Brian is the founder and CEO of O2E Brands, Ordinary to Exceptional. 1-800-GOT-JUNK, WOW, One Day Painting, You Move Me, and Shack Shine. He’s also a regular contributor to Forbes.
Brian is a high school and a college dropout who has built what has become a nearly half a billion-dollar group of companies. Brian is also author of WTF?! (Willing To Fail: How Failure Can Be Your Key to Success. Brian talks about passion and if you don’t know exactly what you’re passionate about, how to approach finding your passion or not bothering and just making a commitment instead.
We talk about his company’s values, how he decided what they would be and the difference they have made in his organization. Brian shares about the inclusiveness with which he has grown his organization from the time it was called rubbish boys when it was really just himself. Brian also shares why he has his assistant lock him out of his own social media and email while he’s on vacation. If you have an entrepreneurial bone in your body, I think you’ll enjoy this conversation with Brian.
00:02:38 – What’s life about?
00:08:43 – Advice on clarity.
00:26:58 – Why did Brian write WTF?
00:41:47 – Racing to the conflict.
00:50:25 – Lightning round.
01:06:15 – A deeper discussion of the book writing process.
WTF?! (Willing to Fail): How Failure Can Be Your Key to Success
Brian Scudamore Instagram
Bryan: 00:00:53 Brian is the founder and CEO of O2E brands, Ordinary to Exceptional. 1-800-GOT-JUNK, WOW, One Day Painting, You Move Me, Shack Shine. He’s a regular contributor to Forbes. Brian is a high school and a college dropout who has built what has become a nearly half a billion dollar group of companies. Brian is also author of WTF, which stands for Willing To Fail. What did you think it stood for? How failure can be your key to success? That’s the subtitle. Brian talks about passion and if you don’t know exactly what you’re passionate about, how to approach finding your passion or not bothering and just making commitment instead. We talk about his company’s values, how he decided what they would be and the difference they have made in his organization. Brian shares about the inclusiveness with which he has grown his organization from the time it was called rubbish boys when it was really just himself. Brian also shares why he has his assistant lock him out of his own social media and email while he’s on vacation. If you have an entrepreneurial bone in your body, I think you’ll enjoy this conversation with Brian. He has a number of incredible stories. He’s an all around great guy. He’s already invited you to come tour O2E brands, his headquarters in Vancouver. So next time you’re there you might want to take advantage of that opportunity. It’s very, very cool. With that I hope you enjoy this inspiring and informational conversation with wonder entrepreneur Brian Scudamore. Hey Brian, thank you so much for being on The School For Good Living Podcast. Welcome to The School for Good Living.
Brian: 00:02:35 Yeah, excited to be here. Thank you so much for including me.
Bryan: 00:02:38 It’s my is my pleasure to have you here. Brian, will you tell me what’s life about?
Brian: 00:02:43 Wow, that’s a big question. Just coming in hot. Uh, you know, to me life is about making meaning versus making money. I find I think, oh, you know, they just want to get success is, is represented often today by things. And to me that’s just not the case. I’ve never been a money motivated guy. The whole reason I’ve chosen entrepreneurship as my lifelong journey is because I love building things bigger and better together with great people. We’ve built a franchise organization now that has four brands, almost 10,000 employees between the brands across three different countries, and it’s never been about the money. It’s been about the pure joy of watching people grow, evolve and taste their own success, whatever that might mean to them.
Bryan: 00:03:36 No, and I’ve had the privilege to visit your offices there in Vancouver to have you, um, give me a tour. I got to participate in one of your, what do you call your morning meetings? Are they huddles?
Brian: 00:03:48 Yeah, daily huddle. Just like a football from a football game. From play to play you huddle and you figure out what’s next. We do that each and every day as a company to determine what is the next play. Are we winning? How are we doing in this great game of building a business?
Bryan: 00:04:04 You know, one of the things that I was so impressed by, it really was the energy and the culture. Just the physical space, the people who were in it, it seemed like people were very alive. Like they were glad to be there. Like it wasn’t work so much as play. And I found myself thinking, is it really like this when people aren’t looking?
Brian: 00:04:22 Hmm. It sure is. I mean, we get people coming in constantly who want to tour the junction, our head office, that want to witness what we’re doing. And the feedback I get from people quite often is why is everybody smiling? And I say say, well, it’s easy you hire smiley people. That’s what they do. I, uh, I love brands like Starbucks. I’ve always been a fan of what Howard Schultz had built, where you hire people who care, you hire people with purpose. You tie them into the sharing of the profits in the company as we do. And what really happens is people are on a cause, a mission to build something great and you can’t help but have that passion that, that smiley, contagious energy show. And I think that’s really all we’ve done. You know, now is every day smiley and happy. No, of course not. We’re, we’re a real business where a human business things go wrong, we fail, we make mistakes. But I’d say day in and day out for the most part, people really enjoy working here because we’re really careful to find the right people and work hard to treat them right.
Bryan: 00:05:27 It shows, and one of the things that I wanted to be sure to share with you is that the way I heard you say it when we were there last year was I, cause somebody in our group on the tour with us said like, Brian, how did you do it? You know, is this is if there’s one simple answer. But um, what I took away was you saying, just kind of like you said just now smiley people. I only hire happy people and in my company as I grow, I actually have used that as a guide for people that I might’ve made a job offer to. Just in the last of months I thought, man, what Brian did with O2E and 1-800-GOT-JUNK in his other brands up there in Vancouver. Like, I’m hopefully on that same trajectory. I’m where you were maybe 25 or 30 years ago, but that little, that little gem that little wisdom, um, you know, I thought that was pretty awesome. So thank you for that.
Brian: 00:06:15 Yeah, I know. And thanks for spreading it. It’s, it’s a great way I think to recruit. There’s too many naysayers and people that are negative and yeah, someone might be stuck in a tough place and we certainly have people like that in our business where, how do we help get them unstuck? But it really is this focus on people that want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. A community. We are much more like a community than we are a business. Where people working together to drive, uh, this growth and development of great people forward. And it’s, it’s been remarkable and it’s been, you know, lucky for me 30 years into it and many more years to go. Lucky for me. It’s been so fun.
Bryan: 00:06:56 Well then, and clearly there’s more than luck involved. I mean there’s been an incredible amount of hard work and vision. And one of the things that I was so impressed by when I was in your offices was the one of the little wall where it showed a drawing that four and a half old Brian, that four and a half year old you had made of what you thought maybe your future held. Will you tell me and those who are listening a little bit about that story.
Brian: 00:07:20 Of course, yeah. My grandmother passed away when I was about 30 years old and you know, loved her more than anyone. She was an entrepreneur. She and my grandfather ran an army surplus store in San Francisco and I would go visit every spring break, every Christmas vacation and go work in the store. And I learned so much from them and I was always inspired. So when my, when my grandmother passed away, you know, it was, it was a hard one and I remember we were cleaning out her house and we were going through her stuff and I found this binder that said Brian’s drawings. And I opened it up and I saw all these drawings that she had collected of mine over the years as a kid. I used to love to sketch and I remember one drawing stood out and I’m like, “Whoa, that’s me.” I remember doing a self portrait of myself and I wrote Brian at the bottom and it was a picture of me hauling or sweeping up junk in the street wearing a uniform, which ironically that’s the uniform we ended up going with in the early days. Overalls, a hat. They’re I am with a broom sweeping up trash. And the color that I drew myself in was the same color as the 1-800-GOT-JUNK blue that we use today. So I think it’s, it’s funny, you know, some people dream of being superman or wonder woman when they grow up. And here’s Brian, little kid, four and a half dreams of being a junk man. Don’t know how that reality actually came true, but crazy, crazy, but true story.
Bryan: 00:08:43 No, that’s amazing. And I often, I often envy those who know from a very young age what they want to do because I know this might be kind of selection bias or survivor bias whatever, but I think often of the example of Justin Bieber, you know, there’s many others that they’ll talk about, you know, from three, four years old, they were performers or they were whatever they were, you know, an artist or they had an entrepreneurial instinct and then they excel at that when they’re older. But I think in my work, you know, talking with people, coaching others that that’s an exception. It’s most people don’t really seem to know what they want out of life or what they want to do or be when they grow up. What do you say to people that maybe don’t have that clarity from an early age?
Brian: 00:09:25 I think it’s, it’s don’t pay attention. Someone that doesn’t have the clarity, don’t pay attention so much to what you want to do. People talk about being a doctor, a lawyer, an athlete. Don’t think so much about the what. Think about the why. Think about why is it that you love a certain thing in life and how could you do that for a profession? So my dad was one of those Justin Bieber’s, you know, my dad’s a liver transplant surgeon and at five years old, he started thinking about wanting to become a doctor. Someone gave him some book about medicine and he started reading it and he thought, wow, this is what I’m going to do. Not want to do hope to do, but going to do. And the reason being is what he found his why was loves helping people. He loves being that guy that can come in and make everything all better. And so for me, what was my, why, my why was always building stuff. You know, as a kid, I loved to Lego, I loved my Lincoln Logs, I love building stuff out of boxes and you name it. And so today, what am I doing? I’m building stuff. I’m, I’m playing games, I’m having fun with a lot of fun people. I’ve understood my area of unique ability and my purpose in life. And hey, let’s all play together. So at an, at an early age. I think a lot of kids, I’ve got three young kids, I’ve never once asked them the question, what do you want to be when you grow up? Uh, because all I want them to be as happy. So I’m trying to show them new experiences and help them find their own passions in life. But really I think for people that haven’t figured it out yet, don’t try so hard. Don’t think about the job title and the role. Think about what it is you love to do and then try and think about things that fit with that.
Bryan: 00:11:06 I really liked that perspective and I love what you say in your book, WTF, Willing to Fail, How Failure Can Be Your Key to Success. One of the things that I took away from this is you, write commitment leads to passion. Passion does not lead to commitment. What you say a little bit more about that because in a way, what you’re saying now about don’t think about the exact thing, but think about the qualities of it or what aspects of you know, it you love to do. And like on an NPR interview I listened to you with you, you said you’re not passionate about junk per se, but you’re passionate about customer experience. So I’m hearing you say customer experience, building things and then O2E brands, 1-800-GOT-JUNK, Same Day Painting. Your other brands are just an expression of that.
Brian: 00:11:51 Yeah, absolutely. In my brands are an expression of what I love to be a part of, building growth, taking care of people. But I think if I, if I look to the commitment, a comment from my, from my book, you know, the, the easiest example I think turns a very relatable example. My oldest daughter, I remember when she started skiing at a young age, you know, it was kind of like, oh, I don’t really want to go to ski school again. It’s cold, it’s hard work. I’m tired. I don’t know if I love it. Passion follows commitment. We had to, as parents get her committed, you know, now she didn’t have a choice in that. At a young age, when you start swimming lessons at three years old, you’re not enjoying it. It’s like a little bit of a pushing just to say, you know what, we want you to see this through a little bit. And it was gentle, but it was trying to encourage. She ski races today at 14 and absolutely has a passion for nothing more than ski racing. I mean she just gets lit up every time she talks about skiing. The Passion followed. If we let her quit at an early age of three or four when she had a couple of cold days, she might not be living the passion that she’s living today. And so I think people get it reversed. They think, oh, as long as I find something I’m passionate about, commitment will follow. No, I, I, I don’t think that’s true.
Bryan: 00:13:14 You know, I do. It’s my, my view that many people do live either without knowing what their commitments are or living with a half hearted commitment to whatever it is they’re committed to. And I think it’s not a coincidence that you know you’ve been able to build what you’ve built, you know, which I understand you’re on track now, your, your trajectory is to be a billion dollar group of companies and you’re about half that today. Do I understand that right?
Brian: 00:13:40 We’re getting close. Our current trends for 2019 is 444 million and the billion isn’t about the number other than just a measurement of the significance of what we’re building together. Again, I’m not a money guy. I don’t drive fancy cars. I got a little Toyota Tacoma. I’m totally happy with that, but it’s one of those things where the, the size and scale of what we can build together, that’s what feels so good. When, when I hear people like you walk in and you come visit with your email forum and you walk through our our junction office and you can feel the energy and vibe and go, wow, this is really cool. I love when people can experience that magic. And so the billion dollar number is more around let’s get more people experiencing more magic and making magic together.
Bryan: 00:14:25 Yeah. No, and I think that is evident and even from an early period in your company, because I understand when you started out, even though it was just you on your own, that you called your company at that time, Rubbish Boys. Right. And so part of it may be wanting to appear bigger than you were, but I imagine that part of that was this inclusiveness that was there from the beginning where it wasn’t just about you right from the get go.
Brian: 00:14:52 That’s a great question. People here who know me in O2E brands often say, you know, Brian, we need you out there more. You need to be more of the face of the company. But I have trouble taking ownership, even though I might own the business. Ownership for this being my home in my place. There’s been so many amazing people that have worked so hard to build this together that, you know, I, I often don’t feel like an owner anymore and that’s a good thing because I want other people to feel like, wow, I belong here. And so, you know, you might be right. You know, we might need some psychotherapists to break it all down and look at it. But it might’ve been that creating the name, the rubbish boys was the start of something that was inclusive. You know, I think of my grandparents, again, with their army surplus store when I’d go, and I remember they, they were amazing. One thing I learned from them from a customer experience standpoint is they would have custody. They would have customers walking in and asking for money. It happened on a regular basis, a daily basis. They never would give anyone money. They didn’t give them what they asked for, but they gave them what they felt they needed, which was an ear, a hug, uh, some, some advice, some just asking them how they were doing. And by giving them that love, my grandparents were robbed twice in, in a couple of decades. Whereas I witnessed every time I was down there working someone on either side of their store getting robbed constantly. Wow. I think word out on the street was that the Lorber share of their community that even though these people weren’t customers, they lived in that neighborhood and they were shown love and respect by my grandparents.
Bryan: 00:16:35 No. And that demonstration of love and respect and support for people, clearly it goes a long way. And that’s one thing. Another thing I’ve been impressed by you and as I’ve learned about your company, that you really seem to do that in an authentic way. And one tangible expression that I could see of that is the 101 goals that you encourage you not only encourage your employees to set, but then you go beyond that and you actually help them achieve those. Will you tell every, me and everybody who’s listening a little bit about how you came to do that, what it is and why it’s so important to you.
Brian: 00:17:12 So I believe that we have our own goals as a company of $1 billion, the brands, the things we’re trying to build. And we said, you know, how do we tie our people into building something bigger and together and better together if we don’t understand their personal goals? So we would get people to share their own personal goals and we started this list where people would jot down 101 goals on the list. We’d have them sit down as new employees and do this and then share it with others. And we realized so many incredible benefits. They get to know each other much more quickly by understanding each other’s unique interests. Uh, and it was a way to cheer each other on and say, wow, you want to run a marathon? So do I, let’s start training together. And so the program has grown into this year what was unique as we have 101 life goals book. It was the first ever book we made that has 101 different people, each achieving one of their goals and having a picture and a write up about it in the book. Now this is people swimming with the sharks. This is people having a baby, uh, when they didn’t think they were able to. This is, uh, you know, people learning to play guitar. This could be anything that’s important to that person, that in their life, if they had a 101 wishes of things they want to make happen in their life, what would they be? And it’s fun because we’ve been able to take the business and we’ve always said, tell us your goals and let’s see if there’s a unique way that we can use the business to help make some of those dreams happen. So as it, as it turns out, every, uh, Christmas, when I give out a, you know, a nice card to the people with a bottle of wine, just a token thank you to my leadership team. I always say, here’s three of your goals that I’ve picked that, uh, I believe the company can help you with at least one of them this year. Pick one and let me know and we’ll make it happen. Wow. So James Alish, who runs WOW, One Day Painting, he’s our managing director. One of his goals was to go to the Masters. And it was funny because he said, okay, of the three you sent me, I’m going to pick going into the Master’s. And I said, okay, let’s work to make it happen. I get an email less than two weeks later from a vendor who says, Brian, you’ve been such a great client over the years. Uh, we want to send you with a couple of our other clients to the Masters. We’re doing the trip this year. And I said, well, you don’t want to, I’m not really a golf fan, but I know a guy who is. And uh, so I asked if they could take James Alish. So James gets to go to the Masters. Tiger Woods wins it. It’s just this remarkable memory for him. It costs us nothing other than putting it out there to the universe and making sure that we had, we were aware of a goal that was important to someone. And so, you know, they’re not all big fancy things like that might be, some are very small, but the business can generally help people accomplish something that they’ve always dreamed of.
Bryan: 00:20:10 Yeah, I think that’s so remarkable and on, I’ve definitely experienced, you know, when I share a desire of mine and dream and goal that when I vocalize it, there really does seem to be something almost magical about, you know, other people knowing about it and people who just want to help. I think naturally we want to help and support each other, but it can be hard to do that if we don’t know what each other wants. And I really admire the way that your company actually fosters that. And it’s not just like an optional thing, but like I heard you say, it’s right when people start, you give them time and you know the direction to actually do this and then you make it something that company actually lives. That’s, that’s really cool.
Brian: 00:20:49 It’s pretty fun. And it’s uh, you know, when we gave out those 101 books to 101 different people the day that they were printed in December, you had people just looking through each other’s goals and inspired and the people that weren’t in the book said, I’m going to be in the book next year. And it’s fun to watch it kind of pay itself forward. Yeah,
Bryan: 00:21:08 No, that’s awesome. Um, and one thing that I think of when I hear that too is, you know, I think some people really do, they, some people live to work or they’re just getting by paycheck to paycheck where they’re going through the motions. And I think you’ve inverted that to really give people a place where they can work to live and bring a lot of life into the work environment. And one of the ways that I think about that as well is how I understand when you go on vacation, you actually have Jennifer, your assistant lock you out of your own email so that you can be completely off the grid, or completely disconnected. Is that, is that true?
Brian: 00:21:48 100% true. I’ve done it for over a decade now. So the thinking is this, you know, as an entrepreneur, and I don’t think just entrepreneurs have addictive person out personalities, but so do a lot of people. And we, we have that crack feeling of, Oh man, got to check my Instagram, got to check my email, what’s going on in my phone. And I never wanted to be a parent where my kids would come up to me and go, dad, you’re on the phone again. What’s going on? The phone, the whole smartphone revolution. It’s amazing what it can do for business and connect us. I love that. Not, not arguing that, but sometimes we’re too plugged in and connected. And so when I’m with my family and I’m away on a vacation, we took the family to India for, for a couple of weeks where we help to build a school. We did the same thing in Kenya. We might go to Paris, whatever the vacation is. I want to be present with my family. I want to be present with the community. And so the only way I can know to fight that addictive personality I have is too, take that, that, um, temptation away. And so Jen changes my passcode. I don’t know it. And I remember the first time I did this, I was asked, well, what happens if something really bad happens? And I said, like, what? The office burns down, call 911, what am I going to do. In, in all these years I’ve been bothered once with, you know, something that was important that I needed to be aware of. But, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s empowering a team to have the trust to do their job without me watching over, to give them the space. I mean, they love when I’m on vacation because, you know, it’s a different level of freedom for them. Um, it’s freedom for me and a chance to recharge and, and boost my energy. It’s an amazing thing. And so when this originally started to happen, Eric, my president said, this is great. We’ve got to write an article about it. So I wrote article about quote unquote going dark and the power of disconnecting from my social media and from my email and put it in the Wall Street Journal. And then it was funny because I started getting comments from people and they’re like, Whoa, Gee, you must be nice to be king. It must be nice to have eight weeks vacation and look at me. You know, all of the things I get to do as a, as an entrepreneur who’s been successful. And I read those comments and I said, Whoa, people are missing the point here. Eric and I wanted to inspire others. We didn’t want to show off. I didn’t want to sit there and say, look at how good I am. So what we did is we created a process and we said there might, this might’ve been a great opportunity to add clarity and tell other people what we really meant. So we added some process and we said, okay, here’s how to go dark. We expect all of our employees who get five weeks paid vacation when they work in the head office to disconnect and go dark when they’re on vacation and not everybody wants to. And it’s hard to, it takes having the backup person there for, uh, for your role. And it takes some things that you need to do to set yourself up for success. But once people do it, I mean, they feel like they’ve just had the best vacation they’ve ever had in their lives.
Bryan: 00:24:57 No. That, that is so remarkable. And as we know, work is changing. People’s expectations of, you know, and the relationship with their employer in, especially in the gig economy and things are becoming more maybe me-centric customization we’re seeing is occurring, you know, and everything from not just what we get when we go to a restaurant, but even in the clothes we ordered. Like I ordered a pair of Bose headphones and I could customize every facet. Like there were like 40 options. So it’s no surprise the world is going more toward, you know, the individual. And to hear you say that this isn’t just a perk for you know, the upper management, but you’re offering like this kind of five weeks of vacation, this expectation, people go dark and fully disconnect. And I think about my dad who, you know, I like, the way I described his work was he worked himself to death as an entrepreneur. And as part of why I do this work and I love learning from people like you have showing that it is possible to achieve an extraordinary level of success without compromising your health, your happiness, your relationships, and the fact that you not only lead by example, but then you, you basically implore your, your employees to do that. I think that’s, I think that’s pretty cool.
Brian: 00:26:08 You know what? It feels like it’s cool, but it feels like it really is the right thing to do. I think as leaders we have opportunities to make the world a better place. And I think Facebook and Google have done some great things and connecting the world, but we all, I’m sure where some of the downsides. And so I think one of our responsibilities and places of impact is how can people make, make meaning, not just money. How can people understand that there’s a, you know, I talk about this in my book, there’s a great difference between making a living and making a life. Yeah. I want people remembering their days at O2E brands saying, well, what a great life I built, what a great life and time I had, not just focusing on the financial or the career side.
Bryan: 00:26:58 So let’s turn the conversation to your book. WTF, Willing to Fail. Why did you write this book? Who did you write it for and what did you want it to do for them?
Brian: 00:27:07 So my coauthor Roy Williams, who’s affectionately known as the wizard of ads, he has done our radio creative for probably eight years now. And he’s a remarkable man and, uh, uh, great market, incredible marketer and a, and a great friend. And so Roy kept asking me every year we’d go down to Austin to figure out what the new creative campaigns were. And Roy says to me, he goes, Brian, you got to write a book. And I said, I know Roy, you keep telling me I got to write a book. I don’t want to write a book. And I said, my ego doesn’t need a book. I know a lot of entrepreneurs that have books and it’s all about them and I don’t need that. And he said, no, no, Brian, you’re missing the point. The book isn’t about you. The book is about the difference that will make inspiring others. And so he convinced me and he said, I’ll make it easy for you. Next time you come to Austin, let’s lock ourselves in the wizards tower and let’s, uh, go through and start storytelling. And he asked me question after question after question, 135 page transcript and we turned it into the book. And what is remarkable, and this is how much trust I have in Roy, is that when the book hit Amazon and got out there, I started hearing from so many people in hundreds of emails from people saying, wow, this is what I learned. This is a difference that made this helped me during a tough time and inspired me and it did exactly what Roy said it would do. It was never about me. It was a hard work in getting the book out there for helping to inspire others.
Bryan: 00:28:40 Yeah, it’s done that for me. I really enjoyed reading this book partly because, um, as you mentioned earlier, you know, you and I are both members of Entrepreneurs’ Organization, a global network of entrepreneurs who share a few things in common. One of them being the desire to share and connect with other leaders and other entrepreneurs. And I really grateful that you shared a copy of this book with me through EO and with you know, many, many hundreds, maybe thousands of members of EO and to read your experiences and I was so grateful to hear you say like, oh this really is the path, you know, following, you know, those who’ve been there reading books like scaling up, applying those principles, surrounding yourself with great people, you know, willing to have. And I think a massive component, and this was part of what inspired me about your book, is what you call a painted picture. Will you, will you talk a little bit about what that is, when it came, when that concept really became important in your career and what difference it’s made for you.
Brian: 00:29:40 Sure. I’ll talk about painted picture, but I’d love just to comment briefly on EO, the Entrepreneur Organization and why I sent out a book to every single member in the United States and Canada was I talk about show in the book and so I sent a letter not asking for anything, not asking for people to buy more books or do anything. I sent a letter just saying thank you for being a part of EO and all EO has done for me. My business wouldn’t be 1/10 of what it is today if it hadn’t been for EO. I mean, I look at everything I’ve ever learned and you can trace it back to all the wonderful sharing entrepreneurs and mentors from EO. So let me take this painted picture concept now. So eight years into my business, I was at a million in revenue. I felt proud of that number. I was 28 years old. But I also felt like, wow, this is, this is growing really slowly. And I wanted something bigger. And I had joined EO was surrounded by other entrepreneurs and I found myself comparing myself to others, which I highly do not recommend. Uh, you know, there I was in a bit of a doom loop going, whoa, this guy’s got a $10 million business and this person’s got $100 million business and this woman’s business is way more glamorous than junk removal. So what I ended up finding myself doing was, was going, okay, I need to, I’ve learned here in EO, when you’re trying to solve a problem creatively, go take a retreat and go somewhere inspiring. So I went to my parent’s summer cottage on Bowen Island, about an hour from my home and I sat down on the dock, their little cabin, nice sunny summer day and pulled out one sheet of paper. I started writing on both sides and I filled it up in it. And I and I didn’t realize what I was doing at the moment other than the challenge to myself of stopped being in this doom loop. Start thinking of pure possibility. What could the future look like? Act like, what does it feel like? And so if a picture says a thousand words, I started taking the picture from my brain and putting it down on paper and that double sided page I filled up with things like we will be in the top 30 Metros in North America by the end of 2003 we picked the number, I picked a number 30 because there were 30 cities bigger than Vancouver where I started. I said, we’d be on the Oprah Winfrey show. I said we’d be the Fedex of junk removal, clean, shiny trucks, friendly, uniformed drivers. I came up with this really, really clear, compelling picture that I’ve put down in writing that once I started reading through what I wrote, I started to believe my own nonsense. I was like, wow, this, this dream, this is what I stuff I’ve been, that envisioned in my mind is fantastic. And I was excited. And so I started to share that document with everybody around me. Everyone that was involved in the business got a copy. And we were a small company at a million. But I had two things happen. A camp of people that said, whoa, I don’t know about this Brian, you’re smoking some hope dope. This is some scary stuff. Uh, I don’t think you’ll ever make this happen. And then there was another group who said, wow, this is unbelievable and I want to be apart. And so that group, we went out and over the five years as planned in the vision, got on Oprah, top 30 Metros, Fedex of junk removal, all these things that we did that we’re only a thought or a concept in my brain. But when shared so clearly with others, that reality became real to all of us.
Bryan: 00:33:10 I think that’s so amazing. And part of what it reminds me of is the power of language. You know, to create something and to, like you were saying, you know, to take it from an idea, put it on a piece of paper to share it, invite other people into that. Because in your book, I love what you say about this. Paint a word picture of the future and share it with everyone you love and trust. And clearly it worked.
Brian: 00:33:38 It’s simple. I mean I, I really have done this even in my personal life. Things that I want to have happen in my life. I’ve put them in writing. I’ve created my own personal painted pictures and I’ve shared them with friends and loved ones. And somehow they hook you up with an idea or they give you encouragement. They somehow help bring you closer to the things you want in life. And it’s no different than our hundred and one life goals. List down on writing and paper what you want to have happen in this awesome life you have. And how can we all work together to cheerlead and encourage,
Bryan: 00:34:14 You know, I’m reminded a couple of years ago, uh, when I started really growing my own business in earnest, I was looking for an IP attorney to give me some advice and, and really kind of be some kind of a partner at least along on the journey. And, uh, I remember when I shared with them what my aspirations and intentions, where, you know, I got done sketching it out on the whiteboard and he said, whoa, that’s really big. You know, like I got a sense of disbelief it in that moment I thought, I don’t think you’re the guy to work with for this, you know? But that’s pretty amazing. So you talk about something called a blue wig spirit. Um, and even before I go to that, because that’s, I understand part of your values for your, for your company. Tell, tell me if you will, a little bit about when did the process of formalizing your company’s values become something that was important? Because I know for a lot of startups it’s, oh my gosh, we’ve got to, you know, manage that. We got to get cash flow in the door, we got to keep our expenses in line, we’ve got to manage our inventory and it’s all you can do just to make payroll. But then at some point, I think in a lot of organizations what becomes imperative for them to continue to even survive or grow is to make their values explicit, train them throughout the organization and that. Will you tell me about where in your journey as an entrepreneur did that become the important thing to do?
Brian: 00:35:35 I think I had read about it in books and I’m pretty sure it was Jim Collins Good to Great. And he said, you got to have values. Everyone’s got them, but you’ve got to figure out what they are internal to you and take those values and state them publicly in the entire company. And so I, I took his advice and I said, okay, Jim Collins says we need values. We got together as a leadership team, which is a very small, inexperienced team at the time, including myself. And we went to, uh, have a little retreat and I said, okay, got an exercise we’re going to do. Jim Collins says we need values. Let’s write down on one sticky note, each word that describes the values that we already hold near and dear to our heart. So not who we want to be, but who we already are right now. We wrote down all these words and it turned into 400 post-it-notes. We put them up on a big window that was overlooking the water, and then we said, okay, let’s group them if there’s similarities in those words that they seem to fit in similar categories, maybe some of the words or even repetitive, group them together. And we ended up pretty much with four clean piles of words and we grouped one into, wow, this really describes passion. The other was integrity. The third was professionalism. And finally empathy. So they, we looked at it and we went, okay, P. I. P. E, the first letters of each passion, integrity, professionalism and empathy spells PIPE and so we just went around telling people here’s our values and people would in our organization would hold ourselves and themselves accountable to our values. You’d hear people say, ah, that decision wasn’t very PIPE. The way that you handled that problem wasn’t very PIPE and we’d use that as a framework to talk about things. You’re right, it wasn’t very professional. You’re right, we didn’t have a lot of empathy behind that decision and the values have never changed and never will. And here as a company that has almost 500 people between our two head offices, people talk about PIPE constantly.
Bryan: 00:37:47 I think that’s, that’s really cool and clearly when a group of people come together around not only a shared vision but they operate with the set of shared values like amazing things can happen. And I saw when I was in your office that there were a number of other, I don’t know if you’d call them values are what they are, but things like Blue Wig Spirit or Race to the Conflict. Those were two that were particularly interesting to me. Would you be willing to talk about what those are and why they matter to you?
Brian: 00:38:16 Of course. So I think they are, some of them are little slogans. Some of them are nice little motivational quotes. But it’s piece by piece as you walk around the junction, you get to absorb our story, our journey, and what matters to us. So rather than give someone one document or a handbook and say, read this, understand our culture, we get them to live in it. And so if someone comes across a big wall that talks about Blue Wig Spirit, we want them to understand, well, what is Blue Wig Spirit and why is it important and why should it be something we continue to live each and every day. And so I’ll give you an idea on Blue Wig Spirit as an example where that came from. We had a bunch of franchise partners in the earlier days who said, ah, you know, we need to do some more professional marketing here. We need to get into some real traditional billboards and TV and radio. And I said, well, we don’t have a budget for it. And besides, I think there’s a lot of other things we can do that don’t cost a lot of money. Let’s figure out how we can do that gorilla marketing and can just grow our, our company more aggressively. So I invited everybody on a trip. I said, where is the place in, in the north, where is the city in North America that’s probably the hardest to stand out in. And they said, ah, you know, probably New York, Times Square, maybe Las Vegas. And I said, ah, Las Vegas, we’re going to go to Las Vegas and I’m going to show you that we can stand out. So I bought everybody a $3 blue wig, a $26 blue, uh, bowling shirt with a 1-800-GOT-JUNK logo on it and then all these, um, little disposal or temporary tattoos. And I gave these tattoos to everybody armed with a water bottle. And I said, okay, we’re in Las Vegas, $29 a person plus airfare and hotels. And there we are in Las Vegas. And I said, let’s, let’s go market. Let’s go market ourselves. We were walking around maybe 10 of us in these blue wigs and bowling shirts and everybody was coming up to us. Are you a bachelor party? What are you guys doing? Are ya a band? I mean, who are you guys? And people want to talk to us. So there you have in the Hard Rock Hotel, I remember where we first were. Everybody was wearing fancy Armani suits and really fancy clothes and then we’re dressed for $29 bucks and we’re standing out. We were given out tattoos were meeting people and by the time the night was over, everybody was talking about and knew who 1-800-GOT-JUNK was. And everyone’s like, wow, we really created a buzz and an energy and everyone wanted a wig and everyone wants to know where we came from. I said, that’s the spirit. The Blue Wigs Spirit is what we’ve got to do with every piece of marketing from this point on that we ever put out there. We’ve got to do it differently. We’ve got to stand out. We’ve got to be willing to fail. We don’t have to spend a lot of money. I remember hearing that Starbucks didn’t really spend a substantial amount on advertising until they were over $1 billion in sales. In fact, at a billion they were spending $10 million a year on on advertising. We’re at $444 million and we’re spending more than that. So they did a great job building, community, building, buzz, PR, a lot of free press. And so that’s what we wanted to model. And the blue, Blue Wig Spirit lives on to this day.
Bryan: 00:41:47 That’s fun. Tell me about the one race to the conflict that I know many people shy away from conflict. It sounds like the last thing they want to do, but why is it that you coach people to do that?
Brian: 00:41:58 I think the problems shouldn’t faster. I think that because this is a happy place. Let’s deal with conflict and get the conflict out of the way. Let’s go up to someone and say, you know, can we talk about this? Something bothered me here. Something doesn’t feel right. You know, I’ll give you an example. We have a, someone currently who was a part of our business who is a potential legal threat. And you know, I actually earlier today called up this person and I said we’ve been friends for too long to let things go this direction. Like let’s go meet for coffee and talk about this. We’ve got lawyers involved talking like this is, this is ridiculous. This just doesn’t need to happen and it’s not us. So race to the conflict is often doing what isn’t necessarily the easiest route to take. Sometimes meeting someone face to face who’s upset with you and you with them talking can be tough. Sending letters through lawyers can seem easy, but in the end you’re damaging a long term relationship when, why not try and talk it through. So race to the conflict isn’t just for those big things, but it’s for the little things. Just where someone gets up out of their desk and goes, oh, you just sent me an email and it kind of confused me. Can we talk about this now?
Bryan: 00:43:15 I really like that. And again, where that, I won’t say it’s necessarily counterintuitive to race to the conflict, but maybe not natural or comfortable for what many people will do. But being a contrarian is, uh, certainly nothing new for you. I think about that with two things that I wonder if you’d be willing to share with me a little bit about, one was when you told your dad that you were going to drop out and start this business, and two was when you decided to fire basically every employee you had on the same day, leaving you alone to run your company. Will you talk a little bit about those kinds of counterintuitive decisions? Like I don’t think a lot of people would have done that either had the courage to do that or the confidence.
Brian: 00:43:55 Yeah. Well, I remember sitting down with my dad, I was one year away from graduation from college and I said, Dad, you know, can we chat for a sec? I got, I got some news for you. I’ve got some good news. And he, he sits down and we were chatting and I said.
Bryan: 00:44:12 Nice pre-frame by the way. It’s good news.
Brian: 00:44:16 Right? And you know, it was good news to me. And so I said to him, I said, you know, I’m dropping out of university, I’m going to pursue my business full time. And he said, what? You’re dropping out of university to become a fulltime junk man. And I said, yeah, I’m learning more about business running one versus studying in school and this is what I’ve always wanted to do. So I thought it’s good news. My Dad as a liver transplant surgeon, putting a high, high value on university education, did not see it as good news, but uh, it took him about 15 years and he came around and said, you know what, I get it. Good News. So, uh, that was an interesting story. And then your, your second one was about firing my entire company, you know, so that the title of the book, I’ll relate to the book for a second. The title of the book is WTF, Willing to Fail. And I remember when Roy and I were writing the book and I was obsessing over a title, I’m like, I’m a marketing guy. We need a title, he goes, finished the book, let’s get the book done. When we’ve closed off the manuscript and we reread it, the title is going to jump out. And I had trouble with that because again, being a marketing guy, but what I did is I trusted Roy on the process and after finishing the manuscript, sure enough, we go through it, WTF, Willing to Fail. There was this pattern of failure and being willing to fail and make mistakes and learn from those mistakes so I could rise up to the next place in life. And uh, and Roy was right. And so if I look at, you know, one of my earliest but biggest failures was firing my entire company. I don’t know if I’ve ever met anyone else that’s fired their entire group of employees.
Bryan: 00:45:59 Probably, probably not anyone that’s done it in, stayed in business in that business. Exactly.
Brian: 00:46:04 Well, yeah, laying them off because you’re going bankrupt. I mean, that’s a tough one too. But you know, so what did I did is I said, I’ve got 11 employees. One bad apple spoils the whole bunch. I probably had nine bad apples. And I thought, you know what, I just have to wipe the slate clean and start again. So I got rid of everybody. I sat them down together and I started with two words. I said, I’m sorry. I’m sorry that as your leader, I’ve let you down. I haven’t given you the love and support you’ve needed to be successful. This just isn’t working out for me. I don’t know what else to do, but start again and uh, and we’re going to part ways. And it was a tough thing to do to take away jobs from 11 people, but they were not the clean cut, professional, happy, smiley people that I had envisioned in my happy little company and making a change was ripping off a bandaid very quickly with a lot of pain. But realizing that, that taught me that day. It’s all about people finding the right people, treating them right and really growing a business, uh, with that philosophy.
Bryan: 00:47:07 In your book you say, I knew it was better to have no help than the wrong help. That’s a pretty interesting statement to be, to not only know that, but to be willing to act on it. Um, and just, just totally random curiosity over the years, have you had any interaction with any of those people that you let go? Like, did you stay friends with any of them or did they come back your life in any way or you to come back and ask for a job years later? Anything like that?
Brian: 00:47:33 Yeah, I remember one of the guys’ names still, actually, it just came to mind. Brian Stevenson and he ended up coming back into the company one day and, uh, not to work, but he had dropped by and he’d become a professional of some sort. He just said, oh, I just thought I’d stop by and say hi. You guys have really grown and done really well. And he was actually, uh, one of the apples that probably wasn’t as bad, but I really thought, you know, maybe it was a cancer and I just needed to pull the whole thing out because what if everybody was spoiled by these bad apples? And, uh, yeah, I remember he just came in for a little visit and a chat and he’s like, wow, look what you guys have done. And we sort of reminisced on that, tough, about that tough day. But he got it. He agreed. Yeah. And I think, you know, my, my hope is that the others that I didn’t have any contact with, I always believed that, you know, everything works out for the best. That me helping them make that decision or completely making it for them, they weren’t happy working with me either. It wasn’t the right place for them. And so hopefully they found a better purpose or clarity of purpose in their own life.
Bryan: 00:48:37 Well, I think it says a lot about you as a person and as a leader to not only have, you know, the courage to do that and have a vision of where you want to go and follow through on it, but to be able to have, you know, at least one of those people come back and not, you know, not bring a gun. It’s not like this was a disgruntled person. I mean, it sounds like they, they understood and you were able to manage, you know, through that. So good for you. That’s, that’s amazing. How far into your company were you when that happened?
Brian: 00:49:03 It was five years. I was at a half a million in revenue with five trucks. Wow. So yeah, I had to be done if I was going to save the soul of my business. And then it was a big leadership lesson for me. It was one of the best moments or failures that I had. It was a big gift in the sense that it taught me that you got to find the right people and treat them right. And to this day, the first thing that we have that anyone sees when they come into the junction, there’s a sign there that says it’s all about people with my name below it. And that’s just a reminder to new recruits, potential employees, franchise partners, anybody that comes in that front door, we want them to know that this is a place of people.
Bryan: 00:49:46 Were you married when you did that? And if so, what did your wife say?
Brian: 00:49:50 I was, um, was I married? Oh, that’s a good question. Uh, no. I got married two years later, but I was with a woman that I married and I remember, uh, it’s just a hard time. I wasn’t happy and I had full support from her to make that tough decision. I mean, it was clear that I just didn’t have these friendly, happy people and I’ve always been in my entire life and always will be an eternal optimist. And so there’s a conflict there. When you have people come in every morning and, and they’re complaining about everything in life, it just wasn’t the right deal for me.
Bryan: 00:50:25 Well, clearly it’s worked out so, okay. I want to steer our conversation now. Change, change pace a little bit and move to the lightning round.
Brian: 00:50:36 That is awesome. As long as lightning is not going to kill me and strike me out.
Bryan: 00:50:41 I make no guarantees. Here we go. Question number one, please complete the following sentence with something other than a box of chocolates. Life is like a?
Brian: 00:50:53 Roller coaster.
Bryan: 00:50:54 Okay. Number two, what’s something at which you wish you were better?
Brian: 00:51:00 I’ve always wanted to learn to sing and it is actually on my hundred one life goals list. So I will one day learn. I’ve got an awful voice. But I understand that your voice, your voice is actually like an instrument and you can get trained.
Bryan: 00:51:13 Yeah, that’s, that’s what I understand. I’ve heard someone once say that it’s um, not only like an instrument that you can train, but that in fact every person has the potential to sing beautifully. It was like, I like to believe that.
Brian: 00:51:25 Yeah. Hard to believe. But you know what, after this phone call I am getting off and I am going to make a note to, uh, get, get Jennifer to find me a singing coach that I can at least go to that first lesson to. Just to get out of my, my comfort zone.
Bryan: 00:51:40 Awesome. Okay. Question number three. If you were required every day for the rest of your life to wear a tee shirt with a slogan on it or a phrase or a saying or a quote or equip, what would the shirts say?
Brian: 00:51:50 Everyday for the rest of my life?
Bryan: 00:51:52 Yes. Hypothetical.
Brian: 00:51:54 Yeah. Well, you know, it’s funny cause right now and most every single day I wear a black tee shirt. I’m colorblind and it just makes it easy for me to wear the same black tee shirt. Well not the same black teacher, but I’ve got a lot of them, but black tee shirt and black jeans. If I was to wear something that’s said something on it, probably love. I think all the world really needs, as cliche as it might sound, as you know, people just got to get more hugs and love one another and we got, life’s too short for people to not be getting along.
Bryan: 00:52:24 Yeah. Agreed. Number four, what book other than your own, have you gifted or recommended? Most often?
Brian: 00:52:32 So we’ve bought thousands of them is Michael Gerber’s E-myth Revisited and we give them out to employees, to franchise owners, to guests that come in the office. Incredible business books. The best business book I think I’ve ever, ever read,
Bryan: 00:52:48 You know and on the topic of books, that was one thing I loved when I visited your office. I too, I love books. I’ve, I’ve loved language, I love learning. I love people and uh, I really appreciated and enjoyed being in, in your office a space where there was, there were books. I mean you have like little cubbies where it looks like anybody that works there is welcome to come and take a book and read it and you have places to sit and there were books on your desk out and other people’s desk. It’s really cool to see such a learning environment.
Brian: 00:53:15 Yeah it’s fun.
Bryan: 00:53:16 Okay, next question. You travel a ton. What’s one travel hack meaning something you do or something you take with you when travel to make your travel less painful or more enjoyable?
Brian: 00:53:28 I think the hack for me is just less, is more. I am always trying to pack as few things as I possibly can, just taking what I need. Most times, most trips, I do not take a laptop and I just work off my phone. If it’s a pleasure trip, uh, you know, I’m, I’m not packing an extra things. I love that life now fits in a smartphone. You’ve got your gps, you’ve got your camera, you’ve got your calendar, you’ve got your phone in your communication and your Face Time home. So I’ve taken that approach to just more a smart suitcase. I mean, I really packed as few things as possible. I’d rather, um, you know, travel light and have that freedom to move around easily and not have to check luggage. So that’s it for me. I people, people are blown away sometimes with how small my suitcase might be.
Bryan: 00:54:16 You know, that really doesn’t surprise me as I’ve gotten to know you a little bit. Uh, because I once read that you said it’s difficult for people to let go of junk. They get attached to things and they let them define who they are. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in this business is that you are what you can’t let go of.
Brian: 00:54:36 Okay. Yeah. That quote was on the side of Starbucks Cup, a, uh, the tall size cup, uh, I don’t know, maybe 10 years ago or something where they used to have this campaign on the side called “The Way I See It.” And they just profile different people. And I was lucky enough to have our company quote it said 1-800-GOT-JUNK, Brian Scudamore on the bottom. But yeah, I think you are what you can’t let go of. I, there’s this whole Marie Kondo thing going on right now with the show on Netflix, tidy up that everyone’s talking about just freeing yourself of things. But, you know, more than Marie Kondo, the person that I always sort of quote as being responsible for a lot of that movement is Oprah Winfrey. I remember we were on the Oprah Winfrey show years ago, and so I just, I became a huge fan of hers as a leader, as a humanitarian. And one thing I love that she always said was, have only in your life what you know, hold on to things that you believe to be deemed to be beautiful and sentimental, uh, or youthful. And so all other stuff, I mean, if it’s not useful and you don’t love it, why is it in your home? Why is it in your, in your office?
Bryan: 00:55:45 But it might be useful someday. Brian or somebody gave it to me. I can’t get rid of that.
Brian: 00:55:52 Yeah. Those are what we call hoarders right. You know, people that sit there and go, you know, everything’s useful. Well, it’s not all useful. And how do you, how do you just sit there and go, okay, I’m going to part with this. I’m not going to let this stuff define me and I’m going to liberate my garage or my, my desk, my office. I don’t have files. I don’t have, you know, you said there were books on my desk. I don’t actually have a desk. So whatever desk you saw was either when I was sitting at working temporarily or someone, others, someone else’s desk. I believe in not having a lot of stuff. There’s no private offices here. I don’t have a desk that I own. I’m just constantly moving around and I just love that freedom.
Bryan: 00:56:33 Yeah, that’s, that’s amazing. So that doesn’t surprise me that somebody with that perspective would travel light, but I love that. So. Okay. So back to the lightning round number six. What’s one thing you’ve started or stopped doing in order to live or age well?
Brian: 00:56:54 I think just more exercise, paying attention to doing more exercise. I used to feel like exercise was just the right thing to do and it is, but I, I now have a motivation to go, you know what? I want to live a long, healthy life. I will live a long, healthy life. It’s not going to happen without regular diligent exercising. And so, you know, everyday I try and do something physical and trying to appreciate that my body needs to be worked out and it’s a, it’s a different perspective, but it’s definitely helping me.
Bryan: 00:57:27 No, that’s, that’s great. I wish my dad had done that. He passed away at 64, which I think is just way too young. So good, good for you. Yeah. Okay. Number seven. Now I understand you were born in San Francisco, but you’ve based your business and you live in Vancouver and your businesses, if I understand it’s Canada, uh, the United States and Australia, is that right?
Brian: 00:57:48 That’s right.
Bryan: 00:57:49 Okay. So I, I, I asked this next question with that awareness. So I’m still gonna ask it the way I’m asking it, which is, what’s one thing you wish every American knew?
Brian: 00:57:59 Every American, so, yeah. So, so given that I was born in the US, so I’m not speaking about Americans out of school and, uh, and I’ve got family in the US. I wish Americans felt a little more equal to the rest of the world. You know, I, I really feel that, mmm. Whenever I’m in the US that often feels like the US feels like and acts like the center of the universe. But hey, you know, there’s, there’s China and India and some big forces that are to contemplate with, and there’s a lot of beautiful people out there in the world and how, how can we feel like we’re all, the one thing we all have in common is we’re human beings. It doesn’t matter what country we’re from, what language we speak, what color our skin is, it doesn’t matter. And so, uh, yeah, that’s my, you know, that might be controversial to some, but I believe that having been an American spending time in the United States for years and years, um, I know that that’s how I often felt.
Bryan: 00:59:02 Yeah. I, I wish every American knew that as well. And, and I think this is your value of empathy. You know, your, your company’s value of empathy is authentic to who you are. And I really appreciate hearing that perspective, so that’s great. Okay. Number eight, what one piece of advice or example did your parents say to you or live that has stayed with you?
Brian: 00:59:28 I think if, you know, one of the things I remember from my dad is, uh, you know, a job if you’re not willing to do it right. Don’t do it at all. I think that that has always, not that I, that I don’t see value sometimes in cutting corners, being more efficient, sometimes knowing something isn’t perfectly perfect, but that’s good enough. I mean, just do it right and get it, get it done as well as you possibly can. Pour your heart into what you do. You know, being that my dad’s a liver transplant surgeon, um, you know, I could appreciate the path he went down taking his own advice that, you know, you certainly don’t want to be on the other side of that operation as a patient going, “I don’t know if he did the best he could do.” Right?
Bryan: 01:00:12 For sure.
Brian: 01:00:13 It’s certainly in his personality to, you know, a job done well is uh, is the most important thing.
Bryan: 01:00:20 So I’m going to ask this next question and say this next thing just to make sure that I get them in here, but after this, the last part, I know we’ve got just a few minutes left. Um, want to transition the conversation after this to a bit of a creative discussion about what it was like to get the book done. Um, but let me, let me ask you this. If people want to connect with you, 1-800-GOT-JUNK is kind of a trick question, you know, what should they do? How should they connect with you? Um, what would you, what would you say to them?
Brian: 01:00:49 Well, I think if anyone was interested in learning anything about our business, you know, I love when people come to visit, like you did come tour the junction. If they wanted to learn about franchise opportunities or there or learn about our culture. I mean if I can help in any way, shape or form, I’m always up for, for uh, for trying our best way to reach me. I think Instagram is always a good one at Brian Scudamore. Uh, is a perfect place to start and send me a direct message or you’ve got things like, uh, just go into Google and putting my name in or O2E brands, uh, are, you could put that into Google. I mean, you’ll find us. We’re, we’re, we’re, we’re not shy of free press and Youtube videos and all sorts of stuff out there, but oh, the o two e brands is letter O number two, letter E brands.com and super, uh, happy that I was included in your podcast and the, you’ve certainly been asking me some, some really awesome and some tough questions, which has been fun. And it gets me thinking at the same time of, um, things that are important in this life.
Bryan: 01:01:55 Well, I, I understand you get asked like, what’s the most surprising thing that you’ve ever hauled away and things like this, um, on, on the podcast with a, How I Built This. Was, was a great, great podcasts and that I was shocked. I love to hear that one time you hauled away in ATM machine.
Brian: 01:02:12 Yeah, an ATM machine and I think it had $20,000, of cash still in it. So that was a, clearly we, we did the right thing in return the cash, to the rightful owner, but just amazes me that someone can have you pick something up that’s so valuable and have not checked that one little box.
Bryan: 01:02:33 Yeah, that’s, that’s pretty amazing. Well, the other thing that I want to say here to make sure I get it in is that as an expression of gratitude to you for sharing your time and in your experience and your wisdom with me and our listeners. Um, one small way I’ve endeavored to demonstrate my gratitude is to go online to kiva.org and I’ve made a micro loan to an entrepreneur in Ecuador. Uh, so I made $100 loan to a lady named Andrena [inaudible]. Who she lives in a town called Arinalas I’m sure my accent there is horrible, but she lives in a fisherman’s village and she’s going to use this money to help improve the quality of her family’s life by buying and selling fish to help cover their school and transportation expenses.
Brian: 01:03:17 Well, so cool. Well grateful back at ya. Thank you. That’s a, I’ve never been on a podcast before after dot. Doing hundreds or someone’s done a nice get back like that. And I think that’s phenomenal. So speaks to your character. Thank you. And a big fan of Kiva.
Bryan: 01:03:33 Yeah, it’s amazing organization. So, okay, so just a few more questions. Now, as I said earlier, I want to transition to the creative process where you know, I hear this a lot that um, you know many people want to write a book but they don’t actually want to write the book. So what you’ve done, it’s pretty extraordinary which there it is. Maybe the word is exceptional in the, oh to me. Which by the way did I understand that’s a three letter URL O2E?
Brian: 01:04:04 It’s not a O2Ecom, it’s O2E brands.
Bryan: 01:04:08 Oh O2Ebrands.com. Okay. But you did get 1-800-GOT-JUNK and I understand somebody owned that. That wasn’t the easiest thing in the world to get ahold of that. Before we go to the creative part of the conversation, will you share just a little bit about what that was like? Cause that’s pretty important if your company’s called that right to get that number.
Brian: 01:04:25 Of course I came up with the idea we were the Rubbish Boys. Our phone number 738-JUNK. Was brainstorming and our call center with a couple of people. And we came up with this whole, well, if we’re going to grow outside of North America or Canada, we need to have a number, like an 800 number, what would we call our brand? And so we came up with, oh 1-800-GOT-JUNK and it was a little play on the Got Milk campaign that used to run years ago by the dairy industry. And so we took this idea right away. I pick up the phone and I start dialing to see if I can figure out who owned the phone number. And it said it was not in use in our area. However it turns out it was in use in Idaho. It was the only state that was, it was being used. So 59 phone calls. I remember keeping a list every time I called, uh, trying to get this phone number. And one thing that I did, which is counterintuitive, unusual for sure, is I hired a design firm to design the logo for 1-800-GOT-JUNK. Exactly as it is today. It hasn’t changed one-I-oda and I paid them $2,000 to do this logo before I owned the phone number because it started with vision. I saw the vision first and I was going to do whatever I could to make getting the phone number or reality. So there I am, I get in touch with Michael in the phone room at the Department of Transportation in Idaho and he somehow feels that I need that number as well and sends me the AT&T forms, faxed them over, says the numbers, you, yours and the rest is history.
Bryan: 01:06:06 That’s so awesome. I just love that tenacity, that persistence, that vision, that, this is just really cool to me.
Brian: 01:06:13 It’s a lot of fun, yea.
Bryan: 01:06:15 That’s fun. Okay. I really, as I mentioned, I really loved this book. I love the honesty of your experience as an entrepreneur and clearly it’s a journey you’re still on, but hearing, you know, from the early days to where you are now, um, I think for any entrepreneur they could take away some things that are inspiring, some things that are very practical. Um, but what I’m, one of the things I’m really curious to know is. Now I heard you talk about your co-writer Roy Williams, the wizard of ads. So that doesn’t hurt to have a co-writer who knows a thing or two about putting words together. But will you tell me, I know this is kind of a broad question, but how did you get the, how did you get this book done? How did you make it a reality?
Brian: 01:06:57 So the writing of the book was probably the easier part. And for me, again, Roy said, I’ll make it easy. He said, come to Austin, we’ll lock you up in the wizards tower. The two of us will have a little bit of wine and we’ll just talk. And we were 10 hours in to just question after question after question. So what was awesome is Roy has a gift for asking the right questions to get the stories out. I mean you’re, you’re great at this. He, you know, I think someone writing a book needs somebody to go, okay, what’s the material that’s inside that head of yours that you’ve been living for the last 47 years? And so Roy was able to pull out all these great things from my childhood’s lessons learned and wove it all together in a bit of a story arch structure. I told the stories, they were my words, he helped put it together and fill in some of the gaps. And it was amazing because it really was, you know, having a coauthor, it really was the two of us making the magic. And then when I say the hard part was at the end of the day getting the book out there on Amazon, trying to promote, doing the PR tour, it was, it was a lot of work, which, which I’m fine with, but I wanted to keep it away from being too much about me. I wanted it to be something where I felt, you know, this really is our story. And what I said to people is, the first word in the book is I, the last word in the book is you. So it starts with me, it ends with you. This is the journey of all of us in between and what we’re building together. While I got to be the guy that planted the seed, the first seed, this really is something we’ve, we’ve built and nurtured together. And so I found that a little challenging in the process. I didn’t want it to be just a focal point of me and I, I think we had a lot of people that were excited about the books that help to make it not just about me.
Bryan: 01:08:57 No, I think that comes clear. And it is, it is an interesting thing where, you know, clearly, you know, the book and the business, you know, they did come through you. I mean obviously you didn’t do it alone and you’ve included people along the way in a very intentional way. But, um, I think this effort of getting words on a page, putting them between two covers, it sounds easy. And I’m reminded once of a publisher that I asked, I said, you know, do you think it’s really true that everybody has at least one book in them? And she said, unfortunately. But that there are stories that I think the world would miss out on if they weren’t told. And um, and I think I do think this is one of them. Tell me when you, so when you went down to Austin and you had this 10 hour session where Roy is asking you these questions and I imagine, and you might’ve said this, that you recorded it, you transcribed it. It was like you say 150 pages or something.
Brian: 01:09:54 Yeah, 135 pages,
Bryan: 01:09:56 135 pages. Was it, were you able to pull all of that information out of this one marathon session or did you have some kind of a structure where you did this maybe over the phone when you went home or on other days? Like how did this happen?
Brian: 01:10:09 I think 80% of the stories came from that day. But then of course there was months of working back and forth with a manuscript digitally where Roy would make comments and I’d make comments and we’d add words and change words. And it took, I think it was about a seven month process before we came to a point where we’re like, yep, this is great. This is great. We can keep improving it, but you know what? We’re happy people are going to love it. Let’s get it out there.
Bryan: 01:10:38 As a, as a practical matter, how did you balance that with all of your other responsibilities and commitments with business, with your family, your own personal, your health and stuff? Like how did you set up a working schedule for yourself or did you do it at the end of each day or like how did you actually make time for that during that seven week period?
Brian: 01:10:56 It’s train, mix, work and pleasure when I can, uh, in busier times. And so one of the things I did is I said, okay, I’ve got most of the manuscript and I really have to go through it and tweak and really spend some time with the book. And so my wife had a trip, she’s got a, a small, a boutique, a woman’s boutique, and she had fashion week in Paris. So I thought, oh good. Join her, spend every night and have dinner with her. But during the day is I’ll focus on the book. And so I got to be in some inspirational cafes in Paris working on the book. So I was able to have the business of the book along with the, the enjoyability of life. And so how do you keep up, I mean sometimes the pendulum swings a little too far and you’ve got, you know, one direction and you’ve got to give it a little push back. And certainly the book led to a busy period of, you know, trying to run the business, trying to promote the business and do it a bunch of things at the same time. But I’m also blessed with having an amazing team who are able to not just hold down the fort, but really char, lead the charge and drive things forward when I’m busy with other things.
Bryan: 01:12:06 Speaking of a team, will you talk a little bit about the team that was involved with the book, whether you had what I would call Beta readers, you know where there are people that you share the manuscript with at an early stage to get their feedback. What about any editors? What about any graphic designers or layout people like just anybody else that was involved in the creative process?
Brian: 01:12:29 If I think of editors, it was really myself and then I had a woman, Sarah Gray, who was fantastic in terms of, she did a lot of PR and social media for us and this was a project that she led and she was phenomenal in being an editor, but we tried to keep it down to just the two of us. We then opened it up to probably a circle of maybe a dozen other people in different roles, communications, marketing, franchise partners, and we would take their suggestions and feedback. But there was mostly myself and Sarah doing the editing, just really trying to go, you know what, good suggestion, but yeah, not going to take it. We really didn’t want it to become, uh, diluted. Everybody, you know, there were people that didn’t like certain words and there were people that didn’t resonate with certain stories and I said that’s okay. And it, it turned out that it was, because I’ll ask people what their favorite story is and everyone’s got different ones cause it depends on how they grew up and what they can relate to, but it feels like there’s enough in there for everybody that, uh, it’s a good balance.
Bryan: 01:13:38 I realize we might’ve covered it with some of what we’ve covered in this, but what’s your favorite story in the book?
Brian: 01:13:45 Oh, that’s a good one. I don’t know if we have covered it. What would be my favorite story? You know, one of mine is certainly with Paul Guy who is our first franchise owner and he and I were butting heads. We were in private offices at the back in the day when we used to have private offices. He and I are sitting, uh, in our own respective offices and I was frustrated with him and I felt like everything I said he challenged. And so I went into the office one day and his office and brought something up. He said, uh, you know, something that was completely against my idea and I just felt like crap. And I went, you know what, Paul, this isn’t working out. He goes, well, what do you mean? He goes, you telling me I’m fired? And I said, yeah, you are. And he said, when do you want me out of here? And I said, how about now? And two rams on the top of the mountain locking horns. And so I ended up leaving the office and I was frustrated at that point. And you know, a few days later I come back, he’s still in the office. He was coming to work every day for the last three days. And I’m like, Paul, like you were fired. And you know, it was, it was funny. But I had this moment where I went into the office, his office again and I said, you know, I know you’re going back and forth to Toronto quite frequently. You’ve got a girlfriend out there, um, you’re spending a lot of time in Toronto. What do you think are running the first franchise out there? And it was funny, he paused, his eyes lit up. He smiled, I smiled. And since then we’ve been great, great friends and business partners and it was funny. So he goes to start the first franchise, drives a truck across the country. And it made me just realize and why I think I highlight that as one of my favorite stories is it was a moment of failure. I was failing working with Paul. It was my ego getting in the way of his maybe negative feedback or feedback that wasn’t delivered as gently as I would’ve liked. But somehow when we found a commonality, building a business together, he got excited. I got excited. And he’s now a franchise owner that’s got a $16 million business with 1-800-GOT-JUNK in Toronto, and he’s got all sorts of other businesses of ours all over North America. And it’s incredible what he’s built.
Bryan: 01:16:01 That’s really, that’s really cool. How many more books do you think you’ll right before the end of your life?
Brian: 01:16:07 No idea. Um, you know, like the first one was such an, uh, a huge leap out of my comfort zone. Uh, I enjoyed it. I’m glad I did it. It’s been a, it’s delivered the value that Roy said it would. Roy even said to me, he goes, Brian, when you’re ready for the second book, you know, let me know. So maybe we’ll, we’ll do another one together. But, uh, I want this one to build a little more of a ground swell and, uh, see what it can do. But certainly as I’ve got more stories to tell, written in a book, I think, I think I can do another.
Bryan: 01:16:45 Yeah. Well, I certainly see in our family’s business the power of a book to help kind of cement the history or the story of the organization where my dad just in the years, literally like a year or two years before he passed, he, he made the time to get with a co-writer and write what became his autobiography. And uh, it’s been really powerful and uh, you know, as much as you’ve told, you know, stories about the business and from your life, um, I can tell, you know, there’s not only are there a lot more years, but I think there’s probably a lot more stories people would enjoy hearing things. For sure. For sure. Okay. So last few questions. And like having gone through this process of making a, making a book or reality, what advice would you give to others who want to do it but haven’t yet done so?
Brian: 01:17:32 What advice would I give to others? You know, it, it’s advice as such a personal thing depending on what someone’s going through. But I think the whole theme of the book, Willing to Fail. I think that my 20 year old self, if I could go back and say, what do you wish you knew or what do you wish someone told you that could have an impact on your life? I think it’s just the being willing to fail. It’s understanding that a crucial ingredient in success is failure. You know, if you can think of success and all the ingredients you put in their hard work, passion, a great idea, Dah, Dah, Dah, Dah. You know, everyone’s going to come up with all these positive things and then they’re going to go, yeah, failure. That doesn’t fit on the list. Absolutely it does. Failure is a gift and that’s another positive ingredient, but I don’t believe you can ever get to where you want to go without failure. It’s back to, you know, talking to my kids, I, they’re all skiers and when I’ve got a, you know, one of my, one of my kids falls in ski school again. It’s like, okay, that’s awesome. I taught my middle daughter who was also hating school or a ski school and she goes, I just don’t like the falling. And I’m like, no, no, you need to fall because then you’re going to more quickly get better and learn to be an amazing skier and not fall anymore. And so she went back to ski school one day, probably in tears in the morning before she went. And she came down, came at the end of the day. She’s like, guess what? I fell big smile on her face. And I’m like, okay, the learning has sunk in. And so I think failure is truly a gift. And what I do, and I’ve been reminded of this so many times, is every time I’m in a tough situation, personal or business. I pull out a sheet of paper, and I write down a list, what’s at least one thing that can come from the seemingly tough situation. What’s one great thing that can come from the seemingly tuff situation? And I’ve never been let down because usually the list starts growing and I’m like, Whoa, this could be amazing. So failure is a gift.
Bryan: 01:19:36 That’s obviously, that’s a perspective that stands to benefit more than just anyone who wants to write a book, but you know, build a business. Have a fulfilling relationship, you know, that’s, that’s a pretty cool, yeah, absolutely. Okay, so last question. I think this is my last question. What’s your view about the importance of spirituality in success?
Brian: 01:20:02 Yes, for me, I think, you know, spirituality, spirituality is also very, um, very personal. You know, some people believe in God, some people believe in nature, um, whatever someone’s choice is and how they see the world. I think to me the spiritual side is just connecting with the fact that we are all here building something bigger and better together. And I don’t just mean in my business, but in this world, and I think we have a response. We have a responsibility to leave the world better than we found it. And I think with that one guiding principal if that becomes everyone’s life work. I mean, just imagine how much better the world becomes each and every day.
Bryan: 01:20:46 Awesome. Well, again, thank you so much for being so generous with your time and also, listeners will not have heard this, but for hanging in there through the technical challenges I had getting us started today. And, uh, really grateful to you for giving me the tour if there in Vancouver for sharing honestly, you know, in this conversation and we were together. And um, if there’s any ever any way I can be of service to you, you know, where the next time you find yourself in Salt Lake City, which is secretly the center of the universe, I hope you’ll let me know.
Brian: 01:21:17 Yeah. Awesome. Well, the same thing if ever back this way. Let’s, uh, let’s grab a drink and a, yeah, it was really, really fun to chat with you. You ask awesome questions. Again, I’ve done hundreds of podcasts and a lot of them are, uh, same, same. So you know what, you’ve done a really fantastic job and kudos to you.
Bryan: 01:21:37 Well, thank you. All right, well take care and I’ll look forward to the time our paths cross again next.
Brian: 01:21:42 Thank you again.
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