As part of our interview series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A Founder” I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Andreacchi.
In 2005, Michael co-founded Junk King out of his two-car garage in San Carlos, California. Today, Michael and his team have franchised more than 100 locations across the U.S. and Canada.
Throughout his experience as the CEO of Junk King, Michael has specialized in areas of franchising, operations, advertising and branding. He is an Innovative business leader who has built a strong team of dedicated and innovative individuals who continue to find ways to enhance the junk removal experience.
Michael has a strong focus on high growth business expansion and operational excellence — this means making sure that Junk King remains an environmentally-conscious, customer-focused service for residences and businesses. His willingness to listen to others and share his passion, enthusiasm and common sense has helped lead to the success he and his associates have enjoyed.
For Michael, being a good leader means making decisions on the fly, taking calculated risks, hiring people smarter than him, allowing his team to do their job, setting ego aside, and focusing on growth and efficiency every second of the day.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
It’s a funny story. My girlfriend at the time, and wife now, came to me and told me, “you have an interview tomorrow” and I thought to myself, “I don’t remember filling out any applications.” She had filled out my application and landed me an interview with what’s now a competitor. I ended up getting the job and loved the industry, loved the junk removal service as a whole, albeit I saw some room for improvement in the way handling waste was approached. The opportunity for a management position came up, and when I didn’t end up getting it I was motivated to do this on my own and become a business owner. The idea behind Junk King was simple, offer great customer service and recycle more than the other guys.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
No one writes the manual on how to start your perfect business. How do you open a business? Do you need a real business? What about a business license? And which cities do you get business licenses in? Is it just one? There are so many things that go into it. Once you identify all the different pieces you need to launch a business, you start to realize how expensive it is to run the thing. As an entrepreneur, I didn’t have many resources or capital right out the gate, and the inevitable pitfall a lot of people encounter is to cut corners.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
My dedication. When I commit myself to something I go all in and I want to be the best at it. I have a competitive streak that comes from my football career, which is also what I credit for fostering my internal motivation to be number one at whatever it is I am doing. I just feel like if we’re going to build this company, why not do it to the best of our ability you know?
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Things today are great. Having a growth mindset is something that I credit to helping me get to where I am today. Having a growth mindset involves understanding that taking appropriate risks sometimes leads to failure. The difference, though, is in how a person with a growth mindset defines and rebounds from that failure.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I don’t know if I would call this the funniest mistake I have ever made, but it’s definitely an ironic one. When we first launched Junk King we were small and our ‘call center/customer service line’ was just the few of us answering incoming calls on our cell phones. One day when my partner and I were out in the field he did something to hurt his foot. The injury meant he wasn’t able to be out on jobs anymore. We went over different options on how he could still be active in the company and decided he should become our ‘call center,’ and develop our standard of customer service. Not exactly the typical way a company creates a new department for itself.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Well, what makes Junk King literally stand out is our color, red. We felt like as a brand staple, it would make us stand out more than our competitors, making our trucks more eye-catching out on the road. I truly believe that you could not drive by a Junk King truck and not notice it. Another thing that sets us apart from our competitors is that our trucks are 20% bigger. This one thing differentiating factor grants us many advantages. For one, the customer is getting more value because it takes us fewer trips to haul their junk. Being able to provide superior customer service is something we pride ourselves on and the added value customers realize due to our extra-large fleet of trucks meets that criteria. From a business standpoint, fewer trips saves on overhead and ultimately reduces our carbon footprint. That’s why we are the ‘greenest’ guys in the junk biz.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
You have to work with purpose. Identify your intent from the beginning. When you do, any work situation becomes less stressful because you have that clear direction and know exactly what you’re working for.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
This may sound cliche to some, but my wife Karen is that person for me. Without her along for this journey, I wouldn’t be where I am today; Junk King wouldn’t be where it is today. My wife is my biggest cheerleader, but she also keeps me grounded. She supports me through everything in my professional and personal life. She is amazing. She is like my business partner who will be there through it all.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
We recycle, reuse or donate up to 60% of what we haul at Junk King. As the planet becomes more consumed by people, each of whom desires the latest and greatest things, junk recycling has become tremendously important. The easy solution is to dump it in the trash or call someone to come pick it up and take it away. At Junk King, we take the time to upcycle as much as we possibly can. Recycling primarily benefits the environment, but it also provides revenue for our team, allowing us to grow and further our impact. So the effort also positively impacts both the U.S. and global economies.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
a. You can’t make everyone happy: When leading a company your obligation is to do what’s best for the company and align with your mission and vision. You need to make all of your decisions with that intention. Sometimes you are forced to make choices that benefit the whole but might be something an individual might not like.
b. Criticism is part of the job: This goes hand in hand with my first answer. When you can’t make everyone happy you are always going to be criticized by someone or some group of people.
c. When you don’t have resources, get resourceful: When I first started Junk King we didn’t just have an entire team in place, documents ready to go, anything like that. So, I had to get resourceful and figure out how to start a business and keep it running smoothly and efficiently. Partnering with the right people and vendors goes a long way towards making your business a success.
d. Age is just a number: When I initially wanted that management position at my first waste company, the team told me I was too young and didn’t have enough experience as some of the “older” employees there. I didn’t let that stop me from starting Junk King. If I would have believed them, and thought I had to be of a certain age to manage or start a company, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
e. Finding good people is hard: There are plenty of great people for your team out there–finding them is the hard part. So, when you do find them, let them know how much you appreciate them and make sure your company is a place they want to stay.
Can you share a few ideas or stories from your experience about how to successfully ride the emotional highs & lows of being a founder?
Always be real, be authentic. Tell it like it is. Your team and people around you need to believe in you and believe in your vision. If you start to get a reputation for exaggeration, lies, or nonsense then that necessary fundamental trust is broken.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Recycling/up-cycling, that effort as a whole has a lot of room for improvement in our country. Currently, it’s not financially feasible to recycle most materials. I would love to be behind the change that breaks down that barrier. I would love to see the industry (and every industry!), look at how we can repurpose waste more efficiently. Junk King is trying to lead by example and show our customers and businesses across the board that a path to recycling more and keeping things out of landfills is possible.
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