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Work hard, play hard

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

Brian Scudamore, 43, founded 1-800-GOT-JUNK? in 1989. Today, it’s among the fastest-growing franchises in the world.

Scudamore, CEO of the Vancouver, British Columbia-based firm, has built an entrepreneurial empire of about 3,000 employees and approximately $120 million in annual revenue. His company consists of three brands: 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, WOW 1 Day Painting (a house painting firm launched in 2010) and You Move Me (a moving firm started in early 2013).

EL: You run three labor-intensive businesses. How do you motivate workers?

Scudamore: You can’t motivate people. You can inspire people. When you’ve got the right people who are internally motivated before they come to you, that’s the key. Steve Jobs had [job candidates] sit down and type on his Mac prototype. If their eyes lit up, he knew they saw his vision.

EL: But you need to incentivize employees who haul junk, paint houses and move furniture.

Scudamore: I don’t know if I believe as much in incentives as I did in my early days. We’ve built a culture that serves as its own incentive. Work hard, play hard. Five weeks of paid vacation. And we celebrate when we achieve our goals.

EL: Are team celebrations important?

Scudamore: This year, when we met our revenue goal for 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, we took a boat cruise around the Vancouver harbor. Our goal for 2016 is to hit $200 million in revenue. If we do, the entire company will head to Hawaii. People get into these big celebrations.

EL: What lessons have you learned about leadership?

Scudamore: Lead by example. Be yourself. If you’ve got a clear vision, stick with it. There will be people who say there’s no way it’ll happen. When I started, I had 11 experts in the franchise world give me advice. They all said, “Your business can’t be franchised.”

EL: What led you to persevere?

Scudamore: In September 1998, a nice summer day, I was sitting on the dock at my parents’ vacation house. I was at a crossroads. I had been filling my brain with negative thoughts. So I thought, “If I can imagine a painted picture of a better future, what would it look, feel and act like?”

EL: So what did you conclude?

Scudamore: I created a manifesto that quickly had me seeing in my mind what we could achieve. I read the painted picture out loud to people when I got back to the office. It involved being in the top 30 metro areas by 2003. If employees got excited, perfect. For those em­­ployees who do not get it, they left the business.  

EL: How do you get people to look beyond the daily grind to focus on your long-term goal?

Scudamore: In our seven-minute daily huddles, our first question is, “Who has good news?” It’s a great way for people to share their successes and learn from each other. We gather every single day.

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