right?
DJ: Yup. I think one of the biggest problems Owen is that entrepreneurs, they procrastinate a lot but it’s not on purpose. I think they procrastinate because they want things to be so perfect. Perfect never arrives. So you should just stop looking for it and do the best that you can right now. We can always comeback and improve it but you have to understand that putting out something at 50% right now is 500% better than what you have. So it’s one of those things to where when it comes to systems and processes I think a lot of business owners will try to go so in-depth with it. And think about like software, like the iPhone. iPhone didn’t wait until they had an iPhone 6 to launch. They came out with the first iPhone. And every iPhone after that’s better. Do your processes and systems the same way. Come out with your first set and then every winter or whenever you have a slow time go back in and review those, and optimize them a little bit.
OWEN: Yeah. So you mentioned people on the ground they have something physical that they take around with them as they do the work. But you also mentioned something during the pre-interview about how the problem with $10 per hour employees, that turnover is crazy. Talk about that.
DJ: It’s where when you have guys with you, it’s one of those things that you can have all the systems in place but you still have to have good people. And really what was hard for me is that in the past 3 years I’ve had over 100 plus employees come through. The problem with those $10 an hour employees, the turnover is insane like you mentioned. So I had to look to restructure and simplify so that we can get people up to speed even faster. I’m actually looking at maybe even restructuring the company, get out lawn landscaping over the next couple of years just because there’s margins in other areas. And that’s what I think being a true entrepreneur is being able to see the future a little bit. Looking around the corner of the building before everybody else gets to the end of the block to be able to go around the corner of the building. Look in your business and see there’s always room for improvement. There’s always a faster, better, quicker, easier, more cost effective way to do business. And I think that systems and processes always continually get refined. Don’t ever think of this as like, “I’ll do it one time and then I’ll just go on vacation forever. No, it doesn’t work like that.
OWEN: Back then when you’re usually creating systems for the business, how did you even prioritize what order of steps to take, how did you decide which ones to create first and stuff like that.
DJ: I say whenever you’re winning the startup business stop doing what you hate first. We’ve talked about EasyPro, mowing grass, I had terrible allergies. And it got to the point like we’re in May and June, like the later part of the spring, I couldn’t even breathe. I couldn’t see. My eyes were always swollen up and it’s always funny because people were like, “Dude, got allergies and you start a lawn care business?” It was never my intent to mow grass, right? I knew that I had to get out of the field and I’d have six estimates to do. I couldn’t get them all done because I was mowing grass. No one wants you to come to their house at 9:30, 10 o’clock at night and give them a quote. So I quickly realized that, again, going back to that duplication thing it’s like, “If I’m going to grow my business and make more money I’m trading time for dollars right now. It’s like a DJ works for 8 hours, he gets paid for 8 hours. I need to have George, Sam, and Tom working for 8 hours, getting paid for 8 hours. I take a little slice of that because I’m the owner and entrepreneur who puts all this thing together and provides that job for them, and I’ll go over here and do what I’m really good at which is sales. Because Owen, I have to look at my time as this. In a perfect world if all DJ had to do was sell 5 days a week, 40 hours a day, in a perfect world how much could I sell in one year. And I take that and I break that into 2,040 hours because that’s your standard workweek which I work a heck a lot more than that. But you break it down and you say, what’s my time worth? So what you’ll find is that your time’s worth $300, $400, $800, or maybe over $1,000 an hour. It doesn’t make sense for you to go out and do the end work that being on the lawnmower that the company can only bill out for $45 a man hour if you’re worth $300, it just doesn’t make sense. So I realized that I needed people out in the field, and then second was administration. So systematize your business and start to remove yourself from the things in your company little by little. And I’ll tell you, the thing that’ll determine how fast you can do that is money. If you have a ton of cash or you have investors, you can only do what you’re really, really good that and that’s why those companies take off so quick. If you’re like me where I’ve never had any investors, it’s always been bootstraps, it’s one of those things where you got to do it little by little but have that end game in mind from the beginning.
OWEN: You’ve mentioned some of the tools you use to document procedures and processes and even create flowcharts for your business, but this is where I want you to talk about if there are other things you use, how exactly do you even document procedures and processes for your business?
DJ: Again, it’s not overthinking it. If all you have is a napkin and an ink pen that’s better than what you have right now. It literally is that simple. I started using… I don’t even remember what the software was called. It’s like Microsoft something or another… but it was just flowcharts, and I said, “Okay. If we’re going to wash a house what’s the first thing we need to do?” “We need to hook-up to the spigot.” No, the first thing I need to is make sure there’s no windows or doors opened before we start power washing. Put that on there. Then what’s the next thing? You have to think down, and the best thing to do is go out and do whatever you do. So is a lot of your clients, are they field-based operations or are these clients that are solo-preneurs.
OWEN: It runs the gamut at different businesses.
DJ: Okay. I just didn’t want to talk about field operations and no one’s listening…
OWEN: I mean related to your own experience. At the end of the day the goal of the interview is to focus on your experience and that the listener can take your experience and shape it for themselves.
DJ: Absolutely. The whole thing is this. Take that job, and this is what I had to do. That house wash that normally would only take me an hour and a half that I sit down and document it, maybe it’s going to take me 5 hours. But guess what, it’s one time, 5 hours, and now I’ve got a system and a training process in place. I could send a guy to do it and I can send a guy to do it and I would never have to wash a house again. So spend that time up front. It’s like, “What am I about to do? I’m hooking up a faucet.” Snap a picture of it, write it down, hooked up water to faucet. Your next thing, boom, boom, boom… And so in the field it’s just documenting it. I think that you guys have a program that can help people with that as well. It’s one of those things where don’t put something off just because you think it’s not good enough. I have tons of friends that are like, “I want to do an online training course” or “I want to do this or that.” I’m like go do it. “Well man, my stuff’s just not high enough quality.” Get it out there. Systems and processes are the same way. Do something. You’ve got to do something. If not you’ll be in the same place you are three years from now still moaning and complaining about, “Man, I can’t hire anybody because my business isn’t systematized. I don’t have processes. I can’t ever get it down right. I don’t want to put this in front of anybody.” You got to be shameless in business.”
OWEN: What I get from that is that basically the tool itself that you use to document or how it’s not necessarily the case and even the details is not really so much the important thing. The important thing is you just get something documented and the minimum version of it, at least start from that and then you can build your systems on that.
DJ: Right, and the thing is this. Remember the guy that says, “I don’t have video…” I had systems and processes in place like, “Hey guys, you load the trailer, double check, make sure you have everything.” That was like systems version 1.0, when the dudes forgot the weed eater string it’s like, okay, we’ll just make sure they have everything doesn’t work so let’s actually write down everything they need. Okay, there’s systems 2.0, right? And then like another time the guys went down the road and they had a blowout and come to find out, the tire had low pressure on it so that it a maybe get hot. And so now it’s like, “Okay, systems 3.0, make sure you check the tire pressure on everything before you leave.” So get something out there because you’re going to continually go back and refine it. And remember what I said earlier. It’s never done. No one eve shuts the door on the processes thing. It’s like, “Okay, we never have to improve ever again to do that. That’s being so close minded and your business is going to suffer because of it.
OWEN: Yeah. And back then when you were getting systems out there in your business initially, what books and even mentors had an influence on you and why?
DJ: Absolutely. One of my big mentors, Ken [Unintelligible 00:32:51], he’s out in Philadelphia. He owns another power washing company. He was really one of the first ones to institutionalize that systems, and processes, and operations. He really drove home how important that was to me. But as I started building my business I realized that some of these businesses that I’d already worked for like when I was in high school. So I’d be at a lumber yard, pizza places, gas stations, they all work on systems. And it was like the ones that were more profitable and ran better than the others were the ones that have more systems in place. So you have to understand that the place does run on its own even when the owner isn’t there because the systems and processes are there. And the problem that I really had Owen is kind of funny looking back at it is that I hate doing the same thing over, and over, and over, the monotonous tasks. That’s why I don’t have a job. That’s why I’m an entrepreneur. But when I’ve realized is employees love that. It blows my mind but that’s what they want. They want regularity, they want…
OWEN: Predictability, yeah…
DJ: Yeah, they want stability Owen and they want to know, “Hey man, I work Sunday through Thursday. Every night I go out and I power wash. I do three restaurants a night. They all get done the same way.” Dude, I could do that for 2 weeks and then I’m like, “I quit.” I’m going to turn in my own resignation paperwork and my own business because I can’t take it. So you have to understand you got to have to take yourself out of the owner’s chair and say, “What do my employees want?” And I think that’s systems 4,0. It’s like once you have the groundwork, now let’s spin it and see how we can make it make sense and work the best for our employees so that they’re comfortable doing the systems. [00:34:56] +
OWEN: Earlier we talked about the results you experienced now and then even what you did to make those results happen, but we only talked about that, we didn’t give a full story of everything. What will you say are some of the biggest challenges you actually experienced when you were trying to systematize the business and how did you solve them?
DJ: Right. Free will is going to be your biggest challenge in
OWEN: How so?
DJ: The problem is, and everybody wants to talk about, “In manufacturing we use machines because they’re more efficient, they’re high efficiency. All that’s bullshit.” My book that I’m working on right now called The Selling Machine is about turning yourself into a machine. You have to understand that emotions both good and bad have a negative effect on us, and I’ll tell you why. Creating the systems, and it’s funny because that’s what people always have a problem with, creating the systems is the easy part. The difference between technology and humans is that humans have free will. So I can give a guy the binder that shows him exactly how to do it. But that doesn’t mean 3 months from now he’s not going to be tired of doing it and just decides to start cutting corners and then you’ve got a problem on your hands. The whole thing is that you want your people to operate like machines, you want your business to operate like machines. And I always say that it’s one of those things that being a machine means removing emotion both positive and negative. Cold calling for instance which I love, the 10 biggest sales I’ve ever made in my business came from cold calls. It’s one of those things where cold calling is very systematized. It’s not, “I feel like doing this, I feel like doing this on that call…”
OWEN: It’s a process.
DJ: The problem is emotions come into play because 18-20 dials in no one is saying yes and you’ve been hung up on 5 times, you get discouraged. So then you whip. Likewise, positive emotions, people are like, DJ, how can positive emotions be negative? You made two dials, you set an appointment for a huge account, you’re all excited about it, and guess what, you spend the next 30 minutes texting everybody in your phone, run it through the office telling everybody about the big deal you just landed. It’s like we have this thing in football and we called it 3 claps. So when someone did well it’s like, “Hey, Paul good job. You had the most tackles last week. Everybody 3 claps for Paul.” Done, celebration’s over. Let’s get back to work. It’s the same thing in business. It’s that people will come in and kind of get off track. The systems are great but the freewill of the people are going to be one of your biggest challenges that you’ll experience.
OWEN: I get that, but how did you solve that issue of free will?
DJ: One of the biggest things is that you can have an outline, the guys don’t necessarily want to do it. My guys are making a little less money because we’re taking the guys that fall out of business. It’s one of those things that I think that if I was in a bigger city and I had a larger labor pool to pool from it would be as stressful. But hiring the low hour wage guys has been a struggle for me. I think it’s like you got to sort through 100 bad apples to find a good one. I know that’s not what everyone wants to hear, but dude, I’m going to shoot it to you straight. I’ve got three guys that work for me now that are kind of like the ride or die. They’re here, they care about the company as if it were their own. And I think it’s just turning over through those people. I had a mentor tell me one time, hire slow and fire fast, that’s how you grow a great company. And I think it’s really true because having those systems and processes, that’s like having the best race car in the world but not having an engine in it. It doesn’t do you any good.
OWEN: I think maybe what I’m getting from that is the systems and processes, kind of having that in place, make sure that things get done right, but why are you doing that in the first place is for people. The second element of this now is really knowing who the right fit in terms of the person to join the boss, to come into the company. There’s an element of this where you have to make sure that you really dialed into and who’s the right fit to come into the company because they’re going to be implementing the systems and processes that you have in place so that if you have the right person then the free will issue would not be so much of an issue because you’ve put the right person in there in the first place.
DJ: And you also have to understand this Owen, and I’ve just come to terms with it. I really would love to fly. I would love to go outside my door and jump and go fly, but I can’t do that unless I go get my airplane. Likewise I would love to have a full company full of people that cared about EasyPro and Elite Fitness just as much as I did. But you have to understand it’s not going to happen. And to sit around and wait for that to happen, you’re going to go broke in the meantime. I think the trick is to find those people that love your company. If you love your company 10 out of 10, to find someone that’s eight and a half to a nine and a half out of ten, those people are awesome. Those are who you need.
OWEN: I don’t even think anybody would be as fired as you. You’re on fire.
DJ: Yeah, I love this stuff.
OWEN: You’re a sales guy.
DJ: You can only find a handful of those people. Sorry, I’ll try to tone it down for you.
OWEN: No, don’t tone it down. I love it. Usually I’m the one who’s toned up so I don’t even have to do any much work today. You’re terrific.
DJ: So the thing is you only have a handful of those people a book, you need sevens, sixes, and fives, and four. There’s a place on the team for all of those. You just have to make sure you don’t entrust the fours and fives with the job that you really need a nine and a half, or eight and a half. When you go to get those people and I think a lot of times people don’t grow their business because, “Oh man, I can’t find people that can do it. And tech companies are huge with this because those guys are so geeky about it. But you’ve got have all of those people on board with you because there’s a job for everybody. Someone has to clean the toilets and dig the ditches. You don’t want the owner doing that. So you go to have everybody on your team and the systems in place to help that go a lot smoother.
OWEN: That’s awesome. I like that when you clarified on that point. Given the challenges that you’ve mentioned so far, I’m curious, why did you even stay committed to the goal of systematizing your business?
DJ: It’s the same answer to the same question that people are like, “How are you so successful?” It’s either that or go get a job, right? I either systematize and grow a business, or the business doesn’t work and I have to go back to delivering pizzas, busting tables, and stop in the gas station. There’s nothing wrong with that. There’s been times where I’ve gotten stressed out. I’m like screw it, I’m going to go sell pervy vacuums door to door. It’s one of those things to where I know that deep down inside six months to a year later I’m not going to be happy if I can’t do something different every single day. And I knew that the only way to do that is to put systems in place. And it’s cool because my original goal is to get out of the field so I don’t have to have allergies. The byproduct of that is a company that kind of runs itself and gives me an awesome lifestyle, and allows me to live every day like it’s Saturday.
OWEN: That’s a good title. And so, we’ve come through the what’s happening now and went to the past. Let’s bring the story back now to more of the present. At what point in the story so far did you feel that the business itself could run itself without you and the entire business was systematized. Do you remember the story?
DJ: When I’m running on the beach, getting a tan, drinking Piña coladas while snowing in 18 degrees and I’m making 20 grand. That was kind of like an aha moment. But it’s one of those things where as I’ve grown I’ve read a lot of books and I’ve grown these businesses, you kind of start coming up with your own philosophy, right? That’s why I always tell people don’t just watch one news channel. I watch the left, right, and the center. I read books from the people that have opposing views to the next book that I’m going to read. I want to see the full picture. Let me talk to the guy that thinks the glass is half empty because after I’ve done with that I’m going to talk to the guy that says it’s half full and see why they think the way they do and then I’m going to come up with my own theories. My theory is this. It’s a stair step process. I don’t think any business is ever systematized to the point where the owner doesn’t have to be there at all. You don’t find that. Even the dude that I hung out with in Cayman. The guy lives down there. He owns a business back here in the States, he lives down there. He still looks at spreadsheets a couple of times a day. His manager sending reports. So you’re never removed out in the business, but I don’t think that I need to be sharpening blades on the lawnmowers and all that kind of stuff.
OWEN: So you’re spending more time working on the business as oppose to…
DJ: Exactly man, and that’s the true theory of it is that work on the business not in the business. Be a business owner, not self-employed. Because honestly at the end of the day if you’re self-employed, you’re just taking a heck of a lot more headaches to say, “I’m an entrepreneur” when really at the end of the day you have a job and put with a lot more stress that you’re not getting paid for. You want to try to get outside of working a business because Owen it’s awesome to be able to have companies, work with people, and to make these changes and stuff while still enjoying life to the fullest because it’s a beautiful world that we live in and I think that we should be able to take that in every single minute of every single day.
OWEN: That’s awesome. And so now that we’re talking about, the present now. I want to give the listener a kind of a behind the scenes, open the curtains as to how your business works and the different… I think it’s an analogy. Imagine your business like a conveyor belt. On one end is some company of one owner of a home or whatever looking for lawn services. And on the other end is that same person that have gone through your system, they love you guys and they’re raving about you guys. But behind the scenes there are different parts of your business making that happen. So what are the different parts of your business currently and what are the specific parts of how they’re interacting with each of them?
DJ: Again, it comes into my theory is to break your business up into three segments. My PNL, my profit and loss statement is broken down the same way. So if you were to look at my profit and loss statement it has administration, it has operations, it has sales and marketing. That way I can track the income, I can track the expenses, it’s all categorized. So the thing is that the different parts of my business, it’s interesting because EasyPro and Elite Fitness, they’re two businesses but they’re so dynamically different. Because in EasyPro I can control the growth. I can handle the phone as soon as we get off this call and I can start cold calling, sell jobs, and my guys will go do them and income will increase. The gym on the other hand I can’t do that. I can’t call and say, “Hey, resident at 123 Main St., I’m looking here on the list and it seems that you’re a little obese. You should come to the gym and sign up.” I can’t do that. So I have to understand the differences between the businesses. But with every positive there’s a negative, it’s the law of physics. In the business with the gym I can’t really pump in a lot of growth because I can’t cold call like I could with a traditional business, but the flip side of it is I don’t have to do any work there. My employees are the equipment and the customers pay me to do the work, which is really cool. But on EasyPro side I can control my growth but if I stop selling I stop making money. So it’s one of those things where systematizing and automating your business is huge and you have to figure out where to put those in. Also that you’re not stressed out all the time. I often say that systems is the Advil for the small business owner. Basically the more systems you have the less headaches you should have.
OWEN: I think the question is still I think [Unintelligible 00:48:43] but we’re talking about the different parts of the lawn mower business.
DJ: Okay. So you mean like the job titles I guess?
OWEN: Yeah, the different parts of it and what’s happening.
DJ: Okay. I’ll just run you through my organizational chart. I’m the founder and CEO, I sit at the top. I make all the decisions, sign the checks, and have the Monday morning meeting and sell the jobs. I’ve got my office manager which handles invoicing, paying bills, anything that has to do with administrative duties. Answering the phone calls, stuff like that. The to the opposite side of her there’s no one else underneath us in the admin side there. Then on the other side we’ve got operations. Robert is my operations manager. He handles ordering parts, scheduling jobs, making sure the guys know when they need to work, when they need to be here. Someone else that we have, Brandon, he is our lead crew tech and also he does a lot of our maintenance. So Brandon’s in charge of making sure things are up and running, and operational. He understands that when it comes Monday morning, if something’s broke and it puts us behind that falls back on him. I think having processes also includes having accountability processes. If X doesn’t happen who is to blame for it? And then underneath that we have our technicians. Those are those guys going back that care four and a half to five and a half as much as Rob and Brandon would on the eight and a half, nine and a half skill. They show up, they ask for Brandon and Rob, “Hey what are we doing today?” “Here’s your work order.” They go out and they get the work done. So that’s how a stair steps down, hopefully. Does that answer your question a little better?
OWEN: Yeah. I’m curious to know as we come close to the end of the interview what’s the next stage of growth for your lawnmower business, what do you plan to achieve next, and why?
DJ: When I was talking about changing up EasyPro, the reason is because after doing this almost 7 years I have these PNL’s so I can look back and I’m like, “We don’t make any money mowing grass.” It’s kind of funny what I started out as and getting excited about growing this business I realized that some business are profitable when you’re just a solo operator or it’s you and a couple of guys that are helping you out. When you go to scale you can come unprofitable. Likewise some businesses don’t make money when they’re small but tech companies like this. Snapchat didn’t make any money when they started out but now they start getting posted in all these places to advertise with them. Now they’re making money, and now they’re scaling. So with EasyPro I’m changing and we’re actually going to be going away from the lawn and landscape things over the next 2 years. We’re going to phase in to power washing only, margins will be better. Again, it goes back to the guys are going to have repetitive job. It’s not as seasonal because guess what, if we have a drought we can still power wash it. If it’s raining we can still power wash not like in lawn care business. I’m looking to change…
OWEN: What if it’s snowing?
DJ: Yeah, if it’s snowing then we’ll apply it snow so we’re still making money.
DJ: It’s one of those things where I’m going to try to get this business on autopilot because the more and more businesses I have the more wealth I develop, therefore my hourly rate goes up, which is a good thing. We always want the value of our time to be increasing. So now I’m looking at real estate ventures and I’m…
DJ: Yeah. I’ve got a couple of deals coming down the pipeline, varying shakes up, it should be at about $900,000 worth of assets by the end of the year and looking to bring investors on board. And now I’m selling investors to invest $20,000 to $50,000 with me. It’s a bigger sale but under that caliber now, right? I don’t have to sell $40 lawn mowing to Ms. Mary that works for the church. That’s an easy sell to me now. So I’m always continually try to grow myself and grow my skill level, and that’s just like a natural progression. The question to me is how big can I really sell? Can I start selling on an investment idea? Because selling a product is easy, selling a service gets a little more difficult. Think about insurance. You don’t ever get anything you’re just getting a service. But now going over to selling an idea… When you can sell an idea that’s the top sales level. So it’s like a personal challenge to me and I think I can do it. I’m always up for a good challenge so we’ll see where it goes because like I said earlier, the other option that I have, let’s remember, I’m a college dropout so there’s not a whole lot waiting for me in the jobs market if I can’t make this work.
OWEN: As we come to the end of the interview, the listener who’s listening all the way to this point obviously wants to get their business to the point where it runs without them. What will you say is the very next step that our listener should take each towards that goal?
DJ: That’s easy man, do it. Just go out there and do it. Stop talking about, stop putting it on Facebook, stop tweeting about it, stop telling your mom about it, stop bragging about it when you go out with your friends on the weekend and just do it. You have to understand that… I’m going to try to keep this under 3,000 here because I get so fired up about success. And Owen, when I go to high schools and I talk to these kids, kids have all these ideas. We are taught in our society to sit in your assigned seat. You get up to go to the bathroom when I tell you you can go to the bathroom. We have all these rules and these confinements on us. The truth is this, once you walk out of that school on your last day of high school you’re an adult. You ultimately control your future, you ultimately control where your life goes, what your family’s life will be, how you change the world, and who… this is my favorite one, what’s your legacy going to be? Will people remember you for 200 or 300 years to come? When you have these humongous goals it empowers you to get up and to do things. To make your business bigger, faster, stronger, and start doing things better than anything you’d ever thought of. So you have to continually update these systems and these processes, fix things, and in 6 months go back and do it again. Fifty percent of why there’s a new cellphone that comes out every 6 months is technology and sales, like they want you to keep buying a $700 iPhone. But the other thing is they’ve got to get a product to market or they’re going to go bankrupt, but then they know they’re going to improve on it. It’s the same thing in your business. The business world never stops. It’s like a river. You’re going to go downstream if you don’t pedal. You can’t just say, “Oh man, I’m going to take a break.” No one was ever successful only hustling on the days they felt like hustling. I’m a high energy guy but there are still days where I’m like I don’t really want to get out of bed today. But I tell myself why am I doing this? The business world never stops. No one out there is waiting for DJ to come out of his house this morning to get started. So no one’s waiting on me. I’ve got to go get it no matter what.
OWEN: Just as we end this interview is that specific question that you wish I would’ve asked you during this interview that I didn’t ask you. So post the question and [Unintelligible 00:56:44].
DJ: The thing with systems and processes is that you have to have this underlying desire to not do the work. It is funny because… I remember when I was little my dad…
OWEN: I love that selfish answer.
DJ: It’s one of those things that my dad used to tell me all the time. He’s like, “It’s Saturday. You got to go mow the yard.” “I hate mowing the yard.” “You’re so damn lazy.” And I’m like now that I’m an entrepreneur it’s like, “I’m not lazy, I’m just systematizing. I want to find somebody else to do it.” That’s the thing, don’t get stuck in the fact that you have to do it yourself. And here’s the thing, at the end of the day you deserve it. If you’re the one that’s putting your life at risk, your family at risk, your future at risk, and you’re the one laying it all on the line you deserve to fly in a private jet, you deserve to drive the Lamborghini, you deserve to take the vacations, send your kids to private school, be able to give back to your community. You put in the effort and the work so you deserve it. So that selfishness comes out of I deserve it because I feel like I’m worth it. And I wish more and more people in this world would feel like they were worth something rather than just be bopping around wishing they could find a purpose for their life.
OWEN: I love that answer. What’s the best way for the listener to connect with you and thank you for doing the interview.
DJ: I love doing shows like this one. We’ll get together again sometime for sure. The easiest way to find me is on all social media platforms. Just do #coachcarroll, just hashtag, so YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, I’m on all of them. You guys check me out and I appreciate you having me on Owen.
OWEN: I’m talking to you the listener now. If you’ve enjoyed listening to this interview all the way to this point feel free to leave us your honest review on iTunes. To do that go to sweetprocess.com/iTunes. And if you’re at that stage in your business when you’re tired of being the bottleneck and you want to get everything out of your head so your employees know what you know, consider signing up for a free 14-day trial of SweetProcess. Hey DJ, thanks for doing the interview.
DJ: No problem man, thanks for having me on.
OWEN: And we’re done.