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Leading In Uncertain Times With Brian Scudamore

BDD Bonus 3 | Times Of Crisis



During times of crisis, as much as we get the urge to let in all the fear, anxiety, and panic, as a leader, a cool head must prevail. The discussions you make for the future of your company affect the people you work with the most, and that’s what’s most important. Jesse Cole speaks to Brian Scudamore, the Founder of 1-800-GOT-JUNK, the CEO of O2E Brands, and the author of WTF?! (Willing To Fail). Jesse and Brian discuss how to adapt your business model to work for your company and your people in times of crisis. If, as a leader, you feel like you’re stuck in a rut during the crisis, this is an essential discussion.

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Leading In Uncertain Times With Brian Scudamore

I am excited to have Brian Scudamore. He is the Founder of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, the CEO of O2E Brands, and author of WTF?! (Willing to Fail). His episode was 161, which is a great episode. With a big company and a lot of people, and as Brian said, “It’s all about the people.” I’m excited to see what you did and what you’ve been doing since the virus hit. This is Business Done Differently and I know you do things differently so I’d love to hear them.

We’re trying. I appreciate you having me back on the show. It’s unprecedented times. Everyone is using that word and it still sometimes feels surreal. We’ve got two offices in Vancouver and Toronto, and then franchise partners all over Canada, the US, and Australia. Everyone’s being hit and some harder than others. On March 13th, 2020, we shut down the office and I remember going, “When are we coming back? What does that look like?” I started growing the beard on March 13th so I’ve got this visual measurement of how long I’ve been in isolation. What have we done differently? We’re trying to copy others that are having good success in keeping in touch with their employees.

The things that we’re doing that our franchise partners are telling us they love is how much we’re staying in touch. We have 250 franchise partners. I’ve reached out to every single one of them. It means a lot of phone calls, texts, and emails. I’ve connected with everybody. When you send an email to someone and ask them how they’re doing during these times, you often get long stories of someone says, “My father-in-law had COVID. He was in the hospital, but he’s already out.” I heard someone saying that they had someone passed. You also hear stories of people saying they don’t know how they’re going to survive this financially or someone who is a single guy living at home and has his dark thoughts at night about how to get through this. He’s got no one to talk to other than through Zoom.

[bctt tweet=”Connecting with your people is the most important thing, first and foremost.” username=””]

Connecting with our people has been first and foremost the most important thing. We have weekly Zoom calls. You’ll get the grid on the computer that shows screen after screen of groups of 25 franchise partners at a time that you can see some smiling faces and concerned faces depending on what week it is. You could see everybody with big deep breaths, including myself with just the anxiety of what we’re facing. We’ve always said, “Bigger and better together.” While sales aren’t necessarily bigger, we know we’re better together and we’re focused on connecting at every possible turn.

As a leadership team, March 13th, you tell everyone that the office is shutting down. It is my birthday. I remember it vividly. The pandemic was announced on March 12th by the President. What happened to you and your leadership team? What were the discussions? How were you guys going to pivot and move through this?

My birthday is also around there. It was on March 16th. I turned 50. I’ll remember it forever because I had my close family there. I couldn’t even have my mother because she’s almost 70. She’s worried about getting the virus. She wasn’t in my little party. Some neighbors come out on the street, across the way with their wine and glasses, toasting and saying, “Happy birthday.” It was unusual, but March 13th, I remember when we said, “We have to shut down the office. We’ve got to be safe.” We’re doing it before an actual governmental order. We wanted to take leadership. We then said, “How do we get the sales center, all our call center agents out of the office because our software and our whole phone system wasn’t set up to have at-home agents?”

We got all our corporate staff, hundreds of people out, and we had the sales center staff. We said, “Now, we’ve already got more space in the office. We had to have our call center agents in the office spread out far from each other beyond the required six feet.” They were much further apart and we said, “Let’s work with the technology. Let’s have our business technology team find a creative solution so that we can have at-home agents.” A week later, we were able to have a combination of our software and Zoom. We have our agents answer calls from home as they are these days. We felt that we had a little bit of two standards there, which we didn’t feel great. We had to keep the business running as best we could. We couldn’t get everybody out of the office right away, but we did our best to try and keep them as safe as we could. We didn’t have any known cases of COVID. We got lucky and we made some good decisions, but we’re dealing with it day-by-day as things continue to evolve.

BDD Bonus 3 | Times Of Crisis
WTF?! (Willing To Fail): How Failure Can Be Your Key to Success

What has been some unique messaging that you’ve done, Brian, to either your people? I love that you’ve reached out to all 250 franchise partners, but a unique messaging to your people or your customers. It’s a time that trying to sell people is wrong and trying to be there for people is the move. How did you embody that or make some moves there?

One of our O2E Brands businesses, to give you a little snapshot of where they’re at because they’re all different. 1-800-GOT-JUNK? in most places is considered an essential service because it’s waste removal. We can continue to operate. I know you saw one of our trucks and sent me a photo. We have to operate under different parameters. With WOW 1 DAY PAINTING, we can do exterior. That’s physical distancing at its best. You can’t get two people up a ladder. Everybody’s spread out, but we won’t go into people’s homes. Shack Shine is mostly exterior work. We can still do that business, but we won’t go in and do the windows on the inside of the house. We’ll come back at a later, safer time to do those for free.

We’ve had to adjust. Our businesses are at different levels, depending on where they are. In New York, 1-800-GOT-JUNK? has to shut down because it’s too dangerous and too dense. In most places, 1-800-GOT-JUNK? is still operating. What we’ve done is we’ve created a model called No-Contact Junk Removal. They still have to contact us to book the job, which they can do safely online or over the phone, but when we’re on-site, we’re not touching their credit card. It’s all through a tap or it’s done through an online portal. Our truck team members are one person per truck so that we’re safe. We might pull up with two trucks so that the truck team members can load the junk together, but they’re still spread out more than six feet away. They’re sanitizing. They’re taking temperatures.

[bctt tweet=”If there’s a demand for your business, you have to adapt the model to suit the demand.” username=””]

They’re doing all these different protocols that many businesses would do to prove they are safe, but they are not going into customer’s homes unless there’s an absolute safe distance from the truck team members and the customer. This No-Contact Junk Removal, we’re still getting quite the demand for services because something I didn’t realize was, like myself, people are stocking up on groceries. If you don’t have a ton of space, you take that cold storage room or garage. You get rid of a bunch of junk to make room for more important things like food and toilet paper. It’s one of those things that we’ve had to adapt the model, but there’s still quite the demand for a business, which has been good.

Being at your place, Brian, I could feel the energy. Being at your annual event, it was unbelievable, but being in your offices, I was a part of one of the epic huddles. How have you continued that? Is this growing your culture or is it hurting your culture? What are you doing to keep that strong?

Someone came up with the suggestion that we’ve done huddle every single day. We’ve never missed a weekday in many years. Someone said, “We have to still do huddle every day now that we’re not in the office.” We didn’t miss a day. We didn’t miss a beat. We went right to Zoom. It was interesting because I thought, “This is going to be boring. Nobody can talk. You’ve got one person presenting from home,” but it is truly something that I look forward to it and I know everybody does. We use the group chat to share some good news, kudos, and jokes about people that are presenting. There’s a certain number of presenters who will take turns presenting from home. You’ll get somebody who’s got a full shirt and tie on, but then he shows that he’s got sweatpants on the bottom.

I hosted from home one day and I was in my pajamas. I said, “It’s pajama day.” Everybody had fun with it and said, “Let’s officially make it pajama day,” and the next day, everybody worked from home in pajamas. We do the first-round Friday every week where we have that first drink out of the office together, whether it’s a soda, beer, or a glass of wine. We’ve been doing them weekly online through Zoom. I’ll sit on my back deck with my dog and I’ll do a toast and cheers my glass of wine. We’re doing some fun things. One of the best moments, my highlight from our huddles was someone declared bring your family to workday.

BDD Bonus 3 | Times Of Crisis
Times Of Crisis: During times of emergency, even if you can’t get everybody out of the office immediately, you still have to do your best to keep them as safe as you can.


When you’re working from home, you’ve got your family at work with you. Everybody is on these screens. It brought a little bit of a tear to my eye. I’ve never been in many homes at once and I’ve never seen everybody with all their kids at once. You can see my little kids and everyone’s kids on people’s shoulders and laps, and a free pet sitting the whole bit. It was like, “When you think of the lives we impact with our businesses, there was no better way than to see it at that moment. All these hundreds of people, their kids and families brought to work.” That was special.

I can only imagine how proud you felt. Seeing our small team and the impact that we’ve had. Many people said, “What are we thankful for?” We do our calls every day. We all stand and do the national anthem before the call. One of our people said, “I’m thankful that I have a job.” He said, “Everyone around me, my family’s been affected. People in my family and my best friends have lost jobs. I’m thankful to have a job.” For Emily and me, we get emotional thinking about it, that we’re providing during this time. From you, seeing not just the people, but the families, the kids and spouses, I’m sure that was a proud moment.

It’s also heart-wrenching at times too because with our sales volume being down in the call center and some people not having Wi-Fi or an internet connection to be able to work from home, we also had to lay off some agents. You make some layoffs in tough times, but when you think of how those people are impacted during these tough times, we’ve worked hard to try and keep all our people employed. We’ve had a crazy discussion about all the different options and try to work through government funding. There have been no easy answers, but we’ve been working hard at it. That’s when it gets hard. You feel proud, but you also feel a sense of responsibility. A business has to carry on and thrive for the future. You can’t always keep everybody and say, “We’re going to play the role of government. We’re going to fund everybody forever.” That’s not practical. I know that it’s all about people culture. We’re doing a lot of good work. I’ve got an incredible team who’s worked tirelessly to try and make sure we can preserve as many jobs as possible until things start to go back on the upswing and we get back to growth.

[bctt tweet=”When you work from home, you’ve got your family at work with you.” username=””]

There was a great interview with Danny Meyer.

I am wearing a Shack Shine hat, but he’s the Shake Shack.

There was a great interview with him with Reid Hoffman on Masters of Scale. He said he had to let go of a huge percentage of his employees. He said, “For us, getting to survive, it is going to be better to bring them all back with us again.” He looked at it, “Short-term is going to be tough, but we’re going to do this to stay alive to be able to bring them again.” It was a different way of looking at it that says, “It’s not the end.” Brian, this has been great. Are there any quick wins or best practices you would share during this time, as a leader to keep your team or all about the people that someone could take away?

A little one that I would say is something you can take home, but you can also use it with your team is gratitude. What are you grateful for? I remember years ago, I was a guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show. It was one of our big media hits. I became an even bigger fan of Oprah seeing that she was the real deal. Something I took from her was every night, before bed, think of or write down five things you’re grateful for. What we do as a family, both my own family and then we’ve done it a bit like a business family. It’s simple. Every day, every night around dinner because we get to have every single dinner and every meal together as a family, which is nice on most fronts. I’ll sit down with them and we’ll say, “What are you grateful for?”

BDD Bonus 3 | Times Of Crisis
Times Of Crisis: A business has to carry on and thrive for the future. It’s not practical to keep everybody on and just say that you’re going to fund them all forever.


During the time of this pandemic, you can still find moments of gratitude. The kids will bring it up and they’ll say, “We’ve got to do grateful. What are we grateful for?” Sometimes, we’ll find we’re done dinner and we’ve spent the whole dinner talking about what we’re grateful for. That’s a little take-home of how do you keep a positive spirit during unprecedented, turbulent times? How do you stay away from the news? How do you focus on the good? How do you focus on how we’ll come out on the other side as better human beings? I believe that this pandemic, all tragedies aside, as human beings, we’re all going to look at this and say, “There were some things that taught us. There were ways that made us different.” I think back to grandparents who were in the depression or the war. They talk about the moments of the gifts that they received from those hard times. This will be similar.

I’ll tell you, Brian, sincerely, I am grateful for you. Before all this craziness hit, I was able to spend time with you and your amazing team with my wife and my son. What an amazing experience we had. We left inspired by your people and you have something special. Thank you for what you’re doing for many people and we’re truly grateful for you, my friend.

Thank you. I appreciate you having me in and even taking me back to that moment when you were in Vancouver at our Big Kick off to think we shook hands, we high fived, we hugged, and how the world’s changed. We will all be better and we’ll get back to a great place at some point. Thanks for sharing your message. All the best to you and Emily. All the best with the Savannah Bananas.

Thank you, Brian. If I remember, we were all also dancing together, and we’re all going to be dancing together again. It’s just a matter of time.

Thanks. Stay healthy and well.

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About Brian Scudamore

BDD Bonus 3 | Times Of CrisisBrian Scudamore is the founder and CEO of O2E Brands, the banner company for 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, WOW 1 DAY PAINTING, and Shack Shine.

Brian is a serial entrepreneur, known for pioneering the professional junk hauling industry with 1-800-GOT-JUNK?. Since conquering that market, he’s gone on to apply the O2E (ordinary to exceptional) formula to the painting and home-detailing industry with WOW 1 DAY PAINTING and Shack Shine.

Currently, he’s at the helm of a burgeoning home-service empire; each brand has franchise locations in every major metro in North America and Australia. He’s a respected industry leader and speaker, well-known in the business community for his belief in people and passion for innovation.

His companies have made celebrated appearances on ABC Nightline, Good Morning America, Dr. Phil, CNN, The Today Show, Oprah, and CNBC. Brian’s story has been featured in Fortune Magazine, The New York Times, Huffington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and he contributes regularly to other noteworthy publications.

Brian is a strong believer in ongoing personal and professional development, and has attended programs offered by MIT for several years. If he’s not launching a new brand or coming up with a new, big idea, he’s biking or hanging out with his family in Vancouver, BC.

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