Chris, Brian and Christopher Gepford | Pro Mow Inc and Superior Sprinkler Systems ”A Family Business!”
About This Episode
”A Family Business!”
John welcomes Chris, Brian, and Christopher Gepford to the Go With John Show! Learn how Pro Mow started as a one-man operation that has flourished into the successful lawn care company it is today! Chris shares his success story with two of his partners by his side, his sons, Brian and Christopher. While the three have different interests outside of work, they share one very common goal: to ensure the future of their companies and the ultimate satisfaction of their clients. Tune in for this awesome story about a family and the businesses they continue to build together!
Pro Mow Website
[00:00:06] Speaker 1 Welcome to another episode of the Go with John Show. We have the Gepford family here today and they are the owners of Pro Mow. Welcome, fellows. Thank you so much. So we have Brian and Chris and Christopher. Yes. So this will be fun. So, Chris, you started Pro Mow. So tell us tell us a little bit about how you got the company started and why. Well. I saw a need. It was starting to pick up. People having their grass cut. And I was working for basically the federal government. I was working out of Dulles Airport at the time, and I just jumped into it. I started it with one mower, actually had my dad help me out with financing the mower. At the time I had Brian and my oldest son. I was married. Mm hmm. Working out at the airport was great, but it was only 40 hours a week, so I needed something to. Fill in my income. So I started doing this and I saw the potential. Now by seeing a potential, you know, if you want to work under 200 hours a week, whatever that may be, you’re going to get paid. Right. And it’s and it’s all on you. If you don’t want to work, you’re not going to get paid. I just saw an endless supply of money and I knew if I hustled, I could make it work. And to be honest with you, I had no choice. I had to do it. Mm hmm. And it was tough. What year was that? About 90. I started in 1990. Okay. Full time in 93. Mm hmm. So. A mentor of mine had a large fertilizer company in the area, and he was like, Hey, you know, let’s join forces. Mm hmm. It was starting to. At that time, people were starting to want an all in one service, all in one company to do their services. Mm hmm. He did not want to do that. He didn’t want to manage a mowing company, a mulching company. Not only that, he was had a franchise, right? So he would have to put that under his franchise. The franchise fees were pretty expensive. So we had talked about it and he at the time, he was like, look, you know, I’m probably going to guarantee you 300 customers right off the get go. And I was like, I don’t know if I can handle that. You know, I mean, that’s an awful lot. Probably at the time, I was probably mowing 25. 30 customers, right. Part time. Right. Right. Well. As a family young family guy, I was like, I got to do this. I just don’t see I’ve got basically a dead end job where I’m at at the airport. Yes. Was there security there? But financially, dollar amount wasn’t gonna cut the mustard. Mm hmm. I had goals that I wanted to achieve. I didn’t want to live paycheck to paycheck. And so. I let it ride for a year. Still doing my own thing and just trying in my head to figure out how I can make this jump and do it without damaging my finances severely and keeping my family together. Right. You know, interestingly enough, back in the nineties, because I was starting my own company back at about the same time, we didn’t have the Internet. We didn’t really have anybody to talk to, to, you know, you could go and find some resources. But all of us that started businesses in the eighties and the nineties, we did it on our own right with our own brain and from from advice, from people that we met along the way. Exactly. And it was scary. And it certainly was scary. I made that leap and. It was tough. I mean, it was definitely tough, but I never looked back. I certainly had naysayers along the way. You’ll never make it. You’re not making enough money, you know? Look how much when you break it down. Look how much you’re making per hour. You could be, you know, doing something different and making more per hour. But in my head, I’m always like, it’s endless. To me, it’s endless. Right. How are those naysayers doing today? It’s funny that you say that. I think about certainly one that comes to mind was my CPA at the time. Yeah. And he was anti against me doing what I was doing. That’s interesting. And my mentor. Was you never let a CPA run your business. Right. Because our numbers, guys. Right. And they’re just looking at numbers. Right. You have to do what you feel comfortable in doing and. And that’s what I did. Yeah. It is interesting, though, when you’re trying to start a business and run a business, how many people will tell you it will never work? Because I had the same thing. And, you know, and sometimes it’s the people that are closest to you that are that are saying, wow, what are you doing? You’re wasting your time. You’re making a big mistake. And and it turns out for you and me, they were the naysayers were wrong. Right. But it’s easy to predict failure because, sure. You know, 90% of businesses go out of business after the first five years. Right. So it’s easy to be an essayer. Yeah, they’re usually mostly.
[00:06:19] Speaker 2 Right. But I think people that are naysayers, they can put just as much effort into being a naysayer as they can to try to help you and push you. Right, you know?
[00:06:29] Speaker 1 That’s true. So, yeah.
[00:06:31] Speaker 2 It’s a choice.
[00:06:32] Speaker 1 Yeah, that’s true. That’s true. So the person that was against me. Yeah. Was a big country club guy. Mm hmm. And. And then later on, I joined the country club, and he was a member at the country club. That’s a lot of fun, isn’t it? Yeah. I mean, I have no. I don’t have any issues with them. None whatsoever. Sure, sure, sure. No, I get it. Some of my best friends were naysayers. I get it. Yeah, yeah, I get it. I get it. I get it. So, so so how did you make the jump then, from being one guy pushing a lawnmower tonight? Now, you took on these 300 clients. So did you hire people or how did you how did you make that jump? Yeah, I just. I can’t tell you exactly how it happened. Ironically, where I was at the building where I started out at was my mentors place nice and it was next door to a 7-Eleven. Right. So it afforded me, you know, people that were coming in and out of 7-Eleven when I’m over there in the morning. Coffee. Right, right, right. You know, whenever that was late afternoon, you know, going over there and getting a six pack, you know, I would run into people and I would just start asking, hey, you know, and that led to one guy, led to his family member, you know, so on and so on and so on. And it’s grown from there. Right. So so how long how many years did you push them over by yourself before you just ballpark? It’s a good question. I’m going to say probably, you know, five years at least. Yeah. And then probably transitioned ten to part time doing it. I knew at the time when I when I did start transitioning out that I was going to lose some of that productivity. Right. But on the back end I was on the gain in other aspects of the business. Right. Sales managing, you know the business better. Right. And yes, it did. There was, you know, a learning curve. Yeah. So when did your sons get involved? How did they get involved in the company? Wow. Well. The funny side of it is them being involved in the business. Was summer breaks? Yes. And, you know, because I couldn’t take it and just laying around. And they had they had activities. I mean, certainly we had vacation. Right. Right. We they all played football. Right. So their schedules were football. You know, you couldn’t really have a regular summer job. Yeah. So they would come to work. So basically what you’re saying is they didn’t really have a choice. They they really didn’t have a job. No.
[00:09:31] Speaker 3 We would have at the house, we would sit down in the evenings and fold invoices and seal them into the envelopes, you know, like an assembly line. Right. You know, easy stuff for us to do. Not necessarily going out and working on a job, you know, but it was sort of anything that they needed help with, you know, they would bring us into.
[00:09:55] Speaker 1 Trust me, they were held hostage. And I was like, listen, if you want to go out and, you know, whatever, yeah, go skateboarding or, you know, this project has to be done. Yeah. My mom had a different technique cause she’s in real estate, and they would mail out my mom and dad would mail out postcards, and she would say, Oh, yeah, this will be fun here. Let’s put stamps on these. So we would watch TV and stamp postcards at night. So we had kind of the same thing. So what was Christopher? What was one of your first jobs with with the family business?
[00:10:29] Speaker 2 So I mean, I’m probably similar sort of thing, small tasks like that. But then I would think towards the beginning, probably middle of high school is when I started kind of getting thrown out and doing some of the labor part of it, which I did not like at all. And, you know, you get, you know, I think in a lot of business aspects when you get out there and you do, whether it’s manual work or kind of get your hands dirty, you you get an appreciation of it later down the road. Right. Especially if you have people that are working for you that are doing it. So probably high school getting thrown into the summer mix. And then a little bit once I got into college back and forth, I tried a few different I did an internship at like Carfax one college here and then worked at a golf course.
[00:11:20] Speaker 1 Mm hmm.
[00:11:20] Speaker 2 So probably high school.
[00:11:21] Speaker 1 Okay.
[00:11:22] Speaker 2 I started to get into the mix.
[00:11:23] Speaker 1 Okay. Okay. So what is it like working with family? Hmm?
[00:11:30] Speaker 2 How long is this?
[00:11:30] Speaker 1 Okay. I guess. Guys are the folks. The folks. Listen, we just got three really big, deep breaths here. It’s it’s it’s it’s challenging. There’s. The challenges are this. It for me. These are my sons, right? I also have two other sons once in college and an older son who’s doing his own thing. And that’s fantastic. Certainly, I never pushed them to come into the business. It was there and I said, Hey, you guys need to go do what you want to do. All the kids, except for my youngest. Is he still in college graduates? So. I feel good about that. You know, my kids have gone to college, graduate. But again, it was never. You need to come to the business, right? If you want to. That’s great. But I’m not gonna force your hand at it. But now having the minute. There are stairs challenges and there’s challenges, you know, that I expect them to work harder. Then the employees were. You have guys and women that are looking at them going, oh, that’s, you know, the owner’s sons. Mm hmm. They get away with stuff. Right. And do you. Do you guys get away with stuff?
[00:12:54] Speaker 3 Uh, no. I mean, I try to, you know, really be the first one in and be the first one out. You know, I try to put in, you know, everything that I can. Right. And, you know, the way that I look at it is the more time I put in, the more I learn, the more of an asset I can be. And so when you.
[00:13:12] Speaker 1 When you say the first one out, you mean the first one out in the field?
[00:13:16] Speaker 3 First one out at the end of the day. I’m sorry. First one in. In the morning. Yeah. Right. And then last one out. Right.
[00:13:21] Speaker 1 I thought that’s pretty bad. I was just going to get that straight. Yeah. Yep. Yeah. Yeah.
[00:13:26] Speaker 3 So, yeah. Just trying to be that person within the company that is that can be of help, you know, no matter who you are, whatever position you know you’re in, that you can come to me or I can come to you, and I have an understanding I can help you do your job. You know.
[00:13:44] Speaker 2 I think in in with the getting I think some people, you know, maybe from the outside because it is a family business, I would think like, oh, they’re either dishing workout to others or they’re sitting back. But you know what the positions were and it’s it’s sort of the opposite, you know, shutting down at night. And, you know, a lot of the big things if if we don’t do our part, then it’s going to be a big domino effect of things not not going right day to day.
[00:14:11] Speaker 1 Right. Right. I think it’s hard for anybody to understand what really goes on in a business or a family business because it runs 24 seven. Really. You know, you guys are because you’re probably similar. It’s in our family. You know, when we’re sitting around having dinner, we’re talking about real estate transactions or things that are happening in the real estate industry. And it’s probably the same for you guys. It’s it’s unfortunate that there is not a complete separation when when there are those family time types together. Our vacations, unfortunately, fall into business stuff right now. Some of that’s okay because now we’re in a relaxed environment and we can have, you know, conversations and not having other people coming at us, you know, trying to to improve on the business. Right. But certainly there’s never this 100% cut off when we’re together as a family. Right. Because it’s always on your mind. And a question comes up and you’re right there and then you want to get it answered and done and move it on. Yeah, I get it. Yeah, right. It was funny when I was just down spending some time with my dad. He listens to what’s going on with the phone calls during the day. You know, he’s just hearing me talking and he’s, you know, giggling about it and something. I mention something and he’s like, it’s like first thing in the morning and he’s like, that just popped into your head. And I’m like, No, these things bounce around in my head 24 seven and never, ever leaves me. And unfortunately, that’s a curse. You know, when you’re self-employed and and it can be a good curse, you need to take advantage of it. Yeah. And I feel like successful people, which certainly I do not ever claim to be successful. I don’t think I’ll ever claim to be successful. But if it’s constantly clicking in your head, you’re trying to improve. Right. Right. Well, I think that’s that’s what most successful people do is they try to be and in fact, that’s that’s some of the greatest advice I got when I was a young painter, you know, and I had a customer who was really well off. And I said, how how did you get here? What did you have to do to get all this? And he said, I try to go to bed every night, just a little better than when I woke up that morning every day. You know, and that’s exactly what you’re saying, is just try to be a little better every day and then. And you keep building on that. Well, I have heard. Throughout the years, being in business owner, you know, you have a successful business. Mm hmm. And I’ve always said I don’t feel that way. Yeah, I feel like if I concede to that notion of being successful, then I’m done. Then you get complacent and then things start going wrong. Exactly. Yeah. I mean, I have goals. And there the goals are probably, you know, unattainable. Right. But that’s okay. I’m working at it now. I’m not disappointed if I don’t reach some of those crazy goals, but, you know, I’m happy where I’m at. Yeah, but I’m still trying to improve. So tell us about some of your goals. And then we’re going then we’re going to talk to the boys. So let’s let’s let’s let’s hear about let’s hear about some of your goals. Well, certainly, you know, financially would be, you know, where you don’t have any worries. Right. Would be a huge goal when I. Hold on a second. You told me on the elevator up here that you always worry. So is that is that what you mean, that’s never going to happen? Yeah. I mean, I would ideally it would be nice to to be away from this area. Yeah. And not have to worry about what’s going on in the business. None whatsoever. Right. Not worry about any finances. Be comfortable with my finances. Right. And. I would hope that I would feel comfortable at that time. I don’t. Probably not. Just because it’s my nature. Sure. Exactly. That’s what I was getting at. Yeah. So what other what other goals you have? Certainly. Certainly the business being successful, certainly the kids being successful in the business and financially successful for them that, you know, they can. Enjoy the benefit of my hard work and certainly their hard work. Right, right, right. That would be awesome. Yeah, that’s great. Those are those are all great goals. So so Brian, so what do you do within the company? What’s your role?
[00:19:01] Speaker 3 So my role position as general manager, but heavy within all the operations, my big focus is making sure that, you know, all of our crews, all of our jobs, all of our scheduling, you know, everything that all these moving pieces are just operating smoothly. You know, that we’re being profitable on the jobs, that we’re presentable on our jobs that are our equipment, you know, is working, you know, as it should. And like I said earlier, is just being there for as many of the employees in the company as I can to help.
[00:19:41] Speaker 1 So how many employees do you guys have right now?
[00:19:44] Speaker 3 We’re just under 50, so.
[00:19:46] Speaker 1 That’s a lot of people.
[00:19:47] Speaker 3 Yeah, we do. Yeah. And that’s about we’re anywhere from about 13 to 15 trucks out on the road on a daily basis in departments.
[00:19:57] Speaker 1 Yeah, sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt you, so. But you guys are really smart because you limit your service area, right? And I know that because I had no idea that we were all going to be sitting down together one day having a conversation on a podcast. But you guys used to cut my grass back in the, you know, 2013, 14, and I lived in Oakton and then I moved to McClain. And you said, Well, we don’t go to McClain and you make an exception. No. So so what is your service area?
[00:20:29] Speaker 3 So we are we are. So our office is located down in the Stone Ridge area. So right there and on that section of Loudoun County. So we really don’t go past the Oakton area. Right. Sort of our furthest, you know, east west. We really don’t go past Route 15. Mm hmm. And then as far as north and south, we’re pretty much we stay below Route seven and we stay above 66. So, yeah, that’s the goal, is to try to keep the service area. As you know, I don’t want to say small but as efficient, especially with just traffic. You know, the pricing of our services, I mean as a as a mowing service, you know, you’re averaging around maybe $35 a service. So in order to, you know, pay the bills and be profitable, you really have to be efficient. Right. How many of those $35 services can you fit? Absolutely. To one day.
[00:21:28] Speaker 1 Yeah. And and the travel time in between and the fuel and getting to the first job and back home from the last job.
[00:21:33] Speaker 3 I get it. That’s right. The payroll, I mean, it’s again, a $35 service requires three guys right now, requires a truck, a trailer, the equipment that goes with it. So, yes, it’s it’s extremely difficult. So, you know, we every year we have conversations about our service area and look at where our existing customers are and, you know, where can we grow more and make those routes more efficient. And it all points back to, you know, closer to the shop, you know, the more manageable that is to drive now, you know.
[00:22:08] Speaker 1 Yeah. Plus if you get a breakdown then you can go. And it is yeah, it’s challenging and certainly, you know, the current conditions, you know, in our country, you know. It’s it’s double challenging. Yeah, I bet. And certainly now with the price of fuel we have gone in. I mean, it is a constant, constant analysis on how we can continue to try to be profitable. Right. Which is very difficult. And and certainly said net profit margin. Our suppliers are going up. Yep. You know, raising their prices, I should say. And it’s almost daily. Right. We obviously the price of fuel. Yep. You try to do a general, you know, increase certainly to cover your your employees, you know, with their raises and stuff. Right. And you turn around and you throw in how much supplies have gone up. Yeah. Now how much fuel is going up. Right. It’s difficult. And trying to pass that on to the consumer is not easy. Now we’re just we get looked at as just some products that are cut and grass. Right. Okay. And that’s been one of the challenges that I’ve had throughout my whole career, is people just looking at us or looking at me going, hey, you’re just a grass cutter. You just come in from the mountains coming in here, you know, just cut grass. Anybody can cut grass. Right. And that’s. Yes. You know, everybody has cut grass, you know, in their lifetime. And yeah, it’s not that difficult. But running a business to do it, to make a living is a challenge. It certainly is. And and we have people in place. I mean, we’re extremely professional. I feel like customer service is a huge part of our business. Right. Again, anybody can cut grass. You have a lot of one truck operations out there that are doing it and doing it cheaper. I respect that because that’s how I started out. Sure. You know, it’s the one truck guy. So I do respect that. But. Selling it to a customer, that this is what you’re getting is not that easy when they’re just looking at prices. Yeah. Yeah. I got you. I’ve always said that our best customer is a customer that had another serve, another long service. You know, the one two truck guy ends up being our best customer. Yeah. Yeah. Or as that goes. Yeah, that makes sense. Yeah. So it’s challenging. And like I said, we get talked down to a lot. That was one of my biggest challenges. And I’ll tell you a quick story back when I was out doing sales. I knocked on the door because our customer called, you know, potential customer, you know, want an estimate. So it was a big deal that, you know, walk the yard, look at it, right? The estimate up, knock on the door and talk to the customer. Right. So I did that and the customer looked at me and was like, he prices are a little high. You know, you’re coming from the mountains. You know what? You’re just putting this money in your pocket, this idea. And I’m like, No, that’s not the case. And I was offended by it. This wasn’t the first time. So I was ready. I’m like, Yeah, I’d like, you know, I need I need to put my kids through college. You know, I got one now. It’s getting ready to go to college. Mm hmm. I live in a neighborhood, if not close by. I know your neighbors very well. And to be honest with you, probably coached if your son played football, I probably coached him. So I’m not that guy. Mm hmm. You know, just because I’m a grass cutter doesn’t mean that I’m a, you know, per se, deadbeat. Just put cash in my pocket and not pay in taxes and whatnot. No, this is. This is my livelihood. This is how I support my family. And you said you did, by the way, put both of these boys through college. All four of them. All. I’m all my number for you. That’s right. Yeah, he’s. He’s a junior. He’s a junior. West Virginia. Yeah. The two older boys graduated from West Virginia. Mm hmm. And Christopher graduated from Radford? Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And I went to college for one year and had enough. I was done. Yeah. It was a different time. So, Christopher, what do you. What are you doing in the company? What’s your role?
[00:26:50] Speaker 2 So primarily our sales and marketing. And there are some operations into the mix as well. Mm hmm. So those two and that’s what I, you know, got a business degree in management and in a minor in marketing. So, you know, those are the two primary roles. But I think a lot of it, too, is just come in fresh from sort of, you know, learn about business, you know, how books teach business and seeing what ways I can either, you know, enhance or sort of adjust how the the businesses are ran. Right. So some of that, I think, has been, you know, looking into because we do so much volume of services. Mm hmm. You know, hundreds, if not, you know, upwards to a thousand a week. Right. And with each service, you know, there’s a crew. It’s the time that they take to do these jobs that there’s materials being put down. It’s a lot of you know, it’s a lot of stuff to look at. And that’s what’s determining if you’re making, you know, a profit. Right. And with that, you know, in recent years, looking more into, you know, what kind of software that we’re using, how are we inputting, you know, this data? Are we getting, you know, accurate and useful, you know, reports and data that can be applied? Right. So that’s something I would say probably in the last 18 months, I’ve, you know, dived more into and and, you know, some things we’ve made some adjustments, I think, for the better. And so that’s been like a sort of an ongoing project I’ve put time into. Mm hmm. But sales and marketing as well. And, you know, when even when I was about to graduate, sitting down with them talking about, hey, you know, if you’re if you’re going to come and work here, this is where we think you could bring value. Mm hmm. So I think taking that conversation and trying to do the best job possible, sort of what I you know, when I wake up, that’s what I want to do, right?
[00:28:49] Speaker 1 So yeah, yeah. It takes all different kinds of brains to run a company, all different kinds of viewpoints. So. So what kind of lessons have you learned from your dad? Or to be interested. You need to put both of them on the spot. I’ve come to the coming back over to Brian in a second. Yeah. Craig Christopher’s is. He’s got to get some mike time here. Yeah.
[00:29:15] Speaker 2 I’ve learned. You know, I think I guess one of the words that come to mind, I think, is, like patience.
[00:29:19] Speaker 1 Yeah. Having patience with your dad or having patience overall. Yeah. Yeah. Overall.
[00:29:27] Speaker 2 You know, and that could kind of tie in to, you know, how you react to something, whether it’s business or in life, if maybe it doesn’t go as planned.
[00:29:36] Speaker 1 Right.
[00:29:37] Speaker 2 You know, maybe eliminating the if something you do, it doesn’t go the way you expected it, eliminating the time, fretting over it, upset, you know, just moving on to the next thing, trying to to get better. So, you know, communication is a big thing, I think ever since I’ve been young and it’s, you know, been tied to work and just outside of work. But I think he’s been fantastic at just building and maintaining relationships.
[00:30:06] Speaker 1 Right.
[00:30:07] Speaker 2 You know, which even before we started recording, you were talking about the, you know, importance of having connections. Having relationships. Right. A lot of people, whether it’s business or in life, they can spark relationships. But how how long does it last? Right. So seeing him from when I was younger, having conversation on the phone or in person with people, and now, you know, whether it’s five, ten, 15, 20 years on the road, still having conversation with the same people and more. I think I’ve learned a lot of lessons of, you know, the importance of and and what keeps us relationships is being a good friend, being honest. Right. Working to make the relationship healthy. And I think that it can apply to a ton of things. Yeah. Business and outside of it. So.
[00:30:51] Speaker 1 So I think your dad and I come from the same era, more or less. And I’ve got, you know, deep, deep friendships from from that time. So I’d be curious, how do you think the digital world that we live in today is going to impact your ability to have these long term, deep relationships? Do you think it’s, you know, 20, 30 years from now, do you think you’re going to have the same kind of relationships? My dad, that your dad and I have with with our peers of our early days, do you think you’ll be able to maintain that kind of a relationship going forward?
[00:31:24] Speaker 2 Yeah, I think it depends. You know, I think with, like you said, sort of the digital era and now we’re able to reach endless amounts of different people. Yeah. So I think that can be great because when that wasn’t the case, there was a smaller amount of people you could come across.
[00:31:42] Speaker 1 And you got much closer to them. Yeah.
[00:31:44] Speaker 2 Yeah. Yeah. So I think that if you look at like, let’s just say like the steps of how you create a relationship, you meet somebody so you can meet somebody, you know, at the gas station or you can meet them online. How you go from there and how you carry those traits of being a good friend, being able to listen. I think if you can apply it in the same way versus somebody you met in person and somebody you met online, you can still achieve the same great relationship and sort of longevity. Right. So I think.
[00:32:13] Speaker 1 People like to see a face.
[00:32:15] Speaker 2 Yeah, no, absolutely.
[00:32:16] Speaker 1 I think they’re not going to know if you see them somewhere in public. They’re not alone. See, this is where we have this younger per se generation we call our generation gap. Yeah. I mean, you know, I can run into somebody and we, you know, I know them. Right? Right, right, right, right. As opposed to the online, you know. You only know. Right. Yeah. And I struggle with that. It’s just, you know, I wonder what is will life is going to be like for my kids. I have 13 year old twins and, you know, the digital relationships, it’s so easy to go make a new one that you don’t necessarily and I don’t know, I can’t speak for you, obviously, but it’s in my perception you don’t necessarily invest the time to try to bridge a potential. I don’t even know if conflict’s the right word. But you know, Chris, you and I, you know, we probably had fallouts with all of our friends. You know, you have disagreements and you don’t see them for a while and then you kind of come circle back around them. In the digital world, you get canceled. Yeah, yeah, exactly. I think I think, you know, ignore.
[00:33:22] Speaker 2 I think, too. And I think there’s different levels of friendships and relationships. Right. You know, I’ve been blessed and fortunate enough that my close, close circle of lifelong friends, I grew up with them playing sports with them. Right. And they’ll never they’ll never be bumped out of that role.
[00:33:37] Speaker 1 Because they weren’t digital relationships. Right.
[00:33:40] Speaker 2 But I think that doesn’t mean that I can still have space for relationships, whether it’s meeting people online, it will never reach that same strength. Exactly. But there’s still we all have people in our lives that we’re not as close with, but we’re still happy that they’re a part of us.
[00:33:55] Speaker 1 Exactly. I agree. So, Brian, what about you? I know you’ve had time to think for a. Yeah.
[00:34:01] Speaker 3 I mean that, you know, my relationship with my dad and things that I’ve learned, you know, I’ve been I’ve been working for him for ten years. Right. And when I started working, you know, he just he really sold it to me. You know, you can take it as far as you want, right? So really, the the big thing that, you know, thinking about my dad, what I learned from him is that, you know, it’s hard. Life is hard. You know, running a business is hard. You know, and a lot of times, you know, the the work’s never done. You know, you can always improve and always, you know, get better and do it better, you know. And he always stayed himself, you know? So that’s something that I really you know, it I’ve been fortunate to, you know, sort of see from him, you know, because we’ve grown we’ve go through ups and downs, you know, but he’s he’s sort of doing it his way and he’s stayed, you know, himself. So it’s it’s been it’s helped me, you know, because I you know, I’m going through a lot of the things that he went through with the business and, you know, just sort of just believing in myself and staying true to myself and, you know, just always remember that, hey, if, you know, no one else is going to do it, you know it’s going to be you, you know, so put in that time and you know, it it’s it’s necessary. It has to be there. You know, you can’t just roll through, you know, being in a family business, you can’t just assume that you’re, you know, you’re safe for the business safe. So you need to you need to really put in the time.
[00:35:39] Speaker 1 Well, it’s a fight. Everybody’s fighting for that customer, you know, and everybody’s fighting for that efficiency and everybody’s fighting for the for the employees, right? For the folks that are going to go out there and do the work. And, you know, as soon as you stop fighting, somebody else is going to win the fight, you know? So, yeah, that’s all that that all makes loss.
[00:35:56] Speaker 3 Yeah. And there’s a lot of things that you can’t control, you know, that you’re, you’re constantly, you know, having to resolve or fix or improve, you know, I mean, employees as an example, you know, we may get back to the office after this. And one of our, you know, key employees may, you know, tell us that they’re taking another job right now. And then now that’s the next challenge, you know, or like with fuel pricing, what we’re dealing with right now, how do we go from the beginning of the year, diesel was at about three and a quarter a gallon and now we’re getting close to five. How do we, you know, deal with that? How do we, you know, make that so? Just what I what I learned from him, really, is that it’s hard, you know, and when it gets easy, I don’t know, you know, I don’t know when that’s going to happen.
[00:36:44] Speaker 1 That’s being content when it becomes. Yeah, and I don’t think you’ll you can never be content when you’re, you know, self-employed again. It’s, it’s a challenge and there’s, there’s great rewards. Yeah, but there’s a lot of sacrifices. I try to preach to them all the time that. You. There are things that are out of your control in business. Just like what he said. Just about everything. Right. We may come back, you know, to the office and, you know, one of our key employees. You know, I’m. I’m leaving. Right. And those are things you can’t predict. I shouldn’t say predict, but you can’t control. Right. So I preach there are things in business that you can control. And those controllable things is how you need to fine tune those. That’s where you can save money, you know, become more profitable. I can’t pass if we’re not managing the business properly, doing everything as efficient as we can in our business, whatever that may be. The mechanic ordering parts from the right, you know, supplier, you know, whatever. Everything. Right. Office supplies, this, this and the other try to be a which I can’t by being lazy or being per se ignorant to these things. Pass that on to a customer. Right. To try to make up the difference, to try to still be profitable. That’s not fair to the customer. Right. That’s us internally not doing our job. Right. So but we can control those things. Yeah. And and I try to get them to focus. Big time on that. Let’s control what we can control. There are things that are out of our control that will deal with that when it comes right. When it happens. Right. It’s just like sports.
[00:38:31] Speaker 2 Right? Exactly what I was thinking. That’s how I look at it.
[00:38:34] Speaker 1 As soon as you show up to play any kind of a game and you don’t show up with everything you have, you will not win that game because the other team is going to bring everything they have. You got to bring everything you have every day and eyes to like the fish and stuff. We’re going to get to that now. Let’s go the talk about fish in the. The challenges. Being prepared, controlling everything that you can control. Before that boat leaves the dock, right. Is huge. Yes, it’s tremendous. You know, if you’re just being lazy on a not. Yeah or not, you know check in your line for any Nixon it right. Or check in your safety gear everything. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. When you get into to a situation where you have a, you know, 2 to £500 blue marlin coming up right behind you, you don’t need to worry about whether or not that not tied properly. Right. You know, was it checked or is your line in a fresh line? Are there any nicks in your line? You don’t have time for that. So you need to prepare. You need to get all that stuff ready to go and put that out of your mind and only focus on trying to hook that fish. Right. Right. You know, it’s a very short, you know, ten, 15 seconds. Yeah. Of. Mayhem. Everything has to be prepared properly. So you don’t have to worry about that. Right. So now who’s fishing? Brian, you’re fishing. No, Christopher, you’re fishing. No, not. Not really. You’re the fish. He’s okay. Yeah. Okay. Yes. So what do you guys do for. For sports or fun or hobbies?
[00:40:20] Speaker 3 I mean, I’m a homebody. Are you? Yeah. I mean, I any. Any projects around my house, you know, that’s what it’s. I can decompress. Yeah. I mean, whatever that may be.
[00:40:32] Speaker 1 And that’s me. Yeah. A lot of hunting.
[00:40:35] Speaker 3 I do. So I do a lot of hunting. One of my good bodies got a big chunk of land not far from my house. So, you know, everything from deer, you know, turkey, you know, to just, you know, prepping the land, walking the land, just being outside, you know.
[00:40:53] Speaker 1 And so but but a lot a lot of people don’t realize hunting isn’t often as much about hunting as it is about the camaraderie of who you’re hunting with.
[00:41:00] Speaker 3 It is. And I mean, there’s such a I don’t know if it’s ironic to say. I mean, you know, guys that hunt well, understand. But there’s a piece to it. You know, there’s a piece to yeah. Sitting up in a tree stand, you know, and it’s just you and it’s just you in the woods.
[00:41:15] Speaker 1 Yeah.
[00:41:16] Speaker 3 You know, you’re hearing everything from birds, you know, the squirrels to possibly a deer, you know, turkey. I mean, turkey season. You’re here and turkey gobbles. Right. And you’re still you’re silent and you just get to focus on one thing, you know, which is which is that hunt and everything else just sort of goes by the wayside, whatever works. Yeah. And, I mean, I fell in love with it.
[00:41:38] Speaker 1 Yeah. How about you, Christopher?
[00:41:41] Speaker 2 I’m kind of all over the place. I mean, I still. I I’ve always had a deep, deep love for sports, so I think, you know, portions of the day, I’m always trying to follow what’s going on, whether it’s, you know, NBA, NFL. I’ve definitely dived down, you know, rabbit hole of interest. And recently in the last year and a half, like sports cards, sports memorabilia, some stuff online, you know, a lot of, you know, talk about like the nfts or like cryptocurrency, stuff like that.
[00:42:12] Speaker 1 I’ll get this NFT that will never buy one. You don’t even know what that is. It’s non-fungible tokens. Yeah.
[00:42:20] Speaker 2 We don’t need to go down to that. It’s go to like a it’s like a form of art, you know, and so just stuff it, you know, business. I love, you know, reading success stories or, you know, something like this podcast, listening to podcasts just like this, you know, so just all over the place, just anything that interests me and it circles around, you know, sports and even, uh, you know, like earlier we’re talking about sort of like mentors stuff, role models in how similar business and sports are. You know, I have so many, you know, role models and just these, you know, athletes that grew up. And I, you know, I’m not playing a sport today, but I think businesses, sports. So I still have so many people I look up to and try to apply the same sort of principles as they did that that made them reach success. But yeah, interest. Yeah. You know, sports memorabilia.
[00:43:15] Speaker 1 You guys are on three different planets with.
[00:43:16] Speaker 2 Oh yeah.
[00:43:18] Speaker 1 That’s okay. Yeah. I mean, it’s a good thing. Yeah. I mean, Brian and I, we certainly share the love of the outdoors in hunting. I don’t do it as much as I used to. Right, but I understand it.
[00:43:31] Speaker 2 Yeah, I’m like the opposite.
[00:43:33] Speaker 1 Yeah, I see that. I see that. I like.
[00:43:36] Speaker 2 To fish. The fish is fun. I haven’t done any hunting.
[00:43:39] Speaker 1 Have you been fishing with your dad?
[00:43:40] Speaker 2 Yeah. I mean, all. I mean, we when we were younger. Yeah. And I, you know, when you’re younger, sometimes you don’t really appreciate. You don’t get artists, you don’t get it. Yeah. So I think in recent years even and he’s got a place, you know, on the water I’ve grown to like enjoy it, love it, look at it a little competitively, you know, I need to catch a fish and then you catch one fish. Like, why can I go for two? Right. So I’ve grown the appreciation for it and I think it’s cool.
[00:44:07] Speaker 1 Yeah, yeah, yeah. So how much time do you spend fishing? Well, so I started fishing. As a kid. Mm hmm. Just because growing up in Florida either has tons of, you know, opportunities. Where did you grow up? In Florida. What part? South Florida. Okay. Boca Raton, West Palm Beach. Okay. Messing around there. That’s how you kill. Time is at sports and in fashion. I mean, the opportunity was right there. I could walk right out the back of my house and bass fish. Right. There was a little channel there, Canal, and I was able to do that. And I think that allowed me it started my the process of me being able to escape whatever was going on. Right. And just focus on that. Right. And then I got away from it. When I moved up here, fishing wasn’t as available as it was. So I focused on sports and then which led into my family. Right. Having, you know, young I mean, I started out I was. My oldest was born. I was 20 years old. Wow. So it’s been challenging. Sure. So I didn’t have opportunities to get away and escape. I coached the kids and football, baseball. And that was a huge priority to me. Mm hmm. But again, I didn’t have that opportunity for myself. And I also felt like it was a selfish act to be away from my family and doing something for my own personal enjoyment. Mm hmm. Later on, things got a little bit easier to kids. Got a little bit older. Right. And I started bass fishing around here on the Potomac River. Right. And truly enjoyed that fish a lot of tournaments. But that was the opportunity for the kids to be able to go and go fishing and take them out on the boat and go have fun for the day. Yeah. Mess around and fish. Yeah. That’s a lot of work. Yeah. This is. It’s. This is true. Well, especially if you’re not catching. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Then that led to offshore fishing. And I was very fortunate to know some guys that were able to to allow me to, to play a role in an offshore fishing, which came very competitive. We. So are you doing that in Florida or you do. You did it all over, all up and down. So we we would start Mexico. Wow. Fish in Mexico, which would help you out for the rest of the season because you had so many opportunities at fish sailfish. We were all billfish. That’s right. That’s what we fish for. That would lead to the Bahamas. Which would turn around and then we’d come right back over, start in South Carolina, work our way all the way up, you know, fish in South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Ocean City. And then come wintertime. The boat would move down to Florida. We would fish tournaments in Florida or head over to Costa Rica and fish. That’s pretty cool. Yeah. So I was very fortunate to be able to do that and I met a tremendous amount of. Great, great people and very, very successful people. Now, the great thing about that was here I am this. Grass cutter. You keep saying that, but. But I’m. I’m. I am socializing with guys that have multi-million dollar companies. 4 to 600 employees. Mm hmm. And we could sit down in a relaxed environment, somewhat relaxed because we’re, you know, talking about business and discuss, you know, pluses and minuses and each other’s business. And it was all basic stuff. Right. Employees. Yeah. Trying to, you know, keep a certain profit margin. Yeah. How do you do this? I mean, I feel if guys are asking me questions, then I must be doing something right. Absolutely. You know these guys that are extremely successful. Mm hmm. So it was great. I mean, I truly. I cherish those moments and I’ve got no regrets, nothing whatsoever. Now, I’ve sort of gotten a little burned out over it as a lot of traveling, and I’ve sort of backed down a little bit. Yes. Well, I still continue to fish. Absolutely. I am finding enjoyment out of getting on my little skiff. 16 foot skipped. Yeah. Yeah. And going out to my inlet and catching, you know, whatever, two or £3 stripers. Yeah. You know, I’m finding just as much enjoyment out of that as opposed to catching a £500 blue marlin. It’s the same thing. Like sitting in a handstand. Yeah. You know, she said time alone where you can think and be with nature. Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. And D2. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Hopefully, you know, focus, you know, be able to think through some of your issues that you have. So you’re not making snap decisions. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Sounds good. All good stories, fellows. So, Christopher, let’s let’s shift gears here for a second and let’s talk about your company. So we haven’t even said the name of your company in this whole entire podcast. We have actually two companies. Okay. Well, let’s let’s talk about your. Let’s talk about your business. And then I guess, Chris, why don’t you tell us about your two companies and then Christopher, why don’t you, like, give us the features, advantages and benefits of your of your companies so that folks can kind of get our cool or get your get your sales pitch. I’m certainly not part of your company. So so the original business was Pro Mow. Yes. Which was grass cutting, mulching, edging, bush trimming. Yeah. That led into fertilization. Mm hmm. That started with the fertilization, because one of my good friends asked what he did, and we joined forces and he sort of took that on. I’ve never done anything that I just to do it, if that makes any sense. Yeah, sure. You need to be smart in what you’re doing, which later on. I don’t know, ten, 15 years in the business. I ended up buying a sprinkler company. Uh huh, yes. Good Pro Mow. Done. Sprinklers. We probably could have Jack like that around and gotten away with some stuff. But again, it’s your reputation, right? Right. So what’s the name of the sprinkler company? Superior Sprinkler Systems. The opportunity came up for me to buy that and I did. And it’s a good add on to our business, but it’s a separate business, right? We can play off of each other, but they have their special teams doing the sprinkler system. There’s an art to that. So it’s just like I’m not taking Pro Mow employees and just say, Hey, go out there and, you know, go fix that sprinkler system or go out and install that sprinklers. And this is what they do and this is what they only do. Right? Do you do you do this? Do you have the same office management team? Okay, that makes sense. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Okay. So they they’re able to handle it. And that falls into line with what Christopher and I’m both behind to have been really hard core on is with the the computers with the software package. Right now I’ve had it forever software packages but just putting these together to be able to cross to customers over. Yeah. Has been a huge challenge. Mm hmm. So, so. So, Christopher, tell us when you’re because you handle the sales and the marketing for the organization. So when you’re when you’re meeting a customer, what do you tell them? Why should they use Pro Mow and superior sprinklers?
[00:52:34] Speaker 2 Yeah. And to sort of summarize what he explained, basically both the companies offer, you know, lawn maintenance, property maintenance services for both residential and commercial. And as you well know, you know, because you deal with the purchasing selling of homes, you know, the the landscape is just as important because it’s part of the property. Mm hmm. So we basically offer, you know, services that is going to maintain, keep everything healthy, lush and looking sharp because it’s an extension of your home. Right. Just like the inside is. So we offer those standard services and then sort of to explain what would differentiate ourselves. Because just like he was talking about, so many people can do these services. Anybody can purchase a lawnmower, learn it. It’s a fairly simple skill. Majority of people in the country probably cut their own yard, write mulch their own beds, trim their own things. Okay, so what what benefit do we serve as a company? If a customer doesn’t have time, they don’t have the understand or they just want somebody to do it because they’ll do it better than them. That’s where, you know, we could come in and perform the work. How the entire relationship works with having a service provider is something that I’ve, you know, and we’ve done to make it more seamless. Right. You know how we communicate with customers when we’re going to schedule their services, how they can go online and have an account just like they do with all these other different types of expenses in their lives. And they can see what services they’re getting, if they are interested or want a separate service that we offer. You know, do they have pricing that’s available to them? Can they sign up easily online, online right now or through the phone? You know, a big thing is, is that we still the same way that we sell and offer services in 2022 is we still do it the same way that we did in 2000. But we can offer more ways for people to, you know, get our services in and have a relationship. So if people want to, you know, sometimes I use this scenario, it’s like if you want to order pizza nowadays, people you can call and order pizza. But a lot of these pizza, you can go online and you can order it. Some people want to call and some people will just want to do it online. Right. So if you get from a business perspective, if you give customers the option, right, I think you have a better chance of acquiring more and happy customers.
[00:55:05] Speaker 1 You’re absolutely right, people. You got to be able to acquire the customer in the way the customer wants to be acquired. Yeah. Yeah.
[00:55:13] Speaker 2 So so that and we’ve with these new channels and regardless of whether it’s texting online, you know, new technologies, inventions have just came along since 2000. You can do things more, you know, like whether it’s GPS on phones. Now, you don’t have to use a physical map. That’s a huge difference. Some people may still want to use a physical map. Right. But that’s up to them. Yeah. So implementing new ways of of making customers happy, whether it’s, you know, texting them, emailing them, calling them, giving them those options. And I guess that’s the best way to explain. That’s how we want to separate ourselves, is making being a service provider that’s easy use, honest communicative caters to the customer. Yeah.
[00:55:57] Speaker 1 And I’ll just say as a previous customer, you guys were my lawn service when I lived in Oakland and I’ve had a lot of lawn services since then and you guys were 100% reliable. You did a great job, didn’t even really know you were there. Right. And to me, that’s the measure of a great lawn service. You know, when I have to get involved because something wasn’t done right or somebody didn’t cut the backyard or they didn’t do the aging. That’s that’s a headache that I don’t think any homeowner needs. And whatever you guys are doing and however you’re doing it, my experience with your company was was really phenomenal. And I was I was I was sad when you would come to McClain and I did not get good service in McClain. But now we try. We have right now we have three ladies in the office. Yeah. Customer service is huge. Everything. And if there’s a problem and there’s going to be problems, I’m sure just, you know, it is what it is. Whatever it is, we try to minimize. Sure, obviously. But if a customer calls, we’re on it. Yeah. You know, one of my huge pet peeves it’s always been is that that phone needs to be answered within to, you know, rings. Right. And that’s a huge thing that’s gonna set us off compared to, you know, the one, two truck guys, right? Because they’re out there hustling. They can’t do that if and then we’re on it. We have things in place. Yeah. You know, you have a problem. We miss something goes right to our foreman. They’re on it, you know, relays it right to the crew. There’s protocols. Yeah, but having good crews is everything because that you don’t get the phone calls to begin. Well, that’s the goal. Yeah. And I’ve been very fortunate with. Guys that have been working for me have been I think our longest is 20 years. And, you know, majority other guys are, you know, 12 to, you know, 15 years. It’s been tremendous. It’s been challenging. But then again, you know, they’re not a number, right? They’re family to us. Exactly. And they can come to us with any issues and and we work with them. Right. And it’s it’s it’s been great. I mean, you’re only as good as your employees. Absolutely. So, Brian, is there is there anything you want to add to what your dad and your brother said about the company? Yeah.
[00:58:20] Speaker 3 I mean, I think, like what you asked Chris for, you know, what would you say, you know, to a new customer sort of about us, you know, how would you sell us? I think, you know, it’s it’s 30 years, you know, in the business, you know, learning from our mistakes. And like what my dad was just saying about, you know, our employees, I mean, we treat them like family. We our employees are genuinely happy. They are genuinely happy, you know, and that shows in the quality of work and not just from the guys cutting the grass, but, you know, from our, you know, ministers in the office, you know, helping a customer out. And that 30 years in the business, you know, we, like I said, known the right from wrong. So we know any issue that comes up on a customer’s land in our needs to be addressed. Yeah. Immediately and you know professionally and you know mistakes happen. Nobody’s perfect but building that relationship with your customer, that’s that’s what we want. We want long term, you know, relationships, you know, and, you know, it’s just that the that many years in the business is just, you know, so much knowledge. And that’s what I try to tell, you know, any for, you know, prospective customers is that, you know, you’re talking to, you know, a guy with the company. We really care. You know, I can tell you firsthand, you know, absolutely. From top to bottom. And yeah, it shows. And if we make a mistake, will own up to it, you know? But like I said, just we know the rights from wrongs, you know, so a lot of hard working people.
[00:59:52] Speaker 1 Yeah, yeah, that’s good. That’s good. And and I and I agree with everything you guys said. All right. So to wrap up our conversation today, so, Chris, I’m going to ask you, what lessons have you learned from your sons and working with them? Wow. What lessons have I learned from them? Yeah. Probably to be able to walk away. I say this respectfully. Yeah. Walk away and not. Walk away. With what I want to say. And go cool off before letting it just flow out of my mouth. I can tell. I know. I know that they are when I’m on them. Yeah. And I’m on them. I feel like I’m on it because I want them to be successful. Right. And then being successful allows me to be able to retire. Right. And you have to do things right. So when I see some laziness, you could call it laziness state. They’re really not lazy. Sure. But when I’m on them, yeah, I know what’s going through their head. I probably get about a quarter percent. They’re taken in. Yeah, the three quarters of it there cussing me out. So I am learning that. To take that frustration from me, from them, you know, and just backing it off and walking away. Right. And not saying things that can come back, you know, that are detrimental. Yeah. And again, it’s tough. It’s tough because I have to look at things that these are my children, right? This is our family. Yeah. And try to separate the family, you know, from the business, which is like we talked about earlier. It’s very difficult. Right. Because when we’re together, we’re talking about business. Mm hmm. There’s never, you know, hey, how are things going, you know, around the house, you know, how’s your girlfriend doing? You know, there’s none of that stuff, which is very unfortunate. And if there if there really is, it’s very small. And that’s the sad part about it. So I’m trying to to do better with that.
[01:02:15] Speaker 3 I can tell you he’s learned how to write an email from us that PTO stands for paid time off and not our take off. You know.
[01:02:25] Speaker 1 So again, there’s a lot of letter things. That’s correct. Right, right, right, right.
[01:02:31] Speaker 2 Yeah. I think there’s a I think there’s a time we’ve all learned from each other. Sure.
[01:02:38] Speaker 1 Sure, absolutely.
[01:02:38] Speaker 2 Just like, you know, when we are talking about things that we do outside of the office, it’s such a different, you know, different hobbies and different ways of thinking. So I think we all learn. Learn from each other in that sense. Hmm. And, you know, take the good with the bad and try to apply it. Yeah. So it’s every day. There’s always something. Every day.
[01:03:00] Speaker 1 Yeah. Good deal. Yeah. So anything else you guys want to add before we wrap up?
[01:03:05] Speaker 3 You can find our companies, you know, online Pro Mow lines dot com. Yep. And Superior Sprinkler Inc dot com. Yeah. Like we’re saying, we’re located in Loudoun County. So, you know the Ashburn, you know, areas to the Oakton areas to the Haymarket areas. You know we provide you know, those residential maintenance is call our office and it’s phone.
[01:03:31] Speaker 1 Number.
[01:03:32] Speaker 3 703957488 go is our main number.
[01:03:37] Speaker 1 Okay.
[01:03:38] Speaker 3 And they’ll be able to answer any questions that you have. If you’re interested in any services, let them know. And we’ll set up a time for you to meet with one of our representatives.
[01:03:47] Speaker 1 Sounds great.
[01:03:47] Speaker 2 Social media, too. We’re on social media activities. Going to pick up a lot of word this year. We’ve got some good things. And with me behind it, you got some good things. And we’re going to really increase our, you know, our online presence and, you know, with just giving, you know, not necessarily you just looking for straight sales, but just sharing information about the industry, about services and just putting our putting ourselves out there.
[01:04:17] Speaker 1 Good deal. Mm hmm. Chris, anything you want to add? I mean, we had talked earlier about success. Yeah. And, you know, I don’t like that word success because I feel like, you know, it puts you you know, if you can see to it, then you become complacent. Yeah, but doing what we’re doing today and having my children here, that’s success. If I had to say it, you stole the words out of my mouth. I mean, it is. It’s very, very fulfilling to see their passion. Mm hmm. It’s awesome. Yeah, well, running a business for as long as you have is a measure of success as well. It’s not easy. It’s not easy. There’s a lot of things that come along that knock you down. And you guys have done a great job and it’s been a pleasure chatting with you today and really appreciate you guys coming in. Thank you. Thank you. I appreciate it, you guys.