Welcome to another episode of the Entrepreneurial Mindset Project! Today, we have an inspiring story to share with you. Meet Ashley and Abby Garfield, identical twins and young entrepreneurs. Starting with just a vacuum cleaner, a broom, a bucket, and a mop, they launched a cleaning business in high school. As they pursued business courses at a local community college, their determination grew, and they decided to fully commit.
Now, at the age of 21, they are well on their way to turning their vision into reality. This story gives us a glimpse into the early stages of an entrepreneurial journey and shows the power of vision combined with the determination to make it happen.
So, without further ado, join us as we chat with the Garfield Twins and be inspired by their entrepreneurial spirit.
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How A Vision Becomes Reality With The Garfield Twins
I’m speaking with Ashley and Abby Garfield, two young entrepreneurs who happen to be identical twins with nothing more than a vacuum cleaner, a broom, a bucket, and a mop. They started a cleaning business while in high school, and after taking a few business courses at a local community college, they decided to go all in.
As their business began to grow, so did their vision. At the age of 21, they are well on their way to transforming that vision into a reality. This story gives us a glimpse inside the early stages of an entrepreneurial journey. It also speaks to the power of vision when combined with the willingness to do what it takes to make it happen. Without any further ado, I hope you enjoy my conversation with the Garfield Twins.
Abby and Ashley, thanks for joining our show.
Thank you for having us.
It’s so great. You say the same sentence at the same time.
I’m excited to have this conversation with you guys. For the readers, we met years ago, and we came across your business. What is the name of your business? Let me start with that.
It’s A & A Home Suite Home Inc.
That’s A & A is Abby and Ashley. I like that name because it’s broader than what you are doing right now. Before we even get into what it is you are doing, I want to ask you how you got on an entrepreneurial journey. You are both 21 years old, and you have been on this entrepreneurial path for a couple of years now. What prompted you to take this course?
I would say at an early age, starting in high school, we started a business program through Lakeland while we were in high school. We were doing multiple jobs to get that business experience. We realized that it was something that we could do because we were putting in a lot of effort and we knew that we were going to be able to do it on our own. That’s what inspired us to branch out of our own business after learning all the skills that we needed to further our business on our own.
Let me unpack that. You were in high school and you went to our local community college, Lakeland Community College. You took a business course. Let me back you up. Why did you do that? What prompted you to do that?
It was something that we always wanted to do. Our dad is a small business owner, so we saw the lifestyle that you can have where you don’t have a boss, you have freedom in your own life. Ashley and I wanted to do something together and it was the perfect opportunity for us to pretty much start our own business and start from there.
That’s pretty common, your dad’s an entrepreneur, so it’s like normal for you. When you graduated from high school, were you thinking about going to college? Did you go to college or were you like, “No, we are going to go start a business?”
We just went into the workforce and we knew that that’s what we were going to do and it worked very well for us.
Tell me about this course you took at Lakeland. Tell me a little bit more about that. Was it a business course like how to start a business or was it an internship?
It was marketing and business and it was a full simulation of creating and starting your own business. It had different sources where there was a legal course. There was your accounting course, your marketing, so many different ways to all that goes into business, little crash courses, but also mostly a simulation where we had already started our business in high school to see how well it would do. That’s why we took the leap of faith and just right off the bat, out of high school started our business because we had already learned so much and done that simulation and it worked out well. We had all that information and everything we needed to do legally to start our corporation and stuff.
Did you start your business in high school?
Let me make sure I got this right. You started the business in high school. What business was that?
That was cleaning.
Like a residential cleaning business?
You started that in high school and then you took the class at Lakeland to better understand the managerial aspects of it. Is that what you are saying?
You were already generating revenue.
We are also working for other companies and other jobs to learn more skills to go into that.
What other jobs and companies were you working for? Tell me a little bit about that.
We were working a retail job at TJ Max. We have worked at so many small businesses. We worked at a local gym. We were at a barbershop, small businesses. Seeing how it was run and how the boss had all this free time. We want to be like that. It was great that you could be your boss and they made the hours and they could be cool about it.It's great to be your own boss. Click To Tweet
There was this desire for freedom that was powerful. It’s what it is. We are not meant to have someone tell us what to do all day every day. It’s a natural way. What were people saying to you when you started your business? At 16 or 17 years old, were people saying you are crazy?
We were lucky right off the bat. We found very loyal, awesome customers who trusted us because of our quality of work. They were able to understand why we were charging the rate. Back then we were charging the same rate as all the other cleaning companies. Being young and starting, it was difficult to get people to be on our side about that. Once they understood our quality, they were totally fine and understood why we were charging that rate. We have had those clients since we began and it’s just about the quality of work that you are able to do.
I get you. What you are saying is people are reluctant. You are a 16 or 17-year-old girl and you are naive. “I don’t know if you are going to break stuff in my house. Are you going to do a crappy job? I’m going to have to nag after you.” People are thinking, “I’m not quite sure.” They don’t know who you are. You had to overcome that. One of the things I wanted to talk to you about for a minute is you were charging what professional cleaners were charging. You were trying to do it on the cheap. There were so many aspiring entrepreneurs struggling with that. I wanted to ask you, was that hard for you to ask for at the time seemed a lot of money?
It is. Once people get to know us and see our work and how hard we do it there are so many benefits to us. We are private cleaners, not some big corp that takes all the money and we get a little bit of it. We do care about all of our clients. They make us have this career that we love and we try to get personal with everyone. Once they know us, they understand why we charge what we do and how we compete at the top with the big corps of cleaning businesses.
Going off of that, also the reason why when we send out ads and they answer our ads, the first thing they say is they were unhappy with their previous cleaners. The reasons were because they had different people coming every time or certain things like that. They were getting pushed off the schedule where we make sure that that’s our goal where it’s only me and Abby doing the cleaning. There’s no mismatch of anybody not liking who’s coming. We are the ones that reach out to everybody personally. We put everybody on the schedule. We work for our clients. We schedule them when they want to be scheduled. It’s not like if they want to be on the weekends, that’s no problem for us. We don’t have what a lot of corporations have in a standard. We are able to work for our clients.
You saying a lot there, Ashley. That’s how a lot of great businesses can be built from ideas that aren’t remarkable. You got the gist of it. If you take care of people, you can build a fantastic business doing anything almost. If you pay attention to what people want and need. I can testify. You show up on the dot at 9:00. No excuses every week. You could set your clock to it. You are rolling in the driveway at 5 minutes to 9:00. I have seen that. That’s pretty remarkable. When you are 16 or 17 years old, starting this business, do your friends think you are crazy? How was that received by people around you at the time?
A lot of people didn’t realize how well we were doing it. They didn’t understand that we worked hard and we did make good money. A lot of the time people do think about cleaning services, “You don’t make that much money or you don’t charge that much.” Stuff like that. It’s a hard mindset a lot of people don’t have to own their own business but you do have to work very hard. You don’t just show up in the evening and clock in and clock out. It’s a 24/7 job. It is hard for someone who doesn’t own their own business to understand. Being so young too, we had to miss out on some things, but it was worth it. It’s worth it to own your own business.You have to work very hard to own your business. You miss out on some things but it's worth it. Click To Tweet
It’s almost like hard now, easy later or easy now, hard later. The hardship of going to a job every day that’s not satisfying, that you aren’t into. That’s hard too. It’s hard in different ways but it’s also hard. It sounds like when you took this course at Lakeland it gave you a boost of confidence. Is that what you are saying? Like, “We got this.”
We can do this.
You were side hustling before that and that helped you legitimize the business and help you with the mechanical side of it. Did you need money to start this business? What was that startup looking like? Did you have to go get a loan from your dad or how’d you do that?
We were able to start and legalize our business. It was $1,000 to incorporate it. We pay for our cars, gas, supplies, and marketing. With our business, we are very lucky that our expenses other than that are very low. We are very lucky in that sense.
You are keeping a lot of what you are bringing in. My point is you didn’t need a lot of money to start this business at all. You already had a car, so you probably took your vacuum cleaner you already had or whatever the basic ideas you started with what you got. How did you guys find clients in the beginning? Word of mouth. Were you doing Facebook or TikTok?
All of our business is almost solely on word of mouth. Guests come over and come to our house and say, “Your house is so clean.” “We are great cleaners.” Family and friends started hiring us out and it just blew up from there. We have only done very few marketing just because we were so busy with marketing we have already had just from word of mouth of doing family and friends.
You guys are growing. You do not even need to worry about it. One of the advantages you have is you are not paying other people to do the work. You are doing the work. People get Abby and Ashley, they don’t get somebody that a new hire or whatever. What’s the bigger vision here for you? What gets you out of bed in the morning? Why are you doing this? Is it freedom, is there a bigger vision out there?
Right now we have a bigger vision. We are also real estate agents. That’s why our business is Home Suite Home because everything that’s involved with the home is what we do. Our bigger vision is all of our cleaning clients are our farm of people who get us even more business. That’s why we love doing it because we do get very personal and people love and trust us. Hopefully, they will love and trust us to help them buy and sell homes.
Growing further on from that, we love to own rental properties and we have already dabbled in managing them and cleaning them is what we do. We have learned all those things of how we can turn over homes and just make an even bigger profit with it. We have turned into property managers with all of our cleaning experience and real estate experience and just getting personal with people.
What you are saying, Abby, this is often overlooked sometimes, but I don’t care what you are doing. There’s joy and satisfaction that comes from fulfilling a need. In having a happy customer there’s something that feels good about that at the end of the day rather than just going and doing something and collecting a paycheck. I have said this to you guys before, I can see the arc of where you guys are going. You are at a very early stage. I can see over the hill you can’t, but it’d be great to come back in 5 years and then 10 years or whatever to keep following your path.
For the readers, there’s something interesting here I want to dig at a little bit. There’s a bigger vision that’s driving you. I hear this a lot from entrepreneurs. They will talk about what it is ultimately they are trying to accomplish and it’s subtle, but that’s an important factor that distinguishes between entrepreneurial people and non-entrepreneurial people.
If you don’t have something to strive for, you are just going to come home and hang out with your friends and do whatever you do. It’s driving towards something bigger. It’s an important part of the conversation, but I want to back up for a minute. I also want to ask you a question about going to college. Were you getting pressure from your parents or whatever to go to college or was that not an issue for you?
I would say we were getting a lot of pressure from mostly teachers and our classmates, but our parents and our family and friends knew how hard we were working on our business and they pushed us to continue our business. We had already been getting experience in doing the courses from Lakeland that they had said like, if this is what you want to do if the business is the path that we want to take, then we should go for that. There’s always time to go back to college if you want to do something more particular. If we wanted to go back to school for business because that’s what we wanted to do. As for the timing and how good we were already doing, our parents, family, and friends pushed us to continue our business.
There’s something else here I want to dig into a little bit. I have observed this in entrepreneurs quite a bit they are not necessarily scholarly, but they are always learning. I have heard you guys tell me you have taken real estate courses so you know how to educate yourself. You know how to find the knowledge you need. You guys both took real estate courses. You both get your real estate license so that’s part of the next step in your journey. This leads me to another question, which is whether you have this vision and you are making good money, but you are not spending the money, you are investing it. Can you say something about that?
It takes a long time. Things that we have learned is you take the hit when you aren’t getting a paycheck from the government. We can’t get approved for anything. It is just a lot of saving and investing our money, but it will be all worth it. To get to our goals, we learn new things every single day. We have to do everything the right way to make sure that we can keep going. We can easily do things under the table and it doesn’t matter until we want to go to the next step. We have the right way.
You got to keep it clean and you got to keep it all legit above board. You have records. That’s an important point.
It’s an important point because a lot of people don’t realize that. Being an entrepreneur, you need to be very educated on your taxes and everything with your money. For us being so young, we have the credit, but we have to have two years of proof of taxes to get approved for a loan. You take that hit where if you were getting a paycheck, you would be able to get approved in a couple of months. You have to be very mindful of your expenses, taxes, and stuff.
It’s the vision that keeps you going forward is the bigger vision. Cleaning houses aren’t the be-all-end-all for you. It’s a stepping stone to property management, which becomes a stepping stone to buying and owning your real estate. What does a bad day look like for you? I don’t want to paint a picture that being an entrepreneur is a walk in the park. You have to have some stressful challenges in your days. Can you talk about any of that or the mistakes you have made?
With scheduling. For example, we have been doing 2 or 3 cleans in the morning and afternoon and then we get a race back home, change into our professional attire, and then go show some houses to people. It’s difficult balancing several of your businesses where easily we could cancel and say, “I don’t have time for this.” It’s hard to do it. Even some days we don’t work all day long and then we will have something at night. It’s like an opposite schedule instead of working all day and then you have your night off or weekends off. Not like that for us. That’s a challenge.
You are working two jobs right now. You have your real estate license and you are out-showing homes and trying to make your way in the real estate world as well. How’s that going?
A small business can’t complain about being busy. We have been working every single day because we do our residential cleaning during the week. We are showing houses in the evening. We are doing Airbnb rentals on the weekends. We are showing houses on the weekends. Right now our challenge is scheduling where we are working for our clients when they tell us they want a certain day and time, that’s when we are going to show up for them. That’s been our biggest challenge so far.
Managing your time. The real estate thing is like, is that a slow go? It’s not that the real estate market cooled off in the last couple of years. How’s that going for you?
It’s a challenge. Lots of crazy things happening where there are still crazy prices and lots of competition with offers. Also having divine timing where a house can be on the market for three days and it’s too late to put an offer in. It already goes. It’s hard.
We are lucky to have learned so much from each of our careers we are learning so much legal side in the business side from real estate to helping our cleaning business with also marketing ourselves to our cleaning clients. In our cleaning business, we do houses for our buyers and sellers that we are cleaning their houses and both of our businesses working together have been great for us.
I can see how that works together. It’s probably making more money with the cleaning business right now than you are at the real estate. You have got a bigger vision for something. Tell me a little bit about the Airbnb thing. What’s going on there?
This is a friend of a friend through my mom who met her and she owns three Airbnbs in Madison. She’s also a real estate agent and they are short-term rentals. They were turned and they have been booked at least 3 or 4 times a week. People stay there and it’s about $300 a night. Short-term rentals are a booming business right now. It’s the real deal now of rentals rather than long-term rentals, short-term rentals are what a lot of people are doing and we are learning all the aspects that go into that in management. That’s also something that we are interested in as well and we are learning a lot.
I’m surprised that there’s a market for that in this part of the country. I know, I travel a lot in LA or whatever. I didn’t know that there’d be a demand for Airbnbs in Madison, Ohio. It’s crazy.
It’s people visiting, family, people having an extra space to have people over. You’d be surprised how many times people rent those out for various reasons.
Karen and I just rented this massive mansion in Malibu for the spring, we are going to get married and have a destination wedding in Malibu. It’s crazy. It’s this $25 million. I don’t know how much it costs, but this massive mansion.
Wedding venues are our end-all goal.
That’s the workaround there because when people hear wedding, they just jack the price up. We just went on Airbnb and we found this huge house in the mountains of Malibu and thought that’d be fun. Ask everybody to chip in and pay for it, they would stay at the house with us. There you go. I know the Airbnb market, people are just buying houses and they can rent them out. They can make more money renting the house to Airbnb than a long-term rental. Is that what you are trying to do?
That’s super fun.
We know how we have already been managing them on our own plus we have the real estate side to owning them. We just know all the aspects and the realistic ownership skills and stuff where a lot of people think that they want to go into that business, but they don’t know what they are in for. For us, we have learned so much and we know how to keep everything clean, nice, and legal. We are lucky on that side.
You are wading in the pool from the shallow end. You are not jumping in hardcore. You are seeing what you are getting yourself into. You are going a little deeper every time. Where do you go? Do you have a mentor or do you have people you go to for help if you get stuck?
We have a lot of people that we have met professionally through our real estate office that always there to help us. They can always answer our questions. Our dad, we can ask him any legal question. He usually knows the answer too. A lot of the time, we are on our own for a lot of stuff where we can just use the internet. Usually, we are on our own but there are some people that we can go to for some help.
That’s such a cool story. You guys have covered so much ground in such a short time. You guys are 21 years old. It’s amazing to me. First of all, every high school kid should have that experience. In my last episode, Steve Orlando, I taught a class at Lake Catholic in 2006 and 2007. He made $40,000 hard time while he was in my class in high school and it led to something way bigger.
Now he has this multimillion-dollar company buying and selling forklifts in a warehouse. That started with office cleaning. You have this under control. It’s unbelievable. At 21 years old, you guys seem to be well on your way. One question I have for you is, how are you doing with customers? Your customer you are not having, customers aren’t canceling on you, they are not super picky or whatever?
We are very lucky with our customers.
Are you selective? Do you turn people down? If you say you are not a good fit, are you just walking away?
At the very least, we always would try. We are very lucky and because it’s our family and friends of word of mouth, we have been lucky to be able to trust all of our clients and our people are so good to us that we know they were a friend of, “You guys gave us Carrie.” There were no ifs or buts that we were going to be happy with her being a client.
Carrie Vaccarella. She’s great.
We have never had to turn anybody down because we just have such a trustworthy circle of people as our sphere of influence. It’s the people that you have around you that are willing to spread your name. You need that sphere of influence that is good people that want to support your business.You need your sphere of influence, the people around you who are willing to spread your name. Click To Tweet
When we do people that we don’t know is when we have like a nervous day of like, “I don’t know how this is going to go. We have never met them, never been to their house.” It usually turns out okay. When we were working for a company and we had no say where they told us we needed to go to this person’s house and we didn’t have a choice. If we didn’t like them or if they were rude to us, we didn’t have a choice. We had to do it.
I will ask each of you guys separately. What skill do you have that works? You guys are identical twins, so you might answer the same way. I don’t have any experience interviewing identical twin entrepreneurs. What is it about your personality individually that makes this work? Is it attention to detail, people skills, or financial? Do you complement each other and duplicate each other? How does that work for you guys?
I would say attention to detail for both of us. Another one of those things that work for us is that we have the same attention to detail and the same standards where we can trust each other. I know for a fact that I don’t have to go over her work and all of our clients know where they are not like, “This one doing that job, they are not going to do a good job.” They don’t think that at all because we have the same standards and that’s the same reason why we don’t have any other employees because we know how we work with each other and how each of us individually can work on a project on our own. That trust in that bond of having the same standard. Definitely attention to detail.
Quality assurance is not a thing. It seems to me like one of you does most of the talking. Do you guys feel that?
Ashley talks the most.
The customer-facing person is more likely to be Ashley.
Yes. We are mostly equal. We try to split it up.
Does that just come more naturally to you, Ashley, than it does to you, Abby?
Ashley probably does take the lead more. She usually always has. That’s usually what it is. If a customer contacts her, she will take the lead with them and if they contact me, I’m usually the one that they take the lead with. It just depends.
It’s not one purpose over the other.
We are very equal. Same thing with talking to people where we will switch it up of who’s doing what, which is helpful that one of us isn’t doing the same thing every single time. We are lucky to have a 50/50. Having other employees would be difficult for us because we are so used to being 50/50.
Is one of you better with the financial side of it than the other? Is one of you better with marketing or any of those things? I know you said you don’t do a lot of marketing because it’s word of mouth, but how are you doing that way?
We try and do everything together just to keep it legal whereas in all of our business classes, you don’t make a decision without the other partners. We make sure when we are paying each other, we are making sure we know exactly what’s going on. It’s very transparent. We do everything together. We pay our taxes together and we go to all of our meetings together. Working together.
What are you doing with the money you are making? Are you saving up to buy your first piece of rental property? What’s the next step?
All of our money goes directly into savings. We are trying to look for something like as we speak, even looking for a long time. There’s always one thing about it or something. That’s our next step is to get into owning a rental.
When do you think that will happen? Do you think in 1, 2, or 3 years?
We are hoping for sure within the year.
That’s a long-term gain also?
We have a shared account with our business. All of our money is going to go in the same place towards another business. That’s what we are thinking.
It’s Ashley and Abby Incorporated, the parent company. There’s something to be said about delayed gratification. You are working hard and you are trying to save as much of your revenue as you can. You are not living large. You are trying to keep your expenses low. Are you still living with your parents? Are you still living at home?
That’s awesome. Your expenses are super low. A lot of people struggle with that. They see, “I got $25,000 in the bank. I’m going to go buy myself something. I’m going to go on vacation I’m and do something fun.” Do you guys struggle with that at all?
A lot of the time you do feel like you are missing out on something. Just like we have talked about. It’s always a bigger picture where work hard now, we get to rest later. I’d rather be doing this now, hustling hard so that we will be those 30-year-olds that have already made all these investments and all of our money is just passive that we have already made. We can have all of our fun and the nice cars, trips, nice homes, spontaneity, and the open and free schedule where we work for our clients right now. When they need to have us on the schedule, then that’s what we are going to do. Later on in our late 20s and early 30s, we will have more of that freedom because we are working so hard right now.
I have news for you. You are just going to be working just as hard, but you are going to be having just as much fun. I hear that from a lot of people. I have a lot of entrepreneur friends and they sell their businesses for millions of dollars and they go golfing and they go on a nice vacation and then they just, “I got to do something I can.” I don’t know if people get that when you are doing your own thing, work isn’t work the way it is when you are not doing your own thing, or when you are going to a job, it doesn’t suck the life out of you.
That’s what we say to ourselves every single day. There’s nothing else I would rather be doing. We are just so lucky with our job that we work for a couple of hours a day rather than someone working in an office from 9:00 to 5:00, having to clock in our clock out where we are in our car. We go to our client’s house that we have a good personal relationship with, and then we leave and we have that instant gratification and then we do it all again the next day. There’s nothing else we’d rather be doing.
That is a beautiful statement right there. What I love about that, Ashley, is you don’t need money to do that. You don’t need to be an inventor. You don’t need to invent something. I don’t know whether you even realize it or not. What you have to do is figure out how to make yourself useful to other people. That’s what entrepreneurship is. If you break it down to its most basic, it’s figuring out how to make yourself useful. The more useful you figure out how to become the better off you will be. It’s just that basic. It’s not any more complicated than that. A lot of people say, “I want to do my own thing, but I’m not a risk taker. I don’t have any ideas, I don’t have any money, I don’t have any time.” No, that’s not how it is.
That’s what you guys are doing you have just figured out how to make yourself useful. Base Camp 1 is your cleaning business and now you have got that going and you are going to base Camp 2, which is owning rental property. You will just keep going from there. It’s a great story and I worry that why aren’t more younger people your age doing this? What prevents people from doing what you guys are doing? You don’t see it as any secret.
In our generation, it is so easy to go on your phone and see people being an influencer and then you realize you can’t do that. It’s just easy to get very distracted by what you can do. We don’t need to move to LA to go do this. We do this right here from our house, from our hometown. We didn’t need to go anywhere or go to college for four years. We didn’t need to do all that. You get distracted by what other people are doing in our generation and what you see on the internet. It just puts people down thinking that they can’t go do that too.
There’s something else in what you said, Abby. I think about this sometimes, the thing that distinguishes the entrepreneur from the non-entrepreneur is having a vision and a compelling goal. The compelling goal acts upon you like a gravitational force. It’s pulling you into the future. I think about the question in reverse and think to myself, “What happens to a person who doesn’t have a compelling goal?” You are just a subject, like social media and doom scrolling. Everybody wants to be a social media influencer and everybody wants to be a professional athlete. Great. Three of us are going to be able to do that. The other 300,000, no. It’s a different thing.
It’s interesting to me also that startups have been in decline in the United States since the 1970s when they peaked. During COVID, they came back to that level. They have been going steadily down. I don’t know what that is. Did COVID affect you guys? How did you guys deal with that when that came along? You were already in business.
It didn’t affect us again since we were a smaller business. People were at home so much that they didn’t want to stay at home any longer to do the cleaning. They would have rather just paid somebody else to do the project. We were lucky that we did keep going. We didn’t have to stop.
We were already established and lucky for us, the State of Ohio ruled the cleaning business as an essential business. We were very lucky in that sense. We never took any time off.
You never lost it. Your business didn’t take a big hit. It probably went up as a result of it.
People were happy to have us at their homes. We did everything to be safe. We were wearing masks for a long time. We were lucky people didn’t want to stop the service.
Such a great story. What advice would you give to other young people who are thinking about doing business? What would you say?
I would say something that you have been naturally good at and it doesn’t come. Something that comes easy to you without a ridiculous amount of effort where people always ask us why cleaning? Why did we start that? Why that business? From a very early age, that was just something that we were cleaning our parents’ houses, our friend’s houses, or our grandma’s house. It wasn’t a negotiable thing for us. We have that neat freak where that was something we were so naturally good at and had been doing for such a long time that this is so easy for us and it’s harder for a lot of people.
That’s where that comes in of that essential service where we were like, “This is what we should be doing because this is how we can make ourselves useful to other people.” That’s what I would say. Something that you have been doing and are happy to do for other people should be your business. Some people like to paint or like to do yard work, and like to create and fix things. Whatever that is for you is the route of your business you should take.Your business should be something that you've been doing and are happy to do for other people. Click To Tweet
I’m going to flip the script on you. I was at Home Depot. I was trying to solve a problem in a remodeling project here at home, my deck. The guy comes over and he is like, “Can I help you?” It’s a complex problem and I was reluctant. A lot of times the Home Depot people are not that helpful, not always. This kid was on it. He goes, “Just try me.” I explained what I was doing and he got it and he was like, “Here, why don’t you come over here, look at this?” This and that, and the solution. I said to him, “Do you own your own business?” He goes, “No.” I said, “You should.” He said something like, “I should put my Engineering degree to work.”
I didn’t want to embarrass him, but I walked away thinking Engineering degree. What the hell are you doing at Home Depot? Sometimes people think a college degree is going to open the doors for them. I don’t have to prove myself, “I got this degree.” I don’t want to denigrate college, I’m not saying that, but people easily fall prey to that assumption. “I have a degree. That will just pave the path for me.”
It’s the same thing where we always say, when people ask us about college and when people say, “Should I just do that? Should I not go to college?” My answer is always like, “Whatever you think.” We are not a hater of college and most people should go to college because most people don’t have the motivation to start their business as early as we did. That same motivation we did, where a lot of people have tried to start their businesses at our age, and then they fail within 1 to 2 years and they are just done with it. I would say everybody has their path. If you go to college, you still need to open up the doors and work on your own. Everyone does have to take a different path.
Let’s dig into that for a second because I have studied a little bit about human motivation and the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. When you do something extrinsically, you are doing it for a reward for a dollar, for a letter grade for prestige, or something separate. Intrinsic motivation is when you do it where the task itself is the reward. I would do what I’m doing for free because I love it. I would do it anyway. That’s intrinsic motivation, which is way more powerful than dollars and letter grades.
What’s interesting to me is that the research is pretty clear that extrinsic rewards or threat of punishment undermines intrinsic motivation. Most teachers, as far as I can tell, are doing their darnedest to keep kids engaged in learning, but they are swimming against the tide of motivational factors that are discouraging learning.
This is the point you were making, Ashley. Kids show up in college, they don’t want the knowledge, they want the grade, GPA, and certificate. I designed this thought experiment for my academic friends and it goes like this. You are the president of whatever college. It’s the spring of 2023 and you are speaking to the graduating class of 2025. These are rising juniors. You say to this class, “Boys and girls, today’s your lucky day. We are handing out the diploma today. You don’t have to come back if you don’t want to. Here’s your diploma.” There’s a lot of cool stuff you should come back and learn, but you don’t have to come back if you don’t want to. How many kids show up in the fall? The number is pretty low. That’s so sad.
One of the things I’m hearing in your story is, you guys aren’t afraid to learn on your own. It’s not to say you couldn’t benefit from college, but you know how to find knowledge. You have a cell phone, a computer, and a network. You know where to look for knowledge. You are not ignorant. That’s the differentiator.
What you guys just said is powerful, I want to dig into it. We are all born with things that we are interested in and capable of becoming good at. Those things come on the hard drive. You guys didn’t get together and decide we are going to be neat freaks. You are hardwired to be neat freaks. No one tells us that the path to a fulfilling and engaged life is to figure out how to use your strengths in ways that can benefit other people. Instead, people just think, “I got to get the degree that’s going to make me the most money.” You got it wrong.The path to a fulfilling and engaged life is to figure out how to use your strengths to benefit people. Click To Tweet
When people try and start a business of something that they are not completely excited about and obsessed about where they don’t even know why they started a business, to begin with, that’s where it comes to that stereotypical small business that only lasts for 3 to 5 years.
Exactly. It’s like you don’t love it enough. Also underneath that, what I keep hearing in your story is you guys are focused on your customers. That’s the secret. I know I probably told you guys this story, but back in the 80s, I started a business cleaning gutters. I’m afraid of heights. I don’t love gutter cleaning, but I was desperate. The gutter cleaning allowed me to get into the arena and find something I was good at. That was more handyman stuff, like home repairs. I’m afraid of heights. I don’t love climbing up 25 feet in the air, cold outside with a 5-gallon pail trying to scoop leaves out of a gutter.
The point is that if you focus on what other people want and need, there’s opportunity everywhere. If you are only thinking about what you want, you will miss it. That’s the secret to entrepreneurial success. What you guys are doing is similar to the gutter cleaning. It’s nudging you towards real estate and a bigger idea. That’s going to be the next thing for you guys. I love this story.
This show is going to be all over the world, but where can people find you if they want to find you? Do you guys have a website or anything or you don’t even have a website?
We don’t have a website.
I love it. We are so busy we don’t even have a website.
We are going to start a Facebook page. We will start that.
I appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to do this. I can’t wait to share your story with the world. Thank you.
Happy to do it. Thank you for having us.
- Steve Orlando – Past episode