Transcript of Interview with Brian Scudamore
Dan: Welcome to another episode of Shoulders of Titans. This is Dan Lok and today I have the privilege of bringing you another titan. An incredible entrepreneur who sees an opportunity when others see possibility. A visionary who has revolutionized an industry; he is the founder and CEO of 1800 Got Junk – the world’s largest junk removal service – Brian, welcome to the show!
Brian: Thank you so much for having me, Dan.
Dan: Brian, maybe tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into the junk removal business.
Brian: Yeah, it was 27 years ago. I was in a McDonald’s drive-thru in Vancouver and I was contemplating my future, trying to figure out what I would do and I really thought OK, I’ve really got to to go to college. That’s what all my friends are doing; I’m going to follow the same path. But I had to find a way to pay for college. I didn’t have much money at the time; not enough for university and I saw this beat up old pick-up truck in the McDonald’s drive-thru, it was filled with junk and I said to myself, there’s my ticket. Get a pick-up truck of my own, get out there and just start hauling junk and a week later I had a business. It was called the Rubbish Boys.
The business grew from the Rubbish Boys to 1800 Got Junk quite quickly – it took us 8 years to get to $1 million in revenue; ironically what funded my way through college education got me to also drop out because I was learning so much more about running a business by running one versus studying business in school. Made the bold decision to drop out, my father’s a liver transplant surgeon – I don’t think he was crazy about the fact that I was leaving school but there’s certainly no looking back. We’ve built a business today that’s a quarter of a billion dollars across Canada, the United States and Australia and love every moment of the entrepreneurial journey.
Dan: Now Brian, when you came out with the idea – have you had this vision like oh I’m going to build this big business, it’s going to be all over the world – what was going through your mind back then?
Brian: At the time it was really just a way to pay for college. My desire to be an entrepreneur had always been there. I learned business initially at a young age from my grandfather who had an army surplus store in San Francisco and every Christmas holiday, summer break, I’d go work at his store with my grandfather, my grandmother. Loved building a business with their support – you know we had a lot of fun working together as a family and then I realized you know this was in my blood, I wanted to be an entrepreneur. So when I started this business, 1800 Got Junk – it wasn’t a vision of building a world class, globally admired brand – it was really just to pay for college. But when I did drop out, I said OK – I now have made a big decision here; not going to school, perhaps letting my father down – I’ve thought OK I’ve got to really put all my time and energy into this and do this right and I’m going to build a business that will be great.
My vision at the time was you know probably around the build a business throughout Vancouver, the whole metro area where we started, but it quickly progressed into the more I traveled and saw other cities that didn’t have professional junk removal companies, I realized we could build something much bigger and hence the vision expanded.
Dan: For our listeners, they might be thinking, well you know – junk removal business, just how big of a business can you build collecting junk? If you don’t mind me asking, Brian, what size revenues did you guys do last year?
Brian: Yeah, last year we did $250 million in Canadian dollars and it’s one this year where it’s going to be well over that – we’ll probably grow 30% on 1800 Got Junk’s side – now our growth is also coming from other brands. When we started 1800 Got Junk, 22 years into the business I realized there was a need or an opportunity rather to take all of the learning of systems, customer experience, how we hire, how we find franchise partners, how we run our call center, how we do our marketing, and is there an opportunity to take that business model and replicate it in another home service industry? And we got into the painting business.
We have a painting company called Wow One Day Painting – we also got into the moving business. We got a company called You Move Me. And then our newest baby of brands in the family so to speak is a company called Shack Shine. So we’ve essentially created four businesses that will get us to a billion dollars in revenue by the end of 2020. And really loving the opportunity for us to revolutionize the customer experience in so many fragmented home service spaces.
Dan: So basically, you take something that works – like you said, the business model, the systems – everything you’ve learned. And you just take it to different verticals – but kind of within still serving consumers and helping them and this is perfect because they could say, you know what – I need to move my home, I got junk I need to throw away and I need to paint my new house. So it’s kind of like a one stop shop.
Brian: It is and it happens all the time. We got an email from a customer just the other day who is a friend in Toronto and said, I don’t know which crew to be more impressed with – 1800 Got Junk or your Wow One Day Painting guys that just came by and gave me an estimate. He said they’re both buttoned up, very professional and so the opportunity is there to be the one stop shop for everything related around the home. That wasn’t the initial vision. So one thing I’ve learned about vision is you can set a big vision, but as you get closer you then expand the vision into bigger possibilities.
And as a culture, so our four companies are all part of our parent company called O2E Brands – so if any one of your listeners was to Google “O2E Brands” that stands for ordinary to exceptional – we are taking the ordinary business of junk removal and making it exceptional and that’s what we’re doing in all these other fragmented home service spaces. So if I think of what brings us together as a company, as a family of companies that really help nurture and empower entrepreneurs to grow their own home service brands with us, if I look at O2E brands, what we really stand for is taking ordinary things and making them exceptional.
Dan: I love it, because sometimes a lot of young entrepreneurs and young people – they come to me and sometimes they say, Dan what idea do I need to come up with that’s a brilliant idea that nobody’s ever done before? Or that next Facebook idea – whatever it is but your take is, no you kind of focus on what people need and what they want and you provide exceptional service, like you said, create an exceptional brand and you do that – like what’s your take on that? What if someone comes to you and says hey, you know Brian, I want to be an entrepreneur – what should I do?
ADVICE FOR YOUNG ENTREPRENEURS
Brian: Yeah, they have to find something that they’re passionate about, that they love to do – it could be a hobby, it could be a talent or a skill that they have; I think my talent and skill is about imagining big possibilities – about dreaming big and finding a team to rally together to make big things happen. Now, yes, we all want to find the next big idea but it isn’t really in my mind I think about the big idea in terms of what’s the next product or service – the big idea is often, how do you reinvent something that everybody already does, already needs and how do you do it better? So in our space it’s junk removal. O2E brands is all about taking something fragmented – the moving business, with You Move Me – moving is such a mom and pop beat up old industry, it needs to be reinvented in terms of brand, it also needs to be reinvented in terms of people keeping their promises as moving companies, doing what they say they will do – that’s our big idea. Revolutionizing customer experience in an industry that’s already established.
Dan: Now Brian, so from back then when you were 18 years old, you could’ve just easily stayed small as a small business, maybe a couple buddies, a couple trucks and running that – but what changes did you go through or what was some of the process that took you from a small business to a big business?
GROWING A BUSINESS
Brian: I think that what really helped me grow is the learning and the mistakes along the way over time. So what made me go from a small to a big sized business? It was being willing to make mistakes. We have a culture at O2E brands that we call a WTF culture – and what WTF actually stands for in our minds is Willing To Fail – we want people, including myself, who are willing to make mistakes and learn because that’s how we grow. If everything sails along and goes smoothly without any challenges, you don’t learn. So what helped us become a business was the willingness to fail over and over and over again. That’s what’s helped us really grow and succeed.
Dan: And I think also for our listeners, they have to understand, it took you 8 years to hit a million dollars in revenue. This is not an overnight success. Like people can see now, you know 1800 Got Junk’s, their trucks are everywhere – oh yeah, it’s everywhere, it’s a huge brand – but people don’t know you’ve been doing this for 27 years.
Brian: Yeah, these overnight success stories sure take a long time. It is a matter of focus, faith and effort. Really cranking that flywheel forward slowly and the momentum builds faster and faster and you’ve got to do all the little things consistently well over and over and over. It’s getting better, it’s growing, it’s stretching yourself as a leader, it’s letting go of things that you feel that you aren’t good at but you can find other people who are better at. It’s continuing to focus on one business versus trying to run a whole ton of businesses. It took me 22 years before I started my second business. The overnight success stories take a long time.
Dan: And people don’t see the hard work and sweat and tears that goes behind it and a lot of entrepreneurs, they have ADD and jump from one thing to another and not giving enough time to the business. So Brian, walk us through like maybe your business model a little bit – like how does the business model for 1800 Got Junk work?
Brian: It’s simple. We find great franchise partners. What we call “entry-preneurs” – people who we can help them find their passionate entry point into the world of entrepreneurship and one day they’ll help others get into that same world of entrepreneurship. So the model is this, we find great, young, hungry, aggressive people that know how to sell, who know how to build a brand, who know how to hire a team; we bring them into any one of our brands – it could be 1800 Got Junk, it could be Shack Shine – all of our brands require someone who’s a great leader who can deliver exceptional customer experience and who can develop a team of people who can do the same and so the model is – bring in great people, teach them everything we know about that industry and together we build bigger and better systems that have us grow something much bigger together versus what any one of us would’ve ever done alone.
So, we build out a market – we might put three, four, five franchise partners in a city – they collaborate and they work together and do a lot of shared marketing with each other. They help support each other with challenges, we help support them and as the businesses grow, everybody wins. So the model is one of home services, fragmented space, we’re not the cheapest company out there, we’re not the most expensive – but we’re certainly the best and we provide great training and support to our people to make sure that we are top of mind in consumer’s minds as the one company that you have to use in a certain category like house painting or moving.
Dan: For the franchise model Brian, like what businesses do you think would be appropriate for someone to use the franchise model to expand?
Brian: I think franchising works for everything. It’s anything from ice cream and coffee to services – franchising is a model that’s been around an awful long time, I think Ray Crock from McDonald’s was one of the many entrepreneurs who helped to really make the model famous, but we’re different from McDonald’s – where McDonald’s I think gives you systems and processes, there isn’t the flexibility, there isn’t the innovative attitude of – how do we continue to make things better as franchise owners? I think that McDonalds, from everything I’ve heard, is very much do it this way, exactly this way, don’t ever mess it up. For us, we empower our franchise partners, we treat them as partners because together we depend on each other to make this a success. We depend on them to get out there, work hard, really grow the business, but constantly be in on the search for finding better ways to run the company, to grow the company and then share those ideas with other partners in our system.
Dan: Brian, let me ask you this – let’s say, for someone listening, he owns a carpet cleaning business and has been doing it for 8 years and he’s got 4-5 trucks – when would be a good time for that person to even consider franchising his business?
BUILDING A FRANCHISE
Brian: I franchise my business after ten years and the key there for me was I had to have all the systems and processes in place; I had to have training manuals, I had to understand the business from a level of – if any one of my franchise partners was to ask me a question about anything, I’d better have the answer because they’re paying for that support. So ten years was my time frame – I think somebody could get into the franchise business after maybe five, maybe eight years, but you’ve got to get that model perfected, you’ve got to be making money with decent margins and you’ve got to have a proven recipe that you can then share with others. Franchising, to me, is just finding a recipe and then cookie cutting that recipe into other similar businesses throughout a larger geographic area.
Dan: Because I can also see some franchises, some business owners they kind of want to franchise the business too soon and they thought oh good I’ll just sell these franchises and I’ll make money from that and I’ll collect the royalties and just that’s not how it works because if those buying into the franchise don’t make money they’re not going to last. What are some of the top one or two mistakes you see people make – the biggest mistakes when it comes to franchising?
Brian: One mistake stands out above all others and I think this doesn’t just apply to franchising but even hiring any employees for any business – people get the recipe wrong – they make mistakes in terms of who they recruit into their business. So, we’re very selective and very careful in the partners we bring into our franchise family. If we don’t get that right and we bring on the wrong people, which we’ve done before – we’re human, we make mistakes, we try not to make many but when you have the wrong people, it’s really, really difficult to get them out of your business. And failure in a franchise organization couldn’t happen more quickly for many other mistakes than bringing on the wrong franchise partners.
If we’ve got a few of the wrong people out of 300 franchise partners, hey not the end of the world. If we had hundreds of the wrong people in a system of 300, you know that absolutely you’re destined for death. So, we’re very, very careful and my advice to any entrepreneur looking to franchise is A – take it lightly, don’t franchise your business unless you’ve got a proven recipe that you understand every reason behind success and failure in your business – the profitability and so on – and then B is – making sure you never compromise on the franchise partners you bring on board. Especially the first five. If you don’t have five super stars as your first franchise partners, your chances of success are very limited.
Dan: And don’t you also want those first five to be kind of your success stories, your case studies before you roll it out?
Brian: Absolutely. You want them to be paving the way for the next round of franchise partners where the learning they’ve had, the mistakes and the successes they’ve had – they’re able to share openly with others who will follow behind them.
Dan: Now I know Brian, I think around 1994, at the time you had 11 employees and at one point you basically fired all of them because you were just learning how to be a manager…share with us that story.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE PEOPLE
Brian: Yeah, 1994 – five years into the business, was half a million in revenue and I had eleven employees who were not great. Two might’ve been OK but one bad apple spoils the whole bunch and I had 11 employees that didn’t believe in me, I didn’t believe in them – they weren’t the right cultural fit. I didn’t give them the support and the love they needed to grow and develop in my business and we didn’t believe in each other and I had to sit all 11 down in one sitting and say guys, as your leader I’ve let you down and this isn’t working, I’m sorry but I’ve got to let you guys go and we parted ways and I moved on. But that day I learned a lesson and that lesson is, it’s all about people.
Finding the right people and treating those people right – anybody who comes to our head office would see that sign plastered across the first wall you’d see when you walk into the office which is called the Junction – and that sign is all people with my name below it, it’s a commitment to franchise partners, customers, anybody that walks through those doors that we are going to find the right people, treat them right, and really together grow a special business.
Dan: And people I mean I’m fascinated – something like this industry that’s so fragmented, people are not professional – but when you go into the industry, it’s professional from the truck, the brand, uniform, everything – and it’s such a labor intensive business, it’s not a product, it’s a service. How do you manage those people? How do you ensure they deliver that exceptional customer service?
DELIVERING EXCELLENT CUSTOMER SERVICE
Brian: You find great people who have been raised in a family where they’ve learned about how to care for other people. Where they’ve learned what customer experience is about. To me, customer experience is usually about values – do you treat others as you’d like to be treated? And so you hire people based on that golden rule, you just say listen – are they people that get how to care about and how to treat others? And if you find those people, you don’t have to police them, you don’t have to sit there and harp on them to do it this way or that way and not this way – it really is one of those things where you bring on the right people, if they get it because it’s part of who they are – that’s your first step towards success. Make sure that you hire people who are not just a cultural fit, but also have that customer service experience and background that will propel your brand into great places.
Dan: Do you mean like they have family that are entrepreneurs or they were raised in some kind of like – say their family owns a restaurant business or something like that – is that what you mean?
Brian: No, I mean that they’ve been raised in a family where they’ve been taught family values that are conducive to customer experience. And we’ve all heard it before, again that golden rule, treat others as you would like to be treated. So, were these kids raised to be adults who care about others? Adults who understand that they’re going to be pleasant and cheery and upbeat and that they’re going to do what they say they will do when they make a promise to a customer?
Dan: And do you put them through a kind of series of questions or interview process – like, how do you find out?
HIRING AND PROMOTING WITHIN
Brian: Yeah, you never really find out. I think it’s one of those things where you have to trust your gut to a certain degree. We certainly interview and have all types of questions and processes. One unique thing we do is we’ll have one or two people from The Junction, our head office at O2E brands, where we will sit down and interview five, six, seven or eight candidates – all at once together in a room and we’ll ask them questions and the two people at the head office, at The Junction, are able to at the end of the interview, compare and discuss who stood out from that interview, who do we think is the best – why do we think that they’re the best? So one of the processes we use is just being able to stack people against others. Who was the best out of the group we had and do we want to move that person onto another interview?
Dan: And what about promotion within the company? Do you believe in hiring someone outside or do you want to promote internally?
Brian: We always want to promote internally; every position we have, we would love to – and our first choice would be – to promote someone internally. They get the culture, we know them, we know what to expect from them and if they can grow and develop to that promoted role, that is a way easier, less expensive, less risky way to grow your business through great people.
Dan: So Brian, with your structure right now with a company this size, how do you – what does the organizational chart look like? Like the executive team, what do they focus on, what do they manage – and then what do you focus on as a CEO?
Brian: Yeah so CEO and a COO – so we refer to ourselves as two in the box model of leadership – so what that is for us is myself as the CEO and Eric, our president and COO – we are stronger and better together than we are alone. We complement each other in such a way that it’s a powerful combination this two in a box. I’m vision, I’m culture, he’s execution and strategy – now there is some overlap between what we do but for the most part, we do different things and we specialize in those roles and together we communicate and march down that same powerful path together to build a great business.
Now, in terms of leadership team, I don’t know the exact numbers because it changes from time to time but let’s call it a dozen people – people that are leading our business technology, our marketing, our sales, our sales center, all sorts of important areas within the business and we try and keep the communication flat and transparent – there’s no private offices. Not one for myself, or our president or anyone on the leadership team. We’re all in the same open space – cubicles and a real transparent open energy office where anything we do talk about, anyone else can hear – now yes there’s some reasons to go into private meeting rooms and so on, but for the most part the communication is very open and very trusting and well aligned.
Dan: And when you were first promoting the franchises, what were some of the challenges you experienced? Because after ten years you want to franchise your business, what are some of the challenges and how did you overcome those?
Brian: Challenges would always be first and foremost around times that we didn’t bring on the right franchise partners; we had to get them out of the system, or the right people. Often bringing on the wrong people, didn’t meant they weren’t a cultural fit – you know, I learned that lesson and paid more close attention to culture after firing all 11 people in ‘94, but then I started bringing on people that were a little too junior, that didn’t have any experience, that didn’t know what they didn’t know.
And we would often hire too quickly based on culture, but not dive into the skills and abilities that these people had to really make sure that, hey if we’re hiring someone for the finance department, do they really understand how to build out the financial systems and the reporting? Do they understand how to manage our accounts receivable? That’s been a challenge for us – we’ve definitely brought on some of the wrong hires over the years, but it really is the biggest mistakes have been all around people. If we hadn’t found the right people or if we haven’t treated them right, things collapse and you often need to go through a period of rebuilding which we’ve been through.
Dan: And I’m curious, Brian – what’s your day to day like? What do you do? What time do you get to the office? What’s your routine like?
Brian: Yeah, I’m usually about an 8AM to 9AM start in terms of being in the office – I’m 8-10 hour guy. I used to work a lot harder in terms of the perceived effort that I put into the business in terms of the amount of hours, but I did get smarter and knowing that my productive energy is 8-10 hours a day. If I try and do more than that, I get real diminishing returns. So I try and work on the high impact items that I need to put forth in the business. Every day I create a top three – what are the three most impactful and important things I am going to do today to drive the business forward? To drive my responsibilities forward? And I’m intensely focused. So I book meetings that fit with my mandates. I book meetings that fit with the support that others need within the business, but I’ve really managed to get myself away from the day to day operations for the most part and I have the most wonderful president in the world, Eric Church, who is able to take the things that I wasn’t as good at and add the rigor and systems and the leadership to make those areas a big success.
Dan: Do you have to travel a lot or do you kind of work in the main office?
Brian: I travel monthly and I travel more than a lot of entrepreneurs I know; but I travel a lot less than many entrepreneurs I know – I think I’ve got a moderate travel schedule. Fortunately, I’ve also got a lot of really committed, fantastic people here in our business who love to travel, who do a lot of travel and stay connected to our franchise partners out in the field.
Dan: Speaking of high impact activities, like for entrepreneurs, how would they know if they are working on the right things?
PRIORITIES AND DRIVING THE BUSINESS
Brian: Well, is it driving the business forward? Is it adding to the momentum? It’s a great question – how do you know you’re working on the right things? I think you need to debrief with yourself and you set your priorities, but after you’ve gotten your priorities done – it might be your top three priorities for a day, it might be your top three priorities for a week or a month, but after you’ve done those items reflect and say, were those the right priorities? If I could do it all over again, would I have done something differently? Would my priorities have changed? So I think it’s paying close attention to the priorities that you set and then reflection on were those the right priorities?
Dan: And you talked about your big vision of having a group of companies – the four companies hit a billion dollars and for an entrepreneur – because you know there are different types of entrepreneurs; I believe there are lifestyle entrepreneurs, they just want to make enough money, work from home, have a comfortable lifestyle – but in your case, it’s more to revolutionize an industry, how customer service is done, how the business model is done, to bring something different to an industry – like, what drives you?
Brian: Yeah, I’m motivated by growth. By watching people expand their horizons, by watching our company expand geographically – adding more trucks, adding more companies and brands, adding more employees to our family and watching them grow – so growth motivated, that would be my number one. And I’m not a big money motivated guy. When I say a billion in revenue, 2020 – if I sold the company and got a ton of money, I wouldn’t know what to do with that money. Other than something philanthropic, I’m not a money motivated guy. I don’t drive fancy cars. My only car is a fiat – it’s one of those things where I’m just not motivated by things, I’m motivated by people and experiences and learning. So in building this wonderful business, it’s about growth on all sides.
When I say a billion in revenue, to me that is a way to quantify the size of the company but it isn’t about taking the money and spending it. It isn’t about selling the business, I don’t ever see myself selling this business – I’m having too much fun. It’s this evolution and learning that’s just been so great that it’s an opportunity I would’ve never given up on because while there were hard times and dark days in the growth, we’re at a stage where we’ve got such a great business with people that are – there’s sort of an electric environment here at times – people walk into our head office, The Junction, and they’re like, gee, what’s going on? Are these smiles real? Is this energy real? Because we all believe where we’re growing the business and we’re enjoying the journey towards the milestones and the goals – everything’s working and everyone feels great about it. There are still tough days but even during those tough days, we learn so much and those lessons need to be learned to get us to the next level.
Dan: I mean I can see most people would be happy with just one business, doing 2-300 million dollars, but you’re like no no no, I think we can take what we’ve learned and transfer that skills and knowledge into another industry. Let’s make that industry a little bit more professional, let’s revolutionize that industry – that’s amazing, that’s amazing.
Brian: Yeah and it keeps it fresh for our people where they will move from one company of ours to another company. And it allows them to apply the learning from what they learned from one business and helping to build the second.
Dan: I have to ask this – Brian, when you came up with the idea for the painting business, when you brought that to your team, what were their reactions?
Brian: I think half the people really liked the idea and thought there was potential there and thought it was great to leverage our initial systems and then some people were nervous. The other half of the people thought, oh painting I think that there’s too much competition – I don’t know that we can do it differently, but what I did is opened a company called Wow One Day Painting. We would go in and customers would feel that Wow because we painted their home in a day. We would put enough people in place, you know 1-2 people in each room in a house to paint it in a day – there’s no rush, there’s no cutting corners, trimming on quality, it is really the same number of hours, you’re just doing it over a shorter period. The customer wins, the feeling they get at the end of the day looking around going wow, I left for work, my house needed to be painted and boom I came home and everything’s done perfectly.
Dan: And just naming things, 1800 Got Junk, Wow One Day Painting – I mean those are fantastic brands. What are some of the lessons – maybe the most important you’ve learned when it comes to branding?
TIPS ON BRANDING & ADVERTISING
Brian: When it comes to branding, I’m a big fan of the book The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding – this book gives so much wisdom to the world on branding, much more than I could ever attempt to do. What have I learned? I learned A – read that book, and B – stay true to your brand. Don’t change your brand and try and dilute it. There’s companies out there like, what’s a good example, I remember United Airlines went out and started Ted their discount airlines and they deluded themselves.
They were trying to compete with the Southwest Airlines of the world, or the WestJets – and you dilute your brand and start all these separate brands, soon people don’t know what you stand for. Are you like Southwest Airlines where you stand for discount, everyone flies together in the same class but great customer experience? Or are you the business class company, the more corporate government-like airline? I mean you’ve just got to figure out where you stand and pick that place that resonates with you as the leader of the brand and be true to it.
Have we changed company names? Yes, we were 738 Junk and the Rubbish Boys – The Rubbish Boys was the initial name, 738 Junk was the phone number – I started to realize from a branding level that it was confusing. Some people would call us 738 Junk, some people would call us the Rubbish Boys – the word Rubbish was a little too Canadian or British and didn’t really work in the U.S. where we wanted to expand and so eventually we came up with this 1800 Got Junk and a number that could be unified – one simple phone number that people could call across North America and one brand so the name and phone number was all the same and it’s worked wonderfully for us.
Dan: I’m curious, just from a technical point of view – say someone calls the 1800 Got Junk number and you have different franchises within a city, how would you forward those potential customers to each one? How would that work?
Brian: Yeah, so we do all the booking and dispatch into our software – so when someone calls 1800 Got Junk, if they’re from Long Island, NY – they give us their zip code, we punch it in, we know what truck is closest to them and it’s dispatched out electronically to those trucks. So, it’s a perfect system. The post office is the one that really sets up our territories with the zip codes and postal codes and then we just dispatch that way through our software.
Dan: And sometimes, I see your truck parking somewhere you know sometimes for a couple of days – it’s almost like a free billboard. What’s the strategy behind that?
Brian: It’s a free billboard. That’s basically it. We will sit there and take these trucks, which people can see, in any one of our businesses – let’s take Shack Shine for example – we park our vans around town, people see Shack Shine, they see the brand over and over and then they pick up the phone and call or they Google and find our name and phone number and they call so it is a branding strategy where people typically would park their trucks in their parking lot of their company and operation – for us, it’s why keep them parked up behind a fence where no one can see them? Let’s get them out there in the world, in neighborhoods for people to see – now, you park one or two days in a neighborhood, someone might not like it – we have to end up moving it, but you know what it’s getting noticed and it’s making the phone ring.
Dan: And it’s free advertising too. It’s awesome. And so but do you tell your franchise folks to do that or do they do that on their own? Like do you have a system for that?
Brian: Yeah, it’s a system. It’s something we train for. We call it ‘park-eting’ – a combination of parking and marketing. And we teach them why it’s so important and there’s not a lot of teaching because it clearly is working for us and they see the stats from other franchise partners and they adopt it as their own and off they go.
Dan: And how do you set a culture in a way that’s so they don’t feel like they’re competing with each other in the same city? Let’s say in the same city there’s four franchises – how do you make them collaborate?
Brian: Well, they’re collaborating in the sense that they are non-competing businesses. It’s all set by zip code or postal code so somebody that’s in one area of town is never competing with someone who’s in another area. So it’s to their best interest as franchise partners to work together, to collaborate, to help feed business to each other and they’re in the same city, they have to work together because they’re building a brand that’s going to be seen as one company in that entire metro.
Dan: And do you do any kind of neighborhood marketing or farming such as one of your trucks just helped the houses get rid of junk but they let their neighbors know hey we’re in the neighborhood, if you need any junk removal service give us a call – do you do anything like that?
Brian: Absolutely. We’re always knocking on doors. We might do a job and then put door knob flyers on the houses on either side. So our truck team members are trained to get out there and really connect with the community and any down time is used to market.
Dan: Wow. It’s such a global business, but it’s nimble and flexible. It’s still run like a small business. It’s just spectacular.
Brian: Thank you. We’re certainly having fun, we’re proud of what we’ve built, we’ve got amazing people because we’ve worked incredibly hard at finding people that fit the culture and fit with our mission of building exceptional businesses.
Dan: Brian, how do you learn about entrepreneurship? Do you have mentors? Do you attend conferences? You read books? How do you learn and improve your skills?
ALWAYS KEEP LEARNING
Brian: I’m big into learning and my methodology for learning is really picking up the phone or knocking on doors and talking to people. So I will go visit other businesses, I will go sit through seminars where other entrepreneurs are chatting, I will pick up the phone or email an entrepreneur who I’ve never met and ask if I can have some time and ask them a question.
Dan: Kind of what I’m doing now!
Brian: Exactly. So, I believe that’s what entrepreneurs do best. I approached Richard Branson and you know certainly got to say hello to him. Or Robert Herjavec who’s been on the Dragon’s Den – it’s often just reaching out to someone and saying, hey you’re a great entrepreneur, I respect what you’re doing, I’ve got a specific question, do you have five minutes? And you build a relationship with someone and you learn more about them and entrepreneurs are often helping each other. It’s not uncommon for an entrepreneur to call me up and ask for some of my time and in the end I feel like I got more out of it than he did.
Dan: You mentioned Richard Branson – are there any other entrepreneurs you look up to and say wow he’s doing some really cool stuff?
Brian: Yeah, so many people. I look at Jim Treliving, Boston Pizza – built a billion dollar business in pizza, it’s phenomenal. Fred Deluca who was a great mentor of mine – he sadly passed away this year of cancer, he was the founder of Subway. He’d been in the office, I’d been out in the field with him – just a great wonderful man who really taught me a lot. So there’s great businesses out there. Howard Schultz from Starbucks I think has taken a space which he’s completely revolutionized.
Coffee shops used to be on every corner and there was no known brand, there was no quality standards and now you’ve got Starbucks and many fans out there I’m sure of Starbucks that any city you travel to, you know you’re getting the consistent level of quality – it’s the third place as Howard Schultz calls it where people are really able to go outside of their homes or their office to really do work, to have meetings, to hang out and I think they’ve done an incredible job with that brand.
Dan: Now Howard has written a book and Branson of course has written many books – Brian, have you ever thought of writing a book?
Brian: I’ve thought of it, I’m not a great reader – I do like to write and it takes me time but I think you know one day I’ll get some help and have someone help me to put a book together, but I still feel like the story is evolving so much that we’re not ready to create the first bunch of chapters yet – I think we still need more time.
Dan: Any last piece of advice for young entrepreneurs who are maybe just getting started and who have a dream – what would you say to them?
Brian: Yeah, it depends what someone’s looking for. I’ve got a blog on the Forbes.com website where I’m always writing about things I learn about, things that interest me, so there’s probably different articles there that one might find useful but you know I think for me, if I was to give a new up and coming entrepreneur three pieces of things or advice or things to focus on I’d say: have a clear vision, know where you’re going – you don’t need to know how to get there but a clear vision that you can believe in of what you’re creating.
I would say, don’t compromise on people – your first hire is way more important than your 10th hire. Really get your culture right and bring on the right people. And the third piece of advice is systems. Understand what works in your business, document it and then replicate it over and over and over. Once you understand your secret sauce as a company and what you do well, make sure you get everybody sharing the wisdom that you’ve learned and following those systems so that you can completely scale and grow your business.
Dan: That’s fantastic. Brian, thank you so much for inspiring us today with your story and your ideas and your thoughts. Our listeners appreciate it, thank you so much.
Brian: Thank you so much Dan and it was certainly nice chatting with you and thanks for taking the time to interview me.