Brian Scudamore, an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member in Vancouver, Canada, is founder and CEO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK? and O2E Brands. As a serial entrepreneur who helps others achieve business ownership through the power of franchising, Brian knows the value in taking risks to achieve audacious goals, a topic he explores in his recent book, WTF?! (Willing to Fail). We asked Brian about the importance of risking failure. Here's what he shared:

Most of us don't like to fail. Why must entrepreneurs be willing to do so?

Of course no one likes to fail! But fear of failure keeps a lot of people from even trying in the first place. And what's worse? Trying and maybe failing, or never getting started?

If we embraced failure as a normal part of life, instead of something to be ashamed of, we could all live more courageously, reach out of our comfort zones, and ultimately realize our goals. I've seen firsthand the amazing things that can happen when people are given space to fail. For example, our company would never have:

  • Expanded to the United States, then Australia
  • Had multiple franchise partners making millions a year, including at least one who's hit the $10 million a year mark
  • Been featured on Oprah, Dr. Phil, Nightline, Squawk Box and Hoarders
  • Gotten past the Secret Service to give Bill Clinton a branded hat
  • Landed on the NASDAQ billboard in New York's Times Square

How can we combat fear of failure?

One way is to create a Painted Picture―a one-page snapshot of the future you want. Transplant yourself five years into the future. Really―do it. Imagine yourself looking around at your life and business. See yourself in that place, where the future already has happened. Write everything down, and don't worry about the how. Committing to your intentions will enable you and your team to prioritize decision making; you'll be surprised how the choices you make after you have a Painted Picture actually guide you toward your goals. But you've got to be willing to try―and be willing to fail.

What did you learn from your biggest failure?

Blinded by a candidate's high-end pedigree, I hired a COO who turned out to be a terrible fit.

Within months, revenue was down--by $40 million. I came back from vacation to find a near-mutiny: Employees were either siding with me or the COO. I ended up letting that person go. Looking back, I'm grateful for the mistake, because it led me to hire our current COO, who is perfect for the role.

But experiencing that failure caused some serious moments of self-reflection: I hadn't provided the right leadership to make the person I hired successful. Was I the right person to build the business? Could I come back from massive revenue losses and regain the trust of our franchise system?

I learned never to compromise on the kind of people we hire: happy, hardworking, hands-on and hungry. We know now that it's better to hire for cultural fit and train on skill. Those are lessons I'd never give up because it's made us better than ever now. But some of those days were dark!

What, in your experience, is the biggest challenge facing leaders today?

Many leaders have a tough time letting go of control. It's understandable if you've grown a business from the ground up―it's your baby. In the early days of my company, I'd do everything from finance, hiring and marketing―basically, pulling long hours and getting involved in areas that I should have left to the experts I'd hired. It stunted the growth of the business, not to mention my growth as a leader.

So, I wrote down all the things I loved and was good at, and all the things I was bad at and disliked (like hiring, firing, operations and finances). Playing to my strengths led me to hire our COO, Erik Church, the integrator who turns my crazy dreams and ideas into reality. By embracing "two in the box leadership," the business has achieved incredible goals, including doubling our revenue between 2012 and 2016.

Bottom line: Leaders must be willing to give up certain things to take their companies to the next level. You can't do everything alone.

How do you ensure that you continue to grow and develop as a leader?

If you're the smartest person in the room, you're in the wrong room. I seek out people who are smarter than I am to help me grow the business. Every year, I travel to see other companies and meet potential mentors. I've been lucky enough to get advice from Fred DeLuca of Subway and Tony Hsieh of Zappos, and I love nothing more than visiting other EO members' companies. It keeps me learning about what others are doing and gives me new perspectives on how to keep improving.

Another thing I believe in is the importance of mentors―not just one person, but a group of people who can provide guidance during challenging times. I never graduated from high school or college, but I've continued to learn through experience and by finding people who know more than me. I have about 70 people on my MBA (Mentor Board of Advisors)―far more valuable to me than a traditional MBA ever could be.

Published on: Dec 14, 2018
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