Brian Scudamore | Scaling Secrets: It’s All About People
Scott D. Clary | Mental Models, Performance, Business & Entrepreneurship
Here is my weekly email with some insights and ideas pulled from conversations I had on my podcast.
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Scaling Secrets: It’s All About People
Something I have always believed in is the practice of hiring work ethic, not just experience (job-dependant of course). If someone shows you that they are committed to giving you everything they’ve got, every single day, they’re worth more than the Harvard-educated applicant that is already looking ahead to their next resume bullet.
If you’re a regular reader of this newsletter or watcher of the pod, you’ll remember a conversation I had with Stephen M. R. Covey about the difference between satisfied, engaged, and inspired employees. The latter is 125% more productive than the former, a secret that all great business leaders have realized.
But what if you aren’t simply looking for another employee? What if instead of adding to your team, you’re searching for an executive-level candidate or even a new franchise partner? Do the same things apply?
It’s maybe not as simple as hiring the one with the go-getter spirit.
Recently, I sat down with Brian Scudamore to talk about these differences. He’s the founder and CEO of O2E Brands, and the face you may associate with 1–800-GOT-JUNK, the rubbish removal brand that found innovative ways to market itself.
Brian was the first Success Story podcast guest that I could grill on the finer details of franchising, and he gave me a ton of useful insight on how to find the right people at all levels of business.
Stash your trash in a flash
Yep, that was a slogan for the Rubbish Boys, the original name for Brian’s junk removal company. It was a long, frustrating grind for him to grow that brand to where it is today. After years of hard work, he couldn’t escape the fact that things just weren’t working out.
The business couldn’t get past the $500K revenue mark, and he no longer found any joy in coming to work.
“They say one bad apple spoils the whole bunch. Probably nine of my 11 employees were bad apples. I just had to say, you know, I’m done. And I was done with that group.”
That was the moment his education on hiring people first really started. He let the entire staff go, and rebuilt the team from the ground up. Suddenly:
“What made the difference and got me to stick with it was once I figured out how to find the right people — how to hire happy people. It just made it so awesome. Every day was enjoyable, and I knew we could grow something together.”
You can hear it even in the words he uses. No longer are they his employees, they’re his team and they’re working together.
It’s all about fit
The thing is, you can find incredible people who do incredible things. But that doesn’t mean they are right for your team. Brian told another story, about his time working alongside Launi Skinner, currently CEO of First West Credit Union.
She is one of the most successful businesswomen in Canada, was once president of U.S. operations for Starbucks, and dominates anywhere she goes. Except with Brian. The two just didn’t fit together, even though they were accomplished, successful entrepreneurs.
“When I brought her in to run my tiny little company, here’s someone who had 30,000 people in her employ. An amazing woman, super sharp, incredible smarts. She wasn’t the right leader for me.”
Here’s where a lot get it wrong when talking about hiring the right people. It isn’t just about having the perfect personality, it’s about having the perfect personality for that role. Especially when hiring for a leadership position, like the COO of a growing brand, there needs to be a balancing act between experience and fit.
The visionary and the integrator
In Brian’s case, it was someone that could listen to his wild, sometimes unfocused ideas, and turn them into a reality. He’s open about the fact that he needs a right hand, and that some people — successful and competent as they may be — we’re going to be able to fit that role.
Rocket Fuel, the book by Gino Wickman and Mark C. Winters, was where he discovered this, and it’s a lesson that every entrepreneur should learn. You don’t necessarily have to be one or the other — the visionary or the integrator — but this kind of balance on your senior leadership team is integral for success.
Finding the balance
“Hire on attitude, train on skill.”
That’s Brian, explaining how he looks for franchise owners. He calls them franchise partners, actually, as one of the core tenants for O2E Brands is that the two sides of a franchising agreement work together to find success.
His biggest challenge, he finds, is educating potential partners on the value of a franchise as an entrepreneurial avenue. A lot of those that think they are visionaries actually may be closer to the integrator — and that’s okay!
There’s no shame in being able to execute a system flawlessly and create a successful business, even if it is based on a proven playbook.
Throughout our talk, Brian was wearing a hat that read “it’s all about people” and he means it. The entire franchise ballgame comes down to finding and educating the right partners.
Brian’s new book is called “BYOB: Build Your Own Business, Be Your Own Boss.” In it, he talks at length about what he has experienced over the years and how other people can learn from his failures.
The three pillars of his success, as he puts it, have been vision, people, and systems.
If you are an entrepreneur, grinding to get to the next level, you might be scoffing at the idea of having big dreams. Did Bill Gates really say “a computer on every desk” as he was starting Microsoft, and what does that have to do with my gluten-free cookie business anyway?
Brian was right there with you at one point.
“I said, okay, enough negativity. I pulled out a sheet of paper and started to write what I could see in the future, using nothing but my imagination. We’ll be in the top 30 metros in North America, by the end of 2003. We’ll be on The Oprah Winfrey Show — the FedEx of junk removal.”
Writing that down was revelatory for him, just as it is for so many other entrepreneurs (try it yourself, I dare you). Suddenly he could post this plan on the wall, and show it to the rest of the company.
It didn’t work for everyone (“half the people said Brian, you’re smoking some hope dope”), but it did work for some, and their excitement became encouragement for everyone around them.
It’s that excitement that you have to find, and nurture. If they aren’t into the vision, they aren’t into the game. That Oprah Winfrey goal? That was real, and it was an entry-level hire in his first PR job that landed the interview.
Highly engaged teams are 21% more profitable. It’s just simple math at that point, but it starts by making sure you’re putting the people ahead of everything else. Find candidates that love what they do, not just ones that are good at it. You’ll be better off in the long run.
No successful entrepreneur will leave a team running wild though. Brian has concrete systems in place to help his franchise partners create a stable foundation before they start suggesting changes.
“What’s the best practice for anything you do?”
It’s not just his franchisees, either. He will create checklists for everything, including simple PR calls. The iterative approach to making these systems better and better will allow you to search out better candidates, and not worry so much about their experience.
Drop them in the chair, give them the playbook, and let them learn with predictable results.
Hire on attitude, train on skill.
Get out of your own way
One of the things that entrepreneurs say the most is how difficult it is to give up control. This is your baby, and handing over even a small part of it can drive you crazy.
But sometimes the most important thing you can do is let it happen. Don’t put limitations on yourself, or your team.
“If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.”
There are a lot of business people who refuse to admit they’re in the wrong room. They think their knowledge is so valuable that they should be handing it out like Halloween candy, and end up filling their team with people who won’t ever challenge them.
Make sure that you aren’t the one holding your company back, by thinking you have all the answers. That high school dropout that spent $700 on a truck to haul away junk? Yeah, he might have some pretty good ideas too.
There’s a lot more that Brian and I talked about in the short time we had together. Even just the space he was in while we spoke was inspiring.
If you want to hear more about scaling a franchise model, how he found the right person to take him from $100 million to $600 million, or the tricks to get your brand on the most popular talk show in the world, head over to the Success Story YouTube channel.
That’s it for this week, speak soon!
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