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Lenny Gray Part 1 | Success in Business Starts in the Home

Lenny Gray, CEO of Rove Pest Control and D2D Millionaire, joins the show to discuss how hard work, mental toughness, and extreme commitment have helped him find success. He also discusses the importance of helping employees overcome their fears and taking a firsthand approach to training sales representatives.

Josh Smith (00:03):

Hello, everyone. Welcome back to the sharpest tool, where we take the sting out of marketing with everything that we bring to the table. And I am excited today to invite into our virtual booth here. Lenny gray. Lenny is CEO of D two D millionaire and Rove pest control as well as the author of door to door millionaire. And that's what D two D stands for. For those of you missed that one secrets of making the sale door to door millionaire, secrets of making the sale. Lenny's a master of sales consulting and more. So I want to take a minute to have a warm welcome for Lenny gray. Welcome to the podcast.

Lenny Gray (00:37):

Thanks Josh. Good

Josh Smith (00:39):

To be here. It's good to have you here, man. So let's just jump right in. Tell me a bit about the beginning. You've got a pretty long CV here. Tell me a bit about the beginning. How did you get started?

Lenny Gray (00:47):

So I just in college, I took the path of a buddy of mine recommending door to door sales, summer sales job, just to pay for tuition and books and everything else that, uh, comes up during those college years. So I actually, the first year he asked me to go do door to door sales. I turned him down. I just said, I don't believe in it. I don't think you can make 20 grand in three or four months or whatever. And, you know, I had a, probably a great job making eight bucks an hour at the time. So I was, I was killing it obviously. So, so anyway, you know, he called me right after the summer. I said, Hey, hit me up after the summer. Let me know how your experience goes. Sure enough. He's like, man, I made like 25 grand. They've got me managing a team next year. Like you've got to come out and do this with me. So yeah, the summer of 98, my wife and I packed up about everything. We owned in a Nissan Altima and we drove across the country to Alabama, Birmingham, Alabama. And I started knocking doors, uh, back in 1998. So ended up being the top first year sales rep, that summer made 50 grand. I just haven't looked back now.

Josh Smith (01:54):

So where are you selling back then? So

Lenny Gray (01:56):

I was working for a company that marketed through Orkin pest control. So I was selling pest control agreements.

Josh Smith (02:03):

Oh wow. That's incredible. So you started a pester troll. You already had an affinity for pest control after running into that. That was your, was that your first encounter with pest control and that industry? Absolutely.

Lenny Gray (02:13):

Yeah. So, and I, I mean, I've consulted, you know, for the last 15, 20 years that I've been in the industry, I've consulted for a number of different, uh, types of companies and industries that are exploring door to door, but I've always, yeah. Pest controls kind of where, where I started and I'm still there.

Josh Smith (02:29):

No, I know we're going to dive into teaser alert for everybody listening. We're going to be breaking this into two episodes in the episode two, we're going to dive more into the sales process. So stay tuned for that. And you definitely want to circle back for episode two with Lenny gray here, as we talk about door to door sales specifically, cause I really want to dive into those tactics that you use and how you were successful with that. But you also had a bit of a transition in 2003. You started Rofe pest control, correct? Yep. Yep. Tell, tell me a little bit about that. What, what spawned the desire to do that?

Lenny Gray (02:57):

Actually what happened? It's kind of a, more of a family thing. So we had our first child and he was born in 2002. So after I graduated from school, this marketing firm that I was selling through Orkin hired me on as the VP of sales, I wrote all their training content put together all their video training and kind of everything to make sure their sales reps were successful. And I was doing a lot of traveling. I was on the road a ton. I was opening up markets, test marketing markets. I was all over the place. And when we had our first child, it just, it kind of changed, you know, children do that, right. They kind of change your world a little bit. And so I just, I decided, man, I just gotta do this on my own. So me being the sales guy that I, I didn't know how to kill bugs, forget about that.

Lenny Gray (03:39):

Like I I'd never done it. I've never really serviced a home or I didn't know how the day-to-day operations went. So I actually, over my years with Orkin, I had met a guy that was running the day-to-day operations of a pest control branch. And he actually knew how the business worked and we got to talk it. And I just said, listen, I got to do something on my own. Had a lot of business owners or current business owners than just guys in the company asked me, Hey, like, do you want to partner up? Well, the problem was all these guys were sales guys like me, if you're going into business, you don't partner with somebody that has the same strengths as you, you know, that's that's 1 0 1. And so this guy who was running this branch for Orkin and opening up branches, he understood how to kill bugs. And so I thought that's a match made in heaven. If you want to roll with me, let's let's go start this thing. Yeah.

Josh Smith (04:27):

Um, what, uh, what did the company look like in the beginning stages as you started developing?

Lenny Gray (04:32):

Yeah, so literally because, and we'll probably get to this door to door sales is, is an expensive proposition right now and it's getting worse before it's getting better. As far as, you know, sales reps run, run the show. Now they can demand crazy commissions and, you know, signing bonuses and all those things. But you know, back then we didn't want to start in debt. We didn't want to start in the hole. So it was literally, I was knocking on doors selling and my, my business partner was spraying. It was the two of us and that's what we did. And that's how we started until I sold enough accounts until we brought on a reg tech and then another reg tech and probably a third reg tech. And then we hired a secretary and we just kind of blew the thing up. So that first year we started, again, just my sales.

Lenny Gray (05:15):

We did about a half, a million dollars in revenue. And then from that point, the next year, I probably personally did about a quarter million dollars, but we hired a few guys that did another 250 to 350,000. And next thing you know, we've got a million dollar company and really no overhead, nothing, you know, we're not in debt. Uh, like some of these companies do that start door to door right away. And so year three, then we hire just a huge door to door sales team. We said let's let's rock and roll. So it was really just, you know, we ran it out of my basement, honestly. That's how we started.

Josh Smith (05:49):

Incredible. So the growth was about a million dollars in under two years.

Lenny Gray (05:54):

Yeah. I've heard about the two year mark. Yeah. About two year mark.

Josh Smith (05:57):

Got it. And what, what did you find kind of was I guess a CA looking back on that time, you know, the big secret to the success that you saw within the first two years, I know a lot of single business owner operators when they get into business for themselves, that they dream of that, but some of them might be struggling for that. What was the one thing that you felt really made the difference for you?

Lenny Gray (06:17):

So, I mean, we, you know, we put it all on the line and it wasn't just me. It was my business partner as well. We needed each other to make this thing work from the get-go. And I mean, it was six days a week, 10 hours a day, whether I was busting it out knocking doors, or he was just, you know, spraying from sunup to sundown. I mean, and you hear that all the time, but that's, that's the one, the first core value we call it, the value of victory in, in our company is it's hard work. And so, and, and, you know, hard work can be a subjective term. A lot of people can, you know, define it very differently, but it was, you know, I had a goal every day to sell a certain number of, uh, you know, residential accounts. Yeah. It was just, that's all I thought about, you know, six days a week. Yeah.

Josh Smith (07:00):

Wow. That's incredible. And the indicators that you revealed already to like that you used to scale as a company, what were some of those indicators that you really looked at?

Lenny Gray (07:09):

So for me, obviously in the door to door game, I mean, how many doors are you knocking is part of it, but even more so than that is how many potential clients are you in front of every day. And then what happens to that interaction? Like how many of those are actually interested and those that are actually interested, how many do you actually close out and make the sale on? So it, you know, door to door sales is a numbers game. Just, just like SEO, click ads. I mean, it's how much volume can we drive into the funnel? And for me, the funnel was, I've got a knock on a door and a homeowner has to answer that door when the homeowner answers that door, that's my opportunity to sell that person and to start, you know, building, building revenue in the company. Yeah.

Josh Smith (07:49):

Do you have any big moves over? I mean, you've been in business for now. Gosh, 17 years going on 18 years. Did you have any big moves over the course of that time? I guess, what were some of those changes that you made business wise? So

Lenny Gray (07:59):

I would say first thing is hiring that big door to door sales team year three. But the other thing we did in year three is we started opening up other branches and we started opening up in various states in the Midwest and began after year five in salt lake is where we started after year five. You know, we were the biggest residential pest control company in the state after five years. And that's when we had an acquire come knocking on our door saying, Hey, we want to be the biggest. So we want to buy you out. And we did that, but because we had grown in other locations, we were still functioning as a full-blown pest control company and growing in other locations besides just where we started. So I think just that decision to grow that decision to expand, we did it smart. We didn't go crazy. We didn't want to take over the world. We just, we wanted to provide opportunities for, for people that we knew to work for us and, and then grow with us in different markets.

Josh Smith (08:55):

Absolutely. You know, obviously that's a big move. I mean, moving into states and for some, it's such a monumental shift in like how you have to focus and the things you have to have in place in order to make that successful. What was different about what you did in tackling that challenge that made it go well for you?

Lenny Gray (09:15):

So for us, our philosophy on growth and expansion is based on who it's based on people. It's not based on our goals or something. We put on a white board and say, we're going to be this big and this many years, and we're going to do this. That's great. But unless you have the right people, you're just going to be chasing your tail all day. And so for us, we've always said, if we get the right person, we're going to provide that person with the opportunity to go open their own pest control branch, to go start their own market. And that's been our philosophy over the years is just, just grow with the right people. Don't, don't try to grow too fast if you don't have the right people in place.

Josh Smith (09:54):

Yeah. What were some of the pain points? Obviously there's no shortage of challenges in doing a lot of this, and I'm sure you've hit your fair share of roadblocks along the way. What were some of the most difficult pain points and experiences that you had over the past? You know, at the time you were growing it and expanding?

Lenny Gray (10:09):

I think for me, it's replicating yourself. That's a hard thing to do. I mean, you know, if I can go out and let's say I sell 10 to 15 pest-control accounts every day, if I can do that yet, I'm hiring people that are selling one or two a day, but I realized that if I get 15 or 20 of those guys selling one or two a day, they're doing better than me. They're just not going to do it at my capacity. And so the pain point is dialing it back going it's okay. I don't have to do this. All myself. What I can do is I can teach other people how to be the best they can be so that they can eventually take over from me having to knock a single door. But that's, that's tough to do when you're seeing those mistakes that you're like, oh my gosh, like I'd never make that mistake in a million years, but I've got to watch these sales reps make those mistakes and then teach them and, and craft a way for just about anybody who's willing to be successful knocking doors. And that, that was, that was tough for me to do. So I learned a lot of patience and understanding and trying to get to know people and what their fears are because door to door sales is not for the faint of heart, but once I knew that, then I could, I could structure something specifically for them. And it was just a matter of, it was more of a pain point for me than anybody just, just kind of being willing to help out all levels of aptitude in the door to door game.

Josh Smith (11:29):

Yeah. Did you have any kind of outside influences for that or was that something that you kind of came to on your own understanding?

Lenny Gray (11:35):

Yeah, I kind of had to figure that one out myself. Like I said, I, I didn't know many people that could sell, like I could sell on the doors and if I did, they were probably starting their own companies or doing their own. Yeah. So for me it was just like, well, if this is going to work, I've got to take, you know, this guy's cousin or this guy's nephew or whatever. And I just, I just got to make him the best he can be. Yeah.

Josh Smith (11:55):

Awesome. What, what, I'm just kind of curious your process for doing that. What was it a combination of was it, I know some people do ride along. Some people have like a documented, like written process or video training process apprenticeships. What strategies did you find work the best for replicating yourself?

Lenny Gray (12:13):

For me, it was actually being in the field with my reps. I mean, that's one thing I do to this day. There's not a single rep. That's knocked for my company that hasn't been on the doors with me. And that's crazy to think because I've been doing this a long time, but I still go knock doors with my guys. I kind of feel like if I can't see them, hear them kind of interact and read kind of those non-verbals, that's a big part of the communication and sales game is just reading some of those nuances that you're not going to pick up any other way, but just being there. And so for me, just actually spending the time to be on the doors with my guys. I mean, that, that holds a lot of value in other ways, too, right. That they see you're willing to go to bat for them.

Lenny Gray (12:53):

They see you're willing to be there. Side-by-side with them in that. That's why maybe we have guys come back for four or 5, 6, 7 years to come sell with us because they feel that love of somebody who knows the game. But for me, that was ancillary to me being able to go, Hey, did you know you're using a lot of filler words or when you're standing in front of the customer, you're kind of standing with a, with a posture that's, that's kind of more intimidating. Like maybe you need to turn to the side a little bit. Maybe you need to be less intimidating when you're selling, or maybe you need to have more confidence. You know, your shoulders are slumping, whatever it was. I couldn't see that unless I was on the doors with him,

Josh Smith (13:30):

I love that. It seems like it's a pretty uncommon thing nowadays among owners to actually take that level of ownership as the company grows and scales, but it's so necessary. W what would you say are some of the principles that you practice as a company and how do they affect your day to day operations and client interactions?

Lenny Gray (13:48):

Yeah, so again, our, our values of victory, hard work, mental toughness and commitment. Those can encompass a lot of things, but those are big deals for us, whether you're a technician out in the field, whether you're a CSR answering phones, whether you're a middle management, whether you're you're a door to door sales rep, it doesn't matter. Those three aspects of our business seem to be what we've always held to as being kind of, if you can work hard regardless of your position, if you can be mentally tough, we're in the customer service industry, you're going to hear stuff, right. And, or you're in the door to door, game people. Aren't always excited to see. I know you probably think they are, but they're not. And then finally, just being able to have that commitment to whatever you're doing, do it the best you can do and, and keep the commitments that you make, whether it's with your employers, whether it's with, you know, your family, whatever it is, just be committed to what you do.

Josh Smith (14:42):

I love that. I mean, you know, I know you have this built-in philosophy as well, uh, for to said no success in business, unless you have success at home. Tell me a little bit about that. Why that's so important to you?

Lenny Gray (14:52):

Well, I, I just feel like, again, for me, it's, it's about, it's about everything. You know, you read things about people saying life balance, and nobody can perfectly balance every aspect of their life. And that, that there's truth to that. You know, nobody can be perfect, you know, work home, faith, family, everything else, that that balance is really tough individual growth. But I think if you want to be the type of person that other people want to work for, I hope you're a good husband. I hope you're a good father. I hope you're a good person. Not just those eight to 10 to 12 hours a year, you're at work, but those five or six to eight hours, you have to be home with with the people you should care about the most. So I think it all goes together and, and those that are the most successful, aren't just successful in business. That's not going to make somebody happy forever, just because they've got a lot of money or they were successful. I think there's more to life than just being successful in business.

Josh Smith (15:48):

Totally agree. You clearly have a lot going on. Lenny me, the CEO of Rove pass. You're the author of a new book, slated to come out Q1 or Q2 of next year, the CEO of door to door millionaire. So you got a lot going on. How do you effectively manage your time across so many different reasons?

Lenny Gray (16:06):

I pray a lot. Uh, yeah. You know, often, I don't know. I can't say, I mean, I'm, I'm a very organized, detailed oriented person. My Google calendar is like my life and it's kind of funny because every now and again, my wife will add things cause you know, she can share my calendar. So she'll add things to my calendar cause she knows my famous saying at home is if it's on my calendar, it'll get done. And so for me, if it's on my calendar, it's going to get done. My calendar has just about every half an hour field almost every day and it doesn't just have to be work and it's not just work. I mean, but if I, I want to make sure I know that if my kid's got a soccer game or a basketball game or a dance recital, I'm going to be there, that's on my calendar and I'm going to support them regardless of what else is going on.

Josh Smith (16:55):

Well, as we round up here, this has been really insightful. Lenny, what tips would you have for any owner operators, listening, who they're feeling stuck, they're feeling overwhelmed with their time and responsibilities and what they need to do day in and day out to help their business grow.

Lenny Gray (17:08):

I think it really boils down to being willing to do everything necessary that anybody else in the, in your company and your organization would do. And so if that means, you know, somebody's sick and you got to answer phones, you can't think you're above answering phones, you know, just because you're you're you have the title of a business owner, titles are irrelevant. It's really just getting the work done regardless of what that work is. There was an instance or two, I will tell you this when we were so booked with sales and our, when we first started that I did have to help my business partner go out and granulate lawn or spray something somewhere. And you know, I got, uh, you know, he was there with me while we were doing it and trying to coach me along. And that's what took, it, took me off the door. So I wasn't happy about it. That's my strength. But at the same time, it's like, w we just get it done. We got to get done what needs to be done. So that's, that's probably the best advice I can give to those that are, those are just challenged or struggling to keep the

Josh Smith (18:02):

Business afloat. I love it, Lenny. Well, I appreciate your time, my friend, and we'll see you back on episode two, where we're going to dive more into your favorite topic and that is door to door sales. So I appreciate your time and all the insight ma'am thanks, Josh. And for everybody listening, wherever you might be listening at, definitely hit the like button and give that subscribe button a little pound, so you can continue to get more of this awesome content from the sharpest tool. And you'll also get a notification about Lenny second episode, where we're going to dive more into the door to door, salesman, mentality, and grab a lot of good insight and information from him there. And from all of us here at the sharpest tool, wherever you might be listening at, we'll talk to you soon. Thanks.

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