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Serial Entrepreneur Brian Scudamore on Digital Detox and Books That Made a Difference in his Entrepreneurial Journey

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Brian Scudamore is the founder and CEO of O2E Brands (‘ordinary to extraordinary’), the banner company for 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, and many other businesses.

His entrepreneurial path started in 1989, when he noticed a pickup truck advertising a junk removal service. He decided to start his own junk removal small business to pay for college, invested $700 from his savings to buy a truck, and founded ‘The Rubbish Boys’ (tagline: “We’ll stash your trash in a flash!”).

Brian went on to pioneer the professional junk hauling industry and conquered the market.

In 1997, although ‘The Rubbish Boys’ hit $1 million in revenue, his team wasn’t the right fit for the company, so he laid-off the entire staff and almost started from scratch. He hired a team who shared his goals and vision, adopted the motto: ‘It’s All About People’, and also changed the name of his business in ‘1-800-GOT-JUNK?’. Since then, the company experienced considerable growth.

He’s gone on to successfully apply the business formula to the painting, moving, and home-detailing industry. Brian founded WOW 1 DAY PAINTING, a service that paints the house in one day (duh 😛 ), the moving house service You Move Me, and Shack Shine, a house cleaning service. All these were built under the umbrella company O2E Brands (‘Ordinary 2 Extraordinary’).

Last autumn, Brian released WTF?! (Willing to Fail): How Failure Can Be Your Key to Success, a book where he shared his failures and lessons learned on the entrepreneurial roller coaster.

Brian is a strong believer in ongoing personal and professional development. When he’s not working, he’s biking or spending time with his family in Vancouver, where he’s based.

From our book-talk you’ll learn more about he enforces a “going dark” vacation policy in his companies, the one book that helped him successfully scale his businesses, tips for first-time entrepreneurs on how to handle the need to be in control, and more. Enjoy!

What books and writers had the biggest impact on you? Perhaps changed the way you see things or dramatically changed your career path.

The book that’s had the biggest impact on me is The E-Myth by Michael Gerber (I even wrote about it in my own book). I read it front to back, then reread it right away.

Gerber takes you through every step of a running a business from start to finish, and shows you what you need to make it successful. I read it when I was looking to take 1-800-GOT-JUNK? to the next level, and I had an epiphany: people don’t fail, systems do. Reading his book got me to take a good, hard look at my business and focus on developing our systems and hiring happy people.

His book is one of the reasons we were able to sell out of 1-800-GOT-JUNK? franchises and scale that success into three other home-service companies, WOW 1 DAY PAINTING, You Move Me, and Shack Shine under the O2E Brands banner.

What five books would you recommend to young people interested in your career path? Why?

1. The E-Myth by Michael Gerber.

2. The Great Game of Business by Jack Stack.

This book showed me the importance of transparency in business (making everyone understand the “game” of business”), and then how essential it is to give your employees some skin in the game. This book is why we adopted a profit-sharing program at O2E Brands called GGOB (Great Game of Business).

3. Good to Great by James C. Collins.

Being a great company isn’t about high-tech products or rockstar CEOs. It’s about sharing values and rowing together as a team. At O2E Brands, we hire for culture and train on skill, because having people who see our vision for where we want to go is more important that a resume.

4. Rocket Fuel: The One Essential Combination That Will Get You More of What You Want from Your Business by Gino Wickman, Mark C. Winters.

When it’s time to scale up in business, you have to let go of control and find someone who can even out your flat spots. For example, I’m not good at operationalizing vision — I need people who have those skills. I hired our COO Erik Church because he’s the yin to my yang; he takes blue-sky dreams and turns them into reality. Rocket Fuel is about how partnering with the right people can make you a stronger leader so your business can grow.

5. WTF?! (Willing to Fail): How Failure Can Be Your Key to Success by Brian Scudamore.

If someone is interested in my career path, WTF?! (Willing to Fail) shows every misstep and every moment of doubt… but also how I came through them. The takeaway is that by finding awesome people and choosing to be positive, you can accomplish more than you ever imagined.

We’re interested in finding out more about your reading habits. How do you make time for reading? How often? What format do you prefer? Do you take notes or have any other technique for conquering the torrent of information?

Honest moment: I’m not a big reader! I have ADHD and find it hard to concentrate (or sit still!). I’ve made time to read books that are recommended to me because creating a franchise system for people who want something of their own is my biggest passion. I believe in lifelong learning.

What about your writing routine? When and where do you like to write? Do you have any pre-writing ritual, to get in the flow?

I write better in inspiring places — on lakeside dock, where I can see mountains, outside in the summer… And a glass of red wine doesn’t hurt 😉

I always need a clear topic or purpose for writing, with a clear outline. I always focus on the classic open-body-close framework.

'If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room' - book-talk with @BrianScudamore, founder of 1-800-GOT-JUNK? Click To Tweet

You wrote about how smartphones affect us and trigger the same chemical reactions in our brains as drugs. As with any other addictions, it’s hard to realize you have a problem in the first place. How did you become more mindful about how you spend your digital attention? What helped in your case? And what did you decide to change?

When I was little, I remember my dad getting called away on work during a family vacation. He’s a prominent liver surgeon, so I get it now! But when I was a kid, I just knew I never wanted my family time to be impacted by work. So now I get my EA to change my passwords when I go on vacation (we call it “going dark”). It’s a foolproof way to ensure I’m focused on my family, taking a digital detox, and giving myself a break from work. We actually enforced the same policy at work with a 9-step program, and our employees go dark on vacation, too. It’s important to me that we all make a life — not just a living.

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Can you give any tips to first-time entrepreneurs on how to beat the need to control everything?

That’s every entrepreneur’s biggest challenge. After all, they start something from the ground up, know everything about it, and see a vision for the future. But giving up control is about realizing that if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room. Everyone needs help with something; everyone has weak spots. My advice to first-time entrepreneurs is to accept some of your weaknesses and identify people who are strong where you’re not. Develop your vision for the future, and recruit people who see what you see. Instead of controlling everything, lead a group of amazing people who want to shine for you. If you can do that, you can scale up and grow your business.

Links where you can follow Brian Scudamore or find out more about his projects:

All books mentioned by Brian in our interview:

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