How I Lead This: Behind The Leadership Brand Of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?’s Brian Scudamore
When he was four, Brian Scudamore drew a picture of himself cleaning trash. That cleanliness-minded kid grew up to found O2E Brands, home of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, WOW 1 DAY PAINTING and Shack Shine.
As O2E CEO, Brian is known for his friendly, approachable social media presence, as well as for his business and leadership abilities. A regular contributor to Forbes, he is also the author of two bestselling books, WTF?! (Willing to Fail): How Failure Can Be Your Key to Success and BYOB: Build Your Own Business, Be Your Own Boss.
As such, we couldn’t think of a better mover and shaker for our Helm questionnaire How I Lead This — a deep-dive into the leadership brand of some of today’s top CEOs, founders, and leaders. In this on-going feature, we’ll look at the people behind the brands, what and who inspires them, lessons learned, and insights into carving out a powerful thought leadership profile.
Here’s what Brian had to share with The Helm:
Emoji you can’t live without: 😀 for sure, plus 😌. Yes, we’re in the business of junk removal, house painting, house detailing and Christmas lights. But at heart, it’s about bringing people happiness and relief.
TED Talk you’d really love to give: I’d expand on my 2018 TEDx Vancouver talk (How to Fail (and Why You Should)). The 2023 version would address something I’ve been seeing a lot this past year. With the economy where it’s at, leaders are feeling hesitant about taking chances. Yes, leaders need to be fiscally responsible. But they also need to hold space for innovation. They need to think big, but start small, and learn quickly from any mistakes. Failure, and being able to fail fast, is more important now than ever.
Secret sign from childhood you were destined to be a leader: I don’t think any of my teachers would have pegged me for leadership. As a kid with attention deficit challenges, I never sat still. And I never graduated from anything other than kindergarten. I did, however, do a little drawing when I was four of myself cleaning up trash. It took me another 15 or so years to get the idea for 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, but I like to think that drawing was foreshadowing my future.
Stories are everything in business. What’s your go-to story that consistently moves people? It’s hard to pick just one. I love telling the story of what happened when I decided to change the name of my company from Rubbish Boys to 1-800-GOT-JUNK?. I had a vision, a dream, and a plan to have that specific phone number. Then I learned that the phone number was already taken! It was owned by the Idaho Department of Transportation. So I had to be persistent. Really persistent. I kept calling and asking if I could have the number. After they said “no” 59 times, I finally got a yes.
As a leader, what keeps you up at night? Culture. We’re at an inflection point right now. When a company gets to a certain size, there’s a natural tendency to slow down, to become more bureaucratic. This shift can erode the entrepreneurial spirit, which is vital for us. So, what keeps me up at night is preserving that spirit, while helping my leadership team navigate all of the challenges that come with growth.
What three words or phrases define your leadership style? Willing to fail.
My biggest insecurity about how people perceive me as a leader is… I think a leader’s drive for results can easily be perceived as wanting perfection. But I really believe in failure as a part of growth. I’m so passionate about being willing to fail that I wrote a book on it. It’s not that I want people to go out there and intentionally make bad decisions. I want them to have the courage to take calculated risks.
Social media as a leader: love it or leave it? Maybe less that I love it, and more that I see its value. Social media is a great connector and can be a platform for inspiration. When I think of entrepreneurs who are just starting out, there isn’t a system of support right away, unless you’re really well-connected, or part of a franchise system. Social media can offer a lot: ideas, inspiration, even that feeling that, as an entrepreneur, you’re not alone.
Your #1 must-follow account on social media: Jason Feifer, the Editor-in-Chief of Entrepreneur Magazine [@heyfeifer in X]. Jason is one of a very few people I know with exposure to so many entrepreneurs and their ideas. He’s able to see where the ideas are connected, and how they’re relevant to a broad audience. His stories are full of substance and context, and he doesn’t take himself too seriously.
The biggest benefit you’ve seen from building your leadership brand: What is most meaningful to me is when I get a message from a brand new business owner who has connected with one of my stories. There are so many people out there who dream of running their own business. If something I share helps them take even one step towards their dream, that feels like a win for me.
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