Green Light National Founder and CEO Mike McAlinden joined the show to discuss his amazing entrepreneurial journey. We covered his time working for other companies and his ability to overcome his fear of sales. He shared such great insight into how the company was started, the initial challenges, and other things he has learned in the journey. 



Aaron Spatz  00:00

You’re watching America’s Entrepreneur on Youtube. Welcome to the show. I’m your host, Aaron Spatz. And each week we interview entrepreneurs, industry experts, and other high achievers as a detail their personal and professional journeys. Before we jump in, hit the subscribe button and be sure to hit the bell icon so you’re notified every time we release a new episode. Thank you so much for tuning in to America’s entrepreneur. This week, we’re going to jump right in today into today’s show. Really, really pleased to be able to welcome a fellow US Marine turns out we’re both fellow Marine artillery officers. And so that was great, great things are gonna happen. I mean, I like I can already tell us it’s gonna be a great, great conversation. But super excited to welcome to the show, Mike Makka Linden, Mike served our country before jumping out and pursuing business opportunities. And so his his company’s Greenlight national, we’re gonna learn a ton more about that ton more about his journey. And so Mike, I just wanna welcome you, man, thank you so much for being on the show.

Mike McAlinden  00:57

Aaron, thanks so much for having me. longtime fan. Oh, man,

Aaron Spatz  01:01

I, I so sincerely appreciate that. And I it’s a it’s a true delight. I love getting to talk with just amazing people like yourself and get to get to hear your story. So I mean, take us back to take us back to the beginning. Like what? What, what drove you to serve our country? We’ll just start there.

Mike McAlinden  01:19

Man, oh, man, I didn’t know I was gonna go. Alright. So well back, you know, back then my dad was in the FBI is you know, he retired not maybe 10 years ago now. But yeah, I wanted to get into the FBI. And so when I went to college, I remember my freshman year, I called my dad and I said that, what do I got to do to get into the FBI? And he said, Well, we have a lot of lawyers. And we have a lot of accountants. And I was like, Okay, no, no. And then he said, and we have a lot of marine officers. And, and so I look, you know, further into that, contacted my Oso and start, you know, started the process. And, you know, there’s, you know, my grandfather served, you know, there’s some other more patriotic, you know, reasons, but sure, it’s a time I wanted to do something that I could use as a stepping stool, you know, after college and, and the Marine Corps kind of fit the bill. No, that’s really cool.

Aaron Spatz  02:16

Yes. So you’re so your family. So like, Yeah, I kind of I kind of skipped ahead there. So what were where were you raised? Like, what was your, like, your family environment, like?

Mike McAlinden  02:27

I was raised on the south side of Chicago. Okay. Kind of, you know, middle class neighborhood. It’s a neighborhood called Beverly shout out to Beverly on the south side. And, you know, family structure, I’ve got a twin sister and older sister who’s kind of like our triplet, and then a younger brother, and Raul competitive. We all play sports growing up, you know, our parents are, are still together. And we all live like right here, you know, so even our aunts and uncles, you know, we probably got 30 family members that live, you know, within 10 minutes I was. So it’s kind of a small town environment and in a big city, which, which is really nice. And yeah, it was nice growing up, but now as a as a parent and a father. I really appreciate it and see the value of it.

Aaron Spatz  03:16

Yeah. Well, I mean, it’s, it’s so special, man. It’s so stunning, especially, you know, with military experience, realizing what you lose, right? When you’re gone and being able to come back and, and get get to experience that it’s, it’s, it’s incredibly special. It really is. And so it’s it’s really cool. You got the entire family there. And just you know, I, you know, I, I my family dynamics can be a whole nother a whole nother topic,

Mike McAlinden  03:40

no doubt, no doubt. But, like, like my guys who my contemporaries who are getting out now or like, 1819 20 years, you see the travel, you know, and I’m lucky I got out and I I, you know, I’m here with my family, you see the sacrifice? Yeah. On the outside looking in, you know, and I really appreciate what those guys do who stay in for, you know, the long haul?

Aaron Spatz  04:04

For sure. No, I it’s, it’s a lot. It definitely is. So, so let’s kind of like then shift gears just just ever so slightly, and kind of give give me a little bit of a sense of it. So you’re in, you served in our US military. And then your, you had previously mentioned the FBI, but after getting out, you said to go into business, so like where did where did the entrepreneur, entrepreneurial bug kind of bite you?

Mike McAlinden  04:34

You know, I feel like I’ve always kind of had it, you know, a lot of your other guests had, like, you know, had similar small businesses growing up, like I was cutting lawns, you know, charging 20 bucks along and you’re making money that way and, and so, you know, when I was getting out of the Marine Corps, you know, I had friends who were, you know, a generation of officer, you know, I had a me that were getting out. I got to see them get into the business world and also get you get pulled towards the military and paramilitary, you know, FBI, NSA, all that stuff. And so I got to see that. And I decided, as I was getting out that I had time, you know, to join the FBI if I really wanted to do that, but, but let me give the civilian side a shot, you know, and, again, it’s something that you as a, as a Marine, as a military guy would appreciate. I thought I could succeed, you know, looking, looking at the civilian world, you know, in a competitive way. I thought I could, I could succeed in it. And so I want to give it a shot. And if I failed at it, then I had I forget the age, but I had like, eight years or 10 years before I couldn’t, you know, apply for that. And why and so I said, Hell, I’ll just give it a shot. And so I went on, I was getting out. I went to the Lucas group. Did you ever hear about that? Yeah, sure. Yeah. So I had like 13 interviews, you know, in one day, in like Chicago, you know, you go out to your hotel, you go to hotel or knock on a door, you open it, it’s like, alright, you know, Blue Mountain, go, you know, you’re interviewing Blue Mountain, then you go to the next door, knock on the door. And it’s like, you know, another big company. And I remember CBRE was my last one. And like, the night before, I was doing research on all these different companies, and CBRE was the largest commercial real estate company in the world. And, and I was like, well, it’s the biggest company. So there’s the most money is going to this company. So I’m gonna jump in into that pool. And so my last interview was with this woman, and, you know, executive, and I said, like, I’ve had 12 other interviews today, I think I’m gonna get 12 other offers, but I want to work for you. I want to work for your company. And I later found out that, so I got hired by Seabury. I later found out that they chose somebody prior to me getting in there. And the fact that I told her, I wanted to work for them. Made her choose to hire two people instead of one person that that wow, yeah. Gotta ask, you know, that’s something I learned early in business. Because where I grew up, you don’t ask for things. You just stay quiet, you know? And it translates to sales, like, I’m sorry, I’m babbling about like, wow, this is great, man. When I started the company, you know, I’d get I’m just selling free audits, you know, and I’d get an audit of a building, I’d go do an audit, I put put a proposal together, give it to him. And I wait. And I like, Man, I wonder, no response, you know, and I’d give it a week. And I don’t want to annoy these people. I I’m sure they’ve looked at it. They’re doing other things that are more important than so then I call on that, and cut to today, you know, 10 years later, I’m calling him that day, you know, and I’m calling them the next day. And I want my answer. And I’ve done all this work. And it takes it for me at least it took a lot to get to that like, Hey, I don’t want to annoy people to hey, I deserve an answer. Yeah. You know what I mean?

Aaron Spatz  07:56

Sure. That’s a that’s a really good perspective. And I actually, I love that you brought this up, because a lot of people struggle with sales. There’s, there’s a lot of folks out there that do a tremendous job. They’re wired for it, and they do it really well. I’ve, I’ve had to study it a lot myself, because I think I think that’s one area that I that I have struggled with. And so it’s, it’s the whole, you’re not being afraid to ask. And I like I cannot relate to that point anymore. When it comes to like job interviews. And you know what, whether you’re whether you’re hiring somebody, or you’re trying to get hired, it’s when people know, and they sense that you have a sincere desire to be a part of their company, I mean, that it really speaks volumes. And I feel like that I mean, that was definitely like your secret weapon, in a job interview is being able to make that ask and it obviously stood out to them. I mean, it stood out to them so much that they decided to offer two positions instead of one which is really really really cool. So

Mike McAlinden  08:57

you know, I learned that was a TBS I have a good friend. Okay. It’s not that nearly I was on vacation with him last week. And you know, I never met him before at you know, and we’re at TBS, and he went to our SPC like staff platoon commander is you know, like the guy in charge essentially, who you know, you’re at that point you’re kind of afraid to even talk to and they’ll have whiteboards outside their office and pet Nalli and you know, none of us have jobs at that time and he wrote infantry pet nally dash infantry on this guy’s saying, and I thought that was a ballsy move. Like, I thought he was gonna get kicked out of TBS because he did that. And he got you know, he got pulled in and spoken to But guess what? He got infantry. And, and so there’s a there’s a you know, you can push the envelope too far. But you got to ask for the business.

Aaron Spatz  09:43

So how was that translated into present day with with with the company. So you’d mentioned how you’d use so we’ll actually before we get that before we get there, give everybody a quick you know, 30,000 foot overview of Greenlight national, what all the company does, and then we can dive into it. Sure.

Mike McAlinden  10:01

Real quick, I so when I got out the first time I worked for CBRE, I was managing warehouses. And I learned I got involved in LEED, which is a way by which you can certify a building as sustainable. And I learned about lighting. And I learned that all my buildings, the lights that I had in these warehouses were all being phased out by energy efficiency codes. And so I learned all these things, then I got recalled. And I went to Afghanistan and quit that job at CBRE but I had all this knowledge. And so I don’t know if you remember, but we went to Afghanistan to take over the Helmand province from the Taliban. And this is in 2009. And when I first got there, we had like a month to kind of plan the invasion. And I put a business plan together to kind of go call these property managers that I used to work with asset managers for real estate investment trust that I used to work for, and, and start, you know, selling them lighting because I knew that all these warehouses had to be upgraded. Literally, like every warehouse in the country was going to be upgraded to LED and 0% was upgraded. And so I put a business plan together, I got back, you know, at the end of 2009. And then in like February 2010. I started the company, I was like I was 30 years old living in my parents basement. I remember I was sent sending postcards out you know, I looked it up and they said if you’re if you have your face on the postcard, you get a 30% higher return rate and all this stuff. And I was sending postcards out and just trying to sell free audits. And so anyway, so what do we do? We do LED lighting in commercial buildings, I’d say half our business is in warehouses. But we also do you know, you name it. municipalities, universities, schools, hospitals, office buildings, small retail, you know, everything, everything needs to be upgraded to LED. We also do Evie charging, you know, so it’s kind of the same thing. Same Same idea. You know, every building is going to be upgraded led right now there’s a 20% market penetration and industrial so there’s still 80% of the market left to go and we think ever seriously. Oh, yeah.

Aaron Spatz  12:06

There’s not much in 10 years. Holy cow. I thought for sure. Like it this was this has already hit critical mass like there’s, there’s still like a massive total addressable market like or that that’s available. Oh, yeah. You’re saying for like warehouses, commercial buildings to upgrade their lighting the led

Mike McAlinden  12:23

the commercial buildings is probably like 5050, I’d say, Okay. Warehouses, it’s 2015 to 20%. So 80% of the market left. And then you know that the the technology is evolving, on LED. So we’ll go back to old customers and try to sell them controls. Because you know, these LED lights if you think about them, it’s actually a computer little computer that is up in the ceiling. Now, you know, the most advanced ones. They’ve got sensors, they can communicate wirelessly to each other, they’ll report back to you on energy use or occupancy. And so the market is is expanding, and it’s growing. It’s a good, it’s a good place to be. We’re also trying to add other verticals. So we’re doing Evie charging. Now we think every parking lot will have a Evie charger in it. Especially now that you see these companies saying they’re going to go full electric vehicles by 2030. I think like Ford said 2030. And Volvo said 2028 or whatever. So we have a captive market, you know, capital, customer base that we could call on for additional vertical. Yeah, well, I hope that wasn’t too granular. But

Aaron Spatz  13:29

no, no, that’s perfect. This is this is this is what makes it fun. So I mean, that’s a that’s a tremendous opportunity for you. And then so then I was gonna ask you then, as you were, as you’re getting the company started in your so your release postcards and getting those mailed out and you’re making calls on I mean, like how, like, what was your approach to people? So you’re saying like, you’re, you’re selling free audits, like what did you? What was like the response rate for that? Like what, like, what? Yeah,

Mike McAlinden  13:59

so the first year, I didn’t sell anything, but I had a good pipeline. And I like I said, outsell forgot it. So back then I had to explain to people like that a problem, you know, like, Hey, your lights are really bad, and you’re gonna have to upgrade them and you’re spending way too much energy, then I had to teach him about the solution. So you know, way back and you know, 10 years ago, when I started, I was selling more efficient fluorescent, we weren’t even selling led back then. Okay, well, were you able to cut people’s energy cost in half. And I was, you know, selling that so so, you know, cut to cut to today. And, you know, you talk to talk to people about led and this Oh, yeah, I know about that. So they’re much more familiar with it now, which is, which makes it easier. Back then it was just about selling free audits, and then, you know, back to the sales thing, and then following up because I knew they were going to upgrade their lives, you know, so for me, it was about getting the proposal and then follow up, follow up, follow up and sometimes three years later, they’ll be like, hey, hey, that guy called again and then we’re now we’re upgrading our lives. Let’s give them a shot at it, you know, and I’m competing for these jobs. Then you got to look on how to win, you know, and where you know, where your numbers have to be, and margins and all that stuff. But essentially, it was just, you know, kind of get the hooks in, and then follow up, you know, follow up until either they go out of business, or I get hit by a bus or they give me the Lightning Deal, you know, one of the other.

Aaron Spatz  15:18

Wow, so, so talk with me through that, that mental transformation that you described earlier, where it was like, a, I don’t want to be annoying to now it’s like, I, I really need an answer to this, like, how did you cross that bridge? Like, how was that process for you?

Mike McAlinden  15:35

It took a lot of coaching and watching other people and learning from others, you know, I would hire people. And I would see how they communicated with our customers. And sometimes I was like, Whoa, you know, I’m not comfortable with that, but then they’d get a positive response, you know, and then so I’d learned, like, I was really formal in the beginning, when I would communicate with my customers, you know, heading body, you know. And so it took a long time to, you know, that’s instilled in you in the Marine Corps, it’s instilled in you in the way you were raised, where, you know, you don’t bother people and all these things. And so I had a lot to get over if I if I wanted to be successful. And it’s still something I fight today, I just, I’ve been able to transition to this thing where I think like, Hey, I’ve done all this work, you know, for free. I’ve done an auto they’re building, I spent hours putting a proposal together, I’ve used employees of my company to, you know, to get this done. And all I am asking for is not money for all this, but just a yes or no. Or go, you know, go pound sand, say something, like literally tell me anything, but don’t just ice me. And, and so, you know, once I started to think of it from that perspective, years, you know, two years in and I’m like, Okay, I gotta call them now. I gotta call them now, you know, but nowadays, and maybe it’s because, you know, 10 years later, I started at 30. You know, I’m 40. Now, my contemporaries who were in, in the civilian world were when I started their assistant managers or something like that, well, 10 years later, they’re directors, you know, there. So maybe it’s a little easier for me now to where I’m working with people that I know, I’m going to get an answer from, and I’m not some, you know, kind of PA, and that is just one of five quotes. It’s still there. And I see my employees struggling with it. But, but yeah, it took just like everything else. It took coaching, it took me, you know, knowing myself and seeking self improvement, you know, one of the leadership traits that we learn, yep. And, you know, over time, I was able to get there, but it’s also about communicating, you know, it’s also about like, hey, you know, I don’t want to feel like I’m stepping on this guy’s toes, there’s a right way to say, give me an answer. You know, there’s a way to say, Hey, I’m not trying to bug you. But I just, you know, I did all this work for it. And I’m looking for an answer. Sure. And so it’s also about learning that side of it.

Aaron Spatz  17:48

So when, like, when the company is just getting off the ground, like at what was that? Like? Like, what, what were you going through? Like, how did you get to the point where you realize, like, wow, like, this is sustainable. I actually now need to hire employees, I can afford to hire employees now. Like, what, what, what did all that look like for you?

Mike McAlinden  18:09

That was like, so your one hustle, hustle, but I didn’t sell anything, but I had, I built up a good pipeline. And then year two, I had a million bucks in sales. And so, you know, for me, it’s about you know, ordering the lights and getting the job, but then having an electrician go there and do it, and back then I didn’t have an electrician, so I had to sub it out. So, you know, it was about finding those relationships and kind of, you know, getting a distributor that would give me credit, you know, and I hadn’t been in business basically, like, Hey, I promise you, I’ll pay you, you know, in 30 day terms, and, and stuff like that. And so I got to so I got that figured out, I had, you know, I was doing jobs, and I just remember it getting to a point where I couldn’t keep up, you know, on the sales side, and then I’m doing the project management side and on billing, you know, and, and, and it just coincided luckily, with my cousin who is just couple years younger than me, he had just gotten finished with his landscaping business. And I was like, Hey, man, I need some help over here. You want to, you know, you want to give this a shot. And so and so he’s been, you know, he’s been with me ever since. And, you know, he was a lifesaver, because he took the project management side. And, and that’s a lot of work, you know, getting people to show up on time and getting things to show up on time. It’s, it’s a lot of work. So he was our first he was my first employee. That was your two, you know, our, over the net over the last 10 years. We’ve had as many as, you know, 2025 employees. I think right now we’ve got 20 we’ve grown to we do almost 300 jobs a year, all across the country. So you know, from him, we were able to build a hierarchy under you know, project management. Through me I had a one of my best friends was like the next hire this guy who was in the Marines with me he was also Logistics Officer. So he got out at the same time and went to Babson. And while I started the company, and then two years later, he graduated from Babson. And then knew, you know, I had this business and, and so he came over, and then we split the Marine Corps, or excuse me, we split the country like the Marine Corps does. So, in Texas, he took the west side of the Mississippi, and I live in Chicago, you know, I took the ESA. And it’s funny man, like, again, like something you’ll really appreciate, but I couldn’t have started the company without the Marine Corps, because you have in the Marine Corps s one, s two, s three s four. And that’s, you know, as you know, admin as to Intel operations, logistics, you know, s6, communications, marketing, you know, these are all things that every company has. And, and so, you know, you just kind of started the company with all those hats, but then start hiring, you know, the appropriate roles, you know, within the company, as we grew.

Aaron Spatz  20:59

Wow. Yeah. And that, and I feel like for a lot of like, so I’m going to keep trying to dig into this a little bit more, because I think this is for a lot of entrepreneurs, this is where a lot of them struggle is that transition, where you go from running it all by yourself, and you’re having to be like, you know, five roles within one hour. I mean, essentially, I mean, you’re doing everything, and then almost becoming a bit of a victim of your own success, because now you become in such demand that you just, you just spread yourself too thin now, like, things are gonna start to get dropped. But you’re like, well, crap, man, I can’t quite hire somebody full time just yet. Maybe I can 1099 them for now. But yeah, but so what like, what advice would you have for people that are that are in that kind of, kind of a predicament? Or like, how did you adapt through all that?

Mike McAlinden  21:50

Well, one thing you can do is, generally speaking, prepare for it, you know, know that in the future, where’s the pool of people I’m going to pull from, you know, and I, if this works out, I’m gonna, I’m gonna eventually need to hire for this role. Who could that be? Who in my life could that be right now, and I don’t know, if I’m, like, a lot of other, you know, people that are companies, but you tend to hire, you know, people that you know, are people in your, you know, in your circle. And even for me, like, that’s worked out, I hired my cousin. And now, you know, he’s at the desk next to me. But it’s also not worked out, I’ve hired other people in my family were added, let them go. And I mean, it’s amicable, but just like, hey, this is not working out for you, it’s not working out for me, you know, let’s, let’s figure this out. But anyway, so you just kind of, you can kind of prepare and know, like, eventually, I’m going to need a project manager, these are the 10 people, this is what I hope to be able to afford, how much is the project managers, you know, salary, and start budgeting, you know, for that, because it for me, at least, it ramped up. And I realize I’m like, I can’t do all this by myself. And I guess at some point, you have to know that too, you know, not, you can’t be bullheaded, and just try to, you know, try to get through it, you’ll get through it, but you’ll lose customers, you know, along the way. And, and even to this day, we still have to make sure that we’re not spreading ourselves too thin. We have this, you know, back then you couldn’t really do that. But now you have to say no to business sometimes, you know, if it’s if you know, it’s going to be a low margin job, if you know, you know, it’s going to be time consuming, or it’s a customer that doesn’t pay for a long time and you’ve got other customers. So there’s, you know, as you grow, it’s not like that. It’s not like you don’t have that fear anymore. It just, it just develops a little bit. Yeah.

Aaron Spatz  23:40

That’s really well said, I, I like how you talked about just preparation, you’re just starting to kind of identify all the different roles in the company. Again, this goes back to the book by Michael Gerber, the E Myth that a lot of us have read and it goes back to talking about how you build the build the company out in a way where it would be like France, you know, franchisable, like it’d be a franchisable business. And so what does that what does that require requires all these different processes, all these different roles, like I’m envisioning where it’s going to be, and I guess as your that’s what, that’s a memory that you sparked for me when you said you prepare and like you’re talking about how you’re envisioning what other roles that you’re going to have. And, and I’ve heard this in a couple places, but where you have, you have the reality of what today looks like and then you have the vision of what you would like it to be in the future. It may not be a perfect vision, right? But you have a vision of what you’d like it to look like and then you just start working towards that. It sounds really simple. Right? Well, that’s like but there’s there’s there’s a lot that goes into that. You asked

Mike McAlinden  24:48

me before we started like oh, you know, he switched from Greenlight Midwest just to greenlight national and the the answer to why we had Greenlight Midwest was originally we were going to do some type of franchise thing where we had Greenlight national, but then all these other regions around the country that we’re servicing that area, and then have region heads, you know, in each region. Now, we’re kind of like franchisees, I can’t remember off the top of my head, but it followed a business model of a company that we had looked at, you know, back then. And then as you know, as we grew, we realized, no, we want to keep it centralized, you know, that that was really decentralized. And you’re going to giving a lot of, you know, of the decision making and executive stuff away to franchisees, where we needed to keep it centralized. Because the the web learned was the business was about relationships. And, you know, it’s not like an annuity type business, you know, we try to go after, you know, companies that make decisions about lots of buildings, so that so that they can keep coming back to us. So

Aaron Spatz  25:45

smart, yeah, that’s smart. Because then what you’re creating for yourself is you’re, you’re creating a see, you know, someone have a recurring revenue model, whether it’s, like I get it, it’s likely not recurring, it’s probably just project based, right? But you’re based on the relationships, you can kind of create a little bit of a recurring model, because, hey, this guy’s managing, you know, 18 different properties. We’ll work on this project over here. He’s like, Oh, you know, what, let’s, what would it take to do the same thing you just did for me here? Over there? Yeah.

Mike McAlinden  26:17

Exactly. And normalized pricing for them across the country and all that, but I will say, as a business owner, I do want more annuity type, revenue. And so for me, what where that comes in his, like, maintenance contracts, you know, and so over the last, you know, I’d say five or so years, you know, we sell maintenance got Now obviously, LEDs, you know, part of the sale is you don’t need to maintain, right, exactly, yeah. But you do, you know, in our world for at least property management companies and real estate investment trusts that own warehouses, they do want somebody, you know, driving there once a month, and at night and checking to make sure everything’s on and kind of doing like due diligence, almost. And so those are the types of and then if you see, you know, some type of problem, some electrical problem, you know, then you can give them a quote, you know, to fix it, or, you know, any problem, you know, it’s almost like you have eyes on. So I just want to touch on that, like, I our business is project based, it is relationship based, and, you know, we want to get more business from these customers. But as we grow from here, you know, through the next five to 10 years, that’s a part of the business that I think it’s important, you know, that that we grow? Yeah, especially if we want to exit the business.

Aaron Spatz  27:28

Sure. I mean, in that, in that just that creates greater value for the company. You’ve got long standing contracts, contracts, I’ve had several. I’ve had several m&a people on the show. And back, back when back when I was running two podcasts at the same time, I ran the DFW business podcast, I had a few folks on on the show, specifically from the m&a world absolutely fascinating perspective on what creates and drives value for companies that are looking to exit. And how, and so I’m like, I’m, like commending you now. Because like, if you’re if you’re thinking of exiting at some point in the future, you’re thinking about it already. Right? So it’s like, it’s it’s one of those things where like, you know, what, I’d like to get on this business by the end of this year, you know, realizing I’ve only got like four months left to this year, it’s like, yeah, probably thinking about it a little too short. A little too short on your timeline there, right. Yeah, but no, that’s cool. That’s creating making maintenance agreements, creating that monthly recurring revenue,

Mike McAlinden  28:32

will be software in the future, too, that I that I’ll be able to get annuity from, like software subscriptions. And that’s not, that’s not really scaled in the market yet. But But I would say in the next five years, it’ll start to get into the market, and then I’ll be the norm.

Aaron Spatz  28:48

You know, what’s, what’s one of the things I’m going to ask like, the bad and the good side of this question, so it’s not gonna, it’s not gonna be all doom and gloom, but like, but what’s one of the biggest challenges that you’ve had to overcome since starting this business that, and we may have already talked about it, but But what just but like, what’s one of the greatest challenges that you had to overcome? You didn’t maybe quite know how you’re going to get through it. But hey, you’re still here?

Mike McAlinden  29:11

Yeah, well, a lot. I mean,

Aaron Spatz  29:15

a perfect answer, by the way,

Mike McAlinden  29:17

or I still have a lot of states, you know, I guess, like, I in the beginning, you know, I, I hired, we, we wanted to hire like, you know, somebody that was gonna come on and have an impact right away. And, you know, how do you attract somebody like that? Well, obviously, you pay a salary, you know, you’re trying to attract somebody that has a book of business that they’re bringing to you. And we didn’t have, you know, I’m talking seven, eight years ago, we didn’t have a big salary to pay people. What did we have, you know, in my head back down, I thought we had additional equity, you know, to pay to people. And so I, you know, I would say in the beginning, one big mistake was trying, you know, bringing people on board and then, you know, giving them deals where they had some type of equity in the business, if they achieve something worse, you know, over the years, I’ve had to let those people go and not only let them go, but also negotiate their shares back. So, you know, I learned that, you know, I have friends that have businesses or have, you know, parents who have businesses that I’ve learned where you don’t, you don’t have to give away equity, you can share profit, you know, there’s other options. So like, you know, that’s something that I could have easily learned if I, you know, got my MBA or something, but that’s a dumb thing that, you know, that I did in the beginning that I had to correct, you know, several years later, and you know, we’re fine. Now we’ve survived it. There’s a lot of times where we’re short on cash, I’m sure you’ve had, you know, you’ve had other people talk about cash flow, and how important that is. Yeah, it’s weird, you know, you can you can have you, the business can be booming, but you could still be short on cash, because your clients aren’t paying or, you know, any myriad of reasons, or like, last year, last year, COVID, obviously, in the pandemic, was particularly tough for us, because we had to leave all of our job sites, you know, and the way we build people is we finish work, and then we get him a bill or we progress, you know, we get halfway down and we give them a bill, you know, I think, maybe third close to 30 jobs, you know, going on and, and I had to stop all of them, we had to pull our guys off of every job. So, oh, my God, I mean, you know, me and my business partner, fellow Marine, you know, we’re looking at you like, what the, you know, what are we going to do here? Who do we pay? You know, right, who else coming up? And who do we pay? Yeah, the good thing about getting through that was, obviously, you pay your client, you pay your employees, and, and then, you know, more than ever, you know, you’re leaning on personal relationships. So like, I buy lights from distributors, I buy lights from, you know, ever referral relationship with Granger, you know, who is a big company. So, you know, you all these people money, and so, you know, they know what’s going on, and they knew, you know, they weren’t getting paid by other people, too, I’m sure. But it’s just like, hey, I’m sorry. Like, I’m not getting paid by these people. I can’t finish this job. I know, I owe you this money. But, and, you know, if you’ve been in business for several years, and you’ve been paying on time, and you know, you develop, you know, relationships with these people, they say, Hey, we know you’re gonna pay, like, you know, we’ll let it go. And I don’t I don’t, you know, it was tough to get through, but I don’t think I had one distributor or manufacturer, you know, or vendor of mine that, you know, was on my throat, you know, to get paid. And it’s because we’re all going through the same thing. You know, we’re all going through it together. PvP money, you know, helped out. So obviously, the federal government offer offering assistance to small businesses was a big thing for us. That got us through and now, you know, things are mostly opening back up. So this year, yeah, we’re gonna have a good to better than good year. And I hope that just stays around, baby. Let’s just keep going.

Aaron Spatz  32:57

Keep keep right, that. Yeah, the, the point you made a second ago, cash flow, and it just makes me think of just you know, the, the monitoring that AR Aging report, right is just like, yeah, like, when do I, it just that that balance of like, okay, you know, I have I have suppliers, I need to, I need to pay, but I also have terms, net, 30, net, 60, whatever, whatever the terms might look like, for projects and so like, balance, balancing that out and try and try to work it the opposite direction, right? It’s like, Hey, let me get my, let me get my suppliers on net 60 terms? Not like they ever would.

Mike McAlinden  33:32

But yeah, exactly. And that’s a constant game, you know, constant skill set. You know, I actually have, you know, over time, we have a controller now, and that’s a skill set that she has she always she’s always working on negotiating better terms for us. And working on getting paid and I would say that’s the worst part of my job is having to call people and ask them for money, you know, on and talk about, like getting over something and not wanting to annoy people. Like that’s how I was like, Man, this guy owes me money. I gotta call him and like, ask for it now. Come on. Yeah. But that’s

Aaron Spatz  34:04

all again. Yep. But you know, like you’re making such a great point, though is wit like it becomes it really makes it real. When you’ve got like, you’ve got your own bills to pay you’ve got your own families, your own employees your own like so there’s a lot riding on it. So it’s not so narrow i And that’s probably what helps. That’s probably what helped break some of that like apprehension about addressing as like hey, look, we got real needs to like I’m not just like trying to clobber people upside the eggs. I’m trying to make my net profit. No, my net margins look really really nice. This this quarter is like I’ve got like, I’ve got real I got real issues. I need to

Mike McAlinden  34:45

you know, the phone’s ringing and you know, like, you recognize a number and they’re like, oh, man, they’re asking me for the money that this dude owes me. I don’t even have it. Yeah, it’s it’s a motivator. But again, like, you know, you don’t want to call angry. You know? Exactly right. It’s hard, especially for guys maybe like us that, you know, I, if I’m, I’ll get annoyed, I’ll get angry. I was like, Yo, what’s going on here? You know, it’s it’s 45 days you told me gonna pay me 15 days ago. And that just never works out, you know. And so that’s another thing I’ve had to do over time is like, sometimes I’ll write an email, I’ll know, I’ll know. Like I’m feeling you know, whatever I’ll write now and then I’ll leave it. Yeah. And then I’ll go back the next day, and I’ll read and I’m like, No, we’re gonna just erase this part. We’re gonna edit this little area. But, you know, again, like know yourself seek self improvement, like don’t make those phone calls. You know, when when you’re angry? Sure. And again, there’s a right way. There’s a right way to say that to people. You know, hey, I know you’re busy doing other things, but I’m just checking on this invoice every time to check out, you know, something innocuous.

Aaron Spatz  35:52

Right? Yeah, something where it’s not gonna, not gonna become a fist fight over the phone. Yeah. Yeah, for sure. That that just doesn’t help anybody out. But alright, so we covered some of the some of the, some of the challenging aspect of the business. I would love to just hear from you like, what’s, like, what’s one of your proudest achievements? Like, what’s one of the things that you’ve just like, you know, what, I’m so proud of our team, so proud of this company, for what we’ve done here.

Mike McAlinden  36:21

Man, I mean, I guess the thing I like the most, or I just appreciate the most is that we have all these employees, like, we’ve had people now with us for almost 10 years. And, and it’s about us, you know, like, like, we have a core group of people that, you know, that we’re saving, I look at it, like we’re saving, yeah, for two years, I work for that company in a in a, you know, office with 200 people and 200 cubicles. And I like cvrd I love the people that I work with there, I knew that that wasn’t the environment, you know, for me, and, and I know that there’s a lot of people that are in that, you know, they’re maybe not now because of the pandemic, and I hope that, you know, mobile working, you know, takes off and stays with us. But back then, I mean, 80% of the workforce, you know, sitting in a cubicle or something. So, I kind of look at it, like, um, you know, the company is saving us all from that, you know, from that life and leaving my, you know, like, my dad, he’d leave the house at 6am and get home at 7pm. And, you know, he wouldn’t see us leave leave for school, and, you know, he tried to get home before we went to bed, and I now have friends that are that are doing that stuff. And I know, we were hard. And there are some days where we are, you know, extending our hours or working weekends, and, you know, you know, the hustle, but Sure, but, you know, families takes priority, if somebody you know, it’s not like, we don’t have like time off, when someone wants to leave, it’s like, you know, take time off, you know, so I like that part of it, you know, it’s, it’s something that we’re all you know, doing together to save ourselves from, you know, working, you know, a terrible nine to five or working for a terrible boss, hopefully, most of them don’t think they have terrible boss, but, you know, something along those lines, I’m proud of that I’m proud that I was able to, and like I started it, you know, here we are 10 years later, you know, I’ve had a lot of help the company’s been on the back of a lot of different people that that weren’t me, you know, in that time, guys, closing big deals, guys getting projects done faster, and so we can move on to something and, and so it, it feels like our company, you know, now, in the beginning, it felt like my company, and that’s something I’m proud of. It’s something that I think my employees feel like they, you know, love being a part

Aaron Spatz  38:41

of, yeah, that’s awesome. That’s a I mean, be able to look back and see, like, wow, yeah, 10 years later, we’ve, we’ve got some of the same faces here, you know, and we’re, and we both, like being able to see each other. Yeah,

Mike McAlinden  38:55

you know, try to have the conversation every year, you know, and you know, how the Marine Corps is, like, you want to sit down with people and make sure that you understand their wants and needs, because they adjust over time. And so the mindset of the companies, you know, wants and needs, and so we always make sure that it’s married up, and, you know, I cared to make sure that my employees feel like they’re paid what they’re worth. So we talked about that, you know, I don’t want that to be like a thing in the background that’s not, you know, open and I always tell them, like, if you think you deserve more money than come tell me why. And I’ll pay you more money. If, you know, if, if you’re doing more work, and you think you’re adding more value than then come at me with, you know, with a reason why, and I’m here to, you know, talk about it. Sure.

Aaron Spatz  39:37

Yeah. Well, so looking back on it now, like I would love to just to hear from you. And again, I know we’ve probably covered elements of this in different segments that we’ve already done, but looking back, knowing what you know now like what advice would you give yourself to 10 years 10 years ago version of what you’ve seen, and maybe different things that you might change or things that you shouldn’t worry about, or things you should focus on, like, what will? What would that look like?

Mike McAlinden  40:08

So really good question. I mean, I changed a lot, because like I said, I’ve made a lot of mistakes. You know, hiring, like, on the, on the operation side, I think I’ve done a decent job hiring, but on the sales side, you know, I don’t think I’ve done a great job hiring or, or motivating, you know, I think that’s been a leadership failure of mine over the years, but, you know, hiring just, you know, not necessarily better people, I heard good people, and, you know, that worked hard, but but, you know, I think I could have hired different people that maybe could have been more effective. Or, or motivated them differently, or, you know, or pay them, you know, differently or something. But in the beginning, I didn’t do a good job of that, I definitely would change that, that anybody would tell you, that’s the hardest part of running and owning businesses, is hiring people, you know, a better knowledge of financials. You know, I’m just dumb Marine. And, you know, math for Marines is about as complex as I like to get. And so, you know, when you’re talking about a balance sheet, income statement, you know, you said it earlier, and net profit, and, you know, these things are, obviously things that we know, you know, right now, but 10 years ago, when I started the company, and I have a business degree in business management degree from Quincy University, but, you know, there’s just like, there’s just things I like, when you’re talking to bankers, like you don’t, I didn’t know back then. And so it’s in it’s things that you can learn things that you can read about, and Lauren, and I just, you know, I was more like OJT guy and putting my head down and hustling and, you know, knocking on doors and making phone calls, and I was so focused on that, that, you know, it, we talked about how when it ramps up, you want to hire people? Well, when it maps up, you know, the more money is coming in Mo Money, Mo Problems, you know, like, it’s where does, where does this go out? And then at the end of the year, it’s, you know, it’s like, well, you know, I didn’t even have QuickBooks, you know, so that was like, Oh, my God, I gotta hire somebody to get it, you know. And so, I was way behind on all that stuff, I ended up hiring somebody off of off of Craigslist, that really didn’t do a good job, like setting up my books, you know, and then years later said, we’re doing, you know, I think we did up to a million, and then we were like, we were 2 million, and then maybe three and a half, you know, so we’re growing pretty well, every year. And maybe, like four years into it, I had to let that person go and then hire somebody to rebuild my books from back, you know, day one, you know, to President. And, you know, that was time consuming. It was expensive, you know, and it’s something that I could have saved myself from if I had just done either a hire the right person, or be known more about it. So I can manage that the person that I did hire, you know? Sure. So, I mean, dude, I could I could go on and on. Well, it’s

Aaron Spatz  43:01

good. It’s good. No, and this is the that’s not at all meant to be like a walk of shame at all.

Mike McAlinden  43:09

We are, you know, somehow, I still managed to get us here. 10 years later, we’re profitable. So it’s not, you know, I say I, like my business partner is is the brains of the operation. And he’s the guy who should have on next and he’s in Fort Worth, actually. Oh, wow. You’re there. Right?

Aaron Spatz  43:24

I am. I will have to off offline. Lots of coordinate that that’s, that’s super cool. Well, let me just pull up your website. So the best way for people to get to get a hold of you there to learn more about the company would be Greenlight. national.com. Is that

Mike McAlinden  43:40

right? Yes, sir. Yeah, check out green light national calm. We’ve got a LinkedIn page got Facebook page. And then yeah, to get a hold of me. I mean, we’ve got, you know, a just a normal email address on the on the website. But yeah, if you put me on there, I’ll get it. So there’s only 20 of us over here. So you know, it’ll filter to me no problem.

Aaron Spatz  44:04

Yeah. Well, Mike, I mean, before we go, was there what? Was there anything else? Was there anything else that you wanted to share that we maybe we just didn’t get? have time to circle back to? Or did you have any other any other lingering thoughts?

Mike McAlinden  44:17

Other No, nothing other than to a thank you for having me on. And then be just, you know, offer my assistance that anybody listening that you know, is thinking about starting a business or? or have some questions or, or if you’re out there, and you think you could give me advice, and I’ll take it, but, but yeah, just just you know, doing that. And like I said, you can get me, you know, on any of our LinkedIn page, Facebook page or whatever, but yeah, well, I appreciate you having me on here. And it’s been a real honor and a pleasure.

Aaron Spatz  44:50

Yeah, it’s been it’s been been a lot of fun. Mike, thank you again, so much. Thanks for listening to America’s entrepreneur. If you enjoyed this show please leave a review or comment on your preferred social media platform. share it out with friends, family, coworkers, others in your network. And of course you can write me directly at Erin at Bold media.us That’s a Ron at Bold media.us Select

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