Brian Scudamore, of 1-800-Got-Junk on how to create a fantastic work culture

Invest in the development of your people. When you show your employees that you care about their upwards trajectory, visions and goals they will feel an overwhelming amount of support and want to perform at their best to support the company’s overall visions and goals. I had the pleasure of interviewing Brian Scudamore. Brian Scudamore is […]

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Invest in the development of your people. When you show your employees that you care about their upwards trajectory, visions and goals they will feel an overwhelming amount of support and want to perform at their best to support the company’s overall visions and goals.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Brian Scudamore. Brian Scudamore is a serial entrepreneur and passionate people person. Known for pioneering the professional junk hauling industry with 1–800-GOT-JUNK, Brian started out as a scrappy kid in Vancouver, B.C, with ambition and a big idea. Since then, he’s adapted the success of his first company to launch three additional brands in the painting, moving and home-detailing industries with WOW 1 DAY PAINTING, You Move Me & Shack Shine. Together, Brian’s companies form O2E Brands, a franchising powerhouse providing business opportunities to aspiring entrepreneurs across North America.

Thank you so much for doing this with us Brian! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I love to tell this story because there’s nothing too special about it. I was 18 years old, sitting in a McDonald’s drive-thru and saw a beat-up old pickup truck that said “Mark’s Hauling” on the side. All of a sudden I had an “ah ha!” moment and I thought “I could do that… but way better!” Over time, that idea of doing a ‘better’ job hauling junk, has transformed into a $300m company and hundreds of franchise partners.

I looked at the ordinary business of junk removal and saw a gap in the market, which was the professionalization of it. By having friendly, uniformed drivers, clean shiny trucks, on-time service, and upfront rates, we innovated the ordinary service of junk removal and made it exceptional. Today, we’re sold out of 1–800-GOT-JUNK? franchises across North America & Australia.

Once we sold out of 1–800-GOT-JUNK? franchises, we decided to leverage our learnings and expand into other home services and make them exceptional too. That’s how WOW 1 DAY PAINTING, You Move Me and Shack Shine came to be.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

There are so many it’s hard to pick one, but one of my favorites is the creation of the “Painted Picture.”

Envisioning the future in detail has been essential to building the 1–800-GOT-JUNK? brand. In 1998 we were growing as a newly-franchised company, but I didn’t have a clear direction. I decided to write down exactly what I wanted my business to look like in five years if I didn’t set limits for the company or for myself. I imagined the “what” not the “how”. When you start thinking about “how”, that’s when the doubt creeps in and limits you.

I went to my parents’ cottage, sat on the dock, and wrote down the future as I envisioned it. My vision became reality during the five years that followed. We expanded into North America’s 30 top cities, hit revenue targets and I even landed my goal of being on the Oprah Winfrey Show! I guess that encompasses a few interesting things that happened to me since leading my company!

I go back to the drawing board every four years and envision future possibilities. We call this document our “Painted Picture” and it continues to be the North Star of our business. I now develop it with my team and incorporate our communal hopes and goals. It’s framed and hung in the lobby of the Junktion (our office) as a constant reminder of where we’re headed.

Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I wrote and released a book, WTF?! (Willing to Fail): How Failure Can Be Your Key to Success, about the failures I’ve experienced as an entrepreneur. I wrote it with the intention of helping people; since its November release, I’ve been hitting the pavement, talking to media, doing interviews, etc., all with the intention getting the word out to help people find their own path to success. It’s been an adventure!

Ok, lets jump to the main part of our interview. According to this study cited in Forbes, more than half of the US workforce is unhappy. Why do you think that number is so high?

If you take care of your people, they will take care of you. I don’t think companies value their people as much as they should, it’s almost like “the secret”, but it’s the most obvious “secret” of all.

A big part of the culture at O2E brands is the acronym IAAP: It’s All About People. Generally, it seems that companies don’t put enough focus on their people, and their people’s happiness. We’ve created multiple programs to support our employees inside and outside the workplace, with a goal to keep them motivated and happy to come into work every day. An example of one program is our 101 Life Goals. We encourage our employees to set goals for themselves, professionally and personally, share them with our team and we do what we can to support them in those goals.

Based on your experience or research, how do you think an unhappy workforce will impact a) company productivity b) company profitability c) and employee health and wellbeing?

We’re relentless in our drive to hire happy people. If you have unhappy people working for you, they won’t believe in your company the same way you do, they won’t have that same deep passion to drive it to succeed day after day. Unhappy people will impact productivity, profitability and their own health and well being in one short, simple, answer: negatively.

When I started 1–800-GOT-JUNK?, I realized that the people I had initially hired weren’t the people I had envisioned working for my company. They say one bad apple spoils the bunch, and I learned that your very first employee has to be amazing because that person will help spread the culture of the business. Something we pride ourselves in, and strive for every day at O2E Brands, is a culture based on happy people. And when one person isn’t on board or isn’t happy, it brings everyone else down.

Good people know good people, so start with one good person.

Can you share 5 things that managers and executives should be doing to improve their company work culture? Can you give a personal story or example for each?

1) Have passion in everything you do do. Passion is contagious. If you have passion in the work you’re doing that will transfer to the people you’re leading.

2) Practice and promote integrity. Being able to say, “Hey, I made a mistake, but here’s how I’m going to fix it,” shows integrity and ownership. It shows the people you’re leading that it’s okay to fail, and you’ll be there to support them when they do.

3) Represent yourself with professionalism: Part of our success at O2E Brands is how we professionalized the home services industry. It’s how we represent ourselves, our brands and it’s how we build trust with our customers. Whether we’re in the field, or at our headquarters, it’s something we thread through all touchpoints of our business.

4) Be empathetic. Seek to understand, not just to be understood. We all have things to teach, but we have even more to learn. Good managers and executives know that they don’t know it all, and there’s always an opportunity to learn from those around them

5) Invest in the development of your people. When you show your employees that you care about their upwards trajectory, visions and goals they will feel an overwhelming amount of support and want to perform at their best to support the company’s overall visions and goals.

It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but it seems like we have to “change the culture regarding work culture”. What can we do as a society to make a broader change in the US workforce’s work culture?

When I hired our now President & COO Erik Church, morale was low. We had gone through a number of COOs and we were facing some serious financial challenges. My limitations as a leader were negatively affecting staff at our headquarters and our franchise partners in the field. So I had to make a change.

Erik and I started by boosting communication. We transformed the Junktion into an open-floor office. We did this to encourage open lines of communication, so that people felt comfortable, included and able to approach anyone at any time. We also spent time with our franchise partners, encouraging them to chase growth by being willing to fail. In times of uncertainty, it’s easy to do just what needs to be done and not take any risks. We encouraged them, let them know we are here to support them and that if they fail, that’s okay, there are always more lessons in failure than success.

How would you describe your leadership or management style? Can you give us a few examples?

I have a completely open door policy. Our office has no closed doors and I sit at any desk that’s open. I consider my leadership style approachable and I look to my employees for their expertise. I trust that my employees can help to guide our company to further success in their areas of expertise.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My grandparents — I even dedicated my book to them. They owned an army surplus store in San Francisco and they taught me the importance of treating people right. Their store wasn’t in the nicest part of town and neighboring stores would get robbed all the time. But my grandparents treated everyone who walked through their door with respect, offered them an ear to listen with and advice when asked for it. They grew the respect of the community and because of that, nobody dare try to rob them.

They taught me the power of treating people right, which is a direct correlation to the success O2E Brands has seen.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I’m so proud to say that my little entrepreneurial dream has multiplied into the entrepreneurial dreams of hundreds. We have so many franchise partners who dreamed of switching gears and owning their own business but weren’t sure how and we were able to help them do that under the O2E Brands umbrella.

And it’s not just the Franchise Partners, but the people who work for them too, their junk haulers, their painters, their movers, their detailing technicians; we’ve created thousands of jobs that people love, I’d say that’s a lot of goodness spread throughout North America and Australia.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

You have to be “Willing to Fail.” I have failed so many times, as I said before, I even wrote a book about it! If you’re not willing to fail and take risks then you’ll never know what you can accomplish. I failed before, and I’ll definitely fail again, but it’s the lessons you learn from those failures that help drive you to success.

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. 🙂

I want to inspire people to make a life — not just a living. To take risks, get out there and do what they love to do every day. I feel like I’ve inspired that at O2E Brands and for our franchise partners, but that doesn’t mean I just want to inspire people to become part of our family. I want to inspire them to get out there and do whatever it is they want to do! I’m a college drop-out and took an unconventional path to success, it hasn’t always been easy, and it will always have highs and lows, but I have never regretted the decision to follow through on that “ah ha!” moment, and I hope others do the same.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you continued success!

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About the author:

Chaya Weiner is the Director of branding and photography at Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator. TLI is a thought leadership program that helps leaders establish a brand as a trusted authority in their field. Please click HERE to learn more about Thought Leader Incubator.

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