In episode three of the Second in Command Podcast Cameron sat down with Erik Church, COO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?. Here are some of the highlights…
Erik joined 1800-GOT-JUNK? in November, 2011. As COO, his responsibility is to translate the 1800-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. He became President of EF Education Canada in 2007 after working with the company for eight years in a variety of roles – and 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 traveled extensively to interact with customers and suppliers to make sure EF was providing the best possible experience.
The COO/CEO Relationship
Brian Scudamore and Erik had connected through mutual acquaintances, and Brian pointed out to Erik that he’d made a career of working with founders, helping founders bring their business to the next level, helping them realize their true intent, and what their mission is.
And so, Erik’s background working with a variety of founders in organizations ranging from startup, up to couple of billion dollars, got him to a place where he could be most successful when partnered with the founder, the CEO, the visionary, so that he could help drive an organization to the next level by working towards the goals that are going have the biggest impact on achieving those goals and those outcomes.
Erik said “I think we complement each other really, really well. We both get involved in parts of this business, we have different perspective. I’m not somebody who truly wants to be in the media.”
Erik is focused inwardly to the organization, and how he gets to work with people. Whether it’s developing, coaching, or leading. However, it’s really important for a business to have an outwardly-facing vision, as well, and a view – which is where Brian comes in. Brian does an unbelievable job, not just being the CEO, but setting the vision for the company, and being able to convey that publicly.
“And I don’t view it as the chief behind the chief, it is truly a partnership that we divide and conquer in our areas of expertise.” – Erik Church
How Painted Picture Helped Erik, as COO
“It’s a fantastic tool for anybody in the organization, not just myself in the role of President and Chief Operating Officer, but for anybody in the organization to be able to see,” Erik told Cameron.
It answers questions like:
- Where are we going?
- What is it going to look and feel like when we’re standing in that moment and that time?
- What happens when we reach that goal?
- What does it look and feel like for the entire organization?
- What does the customer look like?
- What’s the customer experience like?
Everything that you can envision is going to be true on that day, and we can then very clearly build out our multi-year strategies to accomplish those goals. So, if we use that as a parameter of the things to say, “Yes,” to and the things to say, “No,” to. And your strategy is more about what you say, “No,” to and less about what you say, “Yes,” to.
Erik’s Thoughts Leadership In His Early Days
Erik was very young when he began managing a business with complex moving parts (in his early 20’s!). However, in retrospect he did not think he was a strong leader from the start.
Erik says, “I look back at early days of leadership, whether there or at rugby, or my first business opportunities, and I think, “Oh, my God, how is it possible I got anything done? I was such a crappy leader.” So, while I appreciate your accolades, in retrospect I look back, I can’t believe we actually did what we did.”
Erik’s biggest takeaways from his early days in leadership were:
- How to work with peers
- How to get buy-in
- The importance of using your ears more than you mouth
- Finding and using the common sense of purpose and lead people in the right direction
How does Erik approach growing and developing people?
First and foremost, it comes down the the most basic level of succession planning. He wants to inspire the people within the company to take on new roles and grow grow and move up within the organization.
Erik and the CEO believe that the only way to truly grow is from within – and with this, they try to teach the idea that each person needs to try and replace themselves within the organization – because the, “next opportunity will never exist, unless they can develop people below them”.
Erik’s Biggest Challenge as a COO
Erik explains, “for me, 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 just believes in always being exceptional, change is the constant. And it’s the only constant for us”.
Change can bring growth, but it can also impact people dramatically. Whether it affects your employees, customers, or franchise partners. Human beings are not generally calibrated to be in constant and ongoing change. With this in mind, Erik is constantly looking for ways to make change in a positive way.
One quotation that Erik tries to keep in mind, comes from the founder of EF Education: “ those who don’t change in time will be changed by time”.
Erik’s Advice to Other COOs
For Erik, the most important part of any organization is the people. Without a strong team, there is really no room to inspire or scale a business. Erik explains that what he has done is, “brought people from the outside who believe in people, believe in the power of people, believe in developing people, and providing a vision, not just for the company, but providing a vision for what the growth of the individual means”.
A business is no better than its people – which is why it is so important to get your team on the same page, and grow you people and company from within.
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