Marine Corps Veteran Turned Garage Door Guru: A Journey to Building Doors and Dreams
Kyle Ronan, Marine Corps Veteran & Founder of Garage Door Grunts
Tell us about who you are and your background in the military:
My name is Kyle Ronan. I served from 2009-2017 with the United States Marine Corps on active duty. After completing boot camp MCRD San Diego and MCT (Marine Combat Training) I then went to the USNSOM (United States Naval School of Music) to learn the history, traditions, and standards of the USMC and other branches. I then became a musician for the United States Marine Band at Parris Island MCRD after graduating USNSOM. After roughly 3 years, I was then transferred to 1st MARDIV (1st Marine Division) where I served out the rest of my contract. I served with the 1stMARDIV Band as well as served as HQBNSAF (Headquarters Battalion Security Augmentation Force) with other units at 1st Marine Division. I have had training on numerous weapons systems, qualified expert 7 of 8 times on rifle qualification, shotgun and pistol as well. I have traveled the surrounding states as well as the world and seen the world from different perspectives. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to serve our great nation in many capacities and would do it all again in a heartbeat.
Tell us about your business:
Garage Door Grunts is a veteran-owned business that prides itself in ethics, morality, and integrity. We are a company that proudly states what we mean “Service after serving”. We are, in fact, one of very few veteran-owned garage door companies in the state of Arizona located in Phoenix near i17 and 101. Garage Door Grunts was started in early 2019 and has been in business ever since. We are new to the industry, but we are here to stay. We service existing commercial and residential doors, as well as repair and replace them when needed. Garage Door Grunts’ mission is to go above and beyond for our current and future clients by providing honorable, tactful, and efficient service while using the best products available for new garage door installations and repairs within the greater Phoenix area. We have many different clients, but our biggest market tends to be veterans or proud supporters of our veterans and 1st responders. I came up with the idea to eventually establish a brotherhood in the service industry. My goal is to get veterans jobs and to create an environment where veterans can feel more comfortable after transitioning from service to civilian life.
Describe how you got the business started:
I have always had a mind for entrepreneurship. As a kid, I would sell just about every single thing I had no use for or even in high school selling cars for people on Craigslist who didn’t have an easy means of selling them. After the Marines, I went to community college while working as a Garage door warehouse employee then quickly worked my way up to service technician/installer. I learned that I was pretty good with people and maintaining customers, but I did feel I was not making as much as I could have as I gained experience. I moved on to a couple of companies, gaining further experience as I educated myself with business law and administration classes. I then ended up at the company I started with, making more as well as bringing the skills I learned to the table. After much deliberation and bureaucratic deceit, fraud, and graft within the “Corporate” company I worked for, I decided it was time. I had written down and noted every single distributor, part, type of service, etc I could and created a business plan along with creating a structure for my future business environment (How I wanted to do things). Keep in mind, I didn’t just do this overnight or the moment I decided to leave. I did this while I was in school. I did it while I worked. I took notes on how to better improve myself along with how I could improve the companies I worked for. I took all the bad and tried to figure out ways to make it good. I then knew no company I worked for was going to listen to what I had to say, regardless of title, for every business owner is going to operate their own way, or that civilians were not going to do much of anything to improve upon what outside sources tell them (Listened to yes, but heard? No.. Far from it..).
I took my truck I worked hard for, and turned it into a work truck. I bought my first rack from harbor freight, and got my truck wrapped by the local veteran owned business wrap guy. I bought some parts from some of the local companies, stocked it up, and kept tabs on my books. I worked hard to network with other small companies, vendors, distributors, and then more. It was a slow start, but with free advertisement, and market penetration techniques, I was getting 1-2 customers every other day. Word of mouth got around too.. Then, I was known as the garage door guy in the neighborhood area and zip code. I then had to get another truck. I was outgrowing my home business. The rest is history. I’m still in business, flourishing with 6 employees and a solid brick and mortar. I am now in competition with some of the biggest, well known companies, working every day to expand Garage Door Grunts and turn it into a brand as well as a hard core service company that gets shit done when others make excuses. Let it be known that a year or two worth of hard work will pay off in the end. I never had a mentor, nor did I really want one.. I can honestly distinguish what I did was what I did, not based on someone else’s principles and dictation. I have no problems mentoring, but I have come to realize that the game of business is a game that sometimes needs to be tested and changed by someone who plays solo without interruptions. It's doable… No one wants to do it.
Tell us why you wanted to become an entrepreneur:
As an entrepreneur, I never really had an influence or inspiration to really do what I do. I never had a dad, I grew up in a broken home, was homeless with my mother and sister for a time. I knew that I didn’t want to live that way ever again. I knew that I was going to end up on the streets or do something bigger. So, I turned to the Marine Corps. I took my years of practicing the tuba (That's all I had and could afford to play in school.. No bull shit) and my dedication to sports and athletic activities to the real world. I won my audition with the Marine’s and went to boot camp. That's what influenced me… Everything I did was on my own without the help of others in the beginning. Sounds bad, but I really didn’t have anyone there until I met my wife after leaving the Marines. My influencer… My wife Ashley is one of few I could honestly say influenced me to start what I started, what we started. I owe it to her to keep on going and pushing forward, regardless of all trials and tribulations life and or the business throws my way.
Describe how your military background prepared you for entrepreneurship:
I honestly think writing professionally and formally on a constant basis really helped me get noticed. You're probably thinking, “What the hell, really?” Yes. In fact, it has helped me utterly destroy my competition. “The pen is mightier than the sword” is in fact a factual quote. The fact that I could correspond in a timely, more efficient manner to other business owners, distribution centers, as well as customers made things easier for others to help me get things done more quickly, freeing up time I would not otherwise have. I add detailed information to my invoices as well as my company's CRM. I write Operations procedures manuals so my employees have an expectation of what I want them to do. There are so many skills such as leadership, high pressure deescalation, as well as other random things the Marine Corps has given me to be successful. Its how I chose to implement those skills into my business that made Garage Door Grunts what it is today.
Tell us about some of the obstacles and challenges you’ve had and how you overcame them:
As a business owner, there are many day to day obstacles as well as monthly to yearly obstacles I have to hurdle over to ensure the company runs. At first, I thought to myself, “Why did I do this” or “I should sell my leads to a company” or “Damn this customer was terrible to me, I should just work for someone else”. I did NOT let that defeat me at the end of the day. When I got home, I would reflect vs deflect. Instead of making excuses, I held myself accountable. I started this business with a mindset of “Man, I’m gonna be rich one day”. After a month or two… My mindset flipped immediately… I took a big step back and gave myself a reality check.. “That's the goal of every business owner, but what are my personal goals? What do I hope to see this business become?”. The script flipped. I wasn’t in it to win it from the beginning. It just took me a minute to realize why I was doing it in the first place. It’s as if my subconscious mind was working for me while my conscious mind was thinking “Money”. Why would I not create something for other veterans? Why do I have to be a selfish ass business owner? Oh wait! I don’t have to be! I then started to grow and expound upon the proper mindset. I hired my first employee shortly thereafter. I started reaching out to people and giving opportunities to those I saw needed (People in the same situation I was in before I left “Work”). There was some hiring and firing in the process, and then something happened that almost took everything away.
The pandemic. Covid-19 played a huge role in lack of resources, production, as well as customers…. At first… I quickly adjusted my protocols, updated my site information as well as wore masks and gloves to protect my clients from the unknown. They still needed help, and I was still one of few companies out running calls. Then something crazy happened. Shortly after covid mysteriously ended, New clients were flooding in. “Can you get this door for me”, “Can you get this part, the other guys can't”. It was the start of a new era of issues. Manufacturers were short on labor, drivers weren't making their deliveries on time due to shortage of manpower, etc. That is where I took the bad and made a huge leap above my competition. I had the willingness to get things done and find what the people needed. My wife helped out exponentially during this time working with me after her day job to assist in getting things done as well as support from the family (1 of which is a full time employee, my wifes mother). I then hired and fired more workers. I went from the lone guy to 6 employees, 4 trucks on the road, a building, etc as of the past year. There was a lot of restructuring of the business, a lot of moving parts needed to be fine tuned, and we made new deals with other dealers and distribution centers. The point I'm making here is, there are a lot of bad things that can happen as an entrepreneur/business owner in a very short amount of time. It's what you do with those moments, how you handle yourself in those dire times, and how you think outside the box and capitalize on them that separates you from “the other guys”. No experience is necessary, just a creative approach and a different mindset than everyone else.
Describe how are you doing today and what the future looks like:
Garage Door Grunts is doing great! We have a few huge clients with more owned homes than we can handle, but we are working on getting a handle on that. I took a look and found some businesses that needed our help, where others failed to look and we are capitalizing on that exponentially. Not only do these clients provide work, but they provide the opportunity to do OJT (on-the-job training) for new hires. In turn, it gives us the opportunity to grow at a faster pace than most companies. Our company Grosses anywhere between 60k- 150k a month with 6 employees (Including myself) with 4 trucks on the road (1 of which is mine, where I utilize for parts pickups, business deals, as well as some service work). We do a PnL statement at the end of every month and quarter to see where we can grow and how we can get there with weekly meetings as a team.
I think about the future more than I think in the now. The operators of the business are handling the now, so I can keep us on track for future goals. Our goal is to gross at least 100k or more every month moving forward, but the only way we're going to get there is with realistic goals and realistic expectations. In order to complete these goals, realistic expectations. With that being said, I prioritize my employees. I ensure they are happy by ensuring they have the benefits they need for themselves and their families. If they aren’t happy, how am I to operate a company with bad morale? I pay them for asking for the reviews. I pay them when they have ideas. I pay them when they bring new clients to the table and we land big deals. For us, there are no problems when it comes to morale and company operating standards, for we all know what is expected to be successful. We operate as a team, not by traditional owner/employee standards. I will not give away all of my secrets, for I have no known source as to where this is even going, but I will state that there are huge changes coming once we finalize some deals and hire some more employees. Taking care of your employees and the “Idea” of running a business is fun, but when it comes down to the backend operational side of things, finances, as well as building the brand, watching and maintaining a debt free company is a lot harder to grow than a company with hundreds of thousands of dollars in “Put off” debt, but in retrospect, is 100% owned by you. Not the bank or any other company.
Give us some advice you can share with your fellow veteran entrepreneurs:
Truthfully, I don’t think I wanted to know much more than I already had going into it. Had I known more, I would be the same as every other business. Of course, I take what I have learned from the companies I have worked for, but I took the good from them. I fixed a majority of the bad by already going through or dealing with those trials and tribulations within those companies. Of course, there are issues with the company I run from time to time, but I do take those issues and run through scenarios as well as correct them to the best of my ability.
Where can we go to learn more?