The traits that triumph

Written by Brian Scudamore

Why do some companies fail while others succeed? I’ve been trying to solve this riddle ever since launching my own business, 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, more than 16 years ago. Finally, I think I have my answer.

In my search for knowledge and professional guidance, I have worked with and studied hundreds of successful entrepreneurs and top-level executives. The more time I’ve spent getting to know these people, the clearer it’s become that they share three common characteristics that ultimately defines their success: focus, faith and effort. My role as the leader of my company is to ensure that everyone — franchise partners and employees — understands what it takes to be successful. So it starts with defining a clear vision of success and then practising a strong balance of “FFE” to achieve it.


Think of a laser beam — a beam of light so focused it can cut through steel. Focus in business has similar powers: it can bring you ever closer to perfecting your business and the product or service you provide.

Define what you are focusing on. Few entrepreneurs find success by attending to a multitude of ideas or products. Without focus, there’s no way I would have scaled my business to this level (we have more than 1,000 employees system-wide). Take one look at our business model and you’ll see it’s simple: junk removal. That’s it. Providing additional services is tempting — when we empty out a garage full of junk, why not also repaint it? Couldn’t our trucks also help customers on moving day? They’re possible revenue streams, but they would detract from our core focus.

Grow where you are planted. We all have limited time and bandwidth, and dividing your energy among different businesses and projects greatly reduces the momentum that you are capable of.

Apply focus to your customers. I teach our franchise partners to focus on one market at a time. Will it be homeowners, property managers, realtors or contractors? Pick one audience and own it. I have seen many businesses fail by trying to reach too many markets too quickly. Some of our most successful franchise partners take focus even further, following the classic 80/20 rule: why go after all realtors if the top-performing 20% will give you 80% of your business? Focus powers momentum.


Faith is the unwavering belief in your business and your decisions. Faith is the underlying confidence that will motivate your team and attract people to doing business with you. Without faith, you’re finished before you start.

First and foremost, you must believe in yourself. To lead a team and drive business, you must know without any doubt that what you are creating will be better than anything else. You then need to have faith in your vision or destination, and the level of success you will achieve. Even the strongest team will falter if its direction isn’t clear, and every exceptionally successful leader I have ever met or studied, from entrepreneurs to athletes and politicians, has had a crystal clear vision. Without something to believe in, it becomes much harder to execute with focus and effort.

As a leader, you also need faith in your team. I’ve met a few entrepreneurs who do nothing but complain about their teams. When you lose faith in your team, they lose faith in you.

Faith doesn’t stop with yourself and your team. You need to believe in your family, your mentors, your suppliers — virtually everyone around you. If you start to lose faith in yourself or your business model, the people around you will help keep you going.


This one’s easy. Good, old-fashioned hard work. It doesn’t matter how focused you are and how much faith you have in yourself, your vision and your team, you will not be successful without putting in the effort — and we’re talking about consistent effort over time.

When I first started my business, sweat equity was all I really had to invest. I was taking phone calls from customers during my university classes and working seven days a week. No matter how long the day looked or how booked the schedule was, there was always room for one more job.

Unfortunately, we’ve been raised in a society that expects instant results. We believe we can buy shortcuts, but it just doesn’t work — ask anyone who’s been on a miracle diet or the dot-com entrepreneurs who tried to buy their way to overnight success. Don’t fall into the same trap.

My company ensures it finds team members who consistently give their all by hiring motivated people. These are people who show up on time, prepared and excited to be a part of what we are building. I don’t believe leaders can motivate. They can inspire and empower, but motivation comes from within. I’ll say it again: hire motivated people.

Success means different things to each and every one of us. But the next time you meet someone you believe is exceptionally successful, take a closer look at their approach. I’ll bet they are making use of focus, faith and effort. It works.

© 2005 Brian Scudamore

Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com