Persistence is key to being successful, it won’t happen overnight. When we first started our company, I definitely thought our phones would start ringing as soon as we launched our website. Obviously, I learned quickly that this wasn’t the case. At some point within the first few months, my business partner and I met to discuss our long-term plan with GreatBuildz. We both acknowledged that we wouldn’t find success overnight — we had to commit to one another (and to ourselves) that we were devoted to the organization for the long haul. We knew that an endeavor like ours would take many months, even years to establish ourselves to the point which we’d consider ‘successful’.
As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jon Grishpul of GreatBuildz.
GreatBuildz is a completely free service that simplifies the contractor search by matching and connecting homeowners with reliable, thoroughly screened general contractors. Founded by a team of real estate and construction professionals with multiple decades of experience, GreatBuildz connects each client with up to three contractors that are individually selected for their specific project, typically within 24 hours, and stays by the client’s side from the initial call through the finished remodel. Through its meticulous 10-step vetting process, all GreatBuildz contractors go through an in-person interview, a background check, reference calls, online ratings, an insurance check, and a signed commitment to uphold a 20-point Code of Conduct.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
Well, my backstory in a vacuum certainly doesn’t make any sense as to how I ended up here. I studied marketing at Cal Poly SLO, which led me to work in sales at a behemoth tech company. After a year, I realized it wasn’t for me — something about being a small fish in a big pond and also just not believing in the product I was selling. I realized I would be happiest if I was working with an organization I believed in, for a cause I cared about. After my time in sales, I spent a few years working in consulting, helping young leaders run student organizations across the country. This experience definitely sparked my interest in being a self-starter and in entrepreneurship in general, and it also reinforced the concept that I thrive in an environment where I know I’m doing something good in the world.
As I was finishing up my 2nd year in the consulting role, I began looking for new opportunities where I could work for myself and also live closer to home. My family has always been one of the most important things in my life, so I started talking to my uncle (now business partner) about the next steps in my career. He has over 20 years in the real estate industry and has a background in construction and development. Before we started GreatBuildz, my business partner, Paul Dashevsky, had spent his previous 10 years flipping homes all over Los Angeles — so he was certainly well aware of the many prevalent issues in the construction industry — contractors overcharging, poor communication, poor quality work. The list goes on and on. We began discussing some of the biggest problems for homeowners when remodeling, which led us to start our company, GreatBuildz. We are a free service that matches homeowners with reliable, thoroughly screened general contractors, and provides ongoing support to ensure a stress-free renovation experience. We were confident that if we could help close the knowledge and communication gaps between homeowners and contractors, and also help make it easier for homeowners to find great contractors for their projects, it would significantly reduce the ‘renovation nightmares’ people are commonly worried about.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
It’s kind of funny to think about, because if we started this company 20 years ago, there wouldn’t be anything disruptive about us. There’s no secret algorithm and we don’t have a fancy app (not yet at least). In a world where everything seems to be going the high-tech route, we weren’t willing to sacrifice our customer experience in exchange for automation or efficiency. I’d say the most disruptive thing about us is that we’re real, local people, who are always available to help. When my team isn’t available to take calls, they come to me. There’s a sense of peace of mind our clients get when they know they have someone reliable on their side, ready to support them in any way possible. That’s something we’ve noticed was largely missing from others in the industry, so we’re excited to be ‘disrupting’ the industry in this way.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When we first started developing the concept for our company, the initial idea was a consulting service to help homeowners who are in the middle of a nightmare renovation. We wanted to provide them with advice and resources to better prepare them for how to resolve their contractor issues. Turns out, once someone has already spent too much money on a headache renovation, they most likely aren’t interested in paying another service to try and help them resolve their issues.
Our mission from day one has been to help homeowners have a stress-free renovation experience. We learned that the best way to achieve this would be to help homeowners from the very beginning of their projects. We educate our clients about what to expect during the renovation process, we introduce them to contractors from our vetted network and we can even help them understand and compare their bids — all as a part of our free service. I’m glad we identified our initial concept wasn’t feasible early so that we could quickly pivot into a space where I think we can provide much more value, as well as a much better experience for our clients.
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
As I mentioned, my business partner is my uncle, Paul Dashevsky. He has an extensive background in this industry, as well as being a serial entrepreneur and angel investor. His experience has been a tremendous help in our development of the company, as well as in my personal development as well.
Another mentor I can’t go without mentioning is my sister, Suzi. She has tons of experience in product management and web development, and she also has a great way of finding a balance between doing good for the world while still doing well for yourself. I must say that she’s a part of the reason I decided to deviate from the ‘sales world’ in exchange for something more fulfilling in my life. Suzi has also been a serious lifesaver anytime I need to ‘hit the panic button’ and get urgent help with our website!
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
I’d say that disruption is often good, at least when it’s shaking up an old industry in dire need of a change, and it’s being done with the user’s/community’s best interests in mind. Since the hit of the COVID-19 pandemic, live events like music festivals and conferences have screeched to a halt. I’ve seen some companies do really cool things by bringing that ‘live experience’ into the digital world, for people to enjoy from the safety of their homes — that’s a great kind of disruption. The transportation industry was in dire need of transformation — so companies like Tesla came to shake things up. They weren’t the first company to build an electric car, but they’ve developed a brand that has brought the concept of electric cars into the mainstream. Tesla, as well as the whole ‘alternative fuel vehicle’ industry, still has a long way to go, but it’s exciting to see the innovative sparks fly.
Disrupting an industry can become ‘not so positive’ when it starts to negatively impact its users. In the construction industry (and surely many other industries), we have a saying: “Good, fast, cheap — pick two”. We’ve seen some companies are trying to offer all three, which I think is great! But I’m worried about how successfully they can accomplish these goals, while still providing a positive experience to their end-users. To go back to my example of the transportation industry, I think the disruptive concept behind companies like Uber and Lyft is great — the process of getting a taxi was difficult, expensive, and there were high barriers to entry for drivers. However, as we’re seeing more of recently, there are also negative issues associated with ride-sharing services like these, concerning rider safety, driver compensation, increased traffic, etc. I’d say negative externalities are inevitable with many disruptive concepts, but at the end of the day, I’m typically all for whatever benefits the most with the greatest good.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
Persistence is key to being successful, it won’t happen overnight. When we first started our company, I definitely thought our phones would start ringing as soon as we launched our website. Obviously, I learned quickly that this wasn’t the case. At some point within the first few months, my business partner and I met to discuss our long-term plan with GreatBuildz. We both acknowledged that we wouldn’t find success overnight — we had to commit to one another (and to ourselves) that we were devoted to the organization for the long haul. We knew that an endeavor like ours would take many months, even years to establish ourselves to the point which we’d consider ‘successful’. There are always great days and there are many tough days along the journey of building a company. Any time when morale gets low, I always call back to this advice I received, buckle up, and get ready for the exciting road ahead. To reference one of my favorite marketing gurus Seth Godin, “There’s no shortage of remarkable ideas, what’s missing is the will to execute them.”
Give away your best content. After learning that our initial business concept of ‘selling’ guidance wasn’t viable, and we pivoted to an entirely different idea, we realized something extremely valuable. It’s something I had read on many ‘business advice’ blogs, but never really understood what it meant. Turns out, they were right. We took all the resources we had put together, uploaded them onto our website and blog, and gave them all away for free — not behind a paywall, not in exchange for an email — completely free and publicly available. People started finding our articles, learning about what we do, and developing trust in our brand along the way. Now that we’re regularly developing more content and resources, we understand that there’s tremendously more value in giving everything we know away for free. It’s a way for our clients to learn our story, build confidence in what we have to offer, and get whatever information or resources they need at the time. And if they’re interested in using our service, all the better.
Every problem is a gift. Similar to the advice I received about persistence, I also learned that there were always two ways to address a problem. I could either sulk and regret whatever decision I made that led to the problem, or I could meditate on it, learn from it, and grow from it. At this point, I’m almost excited when we encounter a new problem — that just means we have a new opportunity to improve our business, improve myself, and at the end of the day, build a greater organization for our team and our clients.
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
Currently, we service Los Angeles County and parts of neighboring counties. We are regularly screening and inviting new contractors to join our network, and we are eager to be able to someday soon provide the same services throughout the rest of California. For us, quality of service is of the utmost importance — we want to ensure our clients are having a stellar experience from start to finish, and receiving the personalized, human touch that we promise. We will never rush to grow quickly if it sacrifices our mission as an organization.
Aside from being able to help more clients in new areas, we are always exploring new ways that we can make the GreatBuildz experience even more helpful and easier. I’m not at liberty to discuss the specifics, but there is always more coming soon.
Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?
A book that has been a tremendous help in my personal development, as well as in building this company, is Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller. When we first started out, we were hyper-focused on getting our name out into the world. We were looking for ways to differentiate our service from our competitors, how to make our marketing stand out, etc. It was all very ‘Me, me, me’, which seemed so important for us back then since it’s such a competitive space.
After learning about the StoryBrand concept, we realized we had been doing it all wrong! Folks don’t really care about a flashy website, how many hours we’ve spent screening contractors, or any other marketing ‘noise’ we put in the world. They just want to have a stress-free renovation and not get stuck with a ‘nightmare contractor’.
Since reading this book, our team has completely changed our approach with regard to our branding, our marketing, and even the way we engage with our clients. It’s helped us clarify our messaging, connect better with our clients, and be a more helpful resource in the industry.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Not sure who said it first, but something along the lines of “Do you live to work or work to live?”. Or in other words, said by the great Nick Offerman, “It’s so sad that so much of our society says, ‘man, thank G-d it’s Friday.’”
I’m all for finding a healthy work-life balance, but I know far too many people who simply accept dreading their jobs as a necessity. Folks who force their way through the ‘9 to 5’, take a couple of days to relax and recover over the weekend, just to start all over again the following week. I get it — I’ve been there too. But now that I’m doing work that resonates with me, work that I believe in and am excited to do, I couldn’t imagine going back to the ‘9 to 5’ grind. I believe in the mission we’ve established for ourselves and I’m excited to share it with clients any time the phone rings.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
California is in the midst of a dire housing crisis. There’s been a severe housing shortage, and most significantly a lack of affordable housing for many years now. If there’s one thing we can do to help the greater good, it’s helping resolve this issue. The state has been avidly seeking ways to increase affordable housing, and within the past few years, have drastically loosened restrictions for ‘accessory dwelling units’ (also known as granny flats). This means that on just about any residential property, the owner can build another dwelling on their property, either by converting their garage into a living space, or building from scratch in their side or backyard.
By the nature of these units, it’s a mutually beneficial opportunity. Homeowners can start earning additional rental income to help pay off their mortgage, and they’re also providing affordable housing opportunities to those who need it. The use for these structures is flexible, too. They can provide an ‘independent’ living space for returning college kids, a safe place for aging parents to move into, or even an affordable option for a new couple to start their life together.
We started our company to ensure homeowners are in good hands for any remodeling project, and I love that I’m in a position to help my clients make informed decisions so they can hire a contractor with confidence. But if there’s any movement we’re passionate about as an organization, it’s helping solve this housing crisis. We’re excited that we can help homeowners navigate the often difficult and confusing process, as well as connect them with trustworthy contractors who can get the projects done properly.
How can our readers follow you online?
You can follow GreatBuildz on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest at the links below:
If you’d like to get in touch with me, you can find my LinkedIn page here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jongrishpul
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!