The Art of Failing Toward Greatness
Listen to Episode 153:
Episode 153 Transcript:
Chris Curran: Growth Igniters Radio, with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. Episode 153, The Art of Failing Toward Greatness. This episode is brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated, enabling successful leaders and companies to accelerate to their next level of success. On the web at businessadvance.com. And now, here’s Pam and Scott.
Pam Harper: Thanks, Chris. I’m Pam Harper, founding partner and CEO of Business Advancement Incorporated. Sitting right across from me, as always, is my business partner and husband Scott Harper. Hi, Scott?
Scott Harper: Hi, Pam. It’s great to join you again for another episode of Growth Igniters Radio. As always, our purpose is to spark new insights, inspirations, and immediately useful ideas for visionary leaders to accelerate themselves and their company to their next level of game-changing innovation, growth, and success. Now Pam, we talk a lot about how if you’re going to keep bringing new dreams to life, getting to that next level, you need to be willing to break free from the status quo. But the fact is that it’s natural to feel some discomfort with the uncertainty that comes with doing that. Deliberately, deliberately stepping away from the tried and true.
Pam Harper: That’s right. No matter how much you try to control for what should happen, it’s just not possible to control for everything.
Scott Harper: You’ve got that right.
Pam Harper: The hard truth about leading through uncharted territory is that you need to be able to navigate through failure.
Scott Harper: Yeah, it can feel like a roller coaster sometimes and at times, you might even wonder if you have exactly what it takes to succeed.
Pam Harper: That’s true. Well, the good news is there’s always opportunity embedded and failure. Our guest today has written a book in which he shares how he and his team have been able to use failure as a springboard to keep bringing big dreams to life. He is returning guests Brian Scudamore, founder and CEO of O2E Brands. Brian is a serial entrepreneur and author who has always taken the road less traveled. At just 19 years old, he pioneered the industry a professional junk removal with 1-800-GOT-JUNK? Turning the chore people avoid into an exceptional customer service experience. He then scaled that success into three more home service brands. WOW I DAY PAINTING, YOU MOVE ME, and Shack Shine all under the O2E Brands’ banner. Now, we first interviewed Brian on Growth Igniters Radio in 2015-
Scott Harper: Oh my goodness.
Pam Harper: … when we first started, right. When he shared what he learned about the ins and outs of business by being an entrepreneur. Most recently, Brian has described the philosophy behind his success in his book WTF, that is, Willing To Fail. How failure can be your key to success. Brian is also a frequent contributor to business publications, including Forbes, Profit, and The Globe and Mail’s leadership lab. We’ll have a link to Brian’s first interview with us, and other resources for this conversation at growthignitersradio.com Episode 153. Brian, welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio.
Brian Scudamore: Thanks for having me back you guys, happy to be here.
Pam Harper: Yes, and congratulations on this book. You know, I consumed it in one sitting, which for me is a real miracle. I don’t usually do that, but it was such a wonderful story. I love the way that you expressed yourself on this.
Brian Scudamore: Well, thank you. It was a fun book to write, and create, and to take 30 years of failures and put them all together woven into one story of 30 years of how we’ve really made the leap from one truck to a business today … well for businesses today that total $440 million in revenue across Canada, the United States, and Australia. So lots of learning, lots of fun, and glad you guys took a good read.
Pam Harper: Yes. Who says you can’t have opportunity and failure? So now as you state in your book, you’ve always taken the road less traveled. How has that contributed to your willing to fail philosophy? Tell us about that.
Brian Scudamore: I think as an entrepreneur, I haven’t been afraid to go against the grain. If you look at my childhood in school, I was the kid that was always acting out and trying to make jokes. I was the class clown, I was the rule breaker, I was disruptor before disruption was cool. And I really just looked at my life as one … this journey where I would do things differently. And if somebody said, “Hey, that’s a bad idea.” That almost lit a fire underneath my feet for me to pursue that idea. So dropping out of college to become a full-time junk man. I remember sitting down with my father who’s a liver transplant surgeon, he of course has done more schooling than anyone I’ve really ever met. You can imagine him hearing me say, “Wow, I’m quitting school to become a junk man.” “What a bad idea is” is how he say it, “What a great opportunity” is how I saw it. So not afraid to go against the grain, and to do things differently.
Brian Scudamore: And that’s really … I think as an entrepreneur, if you take Jeff Bezos as an example, he starts an online book retailer and every article and everyone in the beginning was so critical, saying that would never work. And today, he’s got one of the biggest companies on the planet, not just … no longer just selling books, but selling everything you can possibly buy because he believed and he made a decision against what all others had believed.
Scott Harper: Yeah. Now, Brian, when you were our guests three years ago, you were at an earlier stage in your entrepreneurial journey. You had just I think started Shack Shine, now you’re even more successful and you’re continuing to grow, continuing to take chances. What drives you to keep taking these risks such? To step away from what is success now, into success tomorrow? This could put your current success in jeopardy.
Brian Scudamore: Yeah, a few things Scott. I love having fun doing whatever I’m doing. So I fire up the passion, I just get excited about ideas and go all in. And so for me, what keeps me going, what gets me up in the morning, great people building something much bigger and better together. If I look at what we’re creating, Shack Shine is the newest example and brand, windows, gutters, power washing. You say, “Hey, Brian you’re so much more successful than you were three years ago.” Well, the business has grown. Shack Shine has over 40 franchise owners. But we’ve made some mistakes, we’ve had some leadership changes, we’ve had different challenges. It’s the learning and taking those new growth moments and saying, “Oh, here’s another failure. What do we do differently this time?” And it just keeps it exciting, that’s fresh.
Brian Scudamore: A lot of entrepreneurs get out there and start new businesses. I believe in building this one big flagship O2E Brands with a lot of great people together. I’m not looking to sell the company, to take it public, to cash out. I’m not a money motivated guy, I’m a growth in people and a growth and opportunity driven guy, and that’s what makes it so fun.
Pam Harper: That really came out in your book. So there’s always something next. Going back to the whole idea of embracing your own mistakes and failures, and those are the people you lead. I know that you’ve said that it can be frustrating. The average person says, “Wow, it’s not going the way I think.” What keeps you excited about that?
Scott Harper: And the thing is that it’s not just you being excited by the possibilities and, “Okay, I can fail now.” You have more and more and more people working for you. How can you lead them so you can fail forward together?
Brian Scudamore: I think it depends how you look at the failure. Pam you say the average person might look at it and go, “Oh, things aren’t going as planned.” The way I would language that in my head is say, “Wow, how fantastic, how exciting, how interesting. What can I learn here?” And yeah, I’m a human being. I get my days of depression where I’m stuck in bed and can’t get out of bed ’cause things are going wrong, and life might be tougher. You know, life happens and gets in the way. However, most days I will sit there and I’ll be, “Okay, what’s the opportunity in this? If things didn’t go as planned, what’s one great thing that can come from the seemingly tough situation?” And that philosophy or that conversation in my own brain has never let me down. There’s always a learning. When the student’s ready, the teacher will appear.
Pam Harper: Aha, right.
Brian Scudamore: Look at every failure and say, “What can we learn from this?” I remember five years into my business I fired my entire company, 11 employees. One bad apple spoils the whole bunch, I had nine bad apples and I just said I’m going to start again. I cleaned house, but I took ownership for that failure. It was a leadership moment for me to sit down with these people and say, “I’m sorry I let you down, I didn’t find the right people, treat you right. Here is how life is going to change going forward.” I got rid of everybody and started rebuilding a new team where I would find the right people and treat them right. So a moment that was tough, it’s very difficult to go from a business of five trucks down to just one truck ’cause that’s all you can drive at the same time, and you sit there and go, “Okay, what am I going to do to rebuild differently this time?” And hadn’t I wiped out my entire staff, we would not be the company with the culture that we are today.
Pam Harper: So always seeing the opportunity in the failure as a way to go forward. Well, we’re going to take a quick break, and when we come back, we’ll talk more with Brian Scudamore founder and CEO of O2E Brands about leadership lessons that helped him build the courage to face failure as a means of leaping forward to success. Stay with us.
Scott Harper: This is Growth Igniters Radio, with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. Brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated. We focus on enabling visionary leaders to ignite, sustain, and boost the momentum it takes to generate game changing results on and on. We’re number on the web at businessadvance.com.
Pam Harper: We’d like to welcome our listeners, and of course, our many new listeners. If you’re not already subscribed to our Growth Igniters community, you can get even more value by signing up. You’ll receive reminders of our new bi weekly podcasts, along with a link to a page filled with all kinds of resources. And off weeks, you’ll receive a Growth Igniters post which is about a two minute read.
Scott Harper: So go to growthignitersradio.com, or click the red sign up now button at the top right of the page.
Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio, with Pam Harper … that’s me, and Scott Harper. Today, Scott and I are speaking with Brian Scudamore founder and O2E Brands, the banner company for 1-800-GOT-JUNK? WOW 1 DAY PAINTING, YOU MOVE ME, and Shack Shine. Brian, how can people find out more about you, your company’s, and of course your new book?
Brian Scudamore: Well, I think the books and easy one. You go to the world’s biggest bookstore, and that’s Amazon, and search for my name Brian Scudamore or WTF Willing To Fail. If they want to learn more about any of our brands, go to O2E Brands. That’s letter O, number two, letter E, brands.com. What O2E stands for is ordinary to exceptional. We’re taking everything in this world, both new entrepreneurs and opportunities that are ordinary and making them exceptional through leadership and customer experience. And then of course, anywhere in the social world go to Instagram at Brian Scudamore. Any of those social handles, they’ll be able to find me and love to interact.
Pam Harper: That’s great. And of course, again, people can go to growthignitersradio.com Episode 153, and you’ll also be able to get links over to Brian’s story from there as well. So in the first segment, we were talking a lot about the courage it took for you to build your team. What would you say was the biggest lesson that you learned that involved failure about building the right leadership team, especially when you think about making your company sustainable for the long term?
Brian Scudamore: Yeah, I had one leader who in about 2007, and ‘8, when the financialmeltdown of the world happened, I had the wrong leader for me. This person’s gone on to be wildly successful in another company, but in my company we just about bankrupted the business together. So I think the biggest lesson was, trusting your gut. I had a company where I was surrounded by all these great people who thought that this person was absolutely the right leader to take us to the next level, but I worked so closely with this person and knew more information than others might have known that told me that this isn’t the right COO for me. We weren’t perfectly aligned on vision, I don’t think this person really believed in my abilities and my unique gifts. And so we weren’t the team we needed to be to go to the next level, and getting this person out, it was painful. It was expensive, it led to a constructive dismissal suit. All sorts of negative energy around the business at that time, combined with the business melting down with the financial troubles in the world.
Brian Scudamore: But again, the lesson for me was one person is all it takes. If you’ve got the wrong person in your company, one person can be the catalyst to really shift the energy and shift the direction as to where you’re going as a business.
Pam Harper: Oh, absolutely. So how did you change the way that you went about recruiting and hiring for your team? It is a really tricky thing to do.
Brian Scudamore: Yeah, so I took out a sheet of paper, I wrote a line down the middle vertically and I said on one side of the page, the left side, what are all the things in a business that need to happen for the business to be successful, that need to be done that I love to do and that I’m great at? What are all the other things on the right hand side of the line that need to happen in the business for it to be successful, but I’m not good at, and I hate to do? And the long right hand side of the list with what don’t I love to do still needed to be done, so I started recruiting for someone where that was their left hand side of the list, where that was their talents and the things they love to do so that we could become this complimentary driving force to build this together.
Pam Harper: That’s so important for a team. You know, so much is going on in the world today and we have to look towards tomorrow as much as we do today. Do you find that as you’re out there looking for the next top talent, that you’re also looking at not just, “What do I need for my organization today? But it seems like next week, we’ll need something new.”
Brian Scudamore: Yeah, we’re always looking ahead, we always have a four to five year vision, a painted picture, if you will, of where we’re going, and what that future looks like. And then putting all the pieces together to figure out, how do we get there at the same time.
Pam Harper: Yeah, you’ve been quite a disrupter in your field, for sure.
Scott Harper: You’ve you’ve built a system to take that into account so that it’s easier and easier. In fact, we’ve read that you say that people don’t fail, systems do. And it’s a belief that’s woven tightly into your culture. How did you learn that lesson?
Brian Scudamore: I read that in a book by Michael Gerber, who’s since become a friend. He’s an 82 year old author who’s written so many books, and my favorite by far was the E-myth revisited.
Pam Harper: Yes, that is a good book.
Brian Scudamore: Yeah, so Michael Gerber’s … yeah so he did his philosophy which I’ve since adopted as well, people don’t fail systems do. If you look at the systems in your business, from the recruiting systems, to the training systems, to the operating systems, there’s usually a missing or a broken system that is to blame not a person. And so if you’re not bringing in the right people, and your recruiting systems are broken, it doesn’t matter how good the training is. If you don’t have someone that’s a good cultural fit for your organization who has the same values, it doesn’t matter how good your operating systems are. So it’s really having a process, a series of checklist that can guide you through finding the right people and treating them right.
Scott Harper: Yeah, and you have to have a system for changing your system because you know that as you expand, and as you grow, and as you change your business, systems that used to work really well don’t necessarily work so well anymore. And you have to keep looking, “What is it now that I need, that I didn’t need a little while ago?”
Brian Scudamore: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Pam Harper: What would you say is the biggest aha that you’ve had as you’ve been developing your systems and processes for tomorrow? It’s such an exciting time for you for sure.
Brian Scudamore: I think the biggest aha is to empower your people, trust your people to get out there and create the best practices. You can’t, as an entrepreneur create everything, and you can’t measure and monitor everything. So find the right people, treat them right, and let them go create the systems. Fire them up on the value of systems, show them how to create a system, but teach them to fish, teach them to get out there and create their own systems and watch things scale magically.
Scott Harper: Great advice.
Pam Harper: Well, we’re going to take another quick break. And when we come back, Scott and I will speak more with Brian Scudamore founder and CEO of O2E Brands about immediately useful ideas for failing together towards greatness. Stay with us.
Scott Harper: You’re listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper, brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated. We’re on the web at businessadvance.com
Scott Harper: Now, Pam, we’ve been talking with Brian about how important it is to accept and even embrace failure along the way to transformational success. But as we said before, it’s not always easy. Sometimes there are issues that everyone can see, but nobody wants to talk about. They’re uncomfortable. They’re the elephants in the room.
Pam Harper: That’s right. But leaving these issues unaddressed can actually lead to unnecessary failure and missed opportunities. Find out why in our Harper report, Taking Control of the Elephants In The Room. This is one of our more popular reports because it’s practical, and addresses an issue that every leader and team faces at one point or another.
Scott Harper: So go to growthignitersradio.com, select Episode 153 and go down to resources to request your complimentary copy of the report How To Take Control Of The Elephants In The Room.
Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. Over the last two segments, Scott and I’ve been speaking about the art of failing toward greatness with Brian Scudamore, founder and CEO of O2E Brands. The banner company for 1-800-GOT-JUNK? WOW 1 DAY PAINTING, YOU MOVE ME, and Shack Shine. Brian, Can you remind us how people can find out more about you, your companies, O2E Brands, the book, all of it?
Brian Scudamore: Well, I think Google is always a great place to start. Put in my name Brian Scudamore. You’ll find our social media at Brian Scudamore on Instagram. You can get us at o2ebrands.com. There is a ton of information out there about the brands we’re creating, and how we’re doing it. So love when people are learning more about what we’re doing and how we might be able to help them.
Pam Harper: Okay, so let’s look at the three immediately useful ideas for embracing failure as a way of accelerating toward greatness. This is a little free form, our vision is that people are going to finish listening and be able to immediately do something. So what’s your first idea?
Brian Scudamore: First idea is come up with a vision. If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there, as Alison Wonderland would say. Really have a clear vision of what it looks like. So if somebody is going on a holiday, for example, it’s pretty easy to say, “What does that holiday look like? What kind of cold beverage is in your hand? What’s the weather like? Who’s with you?” Think … do the same thing for your business, for your life, envision the future. Just imagine, write it down on paper of what that future will look like by a certain specific date, and you have the starting of a painted picture. If any of your listeners want a copy of our painted picture, if they go to at Brian Scudamore and Instagram and send me a direct message asking for the painted picture, we’ll fire them off a copy of one of ours that they can see as an example.
Pam Harper: Oh, that’s great. So now how often do you recommend that people go back and look at that painted a picture these days?
Brian Scudamore: I don’t know if you could do it too often. I think it’s one of those things that at least once a week, just have a read, have a scan. We, as a leadership team sit down for each of our brands, and we’ll review them together as a group every quarter to see how we’re doing. These are the visual items of what does that future look like just to pull us all together into the same image. And then we start to say, “Oh wow, we’re missing on this.” Or, “Here’s an opportunity that we didn’t think about that might help us get closer to that vision.” But what gets measured gets done, and huge power in painted picture.
Scott Harper: Yeah, and it’s interesting that you say painted picture because neuroscience research has shown that images and imagining images in our mind, even if we aren’t looking at them are very emotional. It’s a very emotional experience and emotion builds commitment. Brian, what’s another practical, actionable thing that people can do to put this into practice?
Brian Scudamore: I’m a big fan of people. If they want to grow, learn, get out there and read. So clearly you’ve mentioned my book as one sort of group of stories that sharing lessons learned. But I love the E-myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. There’s so many great books out there, it’s taking the opportunity to build up a set of books that you find that will give you some learning in the areas that you might be weak.
Pam Harper: I think that’s a great thing to do because there is so much that we need to learn, the key is actually taking the time to read them. How do you keep current? That you don’t have like 10 books that are right on your bedside table?
Scott Harper: That aren’t getting read.
Brian Scudamore: Yeah, I think entrepreneurs love to listen to podcasts. I’m a big fan of some great podcasts out there. How I Built This, NPR podcast. I think there’s a whole bunch of really good ways to take in some short snippets of learning even if you’re not a reader. A lot of people will go and download books off of Audible. I think I’m more of a listener in my car. If I’ve got some spare moments or I’ve got a long road trip, little snippets of information on my phone, I’ll often go to Flipboard and I’ll read some different stories or short articles. I’m a voracious book buyer. I’m not necessarily the world’s best reader, and don’t make time as much as I should. So while I’m saying get out there and learn, it’s find the learning style that works for you.
Pam Harper: Yeah, learning comes in all kinds of forms, you know. So what would be a third immediately useful idea?
Brian Scudamore: It’s asking for help, find people who you believe you can learn from and just say, “I’ve got a problem I’m trying to solve. I’ve got an opportunity here. You’re someone that I believe can help me, do you mind if I ask you for some help? Can we set up a phone call? Can we set up a coffee?” I think people are scared to go to people that are seen as so much smarter than them to ask for help. But there’s one thing about human nature, people love being asked for help. They love giving their advice and wisdom when someone looks up to them. So find mentors. And a mentor doesn’t have to be an ongoing weekly coaching relationship, but someone that might help you through a problem that you’re facing. Just go up to someone and say, “Hey, I know you’ve solved this before. Any ideas and feedback you can give me on this?”
Pam Harper: What’s the best way Brian to approach somebody who is so busy that they … well, like yourself. You are an incredibly busy person, and yet you make time for people to approach you. What would you recommend? Somebody is thinking right now, “I have somebody in mind I want to approach, and they’re as busy as Brian Scudamore.” What could they do?
Brian Scudamore: I think, take the time to connect. Don’t just send an email saying, “Can I pick your brains on something?” Give some more information, tell them you know, “Here’s my challenge. Here’s a bit about me and why I believe you can help me XYZ.” And just take the time to try and connect with them, to get them bought into why that phone call will be useful. You know the number of people that reach out to me that say, “Hey, can I buy you lunch? Can I buy you a coffee?” They’re asking, they’re doing one good step towards at least asking, but come on, tell me why you want to get together and chat. You know, I don’t need a free coffee, I need to … I’ve got the desire to help people. Tell me why you think I’m the best person that can help you. Otherwise if I’m not the best person, I can forward you onto someone that I think might be able to help.
Pam Harper: So being specific and making it easy for the other person to understand what you need is going to be key. I think it’s also important to be helpful to the other person as well, but I think having that relationship of give and take is so important to be able to be mutually beneficial to each other.
Scott Harper: And make it personal.
Brian Scudamore: Connect on a human level, and find something you’ve got in common, and take the time to really get to know someone. And then you can in turn, like you said, see how you might build also help them.
Pam Harper: Absolutely. Well, Brian, this has been a great conversation. Thank you so much for being our guest. You have some final thoughts to leave us with on how we can fail together toward greatness?
Brian Scudamore: Well, thank you for having me. No, I think you covered it all. I think that people should embrace failure. And remember, as you said in the beginning, Scott that it’s like a roller coaster. And I think that, as kids on a roller coaster, you put your hands up on the way up, you put your hands up on the way down. Just embrace the failure and say, “Okay, I got it. It hit me, It hurt. But what can I learn from this so that I can get to a bigger better place in the near future?”
Pam Harper: Very inspirational. Again, our thanks.
Brian Scudamore: Thanks to both of you, and have a great day.
Scott Harper: You too. Thanks, Brian so much. Thanks to you out there for listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. To get show notes and resource links for this week’s episode, go to growthignitersradio.com. Select Episode 153.
Pam Harper: Until next time, this is Pam Harper…
Scott Harper: And Scott Harper…
Pam Harper: Wishing you continued success and leaving you with this question to discuss with your team.
Scott Harper: How can we increase our own acceptance of failure so we can fail forward together?