The Sharpest Tool™

Allan Draper Part 1 | Preparing For Growth From the Moment You Open Your Doors

Allan Draper is the CEO and Co-Founder of proof. Pest Control. Growing up in a small farming town, Allan knows the importance of community and persistence. He shares how to scale a business from an idea to a thriving eight-figure enterprise.

Josh Smith (00:03):

Hello, everyone. Welcome to the sharpest tool podcast, where we take the sting out of marketing. My name is Josh. You're familiar with it by now. If you've been any listener for any length of time of the sharpest tool podcast today, I got the pleasure of speaking with Alan Draper. Alan is the CEO of proof pest control, which is headquartered in Arizona. He co-founded it with his brother. And then just six years, he grew into an eight figure enterprise across seven states. He specializes in scaling businesses and helping entrepreneurs transformed an idea into a thriving business. He's a serial entrepreneur investor, business growth expert attorney, and even a podcast. So, so he's going to bring that personality and fire to the sharpest tool today. He's a proud father and husband, and he's passionate about volunteering in his community as well. Couldn't be more excited to welcome Alan to the podcast. So, Alan welcome.

Alan Draper (00:53):

Hey, thanks Josh. Glad to be here.

Josh Smith (00:55):

Yeah, it's good to have you for everybody who might not be aware about your background, it might not be aware of proof even as big as they are. Yeah. Tell us a little bit about your background. How'd you get into home services and, uh, started proof pest control. Um, you grew up on a farm, right? If I'm not mistaken.

Alan Draper (01:10):

Yeah. So I actually grew up in a small farming community on the Oregon Idaho border. It's actually in Oregon and it's just directly west, probably about 40 miles directly. West of Boise is the easiest way to explain it, but a town of 2000 people nice and small back then my world was really small and I didn't think there was much I could do to affect the outside world very much. And as time went on, my horizon started to expand and I left home when I was about 17. I graduated from high school, a little early, went to college, got my undergraduate degree from BYU. Um, right after that, my brother started selling pest control door to door and he's very good at it. And he called me and he said, Hey, we could do this. We could do pest control. And so I went to Columbus, Ohio where he was working and I was on the technician side.

Alan Draper (02:09):

So I was a technician with the idea of he was gonna handle the sales. I was gonna handle the operations and, and this, this is 2006, but we couldn't make it work. Didn't have the finances, didn't have the, you know, the wherewithal to make it work. He stuck with it. He stuck with door to door sales and pest control industry owned several companies and exited. I went to law school and practiced law for a while and a few years into practicing law. Um, he was making another exit and we started talking about it again. And that was 2014. And we opened our doors in March of 2015. Yeah.

Josh Smith (02:46):

Well, what type of law do you practice?

Alan Draper (02:48):

So I practice mostly commercial litigation, basically in court involving businesses. I represented plaintiff businesses that alleged a contract breach. So saying another business breach a contract. And so I sued people for early.

Josh Smith (03:03):

Did you enjoy that versus being a business owner?

Alan Draper (03:07):

It's kind of crazy because when you practice law, especially in the litigation arena, the only stuff that came across my desk was when businesses broke down, when there was an issue with a partnership when there was an issue between vendors or whatever, it gave me this really myopic and dismal view of business, because I only saw it when businesses were unsuccessful. Yeah. And for that reason, it's really tough for attorneys to kind of break out of this paradigm and realize that, okay, I'm handling like a microscopic percentage of businesses that fail or that have issues when there's a lot of great opportunity out, out there. And I always wanted to own a business. I have an entrepreneurial spirit where one of the reasons that I was at least professionally put on this planet was to build and scale businesses. And that's one of the reasons why I left the law is because what that was doing to my mindset, how negative I was starting to do businesses. Yeah.

Josh Smith (04:09):

And a few other pieces of focus in your undergrad. Tell me a bit about those.

Alan Draper (04:13):

Yeah. So I got my BS in psychology, but I got minors in chemistry, philosophy and Spanish. I lived in south America for a couple of years on a volunteer mission. And that's where I picked up the Spanish at BYU. I was able to take one test and I got like 16 credits or something. So I got most of my minor by taking a single couple hour exam. Yeah. And I love to read, I love to learn new things and it caused a problem because when I was getting my undergraduate degree, I kept adding minors. Cause I thought, you know, chemistry was really cool and didn't have any plans, you know, to make anything out of chemistry. But I go see my advisor one day and he said, Hey, Alan, you know, you're taking somebody else's spot. So you got to graduate, get out of here. Yeah.

Josh Smith (05:02):

So yeah, the psychology piece, uh, you know, the chemistry piece Spanish, obviously in there, how have you found that all has helped kind of reshape that mindset as you were moving into now, business ownership, when you reengage those conversations with your, your brother, what, what really helped with how you approach the business leader mindset?

Alan Draper (05:21):

Well, I think when you expand your horizons, as people say, and you learn new things, you acquire an ability to be able to solve problems and business owners. I look at what they do as essentially two things. They create something and they solve problems. And usually those two things go hand in hand and as I was able to study different seemingly unrelated subjects, it just helped me to be able to think outside the box. And it's tough for me to say that my mastery of organic chemistry helps in business, but it definitely does just in terms of being analytical and thorough in my thought process.

Josh Smith (06:05):

Yeah. So you, you started off kind of on the tech side, in the pest control world to transition over to that a little bit, when you started the business was experiencing it from an operational perspective from the ground up a priority to you.

Alan Draper (06:18):

Yeah, definitely. So I was like the first everything of proof. Right? So when we started, I was the first technician. I was the first accountant. I was the first customer service rep. The first inside sales rep, all these different roles I was able to experience. And that was the plan. My plan was to continually replace myself and I wanted to know enough about each of those roles to where I could manage it. But as I've been able to replace myself, I replaced myself with people that are actually better at those roles than I am. Yeah. And that's been a huge asset to allowing us to scale because I was able to get my hands dirty, so to speak so that I could understand those positions so that I could show interest and be able to manage those different roles.

Josh Smith (07:07):

Yeah. I'm so glad you mentioned that word scale. It seems like a buzzword in the business world today. Everybody wants to scale, but nobody necessarily, a lot of people don't really know what that means, how to do it. How did you start to truly scale proof when you really started getting that roll going?

Alan Draper (07:23):

Well, I think it was part of our vision from the beginning is scaling. And we picked an industry that I've really had to come to love pest control and home services. It's not something that I was really attracted to by itself. Right. If I didn't own a pest control business, I wouldn't be a pest control technician if that makes sense, but I'm interested in sports and I'm interested in, in several different hobbies that I would do, even if it weren't for a profession. But because of that, because I get into pest control, not necessarily with any interest in it per se, I immediately started scaling from the beginning. So I didn't get stuck in the proverbial rat race because I didn't necessarily do it to fill a role. I did it to create a business. And I talked to professionals all the time in the best control and other home service industries where they can't get out of their truck. They can't scale their business because they're too busy doing services and things like that. And I never had that problem because I never had that desire. And I was never really that great of a technician, to be honest with you, which is funny because that made it easier for me to scale. Yeah.

Josh Smith (08:37):

Can you think back, like, as you're starting to do this scaling thing, or maybe even to some of the conversations you have with other home service business owners who might be aiming to scale, or maybe they're not even clear on what that means, how would you define scaling? And do you think everybody should be aiming to scale with how you're defining it?

Alan Draper (08:55):

Yeah. That's a great question. And the reason why that's such a great question is because it depends. Yeah. It depends on what that individual wants to do. I have a buddy and he's owned a successful pest control company. I think it's going on 30 years in Florida and he knows so much about the business, know so much about the industry, but he still runs a route and he wants to, that's what he wants to do. And so his definition of scale and my definition of scale are completely different. He wants to add, you know, a hundred customers a year. And so it really depends on what the individual wants to do. Where do they want to be in five years? Where do they want to be in 10 years? And then you kind of work backward. Yeah. So it just, I mean, it's a personal preference and I always tell people, you know, it depends on, on what you want to accomplish, what your long-term goals and your vision for your company are. And at the end of the day, a lot of people see the results that prove in some of my other businesses have had. And the truth of it is they're not willing to do what I had to do to get here. So yeah.

Josh Smith (10:00):

Yeah. That's a great point because you know, you would look at the individual goals of the business owner and some of them are, they're just, they're just simpler. You know, it's not as aggressive maybe, you know, in order to get where they want to get. I have, I have a family member, for example, his definition of like his goals are so different than mine. Mine are typically here and his are here. And for a while it took me, it took me a while to really understand like, that's okay. Like he doesn't need to be where I'm at and I don't need to be where he's at. It all just depends on, what's ultimately driving him, motivating us. And I think there's some signs that you take a look at when you look at your business that lead you to understand what, what that looks like. Are there any signs you identified with small to medium sized businesses that you've identified? Maybe you let's take your perspective on what scaling looks like. Are there certain things that you've identified as like, yep. This is the time to make this decision in order to start that trajectory. What points in a business's life cycle do those tend to manifest themselves?

Alan Draper (10:55):

I think the number one thing that comes into play is, is risk tolerance. And what I advise these small to medium, to even large businesses, I want to understand what they're willing to do to quote unquote scale. Yeah. So when they get to a point where they're like, you know what, I'll be okay. I have a little nest egg. I'll be okay if I lose it all. Yeah. That's when it's for me, that's when I grab them, pull them aside and say, let's, let's do it. And that's not for everybody. But to really scale where you're doubling your company every year, which the first couple of years, it doesn't, that's not that difficult to double the size of your company, but when you've been around for a while, it becomes increasingly difficult. And then you have to dig down deep and find out, Hey, is this really consistent with who I want to be in the direction? I want to take my company.

Josh Smith (11:47):

Yeah. As a business owner, you're thrown through that emotional cycle. I mean, as a psychology person, you probably know that seen it, understood it and studied it. So when you get into that hyper-growth mode, it comes with no shortage of challenges that you get to overcome and then problems that you get to solve. You get the opportunity to solve them. They can manifest themselves in different ways. And some people just don't have the tolerance or the patience to deal with that. And so sometimes it might not the juice isn't worth the squeeze. I tend to think about my personal trainer, right? My personal trainer is like, Josh, you know what? To get a six pack. You might not want to do what you gotta do in order to get that six pack. All the foods you have to forego. Right. I think about that too, because it really is. So it's such a personal journey for every business owner when it comes to the place they want to take their business.

Alan Draper (12:32):

Yeah. And that's a, that's a perfect analogy. And a lot of times what's tough is people say, Hey, I want to have a six pack or I want to have a 10, 20, 30, $50 million company. But a lot of it is because they're naive about what it's going to take. And then they learn, they get going with it. They're like, Hey, you know what? I'm gonna cut out sweets for a couple of days. And then Christmas rolls around, right? It's like, man, there's cookies and stuff everywhere. People are literally literally bringing stuff to my front door. Right. And so, and so you get to this point, you get to this crossroads where you're like, am I doing this? Or am I not? Because growing a company is very, very painful in, in many ways. Part of the reason why I enjoy scaling so much is because I love those growing pains. I really do. I love heading in a direction, seeing a corner up ahead and not knowing what's on the other side. And that's one of the main reasons why I get out of bed in the morning is the unknown. And some people that stresses them out, they can't sleep at night because they're so stressed about that. And that's perfectly fine. But to get to a point where you want to really scale a company, you have to get comfortable with those growing pains and embracing the unknown.

Josh Smith (13:44):

Yeah. Do you have any procedures, data points, things in place right now for scaling when it comes to your businesses. Obviously you've done this several times over, what are some of the common ones that you've encountered and you see with your clients and things that you deal with.

Alan Draper (13:59):

So for us, we set up a model even before we opened our doors at proof where we were going to use internal people to help us scale. And that includes both employees and partners. So for example, though, the way we're able to open so many branches so quickly, I actually opened two branches, one in New York, one in Reno within the last eight days. And the way that we're able to do that is through those partnerships. And so we're able to scale because it's, it's who we are. That's back in 2014, before we even had a dollar in revenue, we started putting these systems in place and the people that we hire, there are people that are comfortable and they really embrace that growth and they get passionate about it like we do. And they're excited for something new. So more than anything, it's our cultures. It's what we talk about. It's, it's just the direction that we've always wanted to take our companies.

Josh Smith (14:57):

Have you found that difficult to find the right people who have that mindset kind of moving into the business and I guess what are some of the steps and things you've identified as this person needs to have this, or we need to make sure they possess this as we're going into the hiring process to make sure we're getting the right people on the bus. Yeah.

Alan Draper (15:16):

So that's a great question. One of my favorite books is Jim Collins, good degree and end. He talks about how important it is to get the right people on the bus and how toxic it can be to have the wrong people on the bus. And I tell my senior leadership that the hardest thing that they will do period, is finding and retaining good people. Yeah. And so it's, it's an ongoing struggle. We are always hiring which, which got crazy with COVID, right? Because we didn't know what was going to happen. We didn't know government was going to shut our doors down or whatever, but this process for us and finding these people, which is very difficult is we just talk about who we are early on. We're not so focused on what somebody can do. We feel like we have the assets and the infrastructure that we can train people to do what they need to do.

Alan Draper (16:08):

Sure. What we're looking for is we're looking for personalities. We're looking for people that are on board with our core values. We talk about what we're trying to do with the company. And we let them know that, Hey, it's this isn't always a smooth ride. When, when you're going a hundred, 150 miles an hour, things can get bumpy every now and again, and hiring is an imperfect science, right. And we don't always nail it, but we catch on the first 30 days. And so it's, I think it's just talking about it and you know, just looking for that and valuing those, those kind of quote, unquote soft skills and personality types over any hard skills or experience they might have.

Josh Smith (16:53):

Yeah. To bring it like really pointed to cause this, this is such a massive challenge. I mean, across home services, you got people having a hard time finding the right people to plug into their organization. Is it something you've found a particular way to really vet them in that interview process? Or are you finding it's more like, like how do you weed out the yes, man. Right. And this is like, yeah, I'm totally on board, but then you get them into the organization. It's like, ah, maybe you're not it. Or is it more like, you know what? You do your best in the interview process. And then you just really hammer in on those first 30 days to really identify, make sure that they're following through with what their commitment ultimately was in the interview process.

Alan Draper (17:33):

Yeah. I always tell people that a potential employee that's sitting in front of you will never be better than they are in their interview. Yeah. That's, they're on their best behavior. They're, you know, they've prepared for it that they aren't going to get better. And so you're right. It's so difficult knowing, but over the years, as we've tried, we've tried different things. We always do a screening interview where we ask a certain number of questions. We always tell them to look at our core values and read about our company, because we're going to ask you questions about those things during the interview. And depending on their level of interest and engagement, we know how interested they are in the company. And we can kind of assess those things during kind of that second touch point when we interview them with multiple leaders, but really an excitement about our companies about our proof gives back program, which is our local charity organization.

Alan Draper (18:33):

Well, you can tell, you can tell them they can and they can fake it sometimes. And some have, but I think Jerry Seinfeld in one of his episodes, he's talking about how, when you break up with somebody, it's kind of like knocking over a vending machine. You don't do it in one push, right? It's not like one push and it's over, you got to rock it back and forth. And I like that analogy for bringing somebody on board. It's not one push and everything's kosher. They're excited. It's that first 30, 60, 90 days is really important. And you can get people that initially weren't there for the right reason, but you can kind of coach them and train them and, and help them if you don't give up on them too early. And so there's a kind of a mixed bag of things that we do and approaches that we use.

Josh Smith (19:18):

I love that. Well, in terms of somebody who's looking to scale start, so there's just like, I don't know where to start Alan. Like, I've thought about this scaling thing. I've seen all the big players talk about it. Everybody seems like it's something I should pay attention to after they'd done that investigation personally. And they're like, you know what? I do want to get to that place. I want to commit myself in that direction. Where do they start? Where should they begin in terms of setting themselves up to scale. If they haven't set themselves up prior for

Alan Draper (19:49):

The very first thing they need to do is re replace themselves. So whatever their day-to-day is currently, whether they're the technician, whether they're customer service and the company accountant or all of the above, they need to hire somebody like three weeks ago and have that person take over those, those duties. There's something magical about using leverage in business. And I don't understand why it is the way it is, but what happens if there's somebody that is a true entrepreneur at heart, they will find what they need to do to scale their business. Sometimes it's in it's indirect cells. Sometimes they need to go knock doors. Sometimes they need to spend more time working with a marketing vendor, for example. And those things are so tough to do when they're driving around in their truck all day, but first step replace yourself and get out of the day-to-day as soon as possible. Love that.

Josh Smith (20:40):

Awesome. You know, I really appreciate all the time and attention you placed on helping us understand scaling Alan is really, really helpful, valuable as we kind of wrap up here. Any final thoughts for other home service industry, business owners out there pest control or otherwise, especially those that are wanting to grow their business, obviously get out of the truck, phenomenal advice. Um, any other final tips? Yeah,

Alan Draper (21:03):

I would think people need to consider that risk investment. They need, if they need to figure out like what they're willing to do to scale, and they need to understand the cash management that is going to take a lot of people want to keep their current salary, keep receiving distribution from their company. When, if you really want to scale, you're going to have to pump every nickel back into your company and marketing. I love that.

Josh Smith (21:26):

Um, Alan, thank you so much. Where can people find out more about you about your podcast and everything you got going on? Yeah,

Alan Draper (21:32):

So people can find me on my website, Alan I also host the business growth podcast. Yeah. Really easy to find in those two locations would love some more listeners and some more ears.

Josh Smith (21:46):

Awesome. Well, this has been such a jam packed episode and there were only like tapping the surface of what this conversation looks like. And I know you're going to be back with us next week. So shameless plug definitely subscribed. So you can make sure to join us next week for round two, with Alan Draper, where we're going to talk about vision and setting goals, which I think is a big part of the scaling conversation. So we'll dive in next time. Thank you, Alan so much. Appreciate your time. Thank you. Awesome for everybody listening, wherever you might be listening at, it definitely hit that like button and give that subscribe button a little pound and ring that bell. If you're watching this on YouTube, so you can continue to get more of this awesome content, getting pumped out by all of us at the sharpest tool podcast with scorpion until next time we'll talk to you soon. Thanks.

Alan Draper (22:32):


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