Passionate about Junk
By Bruce Freeman
Brian Scudamore, founder and chief executive officer of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, got his entrepreneurial start as a four-year-old ringing the bell and collecting money from the young patrons of his father’s ice cream truck. As a teenager he loved working at Lorber’s, his grandfather’s well-known military surplus store in San Francisco. School was just was a means to get where he saw himself, making his own destiny and running his own company.
It was Scudamore’s clear vision that helped him recognize the potential in what many considered a dead-end business: junk hauling. Let’s face it, everybody has it and many people have no way to rid themselves of it, so accumulated junk just stays with you until you have to move. Before 1-800-GOT-JUNK? you called some scruffy guy with an old broken-down truck, but not anymore. Scudamore started in 1989 with $700, which he used to buy his first truck, and a vision of junk removal that harkened back to the clean, crisp uniforms his grandfather sold. His vision was to make the service of junk removal a corporate entity with standards of service, operation and a corporate brand identity that would assure potential customers they could safely, easily, and economically rid themselves of accumulated stuff.
By 1998, Scudamore’s company was doing just over $1 million in sales with 10 trucks and 25 employees. It was then that he decided to use his vision to build a franchise business. He gave his first franchise partnership in exchange for an agreement to work together to create a franchise prototype and build support systems for franchisees. Again, Scudamore created a vision, which gave franchise partners three main tasks; building a fleet of trucks, staffing those trucks with “superstar” drivers and navigators, and pounding the pavement for new business. The rest of tasks, including a 24 hour call center, booking and troubleshooting, truck scheduling software, customer databases, marketing research, finance and administration would be taken care of by corporate.
Scudamore trains franchise partners to penetrate their chosen niche completely, realtors whose clients’ are moving is one example, before moving to another market, a tactic which has helped franchise partners be successful over the long term. Throughout the company’s history, Scudamore has practiced what he teaches: never lose sight of your original vision and develop it further as you go along.
Committing the vision to paper helped him to share it with others and develop the goals he believed the company could reach. For example, he committed to a goal of having franchises in the top 30 metro areas of the U.S. by December 31, 2003. Scudamore is justly proud that the company met that goal 156 days ahead of schedule. 1-800-GOT-JUNK? is now an international concern with 150 franchise partners in three countries, employing over 1000 people.
Professor Bruce’s Words of Wisdom
Brian Scudamore is an entrepreneurial visionary in more ways than one. The culture he has nurtured is unfettered by the bureaucratic restraints often seen companies of this size and relies heavily upon the quality and enthusiasm of the people with which he surrounds himself. To ensure that every employee can keep up with the fast-paced environment, 1-800-GOT-JUNK? utilizes a novel, but effective, hiring technique.
Candidates for open positions are brought in together in a “round table” forum. Explanations of the company’s expectations and culture follow. Then, candidates are asked discussion questions, and are encouraged to interact with one another. In this way, Scudamore’s management team can quickly identify “superstar” candidates and weed out others in an efficient manner. An interview process that might have taken ten hours for eight candidates can be reduced to two or three hours before someone is chosen. 100% of hiring, including members of the executive management team, has been done in this way since 1999. It must be working, since 1-800-GOT-JUNK? experiences just over 1% turnover, a very low percentage by today’s business standards. Scudamore’s philosophy is not to motivate people, but to hire, empower and inspire people who are already motivated self-starters.
Entrepreneur’s Strategy: Clearly explain your company’s vision and only employ people who understand it and really want to be there.
Could This Work For Me?
People are the core of your business; any strategy which helps make your employees more effective, including a more competitive hiring practice, is a positive move.