Episode 25

Building a Blue-Collar Business on Twitter

with Bryant Suellentrop

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In this episode, Adam and Carlton are joined by Bryant Suellentrop, better known as “Sully” on Twitter, the founder at Elevate and Delegate Staffing. Together they discuss two types of content and how Sully leveraged the second to leave his job mid-pandemic and launch two successful startups.

Highlights from the conversation:

  • About Sully and his sweaty startups (7:27)
  • Content creation’s role in Sully’s startups (9:47)
  • Leveraging relationships (11:33)
  • How Sully started a cleaning company (13:04)
  • Dealing with negativity (16:00)
  • Building support through virtual assistants (19:25)
  • From 0 to two successful startups (24:05)
  • Starting Elevate and Delegate (26:03)

 

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Transcription

Transcription generated by Otter.ai

Adam Vazquez 0:06
Today’s guest is Bryant Suellentrop more affectionately known as Sully Business on Twitter. Sully is a Small Business owner, the creator of Elevate and Delegate Staffing and one of my favorite follows on Twitter. He brings a common sense approach to starting and running businesses and has leveraged the internet to start and grow TWO companies in just the past 24 months.

During this interview, Sully shared how he quit his job during the pandemic to start a commercial janitorial business, the steps to starting and hiring, and how he’s used content to create an entirely new company along the way.

We kind of just touched on it briefly during the interview, he since fully launched that company so we’ll hear more from him on that. Sully’s become a friend and I’m so excited to introduce you all to him. Let’s dive into this episode with Bryant Suellentrop from Elevate and Delegate Staffing.

Adam Vazquez 1:19
What were you going to say? Sorry.

Carlton Riffel 1:20
Sorry, I hear some voices.

Adam Vazquez 1:23
Voices? Voices in your head?

Carlton Riffel 1:26
In my headphones. Okay, let me pause this.

Adam Vazquez 1:30
Wait, what were you playing?

Carlton Riffel 1:31
It was playing a podcast and I could hear it and I was like, where are those voices in my head coming from?

Adam Vazquez 1:37
Was it your Hootie & The Blowfish show? It was.

Carlton Riffel 1:42
No, it was an episode of My First Million, actually.

Adam Vazquez 1:47
There it is. Always is.

Carlton Riffel 1:48
So here’s my question, Adam: have you ever thought about just quitting your job and starting a cleaning service? Or starting something that’s a little bit on the sweaty startup side of things?

Adam Vazquez 2:00
Yeah, for sure. I think that every time we have like a tough stretch or season— this isn’t just with this company, but any time in my career that I’ve gone through a dry spell or whatever, I feel like I look outside and someone will just be mowing grass and look super content and I’m like, Man, I wish I was them. Have you?

Carlton Riffel 2:19
Yeah, the grass is always greener. That’s the idea. The grass is always greener on the other side. I’ve thought about window cleaning. It seems like such a low costs start and you can literally just have that satisfied feeling after you’re done, having a nice clean piece of glass. There’s something about that that’s just quite nice.

Adam Vazquez 2:41
I wish we would have had this conversation with Sully. Window cleaning specifically, I think is incredibly lucrative.

Carlton Riffel 2:47
Yeah, I think you can be if you get the right clients and they’re willing to have you come out.

Adam Vazquez 2:53
The reason we’re talking about this is because today’s guest, Sully, who we kind of just dove in, has built this following on Twitter and really built two companies now following the sweaty startup model. The first is more a traditional sweaty startup, it’s a commercial cleaning company. Now he is doing the virtual assistant and staffing company, which is not inherently blue-collar, but I would say the process of building that company is very similar. I’d love to hear your opinion on this, but I just think it’s cool how in both situations, he sort of documented what he was doing, very simply shared that online in a couple of different forms, and doing that sort of became a self-fulfilling, self-sustaining business in and of itself, and that’s why he’s got this second company now that he’s starting and running.

Carlton Riffel 3:46
Yeah, I think the obvious pushback is, well, what does having content have to do with a blue-collar business? We don’t necessarily put those two hand-in-hand, but I think there are two types of content. There’s the content that you put out for attention and for brand building, but then there’s the content that you use to engage with people and to ask questions and get feedback. I think the whole “building and public” idea or even just one of the biggest benefits of social media is that you can just get such quick and specific responses to industry leaders. And he was able to use that pretty early on to give him some advantages for somebody who didn’t have a background in commercial cleaning. Some of these people, it runs in their family or they’ve done it for a long time and so they know some of these answers, but if somebody takes a little bit of an outside perspective and wants to provide good service comes in and is willing to leverage some of those relationships that they have for advice but then also for things that are maybe a little bit outside of the normal blue-collar perspective (like how to use tech or how to use marketing services that aren’t obvious). So I think he was able to leverage some of those things early on to give himself a good advantage and a good start.

Adam Vazquez 5:06
Yeah, the other thing I’d add is this is a classic example (and you’ll hear it through the episode) but probably my favorite part was when he talked about the practical steps of what it took for him to get his first piece of business. I won’t give it away, but it’s such a great story because, in some ways, it’s like something from a movie where it feels like he was almost playing a role or having to pretend, and that’s part of it. Doing that and then exposing that, doing that in a public way might seem counterintuitive to a lot of people because it’s like, I don’t want to admit that I don’t know what I’m doing but, to your point, it just, first of all, creates and forges those connections. Then what ended up happening with him is he talked about his struggles, staffing people who would work reliably and consistently and all these things and, as he solved that problem for himself (which is what starting a company is, just solving a problem), because he had been talking about it, it gave him an opportunity to say, “Hey, somebody else needs help doing this. I’m glad to help you too, with it.” Both of those things are unique. We haven’t heard from someone like Sully on this show yet, so I’m really excited to get to it. But maybe we can get to the interview with Bryant Suellentrop of Elevate and Delegate staff.

All right, we’re back, and on this episode, we have the Twitter legend himself, “Sully,” Bryant Suellentrop here on the show. Thanks for joining us, Sully.

Bryant Suellentrop 6:39
Thanks for having me.

Adam Vazquez 6:41
So we got connected at the end of last year on Twitter. I think I just stumbled across you somehow because you were doing a bunch of SMB stuff. And I got really interested in that area. And I was like, man, who is this guy that just kind of seemingly came out of nowhere built this business built this audience, you know, is only working a handful of his time on the business and just all these interesting things. Do you have is it Kansas City Chiefs fan has my guy Andy Reed close to the heart, which I do as well. So many things that I felt like I needed to reach out and say what’s up? And glad I did. But maybe you could just tell the folks quickly what you what you’re currently doing, what your business does, and sort of how that’s all working out?

Bryant Suellentrop 7:26
Sure. Yeah, I live in eastern North Carolina where I run a small janitorial business. I have a wife. I got married in 2020 and then we just recently had a son. He’s about four months old. So…

Adam Vazquez 7:37
Congrats.

Bryant Suellentrop 7:38
…keeps me pretty busy. Thank you. I spend about half my time with him and then the rest of my day, working on my cleaning business and other projects. But yeah, it’s been really good, and it’s definitely been an adventure starting the business in the middle of all the COVID craziness and all that stuff. But all in all, I’m really grateful I did it.

Adam Vazquez 7:59
Yeah, I want to get into that story in a little bit— or, let’s just get into it now, I guess. It’s such an interesting one. You’ve heard all about the great resignation, etcetera, etcetera, reset. You are one of the people who had a job, got into the pandemic, and like you were just telling me, you decided to quit and start this business kind of at the peak of it.

Bryant Suellentrop 8:17
Yeah, I had a kind of a setup at the previous company I was working at, I had interned there and worked there a bunch was a smaller company. And I thought that I was going to keep on keeping on but things kind of slowed down. They didn’t adjust to the pandemic super well. And I was outside sales. I was young, 23, I think so. I just didn’t really know what to do. But I was listening to actually funny enough. Nick’s universe, sweaty StartUp podcast. I had been religiously listening to that since maybe 2018. And so that’s basically what inspired me to get up and just kind of do my own thing was I kind of thought this sales thing wasn’t really for me. So I thought, you know, if I’m gonna sell I might as well do it for myself. So yeah, there we are.

Adam Vazquez 9:06
A couple years later and still going strong. So along with the janitorial business, I think what’s interesting about us specifically is the mixture of a guy running a janitorial business, who also spends a lot of time creating content and being visible online and those sorts of things. And I think, on the surface, it doesn’t make it like it’s not one-to-one. Oh, yeah, that makes sense. He’s running a janitorial business. So he’s using content to like grow that business or so how did you and maybe it’s because of Nick or but how did you begin getting into the content creation process and how does that work with what you’re doing in your day-to-day business?

Bryant Suellentrop 9:47
Yeah, Nick had a podcast where he said, hey, Twitter changed my life, blah, blah, blah. I said that more people talk about politics and complain about each other but I’ll check it out because I trusted everything he said to this point. So it was working. Okay. And so I checked out Twitter, and he gave me a little bit of an initial boost. So I got like my first handful of hundreds of followers pretty early. And so having moved out to North Carolina, originally from Kansas, having moved out here and started a business is very, very lonely. I didn’t really feel like I had a lot of community and accountability. And so that’s what drew me into the Twitter space. There’s a ton of different people on there that were running small businesses that I got to connect with and it was really great because I just what I went there, I wasn’t trying to create content, I was trying to commiserate with other people and learn from other people just about what they were having success with. And ultimately, that helped me land a lot of contracts that I wouldn’t have otherwise had to help me with hiring all kinds of questions, I could go there and ask people for answers. And so I’ve never thought about it as creating content, per se, but more just sharing kind of what I’m going through in my day-to-day life.

Adam Vazquez 11:07
Yeah, and that authenticity is probably why it resonates a lot or is so successful with people. You said that it helped you in a few of those specific areas, like hiring, closing some deals, etc. Is that just by seeing what other people said worked for them and being able to apply that? Or one-to-one relationships? How did that work? How are you able to take some of those things?

Bryant Suellentrop 11:32
Both. So I’ve had the opportunity through Twitter to meet some “heavy hitters” even in my space who I’ve been able to ask questions for and I operate in a relatively high-churn industry, a lot of people coming and going so others that are in lawn care, or maybe the trades can kind of understand a lot of the things that I was dealing with with trying to recruit people, retain them. Obviously, we are going through a tough hiring situation. The last couple years I’ve been, it’s been very like, workers have had a good run, wages have gone up and a lot of good things going on there. But also, just like you said, great resignation, a lot of people just kind of backing out of the workforce. So kind of like dealing with that and just having other owners that were going through the same thing, reading their stories and implementing what they had to say, but also direct conversations with them, get, you know, asking them and people were way more helpful. And I’ve gotten 100 times the value or whatever, from others on that platform that I have, certainly that I’ve provided.

Adam Vazquez 12:46
That’s cool. So maybe taking a step back, I’m just curious now, we didn’t talk about this before, but were you working in the industry that you’re working in now at your previous job? Or do you just pick this? Like, how did that come to come about?

Bryant Suellentrop 13:03
So I think I’ve gone through this story a couple times, but I’m trying to remember exactly how a cleaning company came up. I think a lot of it was just me saying, I don’t have a lot of money. I was trying to pay down my student loans aggressively, I was saving up for the wedding. So I really started the business with just a couple $1,000 Because that’s all I can add. If I would have had 10 grand, maybe I would have gotten a mower like I really don’t know, but I didn’t have that money. So I started something I knew I could start, I started something that I knew I could do myself. So like I never hired employees for the first few months. I did all the work myself. And so that’s kind of why I did it. And I knew I was moving out here. I didn’t think oh, I’m not gonna have room for a trailer for a lawn care company or something like that. So yeah, I just started kind of doing and it started working. My first customer I landed was $2,000 a month. So I was like, Well, you know, that’s enough for me to kind of like survive and just grow from there.

Adam Vazquez 14:05
That’s awesome. How did you get that first customer?

Bryant Suellentrop 14:08
I side-hustled websites in college like many people, kind of for beer money and that kind of thing. And so I opened my own website, had an old server so I put it on there and then open a Google My Business location just listening to Nick Huber’s advice. And I got my first calls from there. So I actually still filled out a contact form. I was freaking out, you know, I show up I’m like, do I knock? Do I ring the door to this is a commercial building? And so I just walked through the walk through the facility just kind of took some pictures, acted like I knew what I was doing. All right. I had one polo that I had my logo on to look a little bit official. And so landed that customer and then figured out how to clean it. Certainly bumps in the road there, but you get there and you figure things out. So always, it’s like, what’s the worst thing that can happen? Like, the floors are a little too sticky? I’ll mop them again. So a lot of that kind of stuff.

Adam Vazquez 15:15
Yeah, such a great attitude, but it’s such a unique one. I think a lot of people would focus on all the things that could go wrong and people who are able to start businesses and grow businesses have to kind of almost have a naivete or whatever that word is, or blindness towards some of that, and just decide, yeah, we’re just gonna make this happen, which is what it sounds like you did. It’s awesome. So on the flip side of that, I would say, I’ve noticed in you and other people who, who I pay attention to online, there’s a tendency to come in with eyes wide open, just trying to help people, trying to just have positive conversations. And then sometimes I’ll click on some of your tweets that seem very innocuous. And there are lots of people who are just taking everything the most negative possible, regardless of kind of what you’re talking about. I’m just curious as a normal human being, which I would consider you to be like, not coming out of like a celebrity world, but just being normal and then building up a platform a little bit of a last couple years. How have you been able to deal with that? Or how has that affected you, if it has at all, just seeing the way people take some of those things in a negative light?

Bryant Suellentrop 16:26
I think it’s kind of interesting, you learn to kind of converse about things in a way that’s productive, that certain things I won’t talk about on. On Twitter, I don’t talk about the wages, we pay employees, or if I do, I don’t say them in dollar per hour value, say we do because we do, we do pay 20% More than the next janitorial firm. But people get really mad when that’s not $25 An hour and right, like, it’s hard for me to articulate, that we live in a very low cost of living area. So $14 an hour is actually a pretty solid job. So you know, that’s, that’s hard for people to understand. And so you learn kind of the rules and things you should say or discussions that are not productive things I never talked about anymore COVID, politics, just avoid all of that. Still, though, you’re gonna have people that either misunderstand what you’re saying, you know, and if they come at me very aggressively, or just assume the worst of me, I just blocked them, not because I have anything against them or whatever, but it’s just like, for me emotionally, like, if I go down that rabbit hole of trying to make that person happy, it’s never gonna work out usually. Apologizing doesn’t help everyone so I’ll clarify some so that it’s just more clear and maybe they get a better understanding. But yeah, if somebody is being really aggressive, it’s not worth it, so I’ll just mute them. If they do it again, just block them and just move on. But I’m not gonna say, that doesn’t take an emotional toll on you because there have definitely been nights where my wife has been like, hey, like, you’re like checked out tonight. What’s going on? And I just say, sorry, somebody said something. And like, they think I’m an asshole. Sorry. But yeah, they become a jerk. And I just feel bad about it. Because I like, I want us to all like, when it’s our success, yeah, help people. That’s why I’m here. And that’s what I’m about. But like, they really took it in the wrong way. And so, that kind of stuff, and when Twitter starts to take away from my family, and where my ability to be present with them, then that’s kind of where I delete the app from my phone for a while.

Adam Vazquez 18:49
Yeah, get some space. It seems like a very real and very, I don’t know, it’s a different problem than what most employees at companies are going to face because they might say something that’s controversial or whatever. But it’s not it’s not, you know, their name. It’s not their opinion, or whatever. And when you’re out there publishing, like, like you have been, I think it changes things. I was just curious how that works. Maybe on the positive side, another big theme I’ve seen you talk about is just the support that you’ve been able to build through using virtual assistants.

Bryant Suellentrop 19:25
Yeah, we’re helping people right now hire virtual assistants. There’ll be a course eventually, something that we’re a DIY type thing but right now we’re mostly on a done for you model done with you model where we’re just helping people because it is a pretty high touch process to get a virtual assistant to someone’s business successfully. So right now we did five in January we doing 10 this month. We’re in the middle of that right now. And then I did that for free for a bunch of people last year and just helping them make those hires. It’s when you see that change that can make in someone’s life, both for the business owner, obviously, as well as the virtual assistant, getting a good-paying job that dramatically impacts their life for the better, you want to do more of that. So that has been really up my alley like trying to help people with that. And so we’re excited to do that. And that’s like, that’s my full-time thing. Right? So the cleaning business is now, I don’t want to say it’s on autopilot, because that would be disingenuous, but it is pretty much doing its own thing. I’m not really that involved in the day-to-day, nor do I plan to be for the long term. The virtual assistant then gonna has my full attention and, and helping business owners is super, super fulfilling for me, even just with my personality type, getting to meet new business owners all the time, and kind of help them solve problems. So yeah, virtual assistants have definitely changed the game in my business personally for sure.

Adam Vazquez 20:56
Yeah, so talk about that a little bit because you said you started off going in and doing the prospecting, doing the work yourself, and now you told me before and you’re spending a quarter of your week working on the cleaning business. So how did VAs help display some of that load for you?

Bryant Suellentrop 21:14
Yeah, the biggest thing and so what happened was my first experience was, I met someone who was actually a friend of mine, not on Twitter, just like a friend, a family friend, actually, who has a cleaning business. And he told me about him hiring a virtual assistant, and diversity assistant was doing full-time recruiting for them. And I was like full-time recruiting. How can you have a full-time recruiter? Like, at a cleaning business? Like I know, you’re like sub $2 million in revenue? Like, how are you paying for a $60,000 a year person or even a $40,000 a year person to just be recruiting all the time, he said, No, this is how it works. So like the, they post a job on Indeed, my virtual assistant who he was paying, like $8 an hour over in the Philippines. And he said, she posts a job on Indeed, every week. And then she goes through these applications, she reaches out to the people who she thinks would be interested, get some information from them, get them all the way basically up until the point where they’re ready to do a working interview, and meet him. And then he meets them on-site every week to do that first working interview, but they’d already been, you know, pretty the prevented from hundreds of applications down to a handful of really good fits by the time they get to hit. And so that obviously changed the game. Because if you’re a business owner, if you’ve tried to make hires, you know, a lot of people goes to a lot of people lie to you a lot, you know, that say something is on the resume, it’s not or whatever, I always want to expect the best from people. But like, it’s a lot, it’s just a very time-consuming process. And so he showed me that. And so then, obviously, the hiring thing has been implemented in my business. So we’re looking at applications every week, I’m not involved in that process any longer. They just by the time they get to me, they’re ready to like start they’re working interview, their information is already in our system. And then outbound prospecting, as well. So whether that’s researching, we want to look at medical facilities this year that we’re going to be cleaning, let’s get 50 of those on an Excel sheet and all their contact information and put that into the CRM, virtual assistant can help me with those kinds of things. And the difference here is like for a small business like mine, you know, doing a couple $100,000 a year in revenue you can’t afford, you know, we’re still a new business, we’re only 18 months since we started, you know, you can’t afford a $60,000 a year person, like an admin, like a proper admin person, eventually, that’d be our goal to get to something like that. But, you know, this is a really good way for small businesses to scale and to actually see growth. So that’s really fun and exciting.

Adam Vazquez 23:49
So then how did that—and I assume it’s because of Twitter, or maybe other things—but how did that turn into an actual business for you? Obviously, you had this great experience, was it just a matter of beginning to talk about it and and build that business that way? Because you went from having no business 24 months ago or whatever to now running several, in a really short amount of time. So how did that transition happen?

Bryant Suellentrop 24:14
I was just helping people like Liam Chercheur (you probably maybe seen him on Twitter), Johnny Robinson, I was starting to help those guys. They’re friends of mine, to hire virtual assistants in their business, as well as some of my other friends and some other businesses. And it was just like, look, I cannot keep doing this just like charity. Like it’s super fun. And it’s super fulfilling, and it’s super great. And I love helping you guys. But like, especially when we had my son in October, I was like, I’m tapped out like I’m done. I can’t do anymore. My hours are very limited. So that kind of got me to the point where, you know, I started charging people a little bit of money to do it. We kind of know where we are today where it’s kind of, we’re formalizing the package. We’re helping even provide some training to those virtual assistants depending on what people need. So it’s super, super exciting even building out a content library for those VAs to check out and kind of learn different skills that they might be able to use in the business. So we’re, I’m really invested in this. And I think, you know, the goal this year is to help 100 business owners hire vas. So we’re gonna crush that goal. I really think we will. So yeah, it’s real visionary.

Adam Vazquez 25:25
We’ll have to talk more about that afterward. I’d be interested in that for us, but I think it’s cool to see how you have taken— Oh, the other thing I was going to point out is, I assume during helping Liam or whoever those folks are, that allowed you to figure out the process, right? Or some system because that’s really what you have that like, if I was going to go try to find a VA today, I don’t know, I’d probably go to Indeed or Upwork or something and hope for the best. You have a process to it that you’ve vetted now a handful of times and know it works. That’s the big difference.

Bryant Suellentrop 26:02
Yeah, doing it. I mean, we do a handful of things that I think kind of set us apart to make us a better experience than just going out there. It took me like hundreds of applicants to kind of doing 25 interviews to hire one VA. The biggest problem is, business owners come to me and they say, “I want to hire a VA to get back more of my time.” Like, they don’t have time, they’re maxed out, and so that’s kind of the experience that a lot of people have is they don’t have the time to delegate and integrate that person into their business.

But yeah, basically, there’s a little bit of an element of, kind of as we started to do it for people, building the ship as it gets off the ground or whatever that metaphor is, learning how to make it work as we went. And honestly, with every hire that we’re making, we’re getting our processes are getting better. And so that’s the super fun part, that’s the building part. And so everything from English proficiency tests, to we’re going to be adding in some cognitive tests and some personality tests that they’re going to be, you know, now taking as well. So it’s like, wow, I really think the product or you know, the product, but I really think the service is going to be a really, really good fit for folks.

Adam Vazquez 27:21
Yeah, that’s great. That’s awesome. Well, thank you so much for coming on. I think last couple of minutes here, I just wanted to wrap up with hearing anything you’ve got going on. It sounds like the VA business, but on the content side of things, or anything that you’re just particularly excited about (aside from Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelsey, just like calling their own plays and winning games), and then let us know to where people can check you out.

Bryant Suellentrop 27:43
Yeah, absolutely. Twitter’s the best place to reach me, @sullybusiness. That’s S-U-L-L-Y business. That’s a good place to reach me. I spend way too much time on there, but send me a DM. I’ll get back to you eventually, I promise. If anything’s going on with me, it’s gonna be on there, but the virtual assistants and helping business owners just delegate and elevate within their businesses, everything that I’m going to be doing, and that’s gonna be my personal mission for the next three to five years. So, really excited about that. And I’ll see anybody that wants to reach me there. Love to talk.

Adam Vazquez 28:20
Awesome. Well, we appreciate you coming on, man. We’ll link all of that in the show notes below and hopefully catch up with you soon.

Carlton Riffel 28:26
Awesome. Thanks, Adam. And that’s a wrap. Thank you for listening to this episode of Content Is for Closers. We hope you find this show really helpful as you grow your business with content. Maybe you know of other people who would find this show helpful as well. How about you send them our way? If you didn’t like this show and you want to tell us that, then you can head over to contentisforclosers.com where you can send us a message, give us some feedback, ask questions, or find detailed notes for every episode. Until next time, keep creating and keep closing.