American entrepreneur, Brooks Wells, was born and raised in Grand Island, Nebraska. From a young age Brooks knew he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father, Joe Wells, who is a longtime high school, NAIA and division II basketball referee. Brooks and his younger brother, Kirby, joined their father’s officiating business, working numerous games throughout basketball season for various levels. Brooks began officiating in his senior year of high school and has continued with this passion ever since.
After graduating from high school, Brooks Wells attended the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, where he received a bachelor’s degree. During this time, Brooks was the student manager and bullpen catcher for the Husker baseball team. His university experience inspired him to pursue various business ventures. Currently, as a highly trained officiator, Brooks sells officiating paraphernalia through an online shopping center, Charlee’s Ref Gear, helping fellow officials access everything they need to look the part on the court. Additionally, in Spring 2019, Brooks will be officially opening his lawn care business, Major League Lawn Care (MLLC), to the public. MLLC specializes in maintaining a beautiful yard, fertilizer and laying sod.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
The name for Charlee’s Ref Gear was inspired by my daughter, Charlee, as well as my career and passion for reffing. The idea for the company was presented to me by a long time successful official who manufactures referee equipment for all sports. It is a great opportunity to become an independent salesperson with my own personal website, helping referees access the equipment they need to get the job done.
As for Major League Lawn Care, I have worked with a lawn care and sprinkler business for various summers, helping local companies with their lawn care needs. I have learned from the best in Nebraska and I am now ready to venture out into my own business, furthering my expertise. Of course like many things in my life, the name reflects my love for sports.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
On a good day my morning starts with contacting referees and associations across the country, sharing my website and what I can do for them. Next, I focus on the customer service side of my businesses, making sure I get to any questions, concerns, requests, etc. before noon. I find mornings are my most productive so I tend to do the most important tasks as soon as I wake up.
However, since the launching of my own business, Major League Lawn Care, my days have become extremely hectic and unpredictable. I have to set aside time to reach out to prospective clients, prepare for events, and connect with my marketing team. Keep in mind I am still working 40 hours a week with my local sprinkler company! I am busy but it is definitely worth it.
How do you bring ideas to life?
My ideas are started by things I have an interest in and jobs I enjoy. I love to be outside in the summer heat, working with great people and providing customer service to the public. I am always thinking of ways to incorporate this into my business ventures.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I don’t know if it is a typical trend, but I love that society is beginning to see the power of daily exercise for mental health. I enjoy exercising and trying new things to stay sharp mentally and physically. I’ve noticed that having a physical labour job can be extremely tiring, but my body does not thrive in an office environment where you are sitting for over 8 hours a day. Spending time outside and exercising is a huge stress reliever, and also prepares me for reffing.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I am very dedicated and I love a challenge. This has helped me to push past any roadblocks when it comes to succeeding in business ventures. I have turned my stubbornness into a productive habit of perseverance. Once an idea crosses my mind, I don’t want to give up until I make it happen. I also love working with people, so building strong relationships comes naturally with me. My habit to put customer service and relationships first has paid off tremendously in my personal and professional endeavors.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Be honest and always do what you say you are going to do. Your word and reputation are very important for building relationships, both personal and professional.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
In life people will tell you that they have a massive group of best friends. But the truth is, the older you get, the more you find that having a small circle of incredibly caring and authentic friends is most important. Quality over quantity.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I invest time into building strong relationships with clients and coworkers. This creates trust, long-term support, and a mutual respect for one another. A major part of building this trust is being honest with pricing, and delivering on your promises. As a business owner you will not go far if you are constantly over charging and under-delivering. You should also be aware of the power of word-of-mouth. If you don’t deliver on your promises and overcharge, people will talk, and you will lose potential clients and ruin potential relationships.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Investing in marketing is no doubt the best strategy I have incorporated into my business plans. When I referee basketball, I wear the product in which I sell. This shows I believe in what I am selling, and also displays the product so other potential clients can see the product face to face. Additionally, when starting a new business, it’s important to invest in marketing efforts, such as logo creation, ads, and social media content. You want to hit the ground running, and you cannot do this if no one knows you exist. Word of mouth is great for spreading awareness but it’s not enough in this high-tech age. Do not underestimate marketing!
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
The return policy on the referee gear! This caused me a lot of stress. Early on in my career, I had not one person return an item. All orders were simple and it made my life a lot easier! As time went on and I grew my client base, customers needed different sizes and styles. Unfortunately, I did not have the warehouse nearby, which meant I was putting in a lot of time, money and effort to make customers happy and getting the appropriate items to them. That being said, it’s important to learn from your mistakes. You cannot learn unless you try.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Being in the lawn care business and seeing hundreds of homeowners struggle with the appearance of their lawn, I think it would be a great idea to start an easy to navigate app on smartphones that allows people to get in contact with local lawn care providers. This could feature reviews from clients, pricing guides, and before/ after pictures. It would also be great if you could upload photos of issues you are having with your lawn and get advice from professionals and other homeowners (etc. dead grass, dandelions, bluegrass, bug damage, etc.). Something about smartphone apps makes everything so much easier! I also love how it connects people who would normally have never met.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
A new bike for my daughters birthday. When you see how happy you make your child, you realize that all the hard work you put in is worth it. Of course it isn’t all about the money and gifts, but it is nice to know that I can do something for the people that I love.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
Shopify is an amazing piece of software/ web service. It’s an online catalog that assist with billing and payment. It also sends customers status updates on their orders. When you have a hundred of other things to do, Shopify can really come in handy!
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“No Promises in the Wind” by Irene Hunt. My father read me this book when I was a small child and it is a story of looking after a younger brother, protecting him and a best friend during the depression and never giving up on yourself or your loved ones. This is an inspiring read that I recommend everyone should pick up at least once in their lives.
What is your favorite quote?
You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep rereading the last one.
- Focus on providing the best customer service and forming strong bonds. This will get you far.
- When starting a business, following your passions. This will ensure that you will always love what you do.
- Be honest. In your personal and professional life
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.