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People always ask me how I came up with the golden-ticket idea to start a junk removal business. The truth is our founding story is incredibly simple. It goes a little something like this:
A 19-year-old kid needs to pay for college but can’t afford it. Feeling stressed and unsure, he does what any teenager in his position would do: he goes to McDonald’s for a cheeseburger. In the drive thru, magic happens when a beat-up junk truck rolls by. Suddenly our young friend sees a summer job and a way to pay his tuition. The next day, he invests $700 in a truck of his own and starts hauling junk.
That’s it. Nothing fancy or complicated — just a kid who saw an opportunity and was willing to fail.
The point of the story is that if you’re thinking of starting a business, the answer might be right in front of you, too — you just have to know what to look for and be ready to go all in. With that in mind, here are three tips to help you take the next step on your entrepreneurial journey.
1. Do It Better
In 2009, I had no plans to start a second business. The junk game was going strong: we had franchises across North America and Australia, and our growth showed no signs of slowing down. Building another brand wasn’t on my radar until I decided to have my house painted.
I thought it would be easy to find a painting company that offered the trifecta of quality, timeliness and professionalism. Boy, was I wrong. As I started researching, I was shocked by the lack of quality customer service out there. Some companies didn’t even show up for the estimate! Then I received three referrals from friends, but one company in particular stood out: they promised to paint my entire house in one day. Skeptical but intrigued, I hired them.
When painting day arrived, I let the team in and took off for the office. On my drive home that evening, I fully expected to walk into an unfinished mess. But all I could say when I stepped inside was “Wow!” Not only was the job done on time — the quality of the work was exceptional. My entrepreneur spidey senses started tingling.
I bought the business, rebranded, and franchised it using the same systems I did the first time around with 1-800-GOT-JUNK?. My friends thought I was crazy; they argued that painting whole homes in a day would be impossible. But where they and the company’s previous owner saw obstacles, I saw an opportunity to transform an entire industry. That’s how the iPhone took down BlackBerry, how Facebook snuffed out MySpace, and how Netflix shut down movie stores everywhere.
It goes to show there are business opportunities hiding in every moment waiting to be discovered. You just have to be willing to shoot for the moon, even if you might come crashing down.
2. Solve the Pain Points
Sometimes, you have to get out there and actively search for a new business idea. Other times, it jumps up and smacks you in the face. That’s what happened when my family and I decided to move five years ago.
We had hired a moving company to make the process easy, but we got anything but. The movers showed up late, tracked mud through the house, and broke some of our stuff. It was completely unprofessional and made the day really stressful. I wanted to make sure that no one would have to go through that kind of experience ever again. The solution was obvious: build a bigger, better moving company.
One of the easiest ways to find a new business idea is to solve a problem you’ve dealt with yourself. Warby Parker began because its founders were fed up with expensive eyewear. The founders of Away were tired of impractical and outdated designs of standard suitcases. Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp started Uber after they couldn’t get a cab on a frosty Paris night.
If you want to find a winning business idea, solve a common problem. Better yet — solve a problem people don’t even know they have.
3. Lead the Way
Before Amazon, there wasn’t a clear frontrunner in retail. Until ridesharing came along, I’m willing to bet you couldn’t name a leader in the taxi industry. There are tons of huge hotel chains but none with the same mass market monopoly as Airbnb.
All of our brands have this in common, too: they gave a household name to industries that never had one before. Junk removal, painting, moving, house detailing — these are all highly fragmented industries with no one company to rule them all. Then we took a chance and professionalized the heck out of them.
We’re not colonizing Mars or building autonomous vehicles. We’ve simply discovered a formula that works: take an unstandardized service and elevate the customer experience, big time. This has taken us from one kid in a truck to hundreds of franchises in three countries. It’s how we’ll add our next brand, and the next, and the next.
All it takes to really disrupt an industry is a passionate entrepreneur and a space that’s desperate for disruption. The entrepreneurial mind is always turned on, looking for new opportunities around every corner. If you’re struggling to find inspiration, start to look at every experience through a new lens. You might be surprised that even the most ordinary things can become exceptional businesses.
January 30, 2019 at 04:39PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs