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Brian Scudamore’s Notes From a Startup Launch Pad

As a serial entrepreneur, people come to me with business ideas all the time. Sometimes they’re awesome. Other times, they’re – well, not. Usually I’m too busy to even think about taking on a new project. So with three companies to run, I initially refused the pitch for Shack Shine when it came to me last year.

I could see that beyond the catchy name, it was a brilliant idea: creating a house-detailing service (windows, gutters, and power washing) built on providing an exceptional customer experience. It perfectly complemented the companies that make up the O2E Brands family. And I knew the industry didn’t have a recognizable category leader.

Despite the brand fit, I initially went against my gut and said ‘no’. So why am I writing today about the launch of our fourth brand, Shack Shine?

The O2E Brand That Almost Wasn’t

Dave Notte came up with the idea for Shack Shine after building a multi-million dollar commercial painting business. He felt ready to devote his energy to his next successful venture and having run service companies his entire life, wanted to “stick to his knitting”.

“I wanted to find a service no one wanted to do,” he told me. “Maybe even one that people looked down their noses at.”

He’d been mentoring two young entrepreneurs with small window cleaning companies and the elements of a great business were there: the industry was fragmented; the margins were high; the recurring revenue was solid. After some recon at one of North America’s largest window cleaning trade shows – and meeting the unimpressive competition – Dave knew he’d found a diamond in the rough.

He said, “I was sure I was sitting on the next 1-800-GOT-JUNK?”

Right Idea, Wrong Time

Taking an ordinary service like gutter cleaning and making it an experience that would delight the customer resonated with me. I also saw an opportunity to create a whole new category – house-detailing. But I wasn’t sure it was the right time.

A lot of blood, sweat and tears go into building a brand. And you can’t underestimate the power of time and focus. O2E Brands (the banner company for 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, WOW 1 DAY PAINTING, and You Move Me) was only revealed last year. Amalgamating those three companies under one roof was a huge undertaking and our youngest company, You Move Me, was only two years old.

“His apprehension was understandable,” says Dave. “You Move Me was just starting to gain a foothold in the short-haul moving industry, and wasn’t quite established yet.”

Although the timing wasn’t ideal, Dave was super persistent, sending me updates on numbers and marketing around my house, non-stop. At one point, he sent me a picture of a Shack Shine van parked beside a 1-800-GOT-JUNK? truck with the caption, ‘Don’t they look good together?!’”

I could admit that Shack Shine was a strong fit for O2E Brands. But the look – the brand identity – was definitely not.

I’m Just Not That Into You

I learned the hard way that people trust and engage with brands. When I launched WOW 1 DAY PAINTING in 2010, I made a lot of mistakes: the logo was collegiate and – even more tragically – it was bright orange. A client even referred to our uniforms as “penitentiary” orange!

The business model was disruptive – we’d paint your home or business in a day – but we weren’t making a dent in the market because people were not connecting with the brand. Two years in, I had to rebrand the whole system and start from scratch.

Ironically, Shack Shine started with the same color profile as WOW 1 DAY PAINTING – orange and navy blue – and in general, it didn’t stand out. It needed a complete brand overhaul that would give it the same emotional impact and quirky vibe of its sister-companies.

I found myself imagining a new concept for logos and uniforms, all the way down to slogans that would make you smile. When I took it to a designer to flesh out some ideas before I’d inked a deal with Dave, I realized I was invested in making Shack Shine part of O2E Brands. The only problem was that I didn’t know if Dave would be OK with me overhauling his baby. Taking that feedback to him was a pivotal point – would he be open to this kind of criticism and a radical change?

Trust Your Gut

Revealing the ideas for Shack Shine’s new brand identity was a great chance to have a difficult conversation with Dave to see how (and if) we could come together. Luckily, he immediately loved the improvements and his excitement in sharing a vision with me made me realize we’d have a great partnership.

“As an O2E Brand, Shack Shine could become much bigger and better than if I were scaling it on my own,” says Dave. “I wanted to work with their outstanding leadership team and be part of a billion-dollar journey.”

Though I had concerns about what my team and franchise partners might think about launching a new brand so soon, I also had a responsibility to practice what I preach: A founding principle of our corporate culture is that to achieve great success, you have to be willing to fail. Audacious ideas don’t always fly, but when they do – look out!

So I decided to trust my gut and launch a company at the wrong time – for the right reasons. After giving its brand an overhaul, we welcomed Shack Shine into the O2E Brands family and are putting it on track to be our next $100 million dollar business.

Will Shack Shine become a $100 million success story? Keep reading and follow our progress. This is the first in my “Startup Story: Shack Shine – Diary of a Brand Launch”, a monthly column about the awesome (and challenging) parts of launching a new company.

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