by Sebastian Filisola
What does success mean to you?
To me, success is all about working with awesome people to build something bigger and better, together. That’s why I chose the franchising model to build 1-800-GOT-JUNK? — I wanted to work with passionate people who believed in a long-term vision that aligned with mine.
Talk to me about when you were seven or eight. Who did you want to be?
I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I grew up watching my grandparents run their own business in San Francisco and it really planted the seed for me to think about owning my own business one day. I was always a bit entrepreneurial — selling hockey cards for profit, starting my own car wash, selling candy to fellow students out of my dorm room. I think it was inevitable that I’d end up running my own business.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
I can honestly say that I love going to work. We’ve focused on hiring the right people and creating a culture of caring. There’s a buzz when you walk into the office — people are so passionate about being there.
What inspired you to start/join your company?
I was at a drive-thru McDonald’s in 1989, and I was worried about how to pay for college. I had this “ah-ha!” moment when I saw a truck that said “Mark’s Hauling” in the line. I thought to myself, “I can do that.” So I invested $700 in a beat-up pick-up truck of my own and started hauling junk. It paid for college and the business started to do really well — in fact, my phone started ringing in class. I realized I could build 1-800-GOTJUNK? If I went all in. So I did, and dropped out of college to focus on hauling junk full time.
When did you consider yourself a success?
There have been moments where I’ve felt success, but I think real success is about continuing to work towards something. Some of the moments where I knew we were on the right track were when we landed on Oprah, expanded to Australia, and most recently, had our book featured on the Nasdaq billboard in New York Times Square. But it’s always about moving towards the longterm vision of building exceptional brands, and the work is never done!
How do you push through your worst times?
There have been a few failures along the way, including near bankruptcy and some bad hires. But I’ve learned to embrace failure as a way to learn and grow — I even wrote about it in my book, “WTF?! (Willing to Fail): How Failure Can Be Your Key to Success”. Being WTF?! (Willing to F ail) is about understanding that setbacks will eventually lead you to the right place if you have a positive mindset.
What advice would you give to a new entrepreneur?
My advice is to trust your gut, and don’t be afraid to take risks — it’s how you’ll grow your business and develop as a business owner. Failure is part of the journey, but it’s about how you react to failure that will define success in the end.
Make an effort to keep learning and find mentors who can share their expertise with you.
What is your favorite quote?
One of my favorite quotes is by Walt Disney, who said, “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”