The founder of 1-800-GOT-JUNK? explains why success means a willingness to fail

  • Brian Scudamore founded 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, and has been in the trash hauling business since he started the company in 1989.
  • Currently, he runs O2E brands, the parent company of four different home service franchises: 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, WOW 1 DAY PAINTING, You Move Me, and Shack Shine.
  • Entrepreneurs need to be "willing to fail, make mistakes, and then get back up, pick yourself up, and off you go."


High school dropout to CEO is not the typical path most people take to the corner office, but for Brian Scudamore, it was the right one.

Scudamore, who founded 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, has been in the trash hauling business since he started the company in 1989. Currently, he runs O2E brands, the parent company of four different home service franchises: 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, WOW 1 DAY PAINTING, You Move Me, and Shack Shine.

In 2018, the company brought in more than $300 million dollars in revenue.

But for Scudamore, the road to success hasn't always been smooth. In his new book "WTF?!" (which stands for Willing to Fail) he outlines some of his biggest failures, and his biggest lessons along the way. While Scudamore never finished high school, that didn't stop him from going to college. In fact, he was able to talk his way in.

Scudamore explained that he needed to figure out a way to pay for it. And while in a McDonald's drive-thru, an idea came to him.

"I saw this beat up old pickup truck – it said Mark's Hauling on the side. I looked at the truck, and $700 and a week later, I went and bought my own truck and started the Rubbish Boys with a vision for something bigger. Scudamore told CNBC's "On the Money" in an interview recently.

"And ten years later we franchised and became 1-800-Got-JUNK?" he added. That opportunity meant the budding entrepreneur never finished college, since his business was taking off.

"The day when I had to sit down with my dad, who's a liver transplant surgeon, to say 'I got some good news for you I'm dropping out of university,'" Scudamore said. However, his dad didn't view it as favorably, even as Scudamore said he was "learning so much."

Brian Scudamore, CEO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?
CNBC
Brian Scudamore, CEO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?

The last thirty years of growing the business haven't always been easy. Five years into running the company, Scudamore fired all 11 of his employees.

"I knew I needed to restart. And that's how you learn, being willing to fail, make mistakes, and then get back up, pick yourself up, and off you go," he said.

Another time he says he thought he hit the jackpot was when he hired a former president from Starbucks to be his COO. But the hire ended up not working out.

"We were not ever aligned. We worked well together, we had fun together, but our visions were slightly different," Scudamore said. "She wanted to build the company out commercially and drive the commercial side of the revenue, and I wanted to go after residential revenue which is our bread and butter."

Scudamore says he believes "people are born as entrepreneurs" – but sometimes that doesn't look the way people might think.

Business creators are "unique [and] quirky," Scudamore said. "I'm so ADD I couldn't stick through school. I went to 14 schools from kindergarten to college. The only diploma I have is kindergarten - true story."

Entrepreneurs sometimes fall short when they don't pick the right people to help them execute, he said. Still, "that's where I've gotten lucky – I've got a great partner."

Scudamore's advice for someone looking to start a business: Choose who you hire wisely, and know your own strengths and weaknesses.

"It's all about people. Find the right people, treat them right - but let go. As an entrepreneur people hold on to everything and we can't' do it," he said. "I'm an idea guy. Find your executor and help them help you."

On the Money airs on CNBC Saturdays at 5:30 am ET, or check listings for air times in local markets.