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Guest: Brian Scudamore, the founder of several companies including 1-800-GOT-JUNK. He’s also the author of a terrific new book called “WTF?! (Willing to Fail): How Failure Can Be Your Key to Success.”
Episode in a Tweet: 1-800-GOT-JUNK founder used these 3 mindsets to grow to $300 million in annual revenue.
Quick Background: Entrepreneurial inspiration can strike at any time. In Brian Scudamore’s case, he was sitting in a McDonald’s drive-through, trying to figure out how to pay for college, when he noticed a beat-up old pickup truck with plywood sides built up around the bed.
“I looked at the truck and I went, ‘Aha, that’s my ticket,’” Brian remembers. “I took a $1,000 investment, $700 into a truck, the rest into flyers and business cards. Within a couple of weeks, I had a business that actually paid for itself. It was ironic because what funded my college education also inspired me to drop out.”
On today’s show, Brian Scudamore discusses the 3 key mindsets he used to grow 1-800-GOT-JUNK into the core business of an organization that now generates more than $300 million in annual revenue. We also discuss a really tough and really courageous staffing decision Brian made early on that allowed him to regroup, reorganize, and refocus on making BIG happen.
Three Key Mindsets of $300 Million Entrepreneur Brian Scudamore
1. Think in abundance.
Like many entrepreneurs, Brian Scudamore heard “No” quite a bit early in his career:
“’You couldn’t do that. You can’t franchise this. What’s to stop anyone else from getting out, buying a truck, and hauling junk? Why would they join forces with you?’”
That kind of rejection kills a lot of businesses before they start. Would-be entrepreneurs who aren’t totally committed to their visions perceive a scarcity of opportunity and outside support. Eventually, this scarcity mentality turns the entrepreneur on himself. Confidence vanishes, and so does the business.
Instead, Brian adopted what he calls “an abundance mentality.” “From an abundance perspective, I do believe that you can have anything you want if you really think it through and put it out to the universe,” Brian says. “Based on everyone’s concerns, I changed my model. I said, ‘You’re right. Nobody’s going to just go out and buy a franchise for a junk removal company.’ But they might buy a franchise for a company that’s 1-800-GOT-JUNK as a national brand, that can get national PR, that can build a call center, that does all the booking and dispatch. I changed the model in such a way that it was something that I realized could work for everybody.
This switch in perspective – turning what a lesser entrepreneur would take for rejection and spinning it into a positive for his business – got Brian thinking BIG about supercharging his brand.
“We said, ‘How do we get ourselves on the Oprah Winfrey Show?’ Brian says. “In the same way we used to pick up the phone and call the local paper, we’d pick up the phone, and get out of our comfort zone, and start pitching the press. We had our first PR hire tasked with that goal of getting us on the Oprah Show, and 14 months and a lot of hard work later, we landed the big one, and it was unbelievable. I mean 35 million viewers, and our phone just went nuts.”
2. Listen to your gut – especially when it comes to your staff.
With the wealth of data and analytics available to us these days, CEOs and entrepreneurs have no excuses when it comes to mastering their numbers. But too much data can be a double-edged sword. CEOs who put too much trust in what a computer is telling them are only getting a small part of a much more complicated picture. Emotion, intuition, and outside-the-box thinking can be just as critical to a successful business as what your raw numbers are telling you.
“I think that your gut is rapidly processing the data that you have in your brain,” Brian says. “When we say, ‘Ah, something just doesn’t feel right,’ that’s your brain computing very quickly that there’s something missing that isn’t as you normally see. I think gut needs to play a way bigger portion in this data-centered world.”
In fact, maybe the single biggest decision Brian made in the early days of 1-800-GOT-JUNK was a gut call: he fired all 11 of his staff members.
“They say, ‘One bad apple spoils the whole bunch.’ I had nine bad apples, and so even the other two were starting to get a little mushy. I took all 11, and I just said, ‘Guys, this isn’t working for me, and I recognize as the leader, I’m the one who made the mistake.’ I either didn’t hire the right people, train them, give them the love and support they needed to be successful, and I had to make a tough decision, and get them out of the business.”
“I had to not compromise from this stage on,” Brian says, “and make sure that I was going to rebuild the company in such a way that we could really take the right people, people that we wanted to be friends with, people that we wanted to have grow this big business together. That recipe of finding those great people, there is no recipe. It’s just the discipline to really continue to search for and be patient in finding the right people. Then once you’ve got them, treat them right, and try and keep them around as long as you can.”
Years later, when Brian was looking for a superstar COO to match his company’s rapid growth rate, all the data, and a recruiter’s recommendation, pointed to an accomplished ex-Starbucks executive. Fourteen months later, Brian’s gut told him to move on from that person too because they weren’t on the same page. It was a tough, but ultimately right call.
3. Let positivity flow through everything you do.
Part of Brian’s no-compromise approach to his company’s talent was to hire “happy people” whose enthusiasm about their work matched Brian’s enthusiasm for where the company was headed.
“I wanted to bring people onboard that have a smile, that had an optimism about themselves, their life, and what they wanted to be a part of,” Brian Scudamore says. “What I did is I said, ‘Well, how do I find friends?’ You don’t go out there and do a big interview set of questions. You just talk to people and get to know them. Are they interesting? Are they interested? Do you have a shared common passion? That became the recipe, if you will, of how I’d find these people. I wasn’t going to bring people in that weren’t clean-cut, professional, that didn’t fit our model of what we were trying to build. Hiring happy people became at the core of that.”
The big chair can be a lonely place. It’s easy for CEOs to get bogged down in the stresses of running a company and the thousands of daily decisions, big and small, that land on their desks. But truly effective CEOs, the ones who inspire their employees to BIG things, know that positivity is more powerful than pessimism. Don’t underestimate how cultivating a can-do culture via hiring the best people and living your core values can help take your company to the next level.
1. Stay positive. Set an optimistic tone from the top down and it will reverberate through every employee.
2. Trust your gut, especially when it comes to deciding if a potential hire will hurt or help your culture.
3. Embrace good feedback. Not every idea you throw out into the world will be perfect. But listening to good advice might lead you to a better idea.
Transcript: Download the full transcript here.