How a recession took me from unemployed to building a multi million dollar business.

It was late 2008, well into the recession, and the moment I was dreading had become reality. It was layoff day. A day that I knew was coming, and luckily had been preparing for. It was a moment in time where I felt very vulnerable. I was living in my now (ex) bosses house, so I got fired and evicted in the same few weeks. There were no jobs on the horizon, the Great Recession was in full swing.

But I barely graduated high school, how could I start a business?

I only had half the requirements to start my own business, as I failed the business portion of my state contractors test. I think this is where most folks would just say screw it, and file for unemployment. That wasn’t me, it was not what I stood for. So a few days before I had to pack up my belongings and move out, I did what every millennial does when they need answers…

I googled that sh*t”

I entered something in that mysterious box they call google, that would light a fire in me I had no idea existed.

Is it a good idea to start a business during a recession?

The answers were riveting, and it was like a light bulb went on, this is it, this is my chance at success (read #10).

I had always been the outspoken employee, it didn’t matter if I was working for my dad, or someone I barely knew. If your sh*t was broken, I was telling you how to fix it. Your process, the way people communicated, and every little thing inside the business that I thought needed help. Even in my earliest days as a plumber working for my dad, I was looking for ways to improve the process. Looking back, I was probably annoying, but my goal was simple:

“Make every boss that ever let me go, regret their decision”.

Obviously the other factors drove me, financial success, having the things I always dreamed about, cars, boats etc. Those things just were not as important. I wanted closure, I wanted to prove to everyone that a kid with no education, could build a million dollar business.

Next, I did what any broke 24 year old kid did, I traded my 91 Nissan 300 ZX for a beat up cargo van, and moved into a friends house.

I gathered as many tools as I could, and I was “in business”. Side job after side job, I began building my reputation for reliability. I would take any job, for any dollar amount, as long as I could get paid right away. During this time, I would use my free time to finish my business plan. Any time I worked for a business owner, I would hand them a copy of my business plan, in hopes they would lend me the money I needed… Some showed interest, but no bites.

“The big step”

I was 3 years into a 5 year apprenticeship program, still going to school 2 nights a week. Gas was pricey at the time, and despite living on Ramen noodles, I was burning through cash quickly. I needed a leg up, someone with experience, someone who could just help me get to the next level. I searched through my phone and a familiar name kind of popped out at me. I remembered this person had been a successful contractor, and at one time, asked me what I planned on doing with my career. I also remembered that I had just called him 6 months ago looking for a job, and he declined.

I made the call… And it would change my career forever.

I dropped by the next day and showed Pat Kerney my business plan. I left with nothing more than a handshake and a “I’ll call you back”. I was a bit disappointed, but hell, I was used to it by now. 3 days went by, nothing…

I will never forget the next phone call. My phone rang and it was Pat Kerney. Something deep inside my gut said, this is it, this is the phone call that will turn this ship around. IT WAS. He asked me to come in so we could review the business plan and go over some things. I was ecstatic.

The next day, I drove over to the Kerney office, pulled into a spot, and sat in the conference room. Pat came in with my business plan in hand. He opened it up and I saw a lot of pencil marks, some scribbles, and underlined items. We went over the basics; hourly rates needed to be higher, target clients needed to be changed etc.

In my business plan, I had asked for 30K dollars as start up money, and I listed out the items I planned on purchasing with the 30K.

“you don’t need money, you need resources. Here’s the key to one of our service trucks, it has everything you need in it. Anything you cant find, we will get you. We have a lot of healthcare work, we can use you as a subcontractor. Just don’t ruin my reputation, that’s all I ask”

We made a deal that day for a 50/50 partnership, and a buy out offer when we both agreed. In 30 minutes I made more progress than I had in the last 6 months.

As I write this, Greenteam Service Corp. AKA “the company” has accomplished things I never imagined. Here are some of the details.

#1877 on the Inc. 5000 list for 2016

#11 fastest growing company in South Florida Business Journal 2015

#17 fastest growing company in South Florida Business Journal 2016

In the 6 years since that day, we have seen substantial growth, and the pains that go along with that growth. I have learned lessons, and continue to do so.

We now have 4 vertical markets, Education, Healthcare, Class A office, and Hospitality. It was a far cry from the crack houses and motels Iwas crawling under for my dad growing up. But those motels? Those were part of my drive. I treasured these new clients so much, because I never wanted to see the motel again.

On a personal level, with the help of my wife and business partner, we have managed to raise two beautiful daughters, buy a home, and buy out my original business partner. And while I don’t have any of those fancy material items yet, I have something more valuable…

A family owned multi-million dollar revenue producing company.

Stay tuned here on Medium, as I highlight the moments that helped me achieve the goal of building that business, and some of the tricks that got me there.