Thursday, January 13, 2011

How the Love Sack changed my life

(I can only imagine what kind of traffic this is going to drive to the site...)

I'm constantly amazed at how random, seemingly insignificant events shape the course of our lives. Sometimes the big events do too, obviously. If not for 9/11, I never would have researched DC journalism internships, landed one, met my wife at a newspaper, had kids, and launched this business. But among those big branches are millions of smaller "twigs" of events, I suppose. Recently, a plush piece of furniture changed my whole way of doing things, making me much happier and appreciative of the wonders right in front of me.

Let me explain (if you care)...

I think I've already mentioned the Love Sack someone gave us. It was totally unexpected -- we FILLED someone's new apartment with their old furniture, and some of the stuff had to go. So, they donated the Love Sack, a humongous sofa bean bag. (I have no idea if it's actually filled with beans, but it's com-feeee. It could be filled with kittens and I'm not sure I'd ever give it up.*)

My wife surprised me and actually liked it, but she could tolerate only so much -- it was consigned to the kids' toy room which, if experience is any guide, meant it would be encrusted with half-chewed cookies, rotten bananas and sour milk (and other unmentionable effluvium) in a matter of days. That would not do for my precious.

So, I pulled the trigger and rented some office space I'd been looking at. Now, the office had become a necessity for all kinds of real, legitimate reasons, but I'll be completely honest: I wanted a man cave for the Love Sack. IT is the reason I took on essentially another rent in the slow season.

Some interesting things have come about as a result of this decision: I now have a guaranteed place of solitude for work anytime I need it. I have a place to store equipment. I have a place to store files and all that other administrative crap that come along with running a real, grown-up-type business.

The time this has saved me is unbelievable. Now there's far less equipment shuffling between trucks and the house, less truck shuffling between jobs, etc. Better yet, it's allowed me to have something like a normal work day. Because I have such a productive work space, I can now DOMINATE the thousand or so daily tasks that would put me weeks behind. No more dragging a laptop to jobs to monitor e-mails. No more getting home at 7:00 after a job, spending a couple of hours with the family, then secluding myself in the home office until 1:00 AM to catch up on a sliver of work. Nowadays, I can get more done in a solid day of effort and go home, able to shut off the daily grind.

And in that time after 6:00 or so, I can play with my sons, and maybe, just maybe, if Kolbe goes to bed at a decent time, spend a little time vegging with the wife watching TV. We've even had conversations over dinner!!! You have to understand that these are novelties. We've been in crisis mode so long that the things some people consider even boring are now precious gifts for us. Heck, I even noticed that my wife got a haircut the other day!

I owe it all to the Love Sack. I've tried automated processes, assistants, cutting services, adding services...everything. But a piece of plush furniture enabled something like a life.

Now, if I could just carve out a little bit of time to actually sit on the thing, I could die a happy man.








* Yes, I know, that's a horrible analogy, and no, I wouldn't keep it if it was filled with kittens. I'd throw it out after a month or two.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Happy Birthday, Jimmy!

Thanks for a year of extremely hard work, fantastic leadership, and a consistently great attitude.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Another great review, but I'll have to let someone go because of it...

Yelp.com is our lifeblood. We would be nowhere near where we are without it. We'd still be scrambling on Craigslist, or competing with people who think a low price is the only thing they have to offer (and they're often right...) I'm so thankful for everyone who has ever written a positive review about us.

So, I'm somewhat saddened by one of the most recent ones. It means I'll probably have to let someone go. Just read the review. You'll know what I mean. After this, there won't be a guy on the crew who'll want to work with Joe. Lol.

As many people probably have had happen (or not), I had a mover totally bail on me the day he was supposed to show up.  I'm talking "you're supposed to be here at 10am and you called me at 10am to tell me that you're not coming because your truck won't start and you can do it tomorrow".  To add insult to injury, when I very bluntly expressed my dissatisfaction with this new arrangement, suddenly he could not only make it "somewhat' on time (It's a miracle! The truck suddenly starts!), now we could have THREE men to do the job as opposed to the measly TWO I was going to get, and the price "wouldn't be much more."  (It's a miracle!  Not only does the truck start, but now it can accommodate more bodies!) JOY!

That was sarcasm.

After I very loudly (I tend to get loud when I am upset) and bluntly let it be known that there was no arrangement they could come up with that would work, this company proceeded to call me 5 times within the next 10 minutes in order to badger me into "keeping my commitment".  And then had the balls to tell my loving father that he wouldn't get his credit card deposit back, since we "reneged on the deal". Uh, hello?  YOU were the one who ADMITTED, on the day of "the commitment" you weren't going to be able to show up on the day of "the commitment"! At all! I'm supposed to have faith in you showing up tomorrow?

Daddy got loud too.

I digress. The point of that was to share just how desperate I was.  I was recovering from a relatively major illness and thought, at the time, I would be moving out of the area to recover.  I absolutely could not do this move by myself and I absolutely could not leave my things in the apartment.  I needed to be out by a certain time, and was freaking out.  Not good when you have been hospitalized for a week and are still in recovery.

Enter Truck Buddy.  I called and **tried** to be relatively calm about my need for a move that weekend, with less than a week's notice. I explained what had happened, exactly what needed to go, and why this needed to happen with THEM.  I had looked at their website and it looked like they had no room left (which Chris told me was actually an incorrect interpretation, and he stated he would work on that, Woo hoo for pro-activeness -- or is it pro-activity?? I don't know but I like it).  Chris let me know that he thought he could do it, and gave me an exact time that he needed me to follow up on the phone  (11:00am) since I had called at the crack of dawn, and told me to put everything that I just said in writing so he had everything down.  Considering how early it was and that I could hear the his little ones in the background, he was quite gracious.  He picked up the phone AND was nice!

Woo hoo for clarity and niceness!

The deal was sealed in less than two hours.  No deposit needed.  Confirmation email sent. Paranoid phone call from me to make sure they'd ACTUALLY show up was promptly and laughingly answered.  And yes, they showed up. At 1:58pm for a 2:00pm move.  I'm glad I was a believer, dressed and ready to go.

Two guys showed up with the truck, John and Joe.  Joe is an impossibly attractive tall, blond, muscular Viking looking former crew team member who was very interesting, personable, and quite strong. (Hellloooo Thor!) John was equally cute, with striking green eyes and quick wit.  No meat-heads here. To me, this is a good thing.  Chris chooses people that can take direction and treat the "movee" with courtesy.  What really got me was that the third guy, Rick, was late simply because his wallet was stolen from the coffee house where they had taken a break, and he went back to retrieve it, and he didn't find it, and he STILL came to do the job!  I would have been quite bent outta shape if I had no wallet, cash or ID, but Rick was the consummate professional and showed up. Apologized profusely like he thought I would bite his head off. It was nice to see those bright blue eyes sparkle when he realized I wouldn't kill him for being late.  Makes me wonder who the hell these movers are subjected to.

Anywho, Wow.

They got me out of my third floor walk-up apt and into my storage unit in less than 3 hours. Friendly, clean, intelligent, timely, and affordably priced. You can't beat it.  So pleased was I, that I became lucid enough throughout all this stress to give a great tip on top of the fee. (and John made sure I saw the calculations.  Woo hoo for conscientiousness!)  These guys are good, they were worth the tip, and I felt I simply had to ensure they stay in business.  Now that I am recovered and my job has made things so lucrative that I simply must return to the area, I hope Truck Bud will be available to move me into my new place.  I simply do not want to go with anyone else!

Wait, that sounded wrong didn't it?  Ah well, I get happy when I find a good business.  You should get happy too. (But not too happy, I need to have a slot!)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy New Year!

Wait--what? 2010 is over? I'm still preparing for the summer rush!

This has definitely been the fastest year of my life. At least since I've been paying attention to such things.There were a couple of slow periods, like the last month before our second son, Kolbe, was born, but most of the time we've been sprinting.

I thought about writing a long retrospective, but who has the time? I'm trying to knock this out in the few minutes I have before another couple of moves today. (And I failed -- it's now two days since I started writing this post. Events and jobs happened...) Also, I'm just not as sentimental as I used to be. (It's not productive. Lol). So, here are some quick highlights of 2010 for MTB:

The birth of our son Kolbe Alexander. While it wasn't the first thing in 2010, it's the most significant. I almost can't believe it was this year. He was born on June 7th, a little small, but happy and healthy. He's already crawling, although it's still kind of a "special forces" crawl. This isn't exactly an MTB milestone...but it is. It seems that whenever we have children, the business leaps forward in some way. When Joe was born, so was MTB. When Kolbe was born, I had to (and wanted to) stay home with my wife in order to help out. That meant I had to have a couple of crews run independently of my direct supervision. So, Kolbe was responsible for pushing MTB into a multiple truck/crew operation. A natural progression, I suppose, but a terrifying one I resisted until the last possible moment.

Here's a video of his older brother Joe meeting him for the first time:



We got trucks. Thanks to generous leasing terms by our partners and buddies at Suburban Solutions, we obtained three new trucks. The obvious advantage was that we wouldn't have to pay tens of thousands of dollars to Penske anymore, and we don't have to deal with all of that irritating equipment-swapping that eats up so much time. But more than that, the trucks allowed us to obtain all the required forms of insurance. It was a vicious catch-22: Without all the layers of insurance, I couldn't get trucks. Without the trucks, I couldn't afford to get insurance. I was considering leasing from Penske, but every time I talked to their rep, the security deposit would go up by about $2,000.

In addition to enabling the business to get legal, the trucks also served as fantastic mobile billboards. Brian at Suburban Solutions has a "sign guy" who really "hooked us up," as the kids say.

Multiple crews. I mentioned this above, but I should flesh it out more. In fact, I'm embarrassed that I haven't talked about the guys more. The guys who currently work for, or who have worked for MTB really have built this thing. I took the business as far as I could by myself, but there's only so much one man can do with either a pickup truck or a rented Penske truck. It would be impossible to afford the business if it was just me and a couple of guys. Running two crews is now barely enough. (In fact, I think it isn't -- I'll know more once I see the end of the month numbers, which I'm dreading.) Finding reliable, professional guys who I can trust to take the trucks into DC's daily chaos finally opened my eyes to the possibility of taking this thing too new heights.

A new office. This is a really recent development. "Recent" as in "the last week of the year." It's not something I expected or can really afford at the moment, but here's what happened:

On a recent job, the customer had what is called a "love sack," i.e. a gigantic bean bag shaped roughly like a couch. She needed to just get rid of it. My dilemma: There was no WAY I was going to pass up an acquisition of such raw awesomeness, but I was positive my wife wasn't going to let it anywhere near a public place in our house. I'd been talking to a guy about renting some office space with parking (I was mainly interested in the parking for our growing fleet). The love sack did it for me. I called my future office landlord from the loading dock of the building where I got the love sack.

It might have been an impulsive move, but it was one of the best decisions I've ever made. In just the week or so that I've had the office, I've been able to get more done than in some months. It's more than just the solitude. It's a personal space, a productivity zone where all my vital documents and tools are parked in geosynchronous orbit around me, ready to be used for action.

I'm sure we've hit a few more milestones. In fact, there's no doubt. We've more than doubled last year's revenue (which, honestly, was pretty easy), we've lifted more sleeper sofas than last year, we've made new contacts and new friends, we've pushed ourselves to our physical and mental limits and have only gotten stronger. It's been a good year.

This year, however, is going to make 2010 look like amateur hour. Stay tuned. ;-)