As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need to Know to Create a Successful Service Business,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Mike Davis, CEO and President of 1–800-JUNKPRO.
1–800-JUNKPRO, a leading junk removal and dumpster rental company headquartered in Wichita, Kansas, was first founded as Better Hauling Company in 1999 by husband-and-wife team Mike and Misty Davis as a way to earn some extra money. By 2007, the business was doing so well that Mike quit his corporate job and devoted himself full time to the business. In 2010, the Davises rebranded the company as 1–800-JUNKPRO and sold the first franchise in 2016 in Kansas City. Today, 1–800-JUNKPRO is a family affair, with Mike as CEO, Misty as CFO (Chief Fun Officer) and their daughter Brittany serving as Chief Experience Officer. The brand stands out in the industry by offering a simple, customer-centric business model that offers both junk removal and dumpster rental. Today, 1–800-JUNKPRO has six open locations and is on track to double in size in 2020 by targeting expansion in major metropolitan areas throughout the United States, particularly the Texas markets of Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. To learn more about franchising with 1–800-JUNKPRO, visit https://1-800-junkpro.com/franchise/.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
My wife and I started hauling junk when we were 19 to earn some extra cash. We had two kids and were basically qualified for minimum wage jobs, which weren’t paying the bills. We lived in Kansas, and my dad had a small hauling business in Colorado, which gave me the idea to use our truck to haul junk, too, so we threw some sideboards on our pickup truck and never looked back. I kept my corporate job and would work there from 4:00 a.m. to noon, and then haul from noon until 8:00 p.m. A few years later, we realized we were actually on to something — almost by accident — and named the business 1–800-JUNKPRO. In 2012, we decided to franchise, and after putting together our franchise program, started franchising in 2016. We now have seven locations in seven states.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led you to think of the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
We didn’t really have the typical “Aha Moment.” We were kids who started hauling junk to make extra cash to pay the rent, and it evolved from there.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take a ways’ you learned from that?
One of my biggest mistakes was not accepting that 90% is still an A. I was involved with every project. And I worked every project to what I thought was 100% perfection. Now I understand that we can get way more done and have better results if I get out of the way and let the team do what I used to call 90%-work. The funny thing is that the math is simple. Even if it truly would have been 90%-work, two team members doing 90%-work are doing 180% of what one perfectionist can do. But the true reality is that they all do everything in their space better than what I can. When our team grew to 10 people, we joked about being at 900% perfection.
Thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
After we had been running the business for several years, we sat down to determine our growth strategy. There are essentially two ways to grow a service company — by opening more corporate locations or through franchising — and there are benefits to both. We wanted to help as many people nationwide as we do locally, and we knew that franchise owners are usually more engaged than a manager hired to run a location across the country.
Our vision is to be the first company that comes to mind when junk removal or dumpster rental is mentioned anywhere in the U.S., and it’s important to us to continuously earn the right to be trusted by our customers.
What do you do to articulate or demonstrate your company’s values to your employees and to your customers?
We have 12 core values at 1–800-JUNKPRO:
- BE POSITIVE & ACCOUNTABLE
3. CUSTOMER OBSESSION
5. COMMUNICATE WITH INTEGRITY
7. COMPETITIVE URGENCY
8. LEARN, INNOVATE & SIMPLIFY
10. ACCOMPLISH MORE WITH LESS
11. SHARE THE FRUIT
12. BE HUMBLE
To get the culture right, we make sure everyone in our system understands our core values. We don’t make people memorize them, but we definitely highlight them.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
We have 12 core values — we want everyone to have a favorite core value, but embody all of them. The ones that are most important to me are FUN, TEAM and SHARE THE FRUIT. Everyone at 1–800-JUNKPRO knows they’re part of our team, we want to have fun while we’re working and we want to make sure everyone is rewarded for their hard work.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
There were a lot of tough times along the way. Anytime you want to grow bigger, faster, and stronger, you’re going to have to embrace some pain to get there. It’s no different than an athlete wanting those things. We knew early on that we would have to embrace the pain of the hard times each time they came. We also understand that no matter how big we get, there will be new ones — and will get through those too. I’m sure Apple had a few hiccups, too, and I think they’re doing OK.
So, how are things going today? How did your values lead to your eventual success?
We’ve had great success over the past few years. We now have seven locations in seven states and are actively growing through franchising.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a founder or CEO should know in order to create a very successful service-based business? Please share a story or an example for each.
- If you’re thinking about starting a business simply for the money — don’t.
- Be slow to hire and quick to fire — and treat the team members you keep like the gold they are.
- Listen to your customers and always, with every decision, imagine yourself on the customer’s side of the table.
- Trucks don’t make money sitting in the yard.
- Know your numbers! — ALL of them.
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?
My wife has been a major source of support for me. She’s put so much trust in me and in the business, and she also stepped in when it was time for me to quit my corporate job. She came to me and said that 1–800-JUNKPRO is growing, and working two jobs has made it difficult for me to spend time with my family. She gave me the confidence to get out of my comfort zone, give up my insurance and consistent income and focus on growing the business and spending time with my family. She has been not just a partner, but a pusher and a cheerleader.
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. :-)
I think it would be really fun to work with young people, while they are still in high school, to help them understand entrepreneurship, trades, and real-world finance. I’d need a little time and to probably get some smart people involved to see how we could turn that into a movement.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Check us out on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/1800JUNKPRO/