Accidental Entrepreneur Builds Multimillion-Dollar Grout Repair Empire
How a 17-year-old high school dropout took an opportunity that ‘fell into his lap’ and created an 8-figure business with 100+ employees.
At just 17 years old, Brad Young returned to Perth after spending a year in Canada at an ice hockey academy. With no money to his name, he took a job helping a family friend's small shower repair business. Little did he know that this chance to earn some "cash" would lead him to become a multimillionaire entrepreneur.
The owner of the business must have sensed Brad's natural business acumen, as he offered to sell it to him on his first day. It wasn't until 2009, when Brad was 19 years old, that he thought, "why not, it's good money" and took over the business, which at the time was just one man and a van.
Rebranding to the Grout Guy, Brad could see the potential for expansion throughout Australia and thanks to his take a chance approach to life, in 2010, he and partner Kristy moved to the Gold Coast to test the market.
“I’ve always done things unconventionally, moving to Canada at 15, leaving school in year 10, moving up to Queensland early in the business’ life cycle even though it started in West Australia,” Brad said. “I’ve never settled for what the ‘system’ tells us we should be doing and it’s an ethos that underpins my life in business and personally.
“Like most things in my early days of business I didn’t spend a long-time agonising about decisions, I just thought why not, can’t hurt to give it a go. I made the decision based on gut feel and it’s been a good strategy for me that I continue to make decisions based on.
“I really don’t see myself as the textbook entrepreneur either but I believe in maximising opportunity as much as possible. The longer I worked in the business the more long-term potential I could foresee. It was about taking chances then.”
Brad and Kristy returned to Perth a few years later to be close to family again but the move had cemented their working and life partnership and their commitment to expanding the business.
An extensive re-brand in 2013 was the catalyst to ramp up their plans for expansion and in under 10 years since then, The Grout Guy has expanded with locations in Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Geelong, Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast.
“We’ve got over 100 employees now and 80 vans on the road,” Brad said. “We have had strong double digit growth for the past five years and we’re expecting to grow annual turnover by 50% this year, with a plan to have 230 vans on the road by the end of 2024.
Brad credits his former shower repair boss, who was an accountant by profession, with giving him an early insight into running a business successfully. By the age of 21, Brad had learned the importance of margins and driving a pipeline of work, making the sale and doing the job with customer satisfaction paramount, and seeking opportunities in different client markets.
“I gained foundation skills for running a business from him and I am grateful for the opportunity he afforded me. His style wasn’t conventional, but the operational principles were solid.”
Never one to shy away from hard work, Brad was 'on the tools' a long time before he shifted his mindset about being a leader. He worked in the field for the first decade in the business, but the company’s growth really happened once he took his place behind the desk and focused on strategy rather than operations.
Learning how to effectively scale the business is something Brad had to learn on his own though in the 13 years since he started The Grout Guy.
“There’s really no end point in scaling this business, but we’ve been careful to research our markets before moving in and we’ve made supporting our employees a priority, setting up the back-end systems so they can focus on being out on the road.
“Over the past few years, we have moved over to a sophisticated CRM that enables us to manage the business from a very data driven level and provides a high level of automation with our sales process. This has led to a 20% increase in conversion. It has also increased our customer communication efficiencies.”
From a business perspective, while The Grout Guy might appear to be a niche service business, Brad said their offering extends to residential and commercial regrouting, waterproofing and tile repairs.
“The commercial market has huge potential, as we’re talking about large-scale jobs for restaurants, commercial kitchens, healthcare settings, gyms, and public facilities like toilets and bathrooms.”
For Brad and Kristy, life-work balance has always been a focus, and the drive for business growth is not at the expense of lifestyle and time. They have three boys, and being able to take them to school and enjoy life with them is what it's all about for the couple.
“I will never grow to the point where I lose that benefit of being a business owner. It is a very important currency for us.”
This philosophy applies to their team as well. Their grout experts are most commonly ex-tilers looking to downsize and focus on spending time with family and just enjoying more of the day-to-day. As Brad says, "time is a luxury you can't buy, so maximising it must be a life priority."