Recently, Petra Coach hosted an interview with Brian Scudamore. You can access the full recording below.

Top Takeaways

Q: How did you get started on this journey?

A: 33 years ago, Brian was sitting in a McDonald’s drive-thru trying to figure out how he was going to pay for college when he saw a beat-up truck in front of him with a bunch of junk in the back and he thought, “hey I could do that.” So within a week, he bought a truck and started his own company (of just him) called Rubbish Boys, and he started hauling junk. This paid for his college, but ironically, 3 years in,  he dropped out because he felt he was learning more about the business on his own rather than in his studies.

Q: How did you go from just you hauling junk to scaling?

A: It was a length process – it took 8 years to get his business (Rubbish Boys, now called 1-800-GOT-JUNK) to $1 million in revenue. 

“You’ve got to hit the first million profitably, with a sound foundation of systems. And it’s not easy, but I’m reminded – you know Walmart, it took them 25 years to get to 7 stores. Like people look at businesses that have grown quickly and think about how you can just do this overnight. No, it takes time and I think as entrepreneurs, we have a hard time being patient…So my process that I went through in 1994, at a half a million in revenue, I fired my entire company because I got it wrong. I had the wrong people they were nice enough but they weren’t optimistic, they didn’t believe in me, I didn’t believe in them, and I had to part ways and I let them down as the leader and I told him that I said I’m sorry this is not worked out here is why and I decided to start again and hence the hat today: it’s all about people. That was the day that I learned that lesson find the right people and treat them right they have to believe in my vision if I have one they have to leave and where we’re going together and how to get there. So I fired my entire company, and things just blew up. I mean I was like, “What am I doing? Can I really build this? Do I want to build this?” And I came across a book a year later called E-myth Revisited by Michael Gerber, and Michael’s 83 now, we’ve become friends, and he’s come to see our office and loves the way we “E-Mythed” or “Rockefeller Habited” our business. So it’s going down a path to figuring out how we systematize everything. Michael would say: people don’t fail systems do, and I believe that, and we’ve adopted that as our philosophy. So it was all the processes and systems that would allow us to scale, because the entrepreneur – I can’t do it all and I’m not even best at all those things. Find the right people, give him the systems and the processes to scale – that’s been the key.”

Q: How did you know if people were right for the company or if they had the potential to be up to par, or if you needed to get rid of them?

A: Adopted a philosophy: slow to hire quick to fire 

Strategic model for growth: we take care of our people and they will take care of our customers 

“If we take care of our people, they’ll take care of our customers, customers will take care of our profits, reputation, revenue, and so on. So that the system has really been just finding the right people, and the way we do that is something we call the Beer and BBQ test. We ask ourselves in an interview, “Would I have a beer with this person or a coffee – whatever it is? Do we like them? Did they bring a shared common passion to the table? It’s often not necessarily the skill – if we’re hiring a CFO, yeah,  KPMG has to do their due diligence to make sure they’ve got the financial wherewithal – but it’s up to us to say if there is a great cultural fit can they learn and grow with us.”

Q: What about the hard skills?

A: “I think it’s finding the right person, also for the right time. Cameron Herald was our CEO from $2 million to $106 million…and he was absolutely the right person for the right time but he wasn’t the right person forever. And it took his ego and mine to be able to go, “Okay, this isn’t for the next stage.” Cameron and I are both very ‘Fire, Ready, Aim’ types – like let’s go, let’s make things happen, I have the vision, he would execute, but we then started to go too quickly too carelessly at times for a $100 million dollar business. And we needed a different level of rigor and discipline to get us to the next stage and that’s where we found Eric Church, who’s been with us from $100 to almost $700 and well beyond a billion. He had very different skills.”

Q: Who else did you reach out to along this journey?

A: “I would go out and look for answers from anyone that could help me. I would read Good to Great by Jim Collins, and then figure out how to meet Jim and ask him a question, and I would do it with any author – of the articles I read, magazines, I do it with entrepreneurs I’d run into at big events.”

“One of the best and biggest brightest mentors I’ve ever had has been Verne Harnish and he wrote Rockefeller Habits…and he encouraged me to join YEO – The Young Entrepreneurs Organization at the time. I was in the forum, I’m still in EO today, and this wouldn’t be even 10% of what it is today if it wasn’t for EO…I created my own MBA I call it: Mentor Board of Advisors.

“I think reaching out and asking for help is something that entrepreneurs need more courage to do…Successful entrepreneurs love helping others because they were helped along the way to get where they wanted to go.”

Q: How did you continue to keep the people at the forefront as you continued to start new organizations?

A: “The first thing you see in the office is not the brand, it’s a big sign that says, “It’s all about people.” The second you walk in the door, that has to hit someone and resonate with them – if someone’s being interviewed for the position or if someone’s showing up for their first day at work, we want people to be reminded that that is everything for us.”

Core Values: Integrity, Professionalism, Empathy

Q: What do you think are the three most important habits that you can Implement as a young leader?

A: I don’t know if I call them habits but but things that someone needs to really put time and energy into as a leader or as a business – big or small:

Vision: You need to know where you’re going

People: Find the right people and treat them right

Systems: So someone can do what you do, maybe even better

Q: How did you get out of the day-to-day to really lead your business?

A: “It’s really a mind shift. My question would be can they not they’re not able to get out of the day in day out of the day in day or they don’t want to.”

“The more I could pull away from the things I wasn’t good at, the better the business…It’s ok if you don’t want to get out of the day-to-day but the trade off is you’re limiting your business.”

Q: Talk to me about your introduction of the huddle within your brands.

When he first brought the idea back, people hated it. They thought it was a cheesy and a waste of time. Now, it’s a cornerstone of their culture It’s like family dinner. It’s that pulsing every single day to say: What are we learning? Are we on track? How are we tracking toward our numbers?

“We do it each and every day and have never missed.”

Q: If you could look back and tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?

“You are going to make a lot of mistakes, it’s going to hurt, but one you realize those are all gifts, once you unwrap those mistakes and that learning, they will all take you to a better place.”

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