Putting people first builds world-class corporate culture 

CEO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK? shares insights on workplace culture

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - CULTURED Brian Scudamore, CEO of junk removal company 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, will discuss how to develop a positive workplace culture at a talk hosted by the Whistler Chamber of Commerce on May 29.
  • photo submitted
  • CULTURED Brian Scudamore, CEO of junk removal company 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, will discuss how to develop a positive workplace culture at a talk hosted by the Whistler Chamber of Commerce on May 29.

Brian Scudamore, CEO and founder of junk removal company 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, uses an interesting litmus test in interviews to determine if a prospective employee is the right fit for his company.

"I use what I call the 'barbecue test,'" said Scudamore. "Is the person I'm interviewing right now someone I could see having a beer with, someone I can see having fun with who might come over to a barbecue at my house?"

Evidently Scudamore's "barbecue test" is getting results, as his company is consistently recognized as one of the best places to work in both B.C. and Canada. He'll be sharing some lessons on creating a vibrant corporate culture at a talk hosted by the Whistler Chamber of Commerce on Friday, May 29, at 9 a.m.

Founded in Vancouver in 1989 by a young Scudamore who, one credit short of high school graduation had to talk his way into university, 1-800-GOT-JUNK? has since expanded to 200 cities across Canada, the U.S. and Australia.

Today, the company counts almost $175 million in annual revenue, success Scudamore attributed to a people-first approach to the business.

"The No. 1 strategy that I know works across all companies is talking about people and how to make them a priority, how to treat them better and how to improve your culture in your own organization," he said.

It's a strategy Scudamore came to in 1997 — the first year his company cracked $1 million in revenue — when he realized that the staff he had assembled didn't share his vision and let them go. He then adopted the company motto, "It's All About People," and hired new employees based on that principle.

That's translated into a hiring process that emphasizes "cultural fit" over a particular skillset, something Scudamore believes more corporations should prioritize.

"The most important thing we look for is a cultural fit and we help to train people, get them outside training and leadership development as needed to grow," Scudamore said, "but really we're building something together with great people we want to enjoy working with."

Employees at 1-800-GOT-JUNK? are regularly encouraged to develop themselves, whether professionally or personally, and Scudamore is more than happy to support that growth in any way he can.

"You can't grow a business without growing yourself, so we have that same philosophy in our office, in our franchise program," he explained. "We want to help people get better, and not just better leaders, but better people.

"Sometimes that means spending money, sometimes it means hooking someone up with a mentor. So often we'll get people to go to other businesses that we've become friends with and say, 'Go learn from this company.'"

Investing in people is how Scudamore has been able to keep his nearly 3,000 employees worldwide satisfied and motivated. Of course, five weeks of paid vacation for each and every employee goes a long way, too. (Not to mention the two-and-a-half months off employees get in their 10th year with the company.)

"We want to know that we've got people working hard, but that they've also got a balance in their life and play hard as well," said Scudamore. "We want people to take that vacation and come back recharged — it helps make better employees and helps keep them here longer term."

Scudamore's talk is part of the Whistler Chamber of Commerce's four-week Brand & Culture Camp, which starts on May 12. While registration is now closed, you can email events@whistlerchamber.com to be added to the waitlist.

For more information, visit www.whistlerchamber.com/Training-Workshops/Brand-Culture-Camp.html.

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