Beedie plays host to 1-800-GOT-JUNK? CEO Brian ScudamoreOct 11, 2012
Brian Scudamore, founder and CEO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK? shared with a live audience at Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business his experiences and insights as CEO of one of Canada’s fastest-growing franchise operations – and the story of how he turned junk into a thriving business.
The event was part of the Beedie School of Business’ partnership with prominent Vancouver radio station CKNW, which sees SFU’s downtown Vancouver campus play host to “The Chief Executives”, a series of live radio interviews conducted by CKNW host Bill Good, profiling some of the country’s top executives.
After being introduced to the audience, Scudamore commented that he liked the play on words in the introduction, which described his business as being “down in the dumps”. He pointed out, however, that a more apt description for an organization with over 200 locations in three different countries would have been “on the up and up.”
Scudamore opened the session by reminiscing about his first job, which involved the breaking up and removal of an entire concrete patio for a customer. His inexperience at the time had caused him to underestimate the time and effort the job would take, and meant he massively undercharged the customer for the work involved. Scudamore laughingly pointed out that you learn from your mistakes – a mantra which he returned to throughout the interview, and one which he insists has served him well in life.
Good questioned how Scudamore, who left high school one course short of graduating, was able to get into university, to which he replied that it was through sheer persistence. “Four different people said ‘no’, to me but I refused to give up,” he said. “I wrote letters and stayed persistent and managed to talk my way in.”
Continuing on the theme of persistence, Scudamore regaled the audience with the tale of how he acquired the phone number for 1-800-GOT-JUNK? Looking to expand into the US, and with his business at the time called “The Rubbish Boys”, Scudamore realized he needed a name which did not sound too Canadian if the expansion was to be successful.
Deciding that 1-800-GOT-JUNK? was perfect, Scudamore set about locating the owner of the number, eventually discovering it was owned by the Idaho Department of Transportation. Unsure how he would manage to talk a government agency into selling him a registered telephone number, Scudamore explained that persistence paid off again. “I must have made 60 phone calls to them before I finally got hold of someone who was willing to discuss it,” he said. “I had already spent money on designing a logo based on the number so I wasn’t about to give up. I knew the name was important and that I had to have it.”
Scudamore then moved on to the value of hiring the right people in a business. He insisted that hiring “good” people isn’t enough, but that “great” people are needed if a business is to be successful, a lesson that he explained he learned the hard way when he was forced to fire all eleven of his employees when the company was in its early days.
Throughout the interview, Scudamore returned to the theme of learning from his mistakes, explaining that he believes that failure is the only way to grow. An audience member followed up on this point by asking how he disseminates the knowledge he gains from failures to his team. Scudamore responded that he utilizes a somewhat quirky method – every day they have a team “huddle”, similar to that often used by sports teams.
He explained that at the same time every day the entire team gathers for seven minutes to share good news, review their critical numbers, listen to updates from departments and hear about any mistakes employees may have made in work. Scudamore did however remark that he still finds that his employees are often unwilling to admit to having made mistakes in the first place.
During the session Scudamore took questions from the audience, touching upon his plans to expand into other countries; how he keeps the huddle ritual from becoming stale; the importance of values in business; whether he has ever had a mentor; and how he was able to increase revenue in the face of the financial crisis.
When asked how important it was for a CEO to set the tone in a company in order to retain employees, Scudamore described a process he put into place to promote staff retention. He assembled a group of employees to canvass ideas from staff on how to improve the company. When the group reported back, the top request had been for employees to receive an extra week of vacation each year, which would bring their vacation allowance up to four weeks a year.
“I went away and ran the numbers and found that it made more financial sense to give them five weeks of vacation a year,” he said. “People seemed to like that. It’s important for me to be seen to use the five weeks vacation though. If my employees were to see me working all the time they would think it is not ok to use their vacation time. The CEO has to lead by example.”
The next CEO to be interviewed as part of the Chief Executives Series will be Tom Gaglardi, CEO of Northland Properties Group and owner of the NHL franchise Dallas Stars.
For more information about the CKNW Chief Executives Series at the Beedie School of Business, visit https://beedie.sfu.ca/events/