Brian Scudamore_Got Junk
"For me, I’ve always felt like walking away would be selfish," says Brian Scudamore, the founder and CEO of O2E Brands, the parent company of 1-800-GOT-JUNK? Brian Scudamore

People ask me all the time, “What’s your exit plan?” What I think they’re really asking me is, “When do you plan on cashing out and walking away with a big payday?”

For me, I’ve always felt like walking away would be selfish. I’ve got a bigger purpose. A grander plan. And on many occasions along the way, I’ve been offered large amounts of cash -- so I was tested on this belief (I turned down an early-day $100 million offer!). I think it comes down to understanding what my purpose is and what makes me happy.

I love nothing more than watching people grow, planting seeds of ideas that were once barely thought possible and watching a team rally around making them happen -- like creating brands in fragmented spaces like junk removal, house painting and house detailing. We were told these industries were not franchise-able, yet we took on the challenge to make it happen! And making ordinary businesses exceptional is not something I want to give away, for any price, to a team that might be driven more by money than by meaning.

And besides, I have so much fun doing what I do, even playing just a small role in this bigger vision, that I couldn’t imagine the trade off of “cashing out“ to be worth it.

I’ve often wondered, “What if more founders played the long game versus building a quick exit into their plans?”

I hear today about so many founders who start apps, tech companies and new products who build a quick exit into their plans. With all due respect, I feel like we could use more founders sticking around and protecting their original ideas, passion and purpose. I think sometimes great ideas don’t go in the direction that the initial visionary saw, once they’ve been bought by a team with different motivations.

When Waste Management took me out on a fishing trip of a lifetime and offered me a sum of money that would have had me and my family set for life, the first feeling I had was, “That would be giving up.” I felt like I had lots of hard work left to do. I had belief in a future that I was worried no one else would understand.

I think if I had sold the business back in 2007, a few things could have happened:

  • 1-800-GOT-JUNK? might not have survived the economic collapse of 2007 and 2008. Yes, an acquirer might have had deeper pockets, but what if turning the lights off on the brand just made better business sense to them? We had to get really scrappy to keep the lights on and we nearly lost the business. Today, we’re five-fold the size we were then.
  • If the business had not survived, we wouldn’t have parlayed our learnings into two other home service brands.
  • And that would have meant we would have never seeded hundreds of entrepreneurs who would get their start in business through our franchise formula. Nor would they have gone on to create thousands of jobs.

Now, we can’t predict the future. I get that, and I’m sure there could have been many arguments on the flipside -- and I do know founders can often get in their own way -- but I think the originator of an idea often sees something way beyond money, that others might not or aren’t able to see.

Call me crazy but, as Apple once said in its famous commercial, “The ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world are the ones who do.”

(Brian Scudamore is the founder and CEO of O2E Brands, the parent company of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, WOW 1 DAY PAINTING and Shack Shine.)