We have entered into what many call The Great Resignation. Now more than ever, people are quitting their jobs, following their passions, and starting their own businesses. In this episode of CEO Sales Strategies, Doug C. Brown talks to Brian Scudamore, founder, and CEO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK? and O2E Brands, as well as the author of WTF (Willing to Fail). Doug and Brian discuss Brian’s career and how he built a $500 million dollar enterprise, some of the surprising lessons learned along the way, and how entrepreneurs can capitalize on the changes happening in the world right now.
Serial entrepreneur and author Brian Scudamore has always taken the road less travelled. At just 19 years old, he pioneered the industry of professional junk removal with 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, turning a chore people avoid into an exceptional customer service experience. Then he scaled that success into two more home-service brands, WOW 1 DAY PAINTING and Shack Shine under the O2E Brands banner.
Visit his website: www.o2ebrands.com
I’ve got a great guest. I have been waiting to talk with this gentleman on the show for a long time. Brian and I have known each other for a while. Brian Scudamore owns a company called O2E Brands, which he owns three different opportunities under. One is called 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, which a lot of people in North America would recognize. The other is called WOW 1 Day Painting. It’s a cool concept. They come in, paint your whole house or building in one day. They are in and out. The third one is called Shine Shack, which is a cool way of power washing and beautifying everything all around.
I’m giving the plugs because I’m a client of theirs as well. It’s a great episode. I want you to pay attention. We talk a lot about different things, but one of the massively important things is, “What’s the shift that happened? How do you capitalize on the shift?” What I mean by shift is the economy has changed and the pandemic is still here, all of these things.
What’s the thing that you need to focus on to take yourself out of there? What is the sales strategy that he used going from dropping out of high school and college, starting a company, building it up to over $500 million a year in revenue, being a great guy through this whole process, taking care of people and doing things right? Win-win play is what he has, win-win selling, win-win communications, everything. He throws a couple of great nuggets in there for you. Without further ado, let’s go to Brian Scudamore.
Doug, thanks for having me.
I’m happy to have you here because we have had many conversations in the past. For those people who don’t know, Brian and I know each other a bit. We have done things together like articles and conversations. I’m excited to have you here. You are the real deal. You are the quintessential “I started with almost nothing but an idea.” You built yourself into over $500 million in revenue.
What I love and appreciate about you is your business runs what I preach, which is win-win selling or win-win communication. They win, you win. If it’s not the right deal, you disengage or walk from it right out of the gate. I remember us talking. I was like, “I love your 1-800-GOT-JUNK? I love all three brands you have, the Shack Shine and the WOW 1 Day Painting. Maybe I could do a franchise with you or something like that.” You said, “You are going to be occupied.” I said, “I’m just going to invest.” You are like, “Doug, we can’t do that.” That’s a win-win because what you are telling me in that statement is, “Doug, it doesn’t work well for an outside investor’s model. It works great if you are the Owner Operator.”
It’s all about focus. For example, you’ve got a nephew, has a great business mind, loves to sell, loves to get out there and market. You say, “I’m going to bring you into the business. I’m going to be the money, but you are running it. You are leading and growing an empire.” That works. There’s no problem there, but we need to know that we’ve got someone on the ground, feet on the streets, pouring all their love and energy into building a great business.
If you pick something like WOW 1 Day Painting, we are not looking for painters. We are looking for a business owner who will build, lead, and grow a special empire. We want people who are focused on this, who aren’t doing a second job, and don’t have additional investments that take their time. We have learned from experience that that’s what works for us.
You developed this brand called O2E Brands. I never asked you this question. For those of you who are reading like, “Doug, get to the sales strategies,” that’s coming. I always wanted to ask you, why O2E Brands? What were the genesis and reason for?
Our CFO came to me one day and said, “I know we have set up a parent company for 1-800-GOT-JUNK? and we added WOW 1 Day Painting as a second brand. What are we going to call the holding company? We’ve got a numbered company.” I thought for about three seconds. I said, “Let’s call it O2E because that’s who we are.” What O2E stood for is Ordinary 2 Exceptional. I said to Brian, our CFO at the time, “Everything we do, we take ordinary people like me who started with a $700 investment, beat-up old pickup truck, an ordinary guy, a high school and college dropout.”
We built an exceptional $500 million group of brands. Everything we do, we take the ordinary business of junk removal and make it exceptional. O2E, that’s the brand, and that’s the parent company. Almost a recruiting brand for all of our brands. 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, WOW 1 Day Painting where we paint people’s homes in a day, and then Shack Shine, which is windows, gutters, power washing and Christmas lights.
For those of you who are sitting there going, “Where’s the strategies?” Let me tell you, win-win selling number one, and O2E is number two. Here’s the bottom line. When we go from ordinary to extraordinary, we are overdelivering. When we are overdelivering, we are giving more value exchange in return. I know because I hired one of your franchisees to come to my house and take things out. They were so professional. It was easy. That’s what got me to think, “Maybe I want to have a franchise.” It was such a great experience. They overdelivered on the experience and value. I was like, “If they had asked me for more money, I would have given it to them at that point.”
You mentioned your story, so I’m going to take people through a little bit. You were born in 1970 in San Francisco, if I remember correctly. You didn’t do all that well in grade school like a lot of us entrepreneurs, but you were able to sell your way into Concordia College with a Business major. Even though you didn’t do as well in academia early on, you were able to convince somebody to let you into this college program. That’s pretty admirable. When it comes from a sales point, that’s a hard sell, “I don’t have a diploma, or whatever it might have been, and I want to go to college.”
I didn’t have a high school diploma. I talked my way into college. It took three tries to make it happen but I said, “I can do this. I can do college without a high school diploma. I’m smart enough. I know how to work hard.” I had to find the money to pay for it, which meant starting my own business, 1-800-GOT-JUNK? and hauling junk with that beat-up, old, $700 pickup truck. My parents were not going to give me college money given that I didn’t finish high school. They were smart because I didn’t finish college.
I talked my way in, moved colleges, moved around and was very ADD. Eventually I said, “I am running this business that’s fulfilling me. I love what I’m doing. I’m learning a ton, learning more about running a business than studying in school.” I decided to drop out. Fourteen schools from kindergarten to college, and the only diploma I have still to this day is kindergarten.
It’s a wonderful story because I remember you were in a McDonald’s parking lot, and you saw this junk truck thing going on or some junk. That’s where you’ve got the inspiration for 1-800-GOT-JUNK?
There was a pickup truck in front of me. It said, “Mark’s Hauling.” It was filled with junk. It was a beat-up pickup truck. I was like, “I can do that. Instead of getting a job, I can create my own.” I started going through the classified. I found a truck. A week later, I bought my F-100 and off I went. I built up the plywood sides, spray-painted 7-888 Junk, which was the phone number at the time before we became 1-800-GOT-JUNK?
I had a business that cost me less than $1,000 that more than paid for itself within two weeks, then started to pay for college. It was a lot of fun. It was an impossible challenge. I have always believed that quote from Walt Disney, “It’s fun to do the impossible.” This was an impossible challenge that I was up for. I paid for my education but then I learned so much that I dropped out, and here we are now.
I looked back through your history and this is the theme. You are constantly playing win-win selling. You had this idea for 1-800-GOT-JUNK, but I believe there was a utility commission or something that owned the phone number at that time. You were able to sell your way into getting them to release the phone number for you.
It was the Department of Transportation in Idaho. They own the phone number. I was so committed to this 1-800-GOT-JUNK idea that I designed the logo. I had a design firm that I paid to create the logo for 1- 800-GOT-JUNK exactly as you see it now. I was like, “I need this phone number.” I kept calling the telephone room of the Department of Transportation to say, “I need this number. It’s important to me.” Michael in the phone room one day said, “You have called me many times.” Maybe he wanted me off his back, but he gave me the number and the rest is history.
The point of that is if you truly believe in an idea, it’s not selling in a pushy way, but it’s helping to show someone the possibility that you see, why it’s important and how they might be able to help. We talked about win-win selling. The hat that I’m wearing, “Bigger and better together,” is one of our slogans. To me, win-win is not that the franchise or us that is happy, making money, having a great business, and not that the franchise partner is happy and making money but both of us. We have to win together. We are only bigger and better if we are together.
If our franchise partners fail in volume, so do we. They need to be successful. We need to be successful. That’s the ultimate win. Whenever anyone as a leader can try and get people on their team, their franchise owners or employees aligned with common goals, they are not always going to perfectly align but as much as you can to say, “Here is why we are building this. Here is what we are trying to accomplish with WOW 1 Day Painting.” People feel a part of a movement, they want to be a part of that, and we are aligned, that is a win-win.
I wrote down a couple of letters. It was RFC and RFP, Right-Fit Client, Right-Fit Partner. With everything I know, this is how your companies played from the beginning. I believe that the success point for all companies is if they play the right fit, but too many companies that out people are selling. They don’t even know what the Right-Fit Client and the Right-Fit Partner are. They are trying to sell anybody anything. They end up with what they call, “I’ve got a bad client.”
“He was a bad leader.” In 1994, five years into my business, I fired my entire company. Wrong-fit employees. Ideally, it was the wrong-fit leader, me. As a new leader, five years in, I wasn’t finding the right people. I wasn’t necessarily treating them right. I wasn’t developing and growing them. I made a tough decision to pull everybody in, all eleven employees one day. One bad apple spoils the whole bunch and I had nine bad apples. I decided the only way was to part ways with everybody and start again. I started with two words, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry that as your leader, I have not brought in the right people or treated you right. I didn’t believe in you. You didn’t believe in me.”
It was a learning lesson for me to get it right next time. Understanding the right-fit employee for me and building something together with a vision and a team that was excited to be a part of our growth. I started being selective, finding the right people to bring into my team. It’s made a massive difference going forward. We have 600 employees between our two offices. We are thriving because we are careful to pick based on a cultural fit and alignment.
We are talking with Brian from O2E Brands. They own 1-800-GOT-JUNK, WOW 1 Day Painting, and Shine Shack, which is a pressure washing company. Extraordinary, if you will. Brian, what you said was probably the most important thing that a company could look at with the pandemic and everything that’s shifted. The reality is how are you playing? Are you playing with ethics, integrity, and the way you want to play with the right partners and the right people, or are you not? I believe that is a very strong anchor for companies going forward. What do you feel?
We have a motto at O2E Brands. It’s all about people. That day, when I’ve got rid of my entire team of eleven, I realized a company of men and women coming together to build something special, it’s all about people. That’s everything, no matter what company you are. If you are Amazon and one could say, it’s all about technology, it’s technology built and led by people. Every business is about people finding the right fit for you, your culture, what you believe and people buying into that.
I don’t think there’s anything else that’s more important. There’s a current talk of the Great Resignation, all these employees that are leaving and moving on. It’s because they haven’t found the right place for them. Companies need to make sure that they nurture and take care of the culture and values in their business. Our values never changed and never will. It’s four things: Passion, Integrity, Professionalism and Empathy. It stands for PIPE.
We call our people on our values and they call us on them. We hire based on values. We hold people accountable to values. If something is going wrong in the business, we can say, “Come together. Let’s have empathy here for our franchise owners going through a hard time. Let’s make sure we cut people some slack.” We use our values as a guide for what we believe in. You find the right people and treat them right. You make sure you guide them with your values, almost self-guide like a self-driving car.
Your values in your company are to promote how to be a real and healthy entrepreneur. That comes across like, “If you have things that you need to be removed from your homes or your businesses, and you don’t want to lug it out of there, call 1-800-GOT-JUNK.” I’m looking at a new home and I was thinking of you, Brian. I’m walking through these homes and I was like, “They’ve got to get painted. I’m not waiting. I want a one-day painting job, so I’m going to call WOW and I’m going to get it painted.” I was looking up in the gutters and on the driveways, I’m like, “I need pressure washing. I need Shine Shack.”
If you have any of those, go make the phone call, get on there. I will personally attest that they will treat you amazingly well, and you will be extremely happy. Brian, how has the sales strategy changed, or maybe it hasn’t at all? Going from the early days where you were, you and then your first franchisee was one of your best friends in Canada. You went to Portland, Oregon, for the second one. Has the sales strategy changed in the company from there? If so, how?
I don’t think it shifted much. I came across a mentor years ago, and we are still great friends, Jack Daly. He’s known as the professional sales coach. He built a bunch of businesses. He’s in his 70s. He’s an amazing mentor of mine. He said, “The shortest course in sales, ask questions and listen.” Simple as that. When we were meeting with a franchise partner who might come into the system, we were asking a lot of questions to find out, “What are their dreams? What’s the dream they want to live for themselves? Why is starting a business important to them? What are their strengths? What are their weaknesses? Can our strengths and weaknesses complement each other? We are not perfect as a business. We never will be. Do we have the strengths that will support their weaknesses?”
It’s asking questions, getting to know someone and what makes them tick. As a sales strategy, asking questions, “What does someone want? Are we the right fit to give them what they are looking for?” I always used to think as a kid I was never good at sales. I used to say that to people, “I’m not good at selling.” People started to say, “Brian, you are a storyteller. You get to know people. You ask questions. You find out if people are interested. There’s a common connection and shared goal.” I’m able to line up and mesh up with people very quickly. People are like, “Brian, you are great at selling.” To me, selling is finding a match. People often think selling is pushing something on someone. It’s not. It’s finding a mutual match where people go, “Win, win, win.”
No wonder you are successful. You are doing it the right way. You always have a right from the beginning. People are leaving companies. They are like, “I’m out.” All the research that I have done clearly shows that people don’t stay at a job for a long duration for money. It’s more about quality of life. People are looking for that quality of life. Going back to your values about treating people the way you do and making sure it’s a right fit and a match.
From October 6th, 2021 onward, this is the greatest shift that’s happened in the world, not just in the United States or Canada. I’m talking to people all over the world. They are saying the same thing, “I want quality of life. I do want money, which is part of it, but I want that right fit. I want to be in a place where I feel valued, where I feel I’m contributing and I can grow within.” If you were going to give any advice to anybody, from October 6th, 2021, what would be the 1, 2 or 3 things that they should focus on if they want to build a company as you did from zero and add $500 million at any stage of their business?
Number one, by far, what always drives me is having a clear vision. What does your future look like for yourself, your company and your people? I was eight years into the business with $1 million in revenue. I know you asked me for a few things, so I’m going to give you the most important thing. Vision, I was at my parents’ summer cottage eight years into my business. I went out on their dock. I was in a bit of a doom-loop feeling like I’m not good enough to build this business, “Is this business even good enough as a concept junk removal to grow?”
I took out a sheet of paper, one page double-sided, and I started to write what the future would look like. A pure possibility will be the top 30 Metros in North America. Even though we were only in one, we would be the FedEx of junk removal with clean, shiny trucks and friendly front drivers. We would be on the Oprah Winfrey show, all of these Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals. After I wrote this vision, I started sharing it with people and I said, “This is where we are going in five years. What do you think?” Half the people left the company at some point in the next few weeks and said, “You are smoking some hope dope. This isn’t going to work.”
The other half said, “Brian, this is compelling. It’s exciting. I don’t know how we are going to get there, but I want to be a part of getting there.” Vision, the most important piece of advice I have for anyone if I’m in any position to give advice, is to have a picture in your mind of what that dream, that future looks, feels and acts like. You are not a leader if you don’t have followers.
People follow big ideas, a vision, and the leader they believe can help get them there. That’s what inspires. Inspire with vision and create your painted picture. If anyone wants to learn more about the painted picture, just google Brian Scudamore’s painted picture. Send me a message on Instagram, LinkedIn, whatever it is, but I’m happy to share. I work painted pictures if anyone wants to ask. Vision is everything.
Thank you so much for that. I want to plug one thing for you on my behalf. You wrote a book called WTF?! (Willing to Fail). It is a great book. I highly recommend people go and read this. You are the North American success story that everybody would like to be. They start from zero, work their way up, and get a great brand. They have turned into incredible human beings, not that they weren’t before but even more incredible. To me, you take care of your people and business. I appreciate having you on here. Any question that maybe I should have asked?
You asked a lot of great questions, Doug. We could have talked for hours. Maybe we will have to do this again one day, but you asked some great questions. I’m excited about the opportunities that exist in the world and this great shift. People seize those opportunities, being WTF (Willing to Fail), take some risks but make greatness happen. It’s a pretty wonderful world.
Thanks for being here, Brian. I appreciate it.
Thanks, Doug. It was awesome.
Wasn’t that awesome? It’s pretty straightforward and pithy. He laid a lot of wisdom on there. Selling is the key to your business. There are all kinds of other things you’ve got to deal with. The reality is you’ve got to keep selling throughout the company history. They still do that. They went from zero, took them eight years to get to $1 million, and then they are over $500 million in revenue. Selling is so important. Knowing how to sell in a win-win fashion is as important as knowing how to even sell.
Part of that selling win-win comes from understanding your Right-Fit Client. A lot of people call, “What’s your ideal buyer or ideal client?” The Right-Fit Client is the ideal buyer. The reality is you want to refine, define or go back and forth again and constantly understand what that is because that’s where you should be spending your time, prospecting your marketing money. Anything should be on right-fit clients, whatever that is for you.
I hope you enjoyed this episode. If you want any help with your business, please reach out to me. If you want to learn how to sell more, grow your revenues, improve your profitability and your company or you are a seller, selling B2B and want to learn how to convert more, grow faster, sell larger accounts and do it with more ease, in other words, lower the acquisition cost of your client, reach out to me, @DougBrown123 on LinkedIn or Doug@BusinessSuccessFactors.com or give me a call at (603) 595-0303.
If you liked this episode, please give it a five-star review. If you have any subject matter that you want to be covered on the show, please reach out to me at the methods I gave you. Let me know what you would like because the show is here for you. Until next time. Go out, sell some stuff, make a lot of money and have a happy day in life. To your success.