When I started The Rubbish Boys (which later I franchised as 1-800-GOT-JUNK?) at 18, I really didn’t know much about business. It was trial by junk! I spent $500 on a pick-up truck and a couple hundred on brochures and posters. Nearly a quarter of a century later, 1-800-GOT-JUNK? is the world’s largest junk removal company, operating in three countries, with over $105 Million in revenue. I’ve been lucky to have had many influential mentors along the way and there’s no education like experience. Here are three business practices that kept me moving forward.
I have created a work environment where questions and ideas are encouraged from all members of my team. Facilitating honest feedback keeps me engaged with what’s truly going on throughout the company. Every day we hold a 7-minute stand-up meeting we call Huddle. We share good news, departmental news, review metrics and address any missing systems or opportunities. Check out our YouTube channel to see our Huddle in action.
There are no private offices at our headquarters, which we call the Junktion. Boardrooms can be signed out if people want to hold a private meeting. I sit at a cubicle with the rest of my team, which provides countless opportunities to connect with the people who make the business a success. We’ve gone beyond open door policy – I don’t even have a door!
Envisioning the future in detail has been essential to building the 1-800-GOT-JUNK? brand. In 1998, we were growing as newly-franchised company, yet I was plagued by a lack of clear direction. I became inspired by other entrepreneurs I admired who spoke about having a clear vision. I decided to write down exactly what my business would look like in 5 years. I envisioned pure possibility. No doubt, no questions, no limits — just pure possibility. I imagined the “what,” not the “how.” When you start thinking about “how,” that’s when doubt creeps in and limits you.
I went to my parents’ cottage, sat on the dock, and wrote down the future as I envisioned it. My vision became reality during the five years that followed. We expanded into North America’s 30 top cities, hit revenue targets, and I even landed my goal of being on the Oprah Winfrey Show – yes, she’s amazing!
I go back to the drawing board every 4 years and envision future possibilities. We call this document our “painted picture” and it continues to be the North Star of our business. I now develop it with my team and incorporate our communal hopes and goals. It’s framed and hung in the lobby of Junktion as a constant reminder of where we’re headed. Our 2016 painted picture tells us we will hit $200 Million in system-wide revenue, be featured on Ellen, and be celebrating our achievements as a company in Hawaii – I can’t wait!
3. It’s All About People
The painted picture is a powerful way of reflecting on whether you have the right people in the right seats because attaining your company vision requires having amazing people who are passionate and aligned with the company vision. How do you find the right people? There’s no science to hiring. I often ask myself, “Would I want to spend time with this person?” Beyond the skill required to do the job, the right person often comes down to a mix of cultural fit and gut instinct.
But, it hasn’t always been easy. In the early days of my business, I made the mistake hiring people who didn’t share my vision. I hadn’t taken the time to interview, train, and inform them along the way.
I admitted to my team that I had failed them and made the difficult decision to let them all go and start again. It was a risk, with $1 million in revenue and six trucks already on the road. However, from that point on, I made sure I was hiring the right people and developed this philosophy: “It’s all about people,” and our core values of passion, integrity, professionalism, and empathy (PIPE). These values have guided 1-800-GOT-JUNK? to over $100 million in sales. We feel the same way when it comes to the suppliers we work with, the customers we service, and the franchises we support. It’s all about people.