I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Brian Scudamore, CEO of O2E brands, to discuss how he went door-to-door with a single truck to creating 300,000,000+ in revenue each year!
Brian and the 1-800-Got-Junk? team is where I started my career in Vancouver many years ago. It was here that was first exposed to company culture and putting people over profits.
Click the video above to see the full interview or read the transcript below!
MICHEL: Ladies and gentlemen, I am with Brian Scudamore. You know his background. You know his history. I’m going to jump in to the first question. It has to do with defining success for yourself as an individual. You have built a company that does hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. You’ve impacted the lives of customers, employees, and community. You don’t come across as the type of guy that needs the Ferrari. How do you define success?
BRIAN: Yeah, I don’t need a Ferrari. I wouldn’t want a Ferrari. I’d love to go … It’s on my 101 life goals list to rent a Ferrari in Italy for a weekend and go drive the coast. That would be cool. I can appreciate the sportsmanship of the car and the mechanics and so on, but that wouldn’t make me happy. The happiness would fade after a day of driving a Ferrari. Why would I want to own one? I wouldn’t feel right in one. I’m not a fancy guy.
To me, success, and I think as we all get older, which we all are every day, is you get smarter and wiser. I think for me, what success is and what I understand motivates me is making a difference in people’s lives. I would way rather watch someone else, a franchise partner of ours, if that’s what they wanted, was go buy a Ferrari. Paul Guy who was in Toronto, who’s our most successful franchise partner, he was the first. You know him. $16 million in revenue now a year in Toronto with 1-800-GOT-JUNK. He owns an Audi R8. Good for him, right?
That’s important to him. That’s a goal. Awesome. I love watching people build success and have an impact with what we’re doing, because they’re taking our recipe, whether it’s Shack Shine or Wow 1 Day Painting, to get into a franchise and they go build it to me. To me, I feel a part of helping make meaning much more than the making money.
MICHEL: One of the slogans you have within the company is it’s all about people. On the surface that could seem like a platitude and a great rallying point. How do you take it’s all about people and embed it into the DNA of the company and impact hundreds of franchisees and get thousands of employees to follow behind that?
BRIAN: That’s an awesome question. To make it more than just a platitude …
It’s the first thing you see when you walk into the junction, our head office. You’ve come in and rather than seeing a brand, you see it’s all about people with my name below it. Where that started, we had a woman who was here years ago, Holly. Holly Goes, “Brian, you always say it’s all about people. Let’s put it up in the front center for everyone to see. Let’s put your name below it so that people know it’s something you stand by as the leader that we can all follow behind.”
Then it is simply, and I say simply, I mean it really is this simple finding the right people who fit with that philosophy. When you were here, you get that it’s all about people. You were a really caring, fun guy around here. You’d sit there and say, “Hey, you guys want to learn to get healthier? Let’s go do some boxing. Let’s go downstairs to the gym. I’ll teach you how to box.” You care about others as they would about you. Find the right people, treat them right. It is all about people. That’s all any brand you own … You’re in the hospitality business, all that, all that you have in any restaurant that’s different from anyone else is really the people who are creating the food, serving the food and are part of the experience.
MICHEL: Whether it’s Netflix, O2E or my company, we’ve achieved success through company culture. Why is it that some companies or leaders still on going all in with company culture?
I think A, there’s a bit of a company leaders don’t always know how to build culture.
BRIAN: Yeah, or lack of skill. I mean, think of this, people who know how to run a good party, that’s creating culture within your home or within your business, wherever you’re throwing the party. Why can’t you put the same care and attention into a company? Make the culture the cult that you have within your organization where you’re like, “This is the party we’re living.” Every party isn’t full of tons of booze and people just screaming and going crazy. Whatever a party looks like to you as a company leader, create that same environment within your business. People overthink it. What are all the contests? What are all the rewards? Just think of the type of people you want to invite to the party first. Then sit there and say, “How do we grow this by holding ourselves accountable to the right people we’ve got on the bus?” When you’ve got the wrong people in one of your restaurants or in one of my companies, get those wrong people out. It could just be that the wrong people right now for the business or they’re in the wrong seat and maybe there’s a way to get them in the right seat.
MICHEL: Is there a company that you admire for their culture that you learn from?
BRIAN: Who do I admire for culture. I think one of them, and I talk about it way too much, but I also love the coffee side of the business, is Starbucks. The reason why I talk about them so much is they’ve got so many locations across the planet, and somehow every single time I go into a Starbucks in Saskatoon, in southern California, it doesn’t matter where it is, the barista says hello, smiles, says goodbye, says thank you.
“They just have a warmth about them. How is that possible that from store-to-store, region-to-region, country-to-country they’ve been able to maintain that? I admire that.”
I think if I look at 1-800-GOT-JUNK or any of our brand, Shack Shine, our methodology is hire happy people. I think that while we didn’t take that phrase from anywhere, but it’s our own, I think Starbucks does that.
MICHEL: Do you think it’s harder to control when you’re franchised the employees, I hate to use the word control, manage rather, when you are a franchise versus corporate or licensed?
BRIAN: Is it harder when you’re franchised? I’m going to give you the old yes and no. I mean, as a franchise owner, someone comes in. If you’ve picked the right franchise owner, I think it’s easier. Because if you’ve gotten that right, you have someone who’s got skin in the game, who’s got ownership, who goes,
“This is my culture. It’s going to be slightly different than Brian’s culture or O2E’s culture, but we’ve got the same values. I care about it enough that I’m going to make sure we always find and treat people right.”
I think as a franchise organization it becomes harder if you didn’t get the right franchise owner. I think there’s a lot more failing franchise owners out there than there are successful ones, because if you don’t find the right people, it just implodes quickly.
MICHEL: When I was working with you, I understood my purpose very clearly and that was to one day get into entrepreneurship. I didn’t know, I had no idea that ended up in the restaurants. My agreement with the company, and it was just kind of a self agreement, was I’m going to give myself to the brand. During that time, I’ll contribute to their success, and I’m going to learn entrepreneurship in this environment. If employees within the organization aren’t clear on their purpose, how can a leader help them discover it?
BRIAN: I think a leader can help people discover purpose by just asking questions. If I’m sitting down with young Michelle in the sales center answering phones, doing customer experience work, I’m asking you like “What really motivates you in life?” You think about it. You might have trouble answering that question. I try and push and dive deeper. I’m like, “Why? Why is that important? Why do you love doing that? When are you most alive? When do you most energized?” I think that a leader’s job is to help create followers. How you create followers? Get them connected to you. Learn more about them as a person. What interests and excites them? Help them uncover their purpose in life. Help drive them forward.
MICHEL: How would you describe your leadership style?
BRIAN: I think I lead by trying to throw possibility out there. Simon Sinek, he used to be on our board years ago. I remember he helped me uncover, through a lot of questions, what is my why? He did a brilliant job with it. It really turned into some level of, I create big possibilities and share them with the world. Like magic, some of them might happen. My leadership style is giving big ideas out there to others or helping them find big ideas in themselves and saying, “Hey, maybe we can actually make magic here.” Imagine being in a third country. Imagine having a fourth brand. Just thinking big ideas. Imagine getting on the Oprah Winfrey show.
MICHEL: Which of those that you did?
BRIAN: Yeah, we did the third company or the fourth company. We did the third country. All three of those examples I gave you happened. I didn’t do any one of them. I came up with the idea, but I wasn’t the one executing it. My why, my purpose and leadership style would be inspire with big ideas and create room for others to go out there and make them happen.
MICHEL: Past or present, who would you want on your advisory board that you haven’t had in the past or don’t have right now?
BRIAN: Yeah, that’s a good question. Past or present, who would I want on my advisory board? Nobody. I don’t want an advisory board. We don’t have one any longer. Here’s why.
MICHEL: Why? Because you did.
BRIAN: We did for years. No disrespect to anyone on that board, because they gave a lot of time and energy. What I feel when you’ve got an advisory board and you bring people together, it’s hard for the leader, the entrepreneur to distill whose advice is the best advice.
MICHEL: But don’t you think that you should have been like, “I trust all of these people, therefore I would want to take their advice, because they might come with different expertise.”
BRIAN: Yeah, I trusted them.
MICHEL: This is the first time I’ve ever heard anybody say that, and I love it.
BRIAN: I trusted my board. What would happen is sometimes we’d get this group think. People are like, “Oh yeah, yeah, we all agree you need to do that.”
BRIAN: But I wouldn’t necessarily agree. My gut would say, “I don’t need to do that.” Then what do you do? You’re going against your board. What I prefer, this might just be me, I wouldn’t want to pick one key person to be on my advisory board. I would want to pick key advisors that I go to to learn from.
MICHEL: Got it.
BRIAN: I do that all day long.
MICHEL: Who is you have yet to connect with that that you’re like, “Him or her, I need to get time with that person?”
BRIAN: Yeah, everybody I’ve met with that I felt that way about, you realize there’s a bit of a rockstar in them. Whether it’s a Gary Vaynerchuk, who I met with recently or Fred Deluca started Subway, you get these great people. You meet with them, but then you kind of get a level of, not disappointment about them, but you kind of go, “Wow, they’re just real people like I am right or like you are.” It’s almost like getting behind the curtain of the Wizard of Oz. You’re like, “Whoa, you’re just this little person.” I think I enjoy connecting with random strangers. When I’m on a plane, when I’m traveling somewhere, I’m sitting on a train in Europe, and you just meet someone beside you and you start connecting and talking and getting different perspective, that’s the type of advice I love to hear. I love to hear what people are saying about our business and their own innovative ideas rather than connecting necessarily with the rockstars.
MICHEL: Would you suggest that companies are extraordinarily marketing centric before their customer experience focused?
BRIAN: Focused on marketing before customer service? Absolutely not.
BRIAN: No, I think you need to focus on customer service.
MICHEL: It’s not, what do you think we should be doing? What do you think of companies are doing? If you were to look at …
BRIAN: Oh, what do I think companies are doing?
BRIAN: Yeah, no, I think companies are doing it wrong. I think companies are focusing on marketing first and then customer experience. I think you need to flip it. You should have 1/10th of the business and do it really, really, really well before you get up there and market it more. Wow 1 Day Painting, our painting company can go in and paint someone’s home in a day. I want our franchise partners to go in and just nail the job and get it perfect, so that that person is then talking to their neighbors, their friends, their family and saying, “Have you heard of this Wow 1 Day Painting company? They come in. They paint your home in a day.” I want them to be so blown away because of the attention to detail and the care that our franchise owner gave, rather than that franchise owner going, “Let’s go market the crap out of this business. Let’s just get so much business. We can grow this like crazy.” You can grow it organically first, figure out the system, then layer on.
MICHEL: We’re using a lot of the jargon, the organic growth that I absolutely gravitate towards and just the controlled growth. When it comes to customer experience, how are you equating the ROI of your efforts financially?
BRIAN: Yeah, when it comes to customer experience, we’d like to measure NPS.
BRIAN: You were all about NPS here as well. We want to measure our net promoter score to see how we’re doing. Across brands, it varies from high 80s to low 90s, which is awesome. We’re proud of that. I don’t think we’re really quantifying the ROI of customer experience.
MICHEL: Is that a bad thing?
BRIAN: I think we’re almost not trying to quantify it, because it’s just hire awesome people, take care of those people. Here’s my belief. We say this in our painted picture, or vision for our brands. Take care of your people, and they’ll take care of your customer. Take care of your customer, and they’ll take care of the brand and the future growth. With taking care of your people, most companies say, “Oh, the customer is king. The customer’s queen. They’re always right.” No, you know your employee is the king or queen. Treat them with love and respect. Watch how they will then go on to take care of the customer.
MICHEL: Do you think that it’s easier for you and I, because we own private companies? What about the individual, the CFO or the controller of the publicly traded company that needs to report to the street every three months, easier said than done?
BRIAN: No, I think you always take care of your people first. A CFO still has customers. They still know and they’re smart enough to know that the bills are being paid and the money’s rolling in because of whatever product or service they’re selling. They take care of their team, and they do a really great job. Finance is an incredibly important part of the customer experience. If people aren’t getting paid on time and the payment experiences isn’t easy, customers don’t feel valued and then they don’t give value to … employees don’t feel valued and then they don’t give value to the customer. Everybody plays a role.
MICHEL: As a consumer, what companies are you admiring right now for their customer experience other than Starbucks?
BRIAN: Other than Starbucks? Who am I admiring? I think Air Canada, this is interesting because I wouldn’t have said this years ago. Air Canada does a brilliant job in business class. Now I fly coach, but I fly enough that I often get upgraded. I feel like I’ve just won the lottery, because the service in their business class is just so smiley and professional and unbelievable. I think they’ve got an opportunity to figure out how to do it in economy. I think they do such a good job in business class. I feel like, “Are they paying those people more in business class?” Probably not. There’s a level of expectation of the service that needs to be provided. Why can’t you provide that in economy? They do a good job and a not so great job. Who else am I loving right now?
MICHEL: I love that you mentioned Air Canada. My mom’s worked for Air Canada for 30 years.
BRIAN: I ran into your mom at the airport.
MICHEL: Yeah, I told her this morning. I was like, “I’m going to go see Brian.” “Tell him I say hi.”
BRIAN: Yeah, your mom’s awesome. She’s a great women.
MICHEL: She’s worked with him for 33 years as a front line employee. Her relationship with the brand is very, very strong. Therefore, she brings her whole self to work for 33 years. You get that outcome. With NPS and the data that you collect from your customers, going to your strategic planning and budgeting for the year, if the ROI isn’t going to show up on your PNL for 12 to 24 months, do you still make that bet?
BRIAN: If the ROI for what isn’t going to show it for 12 to 24?
MICHEL: If you’re wanting to build initiatives that are going to positively impact the customer experience, but the ROI is 12 to 24 months out.
BRIAN: Yeah, I think it’s so hard to even measure that the ROI is ever there, right? Like my previous answer, I don’t know if we measure it really that closely, because I don’t know if you can. It’s like someone saying, “Hey, here’s the rating I give you as being a good friend right now.” It’s hard to measure that experience and that connection. I think it’s really just you know the right thing to do. Put money into it, enough money that makes sense, and you’re not spending too much.
Customer service is something got to invest in. You can’t grow a brand without being an amazing at what you do.
I think companies that do well at it, Airbnb I think is also great of listening to their customers and listening to their people that are renting places and just getting feedback from their community. I met with the company. I met a guy, Bill, who’s the chief of marketing, chief of community for Yeti. Yeti makes these coolers and drink holders and so on. I was impressed with how much he travels around connecting with the community to understand, and they’re a billion dollar plus company, understand what the customer’s love, opportunities for improvement and just really having that connection to make things better.
MICHEL: When you were in New York with Gary Vaynerchuk, you guys talked about entrepreneurship. I’m paraphrasing, but Gary said something along the lines of entrepreneurship is a really hot topic right now. It seems like everybody wants to be an entrepreneur. Can everybody be an entrepreneur?
BRIAN: I think there’s differing degrees of entrepreneurship. I think that you can get out there and start a small business and sell stuff on Etsy. Is that an entrepreneur? Yeah, you’re entrepreneurial. I think the old school term of an entrepreneur as a real risk taker, getting out there and building something from nothing and growing it. Not Everybody’s cut out to do that. We have a woman who works with us here at Tressa who’s run some businesses. She’s helping with Shack Shine. She’s like, “I don’t want to be an entrepreneur again.” She loves processes and systems and building things, but she didn’t want to go up and just start from scratch and be alone and work through that lonely phase and so on. It isn’t for everyone.
Can everyone be one? I think what I love about O2E brands is I feel like we’re building something bigger and better together versus what we would have ever chosen to do alone. People can choose their degree of entrepreneurship. Someone can run an entire brand, like a Wow 1 Day Painting or You Move Me or someone can be a franchise owner in Shack Shine, building grow their local territory, Toronto, San Francisco, whatever it is. I think it’s a bit of a choose your own adventure type model where pick what you want to do. I think there’s very few people that want to do it all and start from scratch like I might have 30 years ago. The best part of my business career is every time I’ve gotten rid of something to allow others to come in, like Eric Church is our COO, to have others build this with me and to do a better job in just about every area of the business than I ever could. That’s what I love.
MICHEL: What would Brian of today tell the 20 year olds who are wanting to get into entrepreneurship?
BRIAN: Yeah, so for those that do to get into entrepreneurship, I think, we’ve certainly seen a model of franchising is one where a franchise partner can come in with a bit of a springboard and learn from us and grow with a bit of a recipe of success versus starting from scratch. I think I would say to that younger audience, “Don’t shy away from franchising and that learning through someone else’s mistakes.” The other thing I would say is anybody that does go out at whatever level of entrepreneurship is understanding that failure, and I know you’ve got my book prominently displayed, my book WTF, Willing to Fail. I wrote the book without a title. We finished the book, Roy Williams, my coauthor and I. We closed the book and went, okay, “now what’s the title?” It just jumped out, because it was stories of ups and downs, ups and downs, plenty of failures. We just came up with this WTF, Willing to Fail.
What I would tell the 18 year olds in the world who want to start something is understand that failure is your best friend. Failure is a gift. You are going to make mistakes if you’re going to be an entrepreneur. You’re going to make plenty. You’re going to make some that cost you your business. It’s okay. Take the learning from every failure to understand that it will get you to a better place if you allow it.
MICHEL: If you were to pick one failure that you’ve experienced in your career that has allowed you to be the CEO you are today, what’s the one that resonates with you the most?
BRIAN: I don’t think there is one that resonates most. They were all stepping stones to certain points. I needed to make all the mistakes. People say, “What would you have done differently if you could do anything differently?” Nothing. I needed to learn it all. The one that resonates from a relatability standpoint that I think people can get is 1994, five years into the business. Nine bad apples. One spoils the whole bunch. I had 11 employees. I brought them all in to the business. I said, “I’m sorry guys, I’ve let you down. I don’t have the right team, the right people. You’re not the people that I see in building this professional junk removal business. I might’ve made the wrong hires. I haven’t given you the love and support.” I parted ways with my entire company. I fired my entire company. Went from five trucks down to one, because that’s all I could drive, and then rebuilding the business. That was me learning from a massive failure that you’re only as good as your people. Find the right people, treat them right. I vowed that day never to make a hiring mistake again. Have I made them? Of course, but very few relative to where I would’ve gone hadn’t I decided to very intentionally recruit people in the company.
MICHEL: Guys, on that note, here’s the book. You can find it on Amazon. Just Google it. Don’t just buy one copy. Buy a handful. Buy it for your your team. Brian, I have been able to build a career that I’m absolutely in love with. It’s literally, it started here. My recommendation for anybody watching this who is one you get into entrepreneurship is learn first. If you have the opportunity to work with a company and contribute to their success and get paid to do so and be able to understand in a real environment, that is what helped me. My business partners and I have had an advantageous position, because we’ve built the systems and processes sophisticated enough to operate within $100 million company. I learned it here. On that note, Brian, thank you so much.
BRIAN: Yeah, thank you.
MICHEL: I appreciate it.
BRIAN: I think you give way too much credit to 1-800-GOT-JUNK, because you say, “Oh, it got started here.” I’ve met your mother. She a wonderful lady. It got started when she helped raise you and probably a lit a spark in you. Congratulations.
MICHEL: She’s melting right now. Thank you so much.