Not one who remains in the status quo, Brian Scudamore, founder of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, narrates his personal experience towards reaching his big vision and success in life. Beginning with guerilla marketing, he talks about doing crazy things and standing out in business, embracing the ridiculous and having fun. Brian shares the things he says to franchise owners to succeed in generating buzz while laying down some of the ads that greatly made a difference. Brian also talks about the four Hs – happy, hungry, hardworking, and hands-on – in business as well as the heart of the founder that owners must remember.
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Standing Out In Business with Brian Scudamore
Stepping up to the plate from Vancouver, Canada, the man who’s made junk sexy as the Founder of 1-800-GOT-JUNK? and now he’s turning ordinary to extraordinary with everything he touches. The author of WTF?! (Willing to Fail). He’s been featured on Oprah and soon to be at Ellen. Please welcome the man, the myth, the legend, the one and only, Brian Scudamore.
Your book hit a home run for us in the office here. We met at MMT in Park City, sat down and had a nice breakfast, talked then read your book. I was so fired up about it and I sent you a text. I was like, “We are brothers from another mother. We are speaking the same language about your crazy guerrilla market. You’re creating attention.” I’m pumped to go into some of these stories.
I shared philosophy as you will of how we live life and that’s why we immediately hit it off. I had seen a video on you and certainly read some stuff about you before we met at MMT. I felt I met one of my rock stars when I got to connect with you. For someone who’s able to take a sport that is typically not had that entertainment value that you would with something like basketball, it’s unbelievable what you’ve done. Anybody that can take that learning that both you and I share of standing out, we were born to stand out not fit in and have fun in what we’re doing and make it show. Customers are attracted to that. They love doing businesses with people that have fun.
The commonality we have is we’re both trying to reinvent the way things have been done, seeing the way junk removal was done. Now, you’re getting into your new brands. The old way and the status quo don’t work. When you start doing things like that, you create an amazing story and that’s what your book has done. What’s firing you up? You can give a little context on how much you’ve grown the business but now you’re going into whole different brands and taking that to the next level and reinvent it. Can you share a little bit of context?
What I’m fired up about always has been entrepreneurship, growing something much bigger and better together is my mandate. I love taking people that start in the call center, start in the trucks and they grow to start their own franchise with one of our four brands. Nothing gets me more excited. My parent company is called the O2E Brands. That stand for Ordinary 2 Exceptional. We started by taking the ordinary business of junk removal and making it exceptional through customer experience. We’re doing the same thing with windows and gutters with Shack Shine or moving with You Move Me and then painting people’s homes in a day with WOW 1 DAY PAINTING. What we’re doing is building great brands with a goal of a billion dollars in revenue, not because I’m a money guy by any means but just some measurability to success in what we’re building.Out-think, don't out-spend. Click To Tweet
That big vision is a huge component of the vivid vision you started in. It started with guerrilla marketing. With the Savannah Bananas, we should get gorilla costumes and start going out in the community and do actual guerrilla marketing. We do a lot of things. We’ve mailed out bananas. We dress in banana costumes wherever around in the community. You started by going out and doing crazy things. If you can share a little bit of something that maybe I don’t know, the Vegas story, the Canucks game, it was such a way to get your brain out there without spending a lot of money.
A little bit of history on how guerrilla marketing started for me. What I did is I took my first pickup truck, built plywood sites on it and I spray painted the phone number 738-JUNK on the side. Today, we’re 1-800-GOT-JUNK? as a national brand. Our local phone number back in the day was 738-JUNK. I started parking that truck near my house at a very visible intersection and people would always say to me, “Brian, I see your trucks everywhere.” Even though we only had one truck, they would notice that truck and it looked different than everybody else’s. It had the biggest phone number you’d ever seen on the side. Then people would just comment, “Customers, how did you hear about this?” “I saw your truck. I’ve seen your big billboards driving around.” It made me believe that marketing is about standing out.
We had a bit of a lull in our business, not in terms of growth but in terms of engagement with our franchise partners with 1-800-GOT-JUNK? the first few years of franchising in the early 2000s. Our franchise partner said, “We need something more professional. We need to have major TV advertising and radio and all that stuff.” I said, “We’re too small of a business to afford it and that stuff still blends in versus stands out.” One of my franchise owners said, “We need to sit down. We need to create a marketing plan. We need more professional stuff.” I said, “Where is the city in North America that’s the hardest to stand out in?” We came up with Las Vegas. Bright lights, lots of stuff going on there, huge energy in that city. We figured if we could stand out in Vegas, we could stand out anywhere. We gathered a dozen of our franchise owners and some head office employees. We got on a plane, we flew to Vegas and I said, “We are going to stand out in Vegas. We’re going to market ourselves in that city and we’re going to prove to ourselves that you can have guerrilla marketing at a low cost.”
We had these $26 bowling shirts with 1-800-GOT-JUNK? emblazoned on the back and the front. We had temporary tattoos that we put on people’s hands and arms and then we had these blue wigs and the blue wigs were $3. There we wear blue wigs, bowling shirts and tattoos. We owned the Hard Rock Hotel where we were walking through and everyone was coming up to us and they thought we were rock stars. They thought we were a band. They thought we were at a bachelor party. They didn’t know what was going on, but they came up and wanted to talk to us. By the end of the night, everybody had tattoos. We were heroes. We weren’t wearing Armani suits for thousands of dollars, we wearing cheap $29 outfits. I showed my franchise partners, “We can stand out on a budget.” This is the philosophy that’s going to take us into the future, guerrilla marketing.
Many companies are so scared of doing things that are outrageous. I always say, “Outthink, don’t outspend.” You want to do what’s traditional because of the fear of doing outrageous things. Brian, you got me thinking of my bachelor party. It was in Vegas many years ago and we owned a team, Gastonia Grizzlies, and we unveiled the best-dressed team in sports. We made tuxedo jerseys with collars. They were a full tuxedo. I had my eleven best men or groomsmen all wear those tuxedo jerseys down the streets of Vegas. I was in the yellow tuxedo. It was unbelievable the buzz that it created. We were invited everywhere. They were like, “What is going on?” It was just fun. What you embraced was, “We’re going to be ridiculous, we’re going to have fun,” and many businesses are too scared to do that.
Businesses are scared and too often, people put their egos ahead of their business and they say, “I’m too worried what people are going to think about me.” I’m talking to a guy on this episode who has seven yellow suits. I know you take your business seriously. I know you’re a brilliant guy, but you don’t take yourself too seriously and that’s what business owners need to get out of their comfort zone and do something different. One of the books that inspired me in the early days was Purple Cow by Seth Godin. He said he was on a train in France with the family. Black and white cow after black and white cow and he said, “Imagine if there was one purple cow. You would take pictures of it, you’ll put it on your Instagram, you’ll tell your friends your family. It will get on the news.” It’s that one little shift in thinking, outthink. That’s what gets people to grow and become great brands.
You were so innovative back in the day and doing things like getting in the tracksuits and wearing blue wigs and there are fake tattoos everywhere, but everyone says to me, “I can’t be like that. My people are introverts.” I struggle too with this answer because what do you tell people in the sense of, “You just got to do it?” You’ve got to be a little different. Maybe you don’t need to get in a yellow tuxedo, maybe you don’t need to wear blue wigs, but you’ve got to think of ways that are going to stand out versus others. What do you tell people or how do you tell your franchise owners to do things that are a little different?
I tell people to stop caring so much. My own personal vehicle is a little Toyota pickup truck and I’ve wrapped it. It’s got all our brands on it. It almost looks like a NASCAR. It’s done tastefully, great design, but I don’t care because I know that people are going to see it, think about it, talk about it wherever I go. If I’m going to a restaurant or a coffee shop, I make sure I find the best parking spot based on the fact that the most eyeballs will see it. My franchise partners that might be driving a regular SUV without branding, they’re doing themselves a disservice; write off the vehicle by wrapping it, you can get people to notice you and the pride you feel in your brands. My advice is don’t let people care so much about these things. Take your business seriously and don’t take yourself seriously.
The power of self-promotion, people don’t want to talk about that because it seems selfish in your own bubble. Think of the greats. My biggest mentors, P.T. Barnum and Walt Disney, they were the biggest self-promoters in the world. Walt Disney is looked upon this amazing person who made a huge impact in the world, yet he was always talking about his movies, his animations, Disney World, everything he was doing. We had to get over the fear and if you’re so passionate about something, you talk about it all the time. The world needs more of that. They need people that have the enthusiasm and the energy to talk about what they love.
Being an entrepreneur is also being a showman. You’ve got to get out there and show the world what you’re doing to change it. You’ve got to show the world what you’re doing to make an impact. If it means telling stories, standing out, it’s all part of the deal. Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, a couple of my favorites, they’re always talking about what they’re doing to change the world. As entrepreneurs, what a gift we’ve got to be able to do some cool fun things and inspire others. You’ve got to promote always.
I want to get a little practical because you talked a lot about how you got the press. You generated so much press and it was almost as simple as picking up the phone. I’d love to share how practical that is and then maybe also, how it’s changed a little bit? When you first started, you had the story you were looking for a job, but now your business is mature. How are you creating that buzz and generating that now?
The first media hit we ever had was on the front page of our local newspaper, our big city daily paper. My girlfriend at the time said, “You’re always talking about your business. You should reach out and call the press and tell them what you’re doing. You’re a high school dropout. You taught your way into college. That’s a cool story here.” I said, “I’ll try.” I picked up the phone and I convinced myself in my own mind that I had a great story. When the news desk answered, I said, “I’ve got an awesome story for you.” They said, “What is it?” I told them about how I started the business and it was a great way to pay for college and that I made a bunch of money in a short period of time and they put me on the front page with my truck. Whoever puts a phone number of a brand into a newspaper, they did ours. They put it on the front page because it was on our track as the big mobile billboard. That taught me the power of the press. Anything from the Oprah Winfrey show, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, we got out there and we pick up the phone and call. We tell them, “I’ve got a great story idea for you.”Being an entrepreneur is also being a showman. You've got to get out there and show the world what you're doing to change. Click To Tweet
Every entrepreneur has a great story. How many of them are picking up the phone and cold calling the press? Maybe not many, but it’s an opportunity to tell the story to the public in a way that doesn’t cost you a penny. You asked how has the world changed? As we all know, fewer traditional journalists than there used to be, and all the big media outlets have laid people off. You’ve got people now with Facebook, Instagram, all the social platforms. Everyone is their own journalist and telling their stories. There’s so much more noise and it’s hard for the great stories to stand out. We see things going viral on YouTube and so on. It’s harder to get the traditional press but it’s still one of those things where you’ve got to work it, you’ve got to pick up the phone. You never know what you’ll get unless you ask. My book came out and I was on a PR trip to New York. I went out to the CNBC. I thought, “What other stuff can I drum up while I’m there?” I went to some friends of friends and somehow got connected to someone from the NASDAQ who was their Chief Digital Officer. Hours later, there’s my WTF?! (Willing to Fail) book, larger than the lights, up on a billboard in Times Square, no cost, just for asking. The PR world has changed but you create your own luck and opportunity.
Did you just call someone you knew and they put you up there for the free advertising?
What I did is I reached out to a bunch of different people saying, “I know you’re in New York. We’ve met before. I’m coming to New York. I figured you might know some great people in the PR world.” I was on the plane when I was emailing and this one guy said, “I’ll put you in touch with my buddy who is a Chief Digital Marketing Officer for the NASDAQ. Let’s see if he can write a story on you.” He said, “We’ll write a story on you and we’re going to put your giant book up on a big billboard in Times Square.” It was magical and it’s one of those things that you’ll never know what you’ll get unless you ask. If you’re not working the phones and work in the email and trying to promote, you don’t have the opportunity to make your own opportunity.
I’m passionate about being loved over just being liked. We focused so hard in this Savannah area to be loved and we’ve built the relationship with the media. When we say, “We have a story to announce,” they will say, “What time?” They’ll come. I remember we were announcing a player signing but it wasn’t a player. My wife and I were having our first baby, Maverick. We did a whole staged press conference just to announce our baby and it was on the news that night. It made a great story. It was fun and it was based on the relationships. From a local level, you’ve got to connect and give them great stories but the national level, it sounds that it’s a game of persistence.
It’s a game of persistence, it’s a game of being creative, it is a numbers game. Wayne Gretzky, I’m a Canadian and a big hockey fan, he used to say, “Skate to where the puck is going to be.” You’ve got to be skating to places where you know you can see an opportunity could be created and that’s how the magic happens.
The big dragon we’re trying to slay is changing the game of baseball and dramatically starting something new where the game is faster and more exciting because there is a serious problem. What I’ve been doing is saving every single article written about the problems with the game, the challenge of the game, how long it is and keeping all those journalists information. As soon as we’re ready to get our announcement reaching out with a full blitz to all of them from the Wall Street down to USA Today, it is a little bit also playing a long game.
That does give me an idea because I am reminded of something that I did in the earlier days. We would keep articles from journalists that we connected, that we could see they would do a story on us keeping all those. When we have the right announcements, when we got the right pitches, being able to go back to those people and say, “I love your story about this,” it’s a great opportunity.
It’s not emailing, it’s calling. I do a lot of personal videos from the stadium in a tux. It’s reaching out in different ways. I gravitate to that because you were an actual practitioner and people talk about and I always do it. You do so many cool things. Your experience with The Wizard of Ads, you built this crazy character and I kept picturing this as a wizard. Can you share a little bit about your experience and how that’s changed your copywriting?
The Wizard of Ads by Roy H. Williams, he’s become an incredible friend. I go down to his academy once or twice a year in Austin, Texas. He’s got this ranch that he’s created. It’s a nonprofit business school. They teach things like how to storytell and lessons from the magical world and they’ve got all these great things that they do. Roy looks a bit like a wizard. Longer, flowing white hair, bit of white goatee or beard and he is quite the introvert. He’s a very interesting eclectic guy. What I love about him is his claim to fame is nobody’s bought more radio on the planet than him. He writes radio creative. He’s got about 53 different partners of his that works for different clients across the world. We met him years ago and he sat down and said, “I understand your business and I’m going to create some radio ads.” He said, “The one deal is when I come back to you with your first ad, you’re not allowed to change a word.” I said, “That seems strange. I hope he gets it perfect as he makes it sound.”
He came back with an ad and I said, “There’s one word here that doesn’t quite resonate with me.” I don’t even remember what the word was, and I requested that it be changed. He said, “You want to stop working together this early in the relationship?” I said, “You’re serious. We won’t change the word.” He said, “I picked that word specifically to get a reaction, specifically for the sound of that word and how it fits.” I thought if there was a guy that goes to that level of detail in choosing words to write magical ads, he’s got to be the right guy. Seven years later, we’re working with him and our business has grown exponentially because of the radio ads that he’s helped us to create. He’s also done things like helped us write our book. He’s my co-author. He’s a great friend and he’s added marketing magic and ideas to all four brands over the years. It’s been a lot of fun.
Are there any unique things that he does with some of the ads that stand out? Radio, it’s gone away. We go to where people aren’t paying attention as much and then creating different. What are some things that pop for you or any ads you were like, “This made a huge difference?”
There’s not one magic thing because what Roy ended up telling us when we were running our first set of ads, he said there’s a period called the chickening out period. It is about twelve weeks in where you go as the franchise owner who’s running the ads in their market whereas running them nationally. He says, “It hasn’t done much to move the needle. We’re spending a lot of money here.” He said, “That will happen every single time. You’ve got to stick with it.” Something magical happens at about 24 to 26 weeks where it then kicks into gear. The flywheel momentum starts to happen. I don’t know what he’s doing to the ads because I hear different clients with completely different ads. It doesn’t seem like there’s anything formulaic at all with our ads. What he does with anyone is he understands the person and their story and how to convey that. With us, it’s happy magic.You never know what you'll get unless you ask. Click To Tweet
It’s trying to convey a personality, a magical element in our business. With 1-800-GOT-JUNK? as an example, the radio ads, we spent ten million on the radio. We get a huge return on it. All of our ads are some variation of just point and junk disappears. Everyone knows you can’t point and make junk disappear, but somehow the radio ads create a Willy Wonka-ish feeling where you go, “It’s magic. It’s so easy how 1-800-GOT-JUNK? does this that it’s almost like magic.” The genius behind the ads, Roy, is the guy who understands our business and picks the right recipe each and every time.
You start mentioning Willy Wonka, you’re definitely speaking my language. I imagine turning our whole stadium into this Wonka land with bananas everywhere and making it a magical experience. You got me going there. Disney almost owns the word magic but it’s such an amazing feeling. You think about the story that you’re creating and how do you make people feel. That’s what the ad. When you say point and the junk is gone, I feel this relief, the stress is gone and it’s magic. If you can make people feel a certain way from an ad, it’s game over.
When I say that people like doing business with people who have fun, it’s because they like doing business with brands that make them feel positive, that make them feel a certain way. One of my favorite business which is such a simple-seeming business, Starbucks coffee. I go there every morning. If I’m traveling anywhere in the world, I go for my coffee. You just feel you’ve got friendly baristas who are behind the counter who treat you with respect, who give you a nice smile. They know how to make your drink quickly and they make it easy. Brands are about how they make you feel and people can learn from that. How you take a company, it doesn’t matter whether you’re in some commercial construction business or you’re in electric cars, how you make people feel is everything.
I want to talk a little bit about your people. You hit home with me. Before you talked about the four H’s: happy, hungry, hardworking, hands-on, but the heart of the founder is everyone wants their people to have ownership. Some of the stories with the tattoos and wrap of the cars are brilliant but how do you get people to feel that? We talked a little bit back about how you do some of your interviewing but how do you get people to have the heart of the founder and those four H’s?
The easiest place to start is I say, “How do you find great people?” I throw the question back to people and I go, “How do you find friends?” They say, “You meet with people and the chemistry is there and it just works.” You don’t pull out a checklist and go, “They like the same kind of beer. They like the same sports teams.” You don’t go through an interview process trying to find friends. Corporate America, something we don’t do very well sometimes is the way we interview people. We make it so formulaic. I don’t like the way they answer this question. You put them in a nervous environment that’s uncomfortable. They’re going from person to person getting grilled. If you make it fun, if you make it relaxed and you pretend on trying to find a new friend here, “Do I like this person? Are they interesting? Are they interested? Do they have a shared passion?”
The key is do they have a shared passion? For us, that shared passion is growing something, building something bigger and better together. We aren’t people that like to do things alone. We like the fun atmosphere building something together. Our office is a very big open office environment. We take culture very seriously. How do you get to the heart of a founder? How do you find that they’ve got one? It’s like looking for friends. Are they someone that’s got a shared passion for building something? Can you see that they get lit up about the opportunity? You mentioned Walt Disney, one of my favorites as well. The quote we’ve got of his in our office is, “It’s fun to do the impossible.” I want people here who want to try and do the impossible.
I have a custom-made poster right on my desk with Walt Disney and it’s a picture that says, “Vision and it’s fun to do the impossible.” You’ve mentioned your office a few times. You call it the Junktion, correct?
You mentioned open office. Office is so important. We call ourselves a family here. Fans first family. We’re very close but we’re in an old storage building, which goes back to our roots with how we started at a picnic table in the storage building. I’d love to know a little bit more about your office. The can you imagine wall is brilliant. What makes your office unique?
We have one central point of the office. It’s our huddle room. We gather every single day. There’s a couple of big ring bells around the office and they get rung at about 10:53. Everybody gathers at 10:55 AM sharp, Vancouver. We’ve also got our Toronto office, which participates by video and we all gather to a stand-up meeting for seven minutes to celebrate each other, to celebrate successes, wins. We talk about the failures. I can’t write a book, WTF?!, and not to talk about failures. In our stand-up meeting, where are we making mistakes? What’s going wrong? Where are we stuck? What do we need to fix? It’s this environment where we start with the good news and we end with a cheer. It has people going back to their desks in this open office space feeling good about that daily pulse where we’re going and how we’re going to get there. When you look around the office, storytelling everywhere. We’ve got photos that are up on the wall, big vinyl decals that tell stories. The stories of persistence and tenacity, stories of failures. It’s one of those things where you see these things, you can’t help as a new employee to not pick up the culture and be a part of the family the group that we’re building together.
We’d say when we’re interviewing people in ten years, we want them to tell the stories. To do that, you have to repeat the story, share them over and over again to feel a part of it. There are only three of us that started out on that abandoned storage building on a picnic table. It sounds like you’re visually putting in run the entire office.
Big quotes, things that motivate and inspire all over the office.The secret to success is to get started before you are ready. Click To Tweet
With all of these employees, how do you get this done in seven minutes? How many people talk during that seven-minute stand-up meeting?
There’s a little bit of a format. If any wanted to see it, they just go to Google and type 1-800-GOT-JUNK? huddle or O2E Brands huddle and you’ll get to see one. It’s a simple process starting with good news, key numbers. Someone does a section called In the News where it’s a different person every single day talking for 90 seconds about what’s going on in their department and how they’re driving forward towards the vision. The seven-minute process is whoever is the huddle master for the day, it’s a different person every single day because we’re building the company a leader so you put some people up there that are terrified at public speaking but they give it a go and make it happen. It’s a process so bit by bit, you’re able to get it done in seven minutes. It’s an incredibly important rhythm in our day.
I’ve been grilling you with some question so we’re going to flip the script, Brian. You are the host of Business Done Differently and you can ask me any one question.
I would love to know your philosophy then. I’ve read about you and seen some videos and got to meet you in person, but I’d love to hear a little more of your standing out Purple Cow-ish type philosophy. A guy who’s wearing the yellow suit each and every day, that takes courage. Tell me why it’s so important to you and tell me a little bit more about your philosophy.
Going back years ago, my wife and I were sleeping on an air bed. We had to sell our house and we had to empty out our savings account to make this team work here in Savannah because we weren’t creating attention. We were doing tons of marketing, but we weren’t creating attention. We knew we had to go over the top. That’s when we decided that we’re going to name the team Savannah Bananas, have a senior citizens dance team called the Banana Nanas, make every single take it all you can eat at the ballpark and then build our whole business on a Fan’s First experience which is the over-the-top experience and wow our fans when they come to the ballpark from having parking penguins. People dress like penguins parking you to having a pep band greeting you when you’re coming to the stadium to have our Banana Nanas dancing. People dressed in banana costumes ripping your banana shape ticket that smells like scratch and sniff bananas. We went into this whole everything into building the brand and that’s how we work. How do we create attention?
A couple of years ago, we offered President Obama an internship after his term was over to work with the bananas. All of this gets people knowing that our brand is not normal. It’s a little different but that’s who we are. You mentioned fun magic. That’s everything for us. We’re creating this fun and it’s based on this Fans First Experience. The yellow tux is part of it. People can’t take me that too seriously when I’m around town and even I’m going to speak where I’m in an airport and people are like, “What is wrong?” It’s who we are and it’s fun. That’s the most elaborate question I’ve got ask. Usually it’s, “Why the tuxedo?” You went in-depth there because it’s more of the mantra that we believe we can be the most Fans First company in the world by bringing people together, caring for them like family and putting on a show that they’ve never seen before. That’s what we’re building to these days. We’ve done that vivid vision that you started years ago.
What media hit of all the press you’ve had, because you’ve had some awesome stuff, what are you most proud of? What’s one hit that you go, “That’s the one that stands out?”
The first thing I think about is MSNBC doing a big feature on us but this one surprise with CNN when they covered our breakdancing first base coach. There’s no reason CNN Headline News should be showing a college summer baseball team, but they showed our breakdancing first base coach doing the moonwalk during a game. That was one of the biggest surprises. We were number one trending on Twitter when the Savannah Bananas came out ahead of Donald Trump on the date of the Republican debate. It was crazy. You’re only as good as your last at-bat. What we’re thinking about is what is that next one? What is that next big thing that we can do to stay relevant? That’s why I was so intrigued by you, Brian. After many years, how are you still creating the attention? It’s easy like, “We’re growing by leaps and bounds but we’re not doing the things that we did in the beginning. We weren’t bootstrapping as much.” I’ll finish with some lighting rounds here. I’m going to go back to you. This is a crazy train. What’s something you’ve done that people would say is absolutely crazy?
I do a lot of crazy adrenaline type things. A crazy one from a negative business side, which turned out to be a massive positive. I had a Starbucks executive, an ex-president of Starbucks running my business. This was in 2007, 2008. We fell $40 million in revenue in one year. We came close to bankrupting the business and I got that person out of the business. Why it was crazy was everyone around me, in my business, my franchise owners, all thought it was crazy because they thought that I hit the gold mine, the jackpot in having this person on board. They just didn’t know what I knew and that our visions weren’t aligned enough and we couldn’t get there. The change had to happen. They’ve all come around since then and said, “It was a bold move and it was the right one. Thank goodness you did it.” That’s what leaders have to do.
That’s grown your culture tremendously now because everyone says, “This person didn’t fit.” Now, you’re getting closer to finding people that always fit. If you want better answers in business, you need to ask better questions. What are some of the best questions you’re asking, whether you’re reaching out to potential mentors, people who have achieved success? What questions are you asking people these days?
I just want to know and I can ask it a million different ways but what drives you? What makes you tick? I want to understand what makes someone who they are and what their life’s mission is. Simon Sinek would say, “Talk about your why.” I want to know someone’s why. I want to know what their core, what is unique to them and why they’re here on this planet.
That was a powerful thing about the MMT conference. It cut through on the surface questions. They started to dig it in and people meeting after a day or two were getting into deep conversations like that. I wish more people could dive into that instead of asking how the weather is and how busy was their day. Your customer service is huge. What’s the best customer experience that you’ve either seen one of your people deliver or that you’ve done or experienced?
I love when someone goes out of their way to make sure you’re smiling. At the end of the day, they’re making you happy. I was on a flight and I was exhausted. I was in New York. I always fly economy because that’s what I do and our whole company flies economy. It was one of those extra-long days of seeking press and going from interview to interview. This woman called my name and pulled me aside and gave me this boarding pass saying, “We upgraded you.” I was like, “You made my day.” It was how she presented it to me. She was busy. I loved that feeling that she could tell I was having a hard day and I was tired, and the flight was a little delayed. Sometimes it’s those extra moments that are touching.
It’s so tough because a lot of times I ask that question and people can’t think of things and to me, that means they’re not happening on a regular basis. There’s such a huge opportunity there. You’re traveling and sometimes people are traveling every day, sometimes traveling on vacation. I thought about when I was in Puerto Vallarta many years ago. I was sitting down there, and this young woman came over and said, “Would you like a cooling towel?” It was a hot day, a cooling towel to pin on my neck. They came over with little popsicles and things like that. I was like, “What if everyone treated people like you were on vacation?” It’s a different type of service. I was blown away by that, so we brought the cooling towels back to the stadium and started giving those out to fans. I wish it was more of an everyday type thing as opposed to once in a while you’ll get treated like that.
I was at CNBC getting makeup put on and the woman who is doing my makeup goes, “Why are you here?” I said, “I started the company 1-800-GOT-JUNK?.” She started to cry. Tears rolled down her face and I was like, “What did we do?” She said, “Your guys are angels. My parents passed away. You came in, took six loads of junk out, had such a heart the way you did it. The guys were tired. They needed to go home at the end of the day but they didn’t complain and they said, ‘You’ve got to get the stuff out today.’ They worked until midnight.”’ She was touched and so my favorite customer experience stories are the ones that circle back to me where I am hearing about the job that our company promises to do and delivers upon. That feels great.
The visual there, we talk about that all the time, it’s happy tears. We had a seven-year-old fan that had a big sign at our ballgame and it was held up with a picture of me in a tuxedo and all of our Bananas players. He goes, “I’m your biggest fan.” I took a selfie with him and he got so excited. I told him it was going on Facebook. I came back, I got a signed bat from the entire team. I went down to him and delivered it. He started bawling. He goes, “Don’t worry. These are happy tears.” His mother was crying. After the game, he stayed for the entire game, which is rare these days with baseball, he ran up to me and gave me the biggest hug and said, “It was one of the best nights of his life.” It’s a visual I’ll never forget. Just as you invoke those, how many times are we creating those happy tear moments? It’s such a powerful emotion and it means a lot. Thank you for bringing that back out to me and made me realize again what I love doing. We’ll finish up here with some favorites and then our final four. Favorite part of your morning routine?
Favorite part is getting up at 5:55. My alarm goes off and I’m excited to start the day. The first thing I do before checking email is I log my intentions of the day on my phone. The intention could be to make sure I get a workout in because it’s a busier day and I’ve got to have extra high energy. It could be to make sure that I’m paying attention in connecting with people when I see them in the office. It isn’t just, “Good morning,” and walking past. It’s taking a moment to pause and connect with them. It’s logging my intention each and every day.
Favorite way to unwind at the end of the day?
A glass of red wine.
Favorite book that stands out?
I am a unique entrepreneur in the sense that I have a real hard time reading. I grew up having reading comprehension problems. I love books. I want to be able to read them. I’ve got so many books on my bookshelf. My wife is an avid book reader, I’m an avid book buyer. The one classic that stands out my mind that I always recommend everyone who is an entrepreneur is The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber.
Favorite restaurant is anything in Italy or France. My two favorite types of food. I’m not about the brand of restaurant. I’m not about a specific location, I’m about eating in a place where it’s authentic. A little restaurant in the countryside of France would be my choice.
What about your favorite business conference?
Every year, I do something called Birthing of Giants. It’s an MIT entrepreneur organization joint partnership. We did a three-year class where we graduated and then it turned into a reunion class that I was part of putting together. We’re now in our eighteenth year. Sixty high growth entrepreneurs connecting together every single year, very much similar to MMT. The MMT would be a close second only because I found it later in life.
It’s the environment you surround yourself with. Brian, our final four. What’s one thing you’ve done to stand out in business and in life?
Be myself. In this Instagram, social media world, people aren’t necessarily real. You’re taking 100 photos to get to that one perfect photo that shows how happy everyone is in the world. To me, that’s not reality. People need to just be themselves and show their weaknesses as well as their strengths. My whole book being entitled WTF?! (Willing to Fail), I do not mind calling out the failures.
What advice would you give to someone starting on in business to help them stand out?
Number one piece of advice is first of all, start something. Don’t be stuck on, “I’ve got to find the perfect idea, the first perfect app.” Just start something. Get going and then start thinking about the standing out, second. Start thinking about how to stand out once you’ve got something and look at yourselves versus companies like you. How did the Savannah Bananas do it? Spill everything out of your book.
Your quote that made an impact I shared with my email list and on social, “The secret to success is to get started before you are ready.” That is so powerful, Brian. I did a video, “Don’t wait. Set the date,” whether you’re going to do something and make it happen. That’s such powerful advice. What’s the best advice you’ve received?
It’s a fellow named Greg Brophy who was a mentor of mine. He started a company called Shred-it. He said, “Never ever compromise on the quality of the people you bring into your organization.”
How do you want to be remembered?
I want to be remembered as a nice guy who loves growing businesses and love growing people. I’m not a money guy. I’m not motivated by things. I’m motivated by great people that have great memories of the life’s work we’ve done together.
Brian Scudamore, the book is WTF?! (Willing to Fail). Brian, you’ve made an unbelievable impact on so many entrepreneurs, myself, our team as well. I want to thank you for being on the show sharing some of your wisdom. How can people learn more, connect with you and find out more about what you’re doing?
Brian, thank you so much. I appreciate it.
Thanks for having me, Jesse.
- WTF?! (Willing to Fail)
- O2E Brands
- Shack Shine
- You Move Me
- WOW 1 DAY PAINTING
- Purple Cow
- The Wizard of Ads
- The E-Myth Revisited
- Birthing of Giants
- @BrianScudamore on Instagram
About Brian Scudamore
Founder and CEO of O2E Brands Brian Scudamore did something big in 1989 when he started 1-800-GOT-JUNK?: he changed how the world views junk removal. He realized exceptional customer service combined with attracting the right people to own businesses within O2E Brands was the secret to success. Since then, he’s applied that magic formula to create multiple, globally admired home-service brands.
It all began in 1989, when Brian was stuck without a summer job and no way to pay his college tuition. He was waiting in line at a McDonald’s drive-thru when he saw a beat-up junk truck with “Mark’s Hauling” painted on the side. Something clicked, and he was inspired to spend his last $700 on a used pick-up truck and start his own junk removal service.
Over the next three summers, business took off. He invested in more trucks, hired student drivers, and set out to make his company a household name: 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, now known as the world’s largest junk removal service.
But he didn’t stop there. Brian saw that 1-800-GOT-JUNK?’s systems and processes could be applied to other home service industries. He was inspired to launch WOW 1 DAY PAINTING, You Move Me, and Shack Shine, taking painting, moving, and gutter cleaning from ordinary to exceptional — from O2E — and create an exceptional family of brands that have helped hundreds realize their own dream of business ownership.