Entrepreneur Brian Scudamore’s success is due in part to lessons he learned from his grandparents about how to treat people. (photo from O2E)
When Brian Scudamore addressed business owners at Small Business BC’s Inspire event, held Sept. 29 at the Telus World of Science, his Jewish grandparents, Kenneth and Florence Lorber, were on his mind.
The founder of 1-800-Got-Junk? says they were the source of his inspiration, first-generation Americans who lived in San Francisco, owned a store called Lorber’s Surplus and, whenever possible, recruited the help of their grandson.
“I spent every summer and holiday working there and I learned a lot, especially from my grandfather,” Scudamore told the Independent. “He really cared about his employees and treated them like part of the family. Both my grandparents had a reputation on the street for being lovely people. They treated everyone with respect and would do anything to help other people. Even when homeless people came in to ask for money, they would listen to them, ask how they were and care about them.”
From his grandfather, Scudamore inherited the drive and ambition that would lead him to establish the company O2E, which stands for “Ordinary to Exceptional,” and includes the brands 1-800-Got-Junk?, Wow 1 Day Painting and You Move Me. The latter was created in 2013, inspired by a less-than-desirable experience with a local mover. In Scudamore’s version of a moving company, uniformed, trained movers bring coffee for clients on moving day and leave a housewarming plant when they go.
For 1-800-Got-Junk?, Scudamore’s goal is to double the company’s revenues from $100 million to $200 million by 2016. “We’re nearly there,” he said of the company that began in 1989 with $700 and a beat-up truck. Today, it’s the world’s largest junk removal service.
“It’s always about finding the right people, ensuring we consistently hire top-performing, A-players,” he said.
Back in 1994, not long after he started the company, he let go all 11 of his employees and started over from scratch. “I felt I hadn’t hired the right people and hadn’t spent time training them,” he recalled. “Today, we hire great people who have the potential to do great things.” What’s more, he goes out of his way to keep them happy.
He’s quick to attribute his success to his roots and the lessons he learned about how to treat people. Kenneth Lorber would take his employees out for a meal to thank them for their hard work. But, when you have 300 employees in Vancouver and Toronto, and 3,000 when you include the 200 franchise partners that stretch across North America and in Australia, a thank-you dinner isn’t quite possible. So, the innovative entrepreneur created the 101 Life Goals program, where his employees could list their measurable, specific goals and he could help them achieve them, when rewards were warranted.
“One employee wanted to get his scuba certification, so we signed him up for lessons. Another wanted a ride in a hot air balloon and a third wanted to read the book Anna Karenina in Russian, her father’s mother tongue. I found a copy in Moscow and had it shipped over to her. It’s just a little, creative way to thank someone with a personal connection that has meaning outside of the company,” he said.
Scudamore also attributes his success to having a clear vision of what he wants the future to look like. It hasn’t always seemed so bright and promising and he admitted there have been dark places in his life when he felt he wasn’t as successful as he wanted to be. “At that time, I sat down and sketched my vision for the future. It called for my company to be in 30 cities in North America, even though we were only in one at the time,” he explained. “We wanted to be on the Oprah Winfrey Show, too. All those things came through, and I believe that having the vision is a big piece of the puzzle.”
Adopted into a Jewish family as an infant, Scudamore said his Jewishness keeps him connected to his family and gives him a deeper appreciation of “the culture of community and connectedness. I’m not a very religious person,” he admitted, “but I’m very connected to the religion and community side of my mother’s side of the family.”
Lauren Kramer, an award-winning writer and editor, lives in Richmond, B.C. To read her work online, visit laurenkramer.net.