Ep. 02 – Growing And Developing Employees with Erik Church

Ep. 02 – Growing And Developing Employees with Erik Church

How should you approach growing and developing people? Erik Church, COO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK? and O2E Brands, talks about how he doubled the profits of 1-800-GOT-JUNK? by focusing on his employees. Now, this full-service junk removal company has over 200 locations in three countries. Diving into the importance of having a common source of purpose as an organization, Erik tackles why it matters to focus not only on your employees’ working goals but their personal goals as well. Alongside this, Erik shares the important traits every COO must possess to help the CEO scale the company.

Growing And Developing Employees with Erik Church

We’re talking with Erik Church. Erik and I have been friends for many years. Erik is the COO for 1-800-GOT-JUNK?. We joined 1-800-GOT-JUNK? in November of 2011. Amazingly, not only have we been friends for many years, but I was also the COO for 1-800-GOT-JUNK? leaving there several years ago. As the COO, Erik’s responsibility is to translate the 1-800-GOT-JUNK? vision into strategic and operational plans that are realistic and capable of delivering positive growth results for the company. Prior to arriving at the junction, Erik led EF Education Canada, the largest privately held education company in the world where he was able to double the company’s profits during tough economic times more than. Erik became President of EF Education Canada in 2007 after working with the company for a few years in a variety of roles. He was President of EF Explore America, President of EF College Break and Executive Vice President of Global Marketing.

Erik is a hands-on leader who believes the best way to learn anything is by living it. He traveled extensively to interact with customers and suppliers to make sure EF was providing the best possible experience. The summer before joining 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, Erik traveled to Kenya, Ecuador, Holland, France, England, Switzerland and China. Before joining EF Canada, Erik was also the Senior Vice President at EONS, Senior Vice President for Student Online Solutions, Vice President for Plum Traders, a College Pro franchise owner and a leadership consultant for Acacia Educational Foundation. In 1991, he moved to the US and worked in Chicago, Boston and New York. Erik lives with his wife, Paige, and their daughter, Elizabeth. He’s a seasoned outdoorsman who loves canoeing and fly-fishing. He is also a motorcycle enthusiast who has ridden across Africa, from Mexico to the Arctic Circle and across the Gobi Desert in Mongolia. Erik, welcome to the show.

Thank you very much, Cameron. I appreciate the invitation.

Tell me how it was for you transitioning into 1-800-GOT-JUNK? Give me a bit of a background as to where you came from. You came into this with a lot of experience and you walked into a $100 million company, whereas when I started there it was only $2 million. You walked into a $100 million company and grew it. You came in with a lot more experience in your role than I ever did. What was it like walking into the brand?

Brian Scudamore and I had a conversation to me being inside the organization had connected through a mutual acquaintance and yourself as well. He’d pointed out to me that I had made a career working with founders and helping founders bring their business to the next level and helping them realize their true intent and what their mission is. My background has been working with a variety of founders and organizations ranging anywhere from a startup up to a couple of billion dollars. I find myself in a place where I can be most successful when I’m partnered with the founder and I can help drive an organization to the next level by working towards those goals that are going to have the biggest impact on achieving those goals.

You talk about Brian being the visionary. Does he still use the painted picture concept?

Absolutely. It’s pivotal in not just 1-800-GOT-JUNK? but all of the brands of WOW 1 DAY, You Move Me, Shack Shine and the O2E, Ordinary 2 Exceptional company being the parent company of all of those. They have separate painted pictures for each of those organizations and we encourage everybody individually to have their own painted picture for themselves.

For our audience, this is what I’ve codified. My book is called Vivid Vision. It’s the concept of this painted picture that Brian had created when I was even back at 1-800-GOT-JUNK? that he and I had learned from an Olympic coach. Walk us through the painted picture concept or the vivid vision concept that you guys are using. How does it help you as the COO in terms of understanding where Brian’s going? How does that painted picture help you?

It’s a fantastic tool for anybody in the organization, not just myself in the role as President and Chief Operating Officer, but for anybody in the organization to be able to see where are we going. What is it going to look and feel like when we’re standing at that moment, in that time when the painted picture is dated? We painted it a few years out and it is painting the picture of exactly what it looks and feels like to be in that moment regardless of whatever you established. Whether you want to be at $500 million or whether you want to be at $50 million, but what does it look and feel like for the entire organization? Not just the scorecard of the numerical value, but what does it look and feel like for the people who are surrounded by you? What does the customer look like? What’s the customer experience? Everything you can envision is going to be true and we can then clearly build out our multiyear strategies to accomplish those goals. We use that as a barometer of the things to say yes to and things to say no to. As most people and most of your audience is aware, a strategy is more about what you say no to and less about what you say yes to. This is where it does afford us the opportunity to know what to say no to.

That’s another weird one. I forgot about that, but you and I also both had a history with College Pro Painters and we both were franchisees with College Pro. The founder of College Pro, Greg Clark, had sent me an email and one of his points was, “True leadership is saying no more often than we say yes.” It wasn’t from an autocratic dictatorial way of saying no, but it was looking for the ways and the things we spend time on that maybe are low return. Give me some examples of things that you have gotten good at saying no at?

There are also layers on top of the urgent and the important and how you define that and where people spend their time. Greg’s younger brother, Tim Clark, is in our organization as our head coach.

I’ve heard you hired Rodney Larmand as well.

Mr. Rodney is in the organization as well. I have a real affinity for College Pro as well as 1-800-GOT-JUNK? but in particular College Pro because that’s where I learned a lot of the lessons that I needed to learn to be successful. We have lots of our franchise partners who’ve come from College Pro as well. It was certainly a formative experience for me. That’s something else I have to come clean on is I owe you a debt of gratitude for getting me into College Pro as well.

That was a fun time for both of us. Rod Larmand, who you guys hired, I trained him as a franchisee. I remembered that his general manager was Rob Archambault and he was massively underprepared going into his first training session. My VP asked me to go in and I had to go in and train a whole group of people I didn’t know. Rod was in that group and he has been with the company for many years. That was 1989 I was training him. With Acacia Fraternity, did you pull any culture or cult ideas from there into your business?

We go back the importance of a common sense of purpose and finding meaning in what you do. Going back to my days in university, I found more meaning in the relationships and the activities doing with my peer group, whether at Acacia Fraternity. The learning came with leading your peers, working with your peers, but striving for a common goal. That was important to me, but certainly the idea of how you bring people into an organization is equally important because you want people to start to learn and onboard the culture. New students would come to the university and join the fraternity. It’s how you onboard them was important to how they worked within the culture, how they added to the culture.

SIC 02 | 1-800-GOT-JUNK?
1-800-GOT-JUNK?: A strategy is more about what you say no to and least about what you say yes to.

 

As we look back, the culture is going to be enhanced from where we had it, but we have the same foundation. That onboarding process, I’ve certainly learned that. It was not similar to my time in the military. One of probably the most formative times for me in a cultural organization is a company called EF Education. They have their $6 billion company, offices in 45 countries around the world and I had good fortune running one of their divisions. To participate in an organization where culture is strong, whether you’re in Germany, Japan, Canada, United States, Switzerland, you can get the sense. You get exactly what the culture is regardless of what the culture is of that country. The culture of the company shines through. That is certainly for me the value of culture coming from College Pro, from EF Education and at O2E Brands is paramount. Culture eats strategy for breakfast as commonly said.

I was always in awe of you as a leader, that second year when I passed the gavel off and you took this raw group that we built in year one and you built a fraternity. We started one in the first year and you built it the second year. We were young. You were probably 21 or 22 years old managing a business with lots of moving parts and meetings. All of us as leaders are sixteen-year-olds trapped in adult bodies and at times where we’re faking it. We get up going, “I hope people don’t figure out that I have no idea what I’m doing.” What came naturally to you as a leader that you can share with us? What were you faking that you had to work on or that you suck at?

I look back at the early days of leadership, whether there or in rugby or my first business opportunities. I think, “How is it possible I got anything done? I was such a crappy leader.” While I appreciate your accolades, in retrospect I look back at it like, “I can’t believe we did what we did.” It’s all relative at the time. The migration for me as an individual was if I look back, I had way too much command and control in my world. One of the things I did learn at the fraternity was how to work with your peers and how to get by them, how to you use your ears more than your mouth and get the common sense of purpose and then how to lead people to that right area. It’s holding people to a standard that they want to be held to and not letting them slip.

In your role now, you’re working with an entrepreneur, a CEO, Brian Scudamore, who’s got a strong personal brand. He’s been in the media for many years since 1989. His first media piece was with the Vancouver Sun and he’s certainly out there as a brand doing lots of media exposure and you’re the chief behind the chief where you are inward-facing. You appear in the media once in a while. How do you show up at work knowing you’re the guy helping to build all this and Brian’s the guy in the spotlight?         

We complement each other well. We both get involved in parts of this business. We have a different perspective. I’m not somebody who truly watches. I don’t want to be in the media and I’m happy to have a conversation with you, but it’s not something I would go out and seek to do. It’s about my personal motivation for me. My leadership turns inwardly to the organization and how I get to work with people inside the organization, whether it’s developing, coaching or leading. It’s important for a business to have an outward-facing vision. Brian does an unbelievable job not just being the CEO and setting the vision for the company but be able to convey that publicly as well. Where I enjoy spending my time is the inward facing, whether it’s working with our franchise partners or employees. That’s what inspires me. It’s a match made in heaven in that sense. I don’t view it as the chief behind the chief. It is truly a partnership that we divide and conquer in areas of expertise.

It’s the yin and yang relationship. You guys are a true marriage. It’s to develop, coach and lead. I’ve always believed that a leader’s job is to grow people. What do you work on in terms of growing and developing people? You talked about franchisees and maybe ten of some of your direct reports or people in the organization. How do you approach growing and developing people?

First and foremost, we start on the most basic level of succession planning. We want people inside the organization who want to grow and take on the next roles inside the organization. As they have aspirations for growth, an easy way to frame that in the conversation with them is, “That’s fantastic, but who is replacing you?” Because there’s no role available to you inside the organization until you replace yourself.” That can be unnerving for people. Certainly, it’s the first time they hear this idea that you’re trying to replace themselves inside the organization with a fear of unknown what the next opportunity is. The reality is the next opportunity will never exist unless they can develop people below them. We start to work on their ability to coach and develop their teams on how they can replace themselves in succession planning. It’s a great way to frame it in their career progression and how they coach their teams.

It trickles fast when you approach it that way too.

We recognized that as an organization when I joined at $100 million. We’ll do about $365 million now and I’d like to be at $500 million later as an organization. We’re growing rapidly and the only way we can truly grow is from within. It takes the better part of a year to hire from outside to get somebody who they can start to hit the ground running and have the get it a factor to drive the business in an autonomous way. If you have the ability to grow and develop people internally, you can grow much more quickly. There’s a real speed to lead on that. This is exactly why we hired Tim Clark as our head coach. His sole focus is working with our organization to improve our abilities as coaches and reinforcing and facilitating our leadership way.

Where are you getting your growth? Where do you work on your skills as a COO and as a leader?

I seek lots of feedback from people who I work directly with. We do two different types of reviews inside our organization. We have performance management reviews annually, then we have professional development reviews. In the professional development review process, I work externally with a coach who gets intimately involved and who challenges me. I’m talking about my direct reports, professional development and I’ll comment on an area of opportunity. He’ll often turn it back on me and say, “Let’s answer the fact. Why is that? What are you not doing to help that?” I go out externally and I seek coaching on a regular basis from somebody who is an awesome coach and has helped to develop me and to hold my feet to the fire.

I remember when I was building Boyd Autobody, I turned to the CEO and I said I needed a one-on-one weekly meeting with him. Terry’s response was, “I don’t need that.” I’m like, “Not you. I know you don’t need the one-on-one weekly meeting with me, but I need the time with you. I need to get in sync. I need some direction. I need to bounce ideas.” It became a powerful meeting. What do you need from Brian or from other CEOs that you’ve worked with? What have you had to make sure that you put in place to continue to strengthen that relationship or be able to have you excel in your role?

For me, it is fighting for the time. That’s the hardest component and half-an-hour meeting, hour meetings might be good for rapid decision making, do a goal review, but it’s not a great time for an alignment. One of the things that Brian and I do is we spend a day every month reviewing our organization’s strategies, half-a-day on the strategies, how are we progressing. We green light it with, “Yes, we are on track,” and then we can deep dive into some other areas of longer-term planning. We ensure that we have at least a day, inclusive of dinner and/or we also ensure that we try and get at least quarterly out of the office and making something off our 101 life goal list, which as an organization, we have 101 goals. We try and go out and do different things. We went to the CMAs together in Nashville. We try and play in different events where you can get out of the office, free up your mind a little bit and start to imagine and envision the future from a different perspective, not sitting in the office.

The idea of the 101 dream goals comes from a book called The Dream Manager by Matthew Kelly. Walk us through how you guys are using that internally.

We were working with a company called The Bucket List and they’ve done a white label solution for us about 101 life goals for all of our employees. It’s not required, but it’s strongly encouraging them to list out their 101 life goals. We track it and we post it so everybody in the organization can see what everybody’s doing. We try and allow people to group together. The goal is we come and try communities within our community who have common aspirations. As an example, we had several people in our organization who want to build schools somewhere in Africa. We’re in partnership with ME to WE and I had the good fortune of taking eight of our employees over to Kenya to build schools with ME to WE. From across the organization, from our Toronto office, from our Vancouver office, bringing people together. I have to do something outside of the office and connecting to a different level.

SIC 02 | 1-800-GOT-JUNK?
1-800-GOT-JUNK?: Great leaders get their energy from having the people around them be successful, having their names and their work be associated to the achievements inside the organization.

 

Ultimately, the 101 life goals for us is as we grow fast and we have more and more people, how do we keep people connected with a common purpose, a common mission, common values? 101 life goals truly enable us as an organization to let people connect into the organization fairly quickly and connect with other people. I have to say on a selfish note. One of the best interview questions you can do is ask somebody to write down their 101 life goals and say, “I’ll give you five minutes. I’ll be right back.” I’ve never had anybody complete 101 life goals in five minutes, but it’s interesting putting under that pressure what comes out and what you see in people.

You can help them make them come true later on.

It’s part of our GSNR process, where you sit down with a direct report and you’re having a meeting. Many of our managers will spend time looking at 101 life goals of their direct reports and ask them how things are progressing. It’s about attainment and about their personal life as well. It’s their personal goals, not just their work goals.

The key is the company’s not paying for them to make those happen. You’re helping to coach, motivate them and make them happen.

We had a variety of people who wanted to learn to drive a standard. I took people out to lunch and say, “Let me teach you how to drive a standard.”

One of my favorite times with Brian was when we would meet. We will go and sit up at the Arbutus Club and do our work together and it wasn’t talking about stuff. It was sitting in the lounge, feet up on the couches, cranking through work and being able to vibe off each other once in a while or know that we were both focused and doing stuff. We kept our email turned off. That getting-in-sync time is powerful. What’s your superpower as the COO, if you had to brag for a second?

I have to say my superpower might be humility. To some extent, where I get great pride and where I get my energy from are having the people around me be successful. I want them, their names and their work to be associated with the achievements inside the organization. When I see the organization being successful and I see people’s names associated other than mine is powerful to me. That’s why I get my energy on that side of coaching and developing people that they can be their best self and achieve their goals and that sounds more of a coaching role than anything else. I don’t know if that’s my superpower, but it’s something I enjoy and I’m good at. I’ve got a clear view of where we’re going. What you say no to is the ability to have clarity of where we’re going and be able to weigh those things that are not going to or will help us accomplish our goals. Hold people tight to those things that will and push and challenge them on those things you’re saying no to.

You talked a little bit about the urgency and impact filter as well of Stephen Covey’s. I remember one of the first days I spend at 1-800-GOT-JUNK? was back in October of 2000. Brian and I went off to his dad’s cabin over on Bowen Island and we had stacks of Post-it notes. We came up with every single potential project we could do to drive the company forward. We thought about every business. We thought about finance, IT, operations, sales. Brian can validate this, it was 178 projects, one project per Post-it notes up on all the windows. We were like, “What do we do? This is impossible. They’re going to kill us.” We categorized every single project as low impact or high impact, then low urgency or high urgency. We tried to get rid of all of the big, complex, hairy projects as well and ended up with this list of low-hanging fruit. Do you use any system to vote on projects or let the highest impact ones that are easy? How do you select what to work on in different businesses?

We start with our painted picture. Where do we want to find ourselves in a few years? What does that look like a few years down the road when we’re standing in that time, at that moment, in that experience? We then build out a four-year strategic plan. From that, we build out a one-year strategic plan and say, “How do these things roll up?” On a monthly basis, we have our executive steering group. This is where we bring the new ideas coming into the organization at any level, then we make the determination if these match up with our one-year strategic objective or are they a longer-term one, which matches up with the four-year ones and it’s going to take us longer to achieve, then we make those decisions based on that. That’s analytical, scientific and data-oriented. This is where Brian’s magic comes in. His ability to imagine that which does not yet exist, which data cannot measure, we make sure we save time for those types of creative projects as long as we can envision and see how it’s going to help us achieve our painted picture.

I look at every sentence of the painted picture or the vivid vision. I look at each sentence as a future state and then I try to come up with one or two projects that would make each sentence come true. Over time, you start stacking up all of these projects that are going to make every sentence come true of these four-page documents. You end up with this long laundry list. The key is to look at which project to put in place first because it’s foundational, almost like building a home. You put up the foundation and then you put up the walls, the electrical and the plumbing. We often get distracted with that big shiny object.

We always want to put in the cabinets and the wolf stove. Brian was famous in the early days for the big shiny object. The best example I can give was he wanted to do this Hunks of Junk Calendar. It was a calendar that would have these guys shirtless, standing in front of trucks and we’d raise money for charity. He had this amazing vision and we’re looking at him going, “Are you out of your tree?” This is a big project. How do you give him the runway to come up with crazy ideas because a lot of them are fantastic? How do you control some of those crazy ideas because a lot of our audience are trying to control or work with the entrepreneurial quick starts? How do you work within that?

There’s no controlling Brian. Let’s start with that, and you don’t want to. I believe that anybody who’s coming in and working with a founder of an organization, the best thing you can do as a COO is empower them to do what they’re good at. Come up with those big bold ideas which people in the data departments and the BI departments hate because they can’t measure them. The opportunity that the visionaries and the founders like Brian bring to an organization are those big crazy ideas. Maybe one out of 100, maybe two out of 50, whatever the ratio is are going to work. Having the space to come up and contemplate what those ideas are is important. Brian does take the time out of the office, goes to the Arbutus Club, goes up to West Center, spends time thinking about what can we do differently. It’s that time outside of the office contemplating those crazy ideas that inspire us to try and do new innovative things.

He’s not constrained by what people perceive as possible. Everything is impossible until somebody does it. There are all those naysayers who are saying impossibility, they hold themselves back. The last thing you want to do is hold back from that. The opportunity is to be closely aligned so you can dig into it and understand how that’s going to impact the goal ultimately at the end of the day. This is where saying no matters. Brian’s supportive of that process, but it’s because we spend the time to go through all of the ideas. The transformative ideas that we get for our organization comes from Brian. The refinement and what my role is and anybody who works with the founder is to let the founder be creative. Take the vision of where it can go. Our job is to figure out can we make it scalable and can we replicate it?

We have a group called the COO Alliance, the only network of its kind for the second in command. We have COOs come in down to Scottsdale. What advice would you give members of the COO Alliance coming in for their events in terms of how to learn and what to learn with the other members? Even though you’ve never been to it, what advice would you give them going into that event?

It’s a great opportunity for networking and it builds your network of support in your group. I’m fortunate to be in YPO. I’m graduating because I’m too old to be in YPO. The forum group I work with is powerful and it influenced me and made me a better person. Create your own forums in your COO Alliance and work with that group and hold each other accountable. Oftentimes, there isn’t anybody out there who’s holding us accountable even inside our organization. What I love about my forum is they hold me accountable to what I say I’m going to do month to month, both personally and professionally. That’d be a cool way to connect with other people in similar roles, but also sharing best practices around if they are working with a founder, visionary type, how that works and how that two in a box can work.

SIC 02 | 1-800-GOT-JUNK?
1-800-GOT-JUNK?: Let the founder be creative. Take the vision where it can go. Our job as COOs is to figure out whether we can make that vision scalable and replicable.

 

This is a concept that Brian has, which is two in a box leadership. What it refers to is at the top of the org chart, you’ve got a box. Instead of having two boxes, a COO and the CEO, you have in one box an angled line across the middle thing. We are operating together, not in a co-CEO role, but as two in a box decision making and defining a role. I say if that’s the relationship you have with the CEO and founder that works well. If that’s not what you have, that’s not a great recommendation. Figure out what relationship you have between COO and CEO. Find those people who are similar and work with them to refine your skills. There’s a great book called Rocket Fuel, which talks about what it means to have this concept of two in a box. They call it something else, but it is similar. In there, there are some specific agenda items on how you stay aligned and how you divide responsibilities.

Gino Wickman created Traction. That’s a great book to recommend. Do you take the two in a box concept down to working a VP that reports to you?

I don’t. That’s in this book. Certainly, reading Gino’s book as well. That’s designed for the CEO, COO relationship. As we build out each of the brands, each of the brands has their own managing director, 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, WOW 1 DAY, You Move Me, Shack Shine. I’m starting to work more closely with them in those two in the box mentality because they are running their own organization.

What’s your typical day like? You’ve got a bit of a strange one because you live part-time in Toronto and out in Vancouver at the head office. Tell us how your typical month and typical day work.

I don’t have a typical one, which is great because I like change. I’ll either fly in anywhere from Sunday night if I have early morning meetings to be in for Monday morning or I’ll fly on Monday night and be there for Tuesday morning. We have an office here in Toronto with about 120 people. I need time in those offices. I try and set up, so I at least have Fridays in the office in Toronto and more typically Monday through Thursday in Vancouver or out meeting with franchise partners. We have a fantastic marketing consultant in Austin, Texas. I try to get down seeing him on a regular basis. With the time that I have in the air, I have roughly nine hours of focused time to myself on the plane where I get to do the reading I need to do. I get to do the research. I don’t go on Wi-Fi. I avoid email. This time is valuable to me to prepare myself for the whole week or finish the week. Those weeks where I stay in Vancouver and I missed those nine hours of focused time, it’s a terrible thing. If I miss a week of commuting back and forth, it’s tough.

You do use that time effectively.

It’s highly scheduled, regimented time that I use. For two hours, I’m going to read these articles or I’m going to make sure I read this in preparation for our executive steering group. I use that time specifically and it’s scheduled out.

Your marketing consultant down in Austin is Roy Williams, the Wizard of Ads. That guy is unbelievable what he’s done in his business. Does he do more than radio or is he still on the radio?

Radio and TV. His creative ability is second to none. He does have a philosophy which makes him effective, which is he will only work with the decision-maker in the organization. Brian, myself or David St. James our Managing Director at 1-800-GOT-JUNK? has to be present at the meeting. For anybody else that’s there, one of us has to be there to make the decision ultimately. It’s a rate-limiting step for which companies you can work with, but he is specialized in working with those companies where you can move quickly. He also challenges us the in operation. Operational constraints are of no issue to him. He says, “Open to midnight.” He doesn’t want to hear anybody say, “Tell us all the reasons why being open to midnight’s a problem.” He does focus on what the customer wants and that does challenge us operationally and especially as a franchise system. It’s hard to do, but anything worth doing is usually hard to do.

What do you struggle with as a COO? What do you wake up with day-to-day or what are you working on yourself?

It varies depending on what happens to be on top of the docket at any one time. We’ve spent 2017 transforming from proprietary software to a heart-lung transplant to Salesforce. We had a few sleepless nights with Matt. It’s trying to balance the change inside an organization because we move as quickly as we do and because we are an organization who believes in always being exceptional, changes the constant. It’s the only constant for us. What keeps me turning my mind on a regular basis is the impact of change on people, whether that’s our customer, franchise partners or employees and how we need to do a better job. The one thing I did learn at EF Education from the founder was those who don’t change in time would be changed by time. Human beings are not generally calibrated to constant and ongoing change. How do we affect change in a positive way where people feel valued, part of the experience, that they can see what this means for them, for a customer, for the organization? There’s so much change. I would say that would probably be top of mind for me and in any conversation or any day.

I get asked this question constantly. I was at a Verne Harnish event and I was speaking. I came off the stage and this guy came up to me and he said, “You’re Cameron.” I was like, “What do you mean?” He goes, “I thought it was a saying.” I’m like, “What do you mean you thought it was a saying?” He goes, “People have been saying, ‘I need a Cameron.’” They’re putting in place a BHAG. He said, “I thought it was a saying.” I’m like, “No, I guess it was me.” He goes, “I realized they were saying that Brian always had a Cameron and they needed one too.” That second in command is often powerful. I’ve been telling people, “If you don’t have an assistant, you are one.” Before you hire a COO or hire an assistant, what did Brian see in you?

I remember talking to him about making the decision to fire a COO and then before that I left the company and he had a transition. He’d been running the ropes through the recession and the downturn in the economy. He was nervous about hiring someone. You weren’t coming full time to Vancouver. You were going to do a part-time out of Toronto, so he took a big leap. What did he see in you? What do you think were either your behavioral traits, your skills? What did he see in you to make the decision to want to bring you on board because it clearly has worked out?

There was this strong alignment between us in our conversations and common values certainly. Aspirations, a view of why growth is important and likely had something to do with the people who I’d worked with in the past, other founders of companies. That’s been my bailiwick where I focus my time and working together. He likely recognizes that. I’m sure he took a chance on it. He knew I had to make a choice. Maybe I was the least of all evils, I don’t know. There was a real connection at those early days about the common goal where we were going. I would say the majority of the system, if not the employees, would have given me a few months to survive. I’ve asked that question, “What’s the pool? How long do you think I’m going to last?”

SIC 02 | 1-800-GOT-JUNK?
Rocket Fuel: The One Essential Combination That Will Get You More of What You Want from Your Business

Has it been five years?

Six years.

I was only there for six years and six months. At some point, you will be the longest-serving COO at 1-800-GOT-JUNK?.

I should probably be more specific in my math because I started on November 1st, 2011.

You’re at six years and three months. You’ve got three more months left. Colonel Flag was your pledge name at Acacia when we were starting that off together. I’m interviewing a lot of COOs. I interviewed Harley from Shopify and I’ve got a huge list of great COOs I’m interviewing, but this is one I’ve wanted to do because I put my heart and soul into that company for a few years. I’m thrilled to see what you’ve done with it because you’ve truly taken it to the level that we dreamed it would go to. If you could give us one big thing you’ve done that others could do to grow their companies, what would it be?

The organization is where we are because you’ve done an unbelievable job working with Brian and creating something that was scalable. There’s so much of what you created that’s still inside the organization. What you created is still there and we’re building on it. I’m appreciative for all the fine work that went on long before me. What I’ve done is I’ve built a strong team. I brought people from the outside that believe in people, believe in empowering people, believe in developing people. Provide a vision, not just for the company, but provide a vision for what growth of the individual means.

Erik Church, President and COO for 1-800-GOT-JUNK? and all of the O2E, Ordinary 2 Exceptional brands. Thank you. I appreciate your time.

Cameron, thank you so much.

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About Erik Church

SIC 02 | 1-800-GOT-JUNK?Erik Church joined 1-800-GOT-JUNK? in November, 2011. As COO, Erik’s responsibility is to translate the 1-800-GOT-JUNK? vision into strategic and operational plans that are realistic and capable of delivering positive growth results for the company.

Prior to arriving at the Junktion, Erik led EF Education Canada, the largest privately-held education company in the world, where he was able to more than double the company’s profits during tough economic times. Erik became President of EF Education Canada in 2007 after working with the company for eight years in a variety of roles. He was President of EF Explore America, President of EF College Break, and Executive Vice President of Global Marketing.

Erik is a hands-on leader who believes the best way to learn anything is by living it, so he travelled extensively to interact with customers and suppliers to make sure EF was providing the best possible experience. The summer prior to joining 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, Erik travelled to Kenya, Ecuador, Holland, France, England, Switzerland and China.

Before joining EF Education Canada, Erik was Senior Vice President at EONS, Senior Vice President for Student Online Solutions, Vice President for Plum Traders, a College Pro franchise owner, and a leadership consultant for Acacia Educational Foundation. In 1991, he moved to the US and worked in Chicago, Boston and New York.

Erik lives with his wife, Paige, and their daughter, Elizabeth. He is a seasoned outdoorsman who loves canoeing and fly-fishing. He is also a motorcycle enthusiast who has ridden across Africa, from Mexico to the Arctic Circle and across the Gobi Desert in Mongolia.

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