One person’s junk is another’s business venture
Brian Scudamore, founder and CEO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, began his popular junk removal business as a way to pay for college. Today, the company employs 2,700 people in three countries.
A McDonald’s drive-thru, a pickup truck and a pile of junk are what got Brian Scudamore started on his fateful journey to the top of Canadian business.
Solid business sense and conviction are what gave him the courage to achieve success, proving that other people’s junk truly can be one man’s treasure.
Today, the 37-year-old founder and CEO of junk removal chain 1-800-GOT-JUNK? is finding worldwide recognition for his work in growing and franchising a business that many people thought would be impossible to grow.
It all started at a McDonald’s drive-thru in Vancouver in 1989 where a young Scudamore was desperately thinking of ways to pay for college when he spotted a truck in the line ahead filled with junk and emblazoned with a business logo.
At that moment, a light went off in Scudamore’s head and he rushed to the bank.
“I had $1,000 in the bank and I spent $700 of it on a pickup truck, and within a week I had a business of my own,” he said.
Scudamore’s budding company back then had the down-to-earth name Rubbish Boys but not long afterwards he changed the name to 1-800-GOT-JUNK? to emphasize the professionalism and service he was aiming for.
The early years were tough like with any business but what kept Scudamore going was the belief that he was forging a new path.
“I just saw that nobody had built a brand in this industry — it was mostly just mom and pop operations. I wanted to build the Fed Ex of junk removal — clean, shiny trucks and friendly, trained drivers. It was an experience that people didn’t expect in this industry,” he said.
It took eight years for 1-800-GOT-JUNK? to hit $1 million in revenue and Scudamore’s goal today is to hit $1 billion by 2014.
With 2,700 employees across Canada, the U.S. and Australia, that vision isn’t far off.
Born in San Francisco, Scudamore moved with his family to Vancouver when he was young and attended university in Montreal, but never finished.
“I couldn’t sit through my school education. I was learning more about business from running a business than I was from school,” he said.
Scudamore learned the hard way that building a company is about finding the right people and treating them right — in 1994, he had to fire his entire team because they weren’t coming close to living up to his standards of customer service, something he blames partly on himself.
“I didn’t do a good job in hiring — they were people who didn’t have a passion for business,” he said.
His advice to budding entrepreneurs: trust in your abilities.
“Believe in yourself. Once you’ve got an idea, believe you can do it and chase the dream,” he said.