How I Started A $1M/Year Moving Company At 19 Years Old
Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Max Maher I am a serial entrepreneur, lifelong learner, and a founder of Skinny Wimp Moving!
Starting out, I formed a small landscaping company at 13, a sports supplement company at 16, then a pool service company, called PoolsMax at 18. The amalgamation of these businesses along with ruthlessly saving enabled me to purchase existing moving trucks and warehouse space of an unprofitable moving company which became the first Skinny Wimp Moving Co franchise when I was 19.
Skinny Wimp Moving provides household and commercial moving services based out of Phoenix, Arizona with an emphasis on customer comfort, simple pricing, and friendly faces.
I am now 23 years old and my locations average $115,000 a month in revenue with record monthly sales of $158,000.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I didn’t exactly come up with the initial idea for this company because this is a franchise which means for me that I license out the name “Skinny Wimp Moving”. However, because it was the first franchise location I was able to be in a prime decision-making seat and guinea pig for all ideas enabling me to test out theories on marketing and customer service which have no become standard across the brand.
Put yourself out there and ask for their business. Sure be conscious that you may get rejected but don’t be afraid to ask more than once. It won’t work every time but it will work 100% more than not trying at all.
We realized people simply don’t want a moving company that sucks. So we asked ourselves what can we do to make the stressful experience of moving suck a little less and the answers we came up with and stuck to were very common sense:
- Friendly, clean cut movers.
- Pricing structure that is a simple all-inclusive hourly rate with no hidden fees
- Protecting every single piece of furniture.
- Showing up on time
- Always answering the phone
Doing these simple things that our competitors were neglecting allowed us to grow 1400% in the first 15 months alone. Nearly everyone you talk to has had some form of poor moving experience to the point where it seems people were less looking for great movers and more trying to avoid nightmare movers creating a huge opportunity for us. Our service has been validated thousands of times over via the number of referrals from people whose friend told them they have to use us and hundreds of industry professionals like realtors and storage facilities who confidently refer us on a regular basis.
My expertise in the area is a bit of a funny story. I had moved from Minnesota to Arizona at 18 to start a pool cleaning business and while I was building this brand up large enough to sustain myself I worked part time at a moving company. After about two months when my business got busy enough I left the moving company.
Then about 3 months later I was contacted by the owner of that moving company who was trying to sell, so I met with him and ended up buying the moving company I used to work for. I sunk every bit of my savings into the venture, basically going broke to make it work.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Initially I used every dollar of my savings from my previous small businesses (around $18,000) to purchase insurance policies, equipment, and the down payments on the trucks.
My first clients were landed though storage facility referrals. I would go into these facilities and pitch how I would love to help anyone moving in or out and will basically do anything to get the job. I think they could tell I actually cared about how it would go and luckily a few gave me a shot. I still do this form of marketing to this day.
Just go. That perfect time you’ve been waiting for to start isn’t going to come. Your product/service will never be perfect before launch. You probably ever have the ideal amount of time, energy, or money it takes to launch perfectly.
I got my first few jobs quite quickly which meant I needed employees fast. What I did was go to the gym I worked out at and walked up to two random guys, started chatting, and basically convinced them to go a move with me the next day. So I invited them over to my house and showed them how to wrap up the furniture in my living room and what my expectations were. I’m honestly surprised it went smoothly looking back.
I remember the very first move I did was for $950 and I was doing the math on if I did that 5 times a week that’s $4,750! Or Woah! What if I could do that 40 times a month! $38,000!
From there, I used every dollar of incoming capital and deposits from upcoming booked moves to fund expenses. I went 28 months before receiving my first paycheck from this business due to re-investing every dollar back into the company. Luckily, I still owned PoolsMax which I used to pay my bills.
We grew fairly rapidly in the first few months as I was trying to do absolutely everything I could on jobs to provide the best possible customer services. Word of mouth referrals started rolling in.
Before starting I was concerned I would have a hard time managing people who were all older than me. I was pleasantly surprised that If I worked hard and treated my workers with respect they had no issues with working for me and many actually wanted to “the young guy” to succeed.
I learned to do everything I can to make the right hire the first time. In the beginning I would try out any guy that seems decent. Now we may hire 1 out of 20 movers that come in to interview and we spend 5x the time training them. The right people make life and business much easier.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Marketing areas that have worked with their respective pros and cons:
- Very targeted: It is possible to target very narrow demographics or even target groups by recent life events
- Majority of people search Google first
- Without a very large budget it is hard to make a big ripple. It seems more and more that the only way to have a huge effect is by having a huge budget.
- Yelp has high consumer trust. Many people take Yelp’s recommendations as if it were a friend telling them.
- If you can rank #1 in a city for a service you yield massive results. There doesn’t seem to be much of a long tail in that the top three or so results get all the business.
- Predatory sales tactics: They are a bit harassing with their phone calls and claim it helps the page
- Real reviews getting taken down. They have a recommendation system in which certain reviews become unviewable this tends to happen to at least 50% of reviews.
- Contracts for ads. They don’t allow month to month deals.
- Easy way to increase traffic if you are a new business
- They will advertise for you: They run Google ads advertising your company.
- They require a very low, somewhat un-sustainable price.
In-Person Marketing (my favorite)
I like to constantly think about what my competition isn’t doing. We live in a time where everyone’s marketing efforts consists of online ads and not very much in person marketing.
It’s a bit awkward at times and it takes a lot of effort but this is by far the best form of marketing I have utilized. I recently documented the process of me making a connections with 500 businesses that could potentially refer my business to their clients and it yielded me a reoccurring $30,000-$40,000 in additional sales per month. The entire process and results can be seen here.
- Extremely effective
- Cheap to do
- A lot of effort
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
At Skinny Wimp we are currently working on quality above all else. I have recently hired a quality control manager at my main Phoenix, Arizona location whose sole job is to ensure our movers are the best possible version of themselves.
We have build a weight rating system of 7 key metrics in which we grade our movers:
- Protection of furniture
- In-home protection
- Safe driving
- And a miscellaneous metric
We are looking to expand to storage services within the year in order to better serve our customers with a one-stop shop. This is very capital intensive, though, so it is going to take a good bit of effort and planning. The ultimate goal is to build the storage business larger than the moving business. The margins in the storage industry are very high compared to the moving industry (around 30% for my moving companies and we are on the high end) compared to up to 60% for storage.
Personally, I have a YouTube channel in which I display my favorite things in life learning/self-improvement. I document a mix of business challenges/struggles (things like this short case study on my experiment working 10 hours a day for 50 days straight) and personal goal setting as well. As the channel grows we are working on doing bigger and bigger projects like my upcoming documentary on my experience training for and running an ultra-marathon which will be released mid April. My goal of this channel is to lead by example to influence people to get out of their comfort zone, try new things, and build the best versions of themselves.. Not because it’s easy but because it’s hard.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
My biggest business mistake to date was expanding to new states hundreds of miles away too soon. We should have waited a little longer, built out systems and built up capital a little longer before taking on such an audacious project.
The farther away new locations are from the primary the harder it is to manage new locations. It ended up alright in the end but at the cost of extreme pressures and stress, it may have been a lesson I needed to learn because I tend to jump into things quickly.
The best decision I made was not paying myself for the first few years. By building up the bank account instead of buying myself fancy things I was able to much more easily get through some of the hard times that inevitably come up.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I am a huge consumer of educational material.
My favorite books of the last year are:
Never Split the Difference which helped me massively in conflict negotiation and interpersonal conflicts
Poor Charlie’s Almanac because it inspired me further to become a lifelong learner and the benefits of such a thing
Idea Man which ada he impact on me. I never realized the masie effect Paul Allen had on the world and it made me realize that is exactly what I ultimately want in life, to positively affect the greatest number of people.
My favorite podcasts are How I Built This and The Sweaty Startup for business stories and lessons and Mindscape for all things science.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Two of the top questions I get asked from young entrepreneurs are “When should I start?” and “How should I market?” They are very good questions and here is how I would address them:
When should I start?
- That perfect time you’ve been waiting for to start isn’t going to come.
- Your product/service will never be perfect before launch.
- You probably ever have the ideal amount of time, energy, or money it takes to launch perfectly.
Things You Should Focus on Instead of When to Start
How can I get my product/service out there as quickly and efficiently as possible?
Think in terms of what your Minimum Viable Product is. This is a concept developed by Eric Ries in his book The Lean Startup and a technique that has ben used to start some of today’s biggest businesses such as Twitter, dropbox, Groupon, and zappos. This concept in its simplest form is figuring out what the bare minimum is to launch your business and provide value, then do it. Launching your MVP prevents you from wasting resources on things that may end up having no value. The last thing you want to do is spend years planning and creating this grand plan only to find after launch that customers only care about one portion of your idea.
It’s easier to learn what the market likes than it is to guess what the market wants.
This doesn’t just apply to tech companies.
Let's say you want to start a landscaping business. Yes it would be wonderful to buy a brand new truck $50,000 and mower $1,500 and tools $1000 and website $1000 and get an office space for $2000 down. But let’s break down what you truly need to start. An old vehicle, push mower, and business cards will do just fine, $4000.
Now some of you might be thinking I don’t even have $4k so I can’t start a business. So let’s go one step further and limit our service line down to things done by hand. Shoveling, raking, and pulling weeds. What does it really take to start that business? Used hand tools for $70 and business cards for $30. You don’t even need a vehicle, you can walk yard to yard if you have to. So we just took our faraway goal of saving $55,500 to start the perfect landscaping business to a $100 business that we can start today and begin making money.
The true beauty of this is now that it costs you less than $100 to start a business you can try it and if it doesn’t work or you don’t like it move on to the next $100 start-up
You may be thinking “How am I ever going to grow or make real money if I’m raking a yard myself for $20 a house when I could never do more than 50 houses?” and that brings us to next point of doing things that don’t scale. This is a famous philosophy by Paul Graham of Y Combinator. It basically means it is okay and actually a good strategy to do things now that won’t work when your business grows to the next stage. That is because without it your business may never even grow to the next stage!
Worry about how you’ll handle 60 accounts when you’re already at 50 accounts and earning the income of 50 accounts, not when you’re at 0
Don’t Assume You Have a Lot of Time
Whatever age you are, seize every day. Every single day that you’re not out progressing yourself or your business is a day lost.
Let’s say on days you work you make $100 and you could have worked today but you took the day off. You need to think in terms that you didn’t just miss out on $100 but you actually lost $100. And we can take that one step further. Let's say every $100 you invest back in your business returns you 10% a year so that’s:
- $110 after year 1.
- $161.05 after year 5.
- $259.37 after year 10.
- $672.72 after year 20.
It gets much crazier after that. The point is today ALWAYS matters and the sooner you start the sooner you can use this compounding to your advantage not your disadvantage.
How Should I Market?
This is obviously something that varies quite a bit from industry to industry but when approaching marketing I like to go back to the thought process of “What can I do today?” and “How many things can I try for the lowest cost possible?”. If you have a low amount of cash to spend your greatest asset will be willpower and getting face to face with as many people related to your business as possible.
Knock Twice Marketing
This is a type of marketing I find extremely effective. It is based on the premise you should never try to sell to someone just once.
Marketing when you first start a business is hard. Think persistence. People admire persistence especially from young people because it’s a trait they hope other’s see in them.
- Most people will never ask for your business because of the fear of rejection.
- Some people will knock once or ask for your business once.
- Almost no one will keep knocking after the first no. Now I’m not saying to be an overly aggressive salesman I’m talking about just a friendly “Hey I’m still here and I would love to have your business”
Think about what it takes you to use a business. Are you going to use the company that you saw one advertisement for or the one you see and are reminded of every week?
The power of persistence has helped me more times than I can count. And a perfect example is for one of my businesses I do cold pitches to businesses or people who can refer my business to their clients. I walked into a store and gave my pitch to the assistant manager who said “Sounds great, my manager deals with vendors, I’ll make sure she contacts you.” so I leave and three days later no response from the manager.. I type up a friendly email about how I talked to her assistant manager and what I am hoping to get accomplished . A week later, no response. I go back to the same store and the manager is there, I mention who I am, that I talked to her assistant and that I was hoping to become a vendor. That’s when she remembered my email and said “Oh yeah, I was going to respond to your email but we’ve been swamped so I haven’t been able to yet, I apologize for that! I saw you have great reviews and think you’d be a good fit” she then pulled out the form to become a vendor and I filled it out on the spot. I could have quit any step of that process and wouldn’t currently be receiving income from that contract.
Start now, put yourself out there and ask for their business. Sure be conscious that you may get rejected but don’t be afraid to ask more than once. It won’t work every time but it will work 100% more than not trying at all.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
I don’t have a specific position I currently need filled but I would never turn down the opportunity to speak with a passionate, skilled person who may be able to help out my company.
However, as I mentioned I am looking to get into the storage business, so I am the process of looking for investors for this next step.
We are always looking for new movers/crew leads to join us and rise up the ranks.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Skinny Wimp Moving has provided an update on their business!
11 months ago, we followed up with Skinny Wimp Moving to see how they've been doing since we published this article.
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