CEO takes 8 weeks of vacation, rarely works weekends
A young guy starts a junk removal business with a beat-up truck and goes on to own four brands with 250 franchises across the United States, Canada and Australia.
That, in a nutshell, has been the 30-year career trajectory of entrepreneur Brian Scudamore.
In 1989, Scudamore started The Rubbish Boys as a way to pay for college. But after attending four schools in four years, he figured he’d learn more by running a business and dropped out in 1993.
After growing that first business into the leading junk removal service, now known as 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, he founded and franchised three other home-service businesses: You Move Me, WOW 1-Day Painting and Shack Shine.
Combined, the four brands employ more than 5,000 people, including 500 who work at Scudamore’s O2E Brands, the parent company. He expects total revenue to top $400 million this year.
His first book “WTF?!: Willing to Fail,” which charts his sometimes rocky journey as an entrepreneur, was published last fall.
Scudamore spoke with CNN about what often trips up entrepreneurs, his worst mistake and how he unplugs.
Here’s a condensed, edited version of that conversation.
What’s the most common mistake you see entrepreneurs make?
They don’t want to admit their failures. They don’t want to be transparent with their team. They don’t want to tell their team they’re scared or depressed.
My wish is for people to say, “This is what’s going on. This is how I’m feeling.”
Otherwise our teams don’t believe us and won’t trust us. You can’t have trust without vulnerability.
And you’re not leading if there’s nobody behind you. You’ve got to have people who trust you.
What’s the worst mistake you’ve made in business?
I had a COO who was my best friend. Together we grew the business from $2 million to $106 million. But I had to fire him when I realized we needed a different leader to take us to the next level. (We’re still great friends today, thankfully.)
But scary as that was, the scarier part for me is that I then hired a second COO from Starbucks. Together we almost bankrupted the business. She was overspending, we weren’t aligned on decisions, the vision was getting off track and the financial crisis wasn’t helping.
So 14 months later I ended that relationship because I had made the wrong decision. This person didn’t believe in entrepreneurs. She felt like hired guns were the way to go to build the corporation.
And the challenge? Not one person in my company thought it was the right thing to let her go.
I was angry and frustrated. But I said I’ve got to learn something here otherwise I’m never going to get past this.
On a piece of paper I listed all the things in the business I’m good at and love to do. Then I listed what I’m bad at and don’t like to do. I needed to find somebody who sees value in what I do, but also is good at all these other things.
So I wrote this three-paragraph description of who I was looking for and sent it to everyone in my network. Three different people, independently, said to me, “The person you described is Erik Church.” They didn’t say, “Here are three names.” They just said, “Erik Church.” Church had been the No. 2 to founders at other successful companies and had started a college fraternity with my best friend, the first COO.
He’s been with us seven years now and we both believe it will be forever because there’s a magic in what we do together.
Your junk business was supposed to pay for school. What drove you to keep doing it afterward?
It was a passion for watching our employees and customers smile and live happy, fun lives.
Our employees are No. 1 and if we do a great job wow-ing them, they in turn will wow our customers.
How do you make your employees No. 1?
There’s a great difference between making a living and making a life. We try to help our people focus on making a life. We give them five weeks paid vacation, plus holidays. We give people more time if they need it. And we encourage them to “go dark” on email during vacations.
I try to lead by example. I don’t work on weekends. I will not check email on weekends 90% of the time.
On vacations, it’s 100% of the time because I give my assistant permission to change my passcode to my social media and email. I don’t know how to get in.
I don’t want to be the parent who’s on my phone when I’m away with my three young kids — unless I’m taking pictures.
What has having a family taught you about business?
I try to lead and inspire my kids in the same way I would lead and inspire employees. I love to help people see they can do whatever they believe they can.
I want people to end up in the best place possible.
How much vacation do you take a year?
I probably take four to five weeks in one chunk as a summer holiday. Two years ago we went to India to help build a school with my children. We went to Kenya last year. I try to do something that’s outside my comfort zone.
And I also do about three weeks at Christmas, my ski holiday with the family.
How much do you sleep?
I’m a pretty solid 7.5-hour sleeper.
I value sleep to give me energy, stamina and the ability to concentrate.
I’m very ADD. I certainly have suffered my fair share of depression and panic attacks over the years. So I know it’s hard to travel and work and be busy without taking care of yourself and having some balance.