This is a guest blog post by Melanie Bergeron, Chair, TWO MEN AND A TRUCK®.
I joined the family business in 1989 when I was awarded the first TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® franchise in Atlanta, GA while simultaneously maintaining a pharmaceutical sales career. Eventually, the bug bit me and I left my sales job to focus full-time on operating the franchise.
In the 1990s, my mother, TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® founder Mary Ellen Sheets, asked me to come to work at the home office in Lansing, Michigan. I sold my franchise, relocated north, and in 1994, was named president of the company. I became chief operating officer in 2002, and in January 2007, I was appointed CEO. I have been chair of the board since 2009.
Over the span of my career in a people-pleasing business, I have been fortunate to serve as a mentor and help others learn what franchisors can do to be successful. The question I get asked most frequently relates to servicing customers, and how a franchise can earn customer trust for the long haul. Following are the main principles I feel are vital to success:
1. Exceed expectations. Nothing destroys customer satisfaction faster than failing to meet expectations. Set the bar higher than it needs to be and more often than not, you’ll exceed expectations.
As part of the TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® mission, we strive to continuously exceed our customers’ expectations in value and high standard of satisfaction. Moving is a stressful time in someone’s life, so whether it’s a result of a new marriage, a new job, a divorce, or a death, we go out of our way to make what could be an anxious and nerve racking day a more relaxed experience. Customer care runs deep in our organization.
2. Brand is everything. Our trucks are our traveling billboards. We want people to see our trucks and feel good about their experience with us.
In the early 2000s, I read the book Good to Great which had a profound impact on me. The author outlines the importance of building a brand by setting Core Values (and not just the same ones in the book) by which a company is willing to live and die by.
TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® went through this process of identifying our six corporate Core Values which are: Integrity, Giving Back to the Community, the GRANDMA RULE® (treat everyone as though they are your grandma, with patience, dignity, and respect), Care, Inclusion, and “Be Your Best and Have Fun” attitude. By living out these Core Values daily, our company is guided by the same set of beliefs and this has become part of our culture.
3. Hire the right people. It’s important to do background checks on all of our employees, but even more vital is the approach that we hire for attitude and train for skill. We treat our employees with respect and in turn, our employees treat our customers with respect. It’s all about the customer and when you put the customer first, it takes our ego as a company and as employees out of the picture.
The most important thing to our customers is that the movers show up. Not only do our movers show up, but they hustle once they get there. Our
movers run back to the house or apartment in between each truck load because our customers pay by the hour and our movers don’t want to waste their money.
Another example comes from years ago when my mom and I were in NJ or NY visiting a franchise. I asked a mover what he liked most about his job and he shared a story of heroism. It turns out that a woman that he had moved before was so cheerful that she lifted his spirits up and those of his entire team. So he was troubled to learn that she was a different person when he was assigned again to help her move out only a month later. He found the same woman on the floor crying unable to stand. He walked over to her and asked what was wrong and she said that the man she was planning to marry had left her and she wanted to give up. The mover said to her that “life is hard and every day you have to get up and you can’t give up.” He took the time to talk with her and finally her spirits began to lift and she got up ready to face her situation.
Our people are more than movers. They read the customer and make emotional connections with individuals whom they might not otherwise have encountered in life. It takes heart to fit in our system.
4. Say no to a prospect who doesn’t match your culture. In terms of franchise development, we lay the groundwork before taking on a new franchisee. In fact, we go as far as to try to talk them out of it at times because hiring one bad egg creates headaches for everyone. Franchising is not a get-rich-quick scheme. It takes hard work, a caring heart, and strong people. We want to ensure that positive tone is set from the top down because every move we make impacts the customer.
While some franchisees look great on paper, they will not fit in the long run and you need to be able to walk away from money and growth to
protect the brand you’ve built.
5. Measure everything. We measure every possible metric within our system, from obvious ones such as payroll and customer satisfaction to issues like tire wear.
It’s easy to identify who is struggling and who is at the top of their game by simply looking at revenue, but it’s important to dig deeper than that and to share your findings with franchisees so that the bottom performers can learn from the top. Why is my payroll twice what yours is? Why did you allocate X dollars to Y during this month? Those are the kinds of things we’re measuring and sharing with everyone through the system. It speeds the learning curve for the whole team, and everyone wins in the end.
6. Invest in your community. Give back in an honest, meaningful way and show your community that you care. One of the greatest ways to do this is by joining your local chamber or becoming a community board or committee member. People do business with people they like and trust. It’s not about the money, but the community you serve.
A lot of this was learned the hard way because this is a family business and we started not knowing anything about the franchising or moving world. We didn’t have money, knowledge, or wisdom then, but I hope you can learn from our experience.
Don’t get caught up in looking at revenue, put your customer first, take your own ego out of the equation, work hard, and the rest takes care of itself.
It’s your move.
TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® is the largest franchised moving company in North America. It includes 224 locations and more than 1,400 trucks on the road. Each location is independently owned and operated, and sells boxes and packing supplies. For more information, visit www.twomenandatruck.com.