Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

"The end of the beginning" is what one of my friends and colleagues in the business recently named one of his Facebook photo albums. It took me a second, but I got it soon enough. The album contained pictures of his new office building and headquarters. He was understandably proud of his achievement -- he got into the moving business around the same time we did, and our growth has been about the same. He went from renting an occasional truck -- and sleeping in it -- to having an office in which he could spread out. One phase of the business, the beginning, was coming to an end.

I feel the same way, although our office space remains as humble as before, although cleaner. My buddy has executive office space -- we have a new file cabinet, which I think is very cool for some reason. We also have four desks and a refrigerator. Starbucks would NEVER have let me bring my own mini-fridge to one of my "remote offices" back in the early days. So, in a way, this is the end of our beginning too.

Like it or not.

It's been a good year. A GREAT year. We tripled revenue over last year -- in a recession. We earned somewhere over 250 5-star reviews on Yelp, got a second Angie's List Super Service Award, got all our legal and regulatory ducks in a row, and it looks like we're going to survive the "dead zone" between September and February as long as the savings hold out. We have a budget in place for next year, a marketing plan or two, and the best guys in the industry to make some awesome things happen. A 30-year veteran and friend in the business thinks our 2012 goals are insane, and I respect him as a mentor, but I think we may just be able to achieve those goals.

This has all been possible thanks to people in the DC area. So, thank you, DC people! Thank you for your business, and for taking a chance on a new company trying to do what is typically not advisable, or even considered possible -- create a "new kind of business." Thanks especially to those of you who have written great reviews on Yelp and Angie's List. And, of course, thank you to everyone who's come back and used My Truck Buddy again and again.

I should also give a great big THANK YOU to my wife Judie, whose guidance and patience has inspired and allowed me to keep going when I thought I had nothing left.

I know this must read like an Academy Award speech, but I'm not laboring under any illusion that we've "made it." Hardly. The bills are bigger, the consequences for failing to be in compliance are much more expensive and possible, and we still have a couple of months to go before we can relax comfortably in the knowledge that whatever else happens, we know there will be jobs on the calendar. We're wrapping up a big, busy week, but next week the normal winter cycle continues -- a few jobs on the calendar because it's close to the end of the previous month, then second week, which is dead and empty, a few jobs the week after, and a mere five or so jobs in the last week.

In the past, this dearth of jobs would have me in panic mode, possibly blogging about the collapse of all my best efforts. Now, "meh." We've been here before. We survived. We will again, unless the economy finally collapses (a very real concern of mine.)

I think I'm going to take a week off, either next week or the one after that. Yesterday I think I got sick in a way I've never been sick before. It wasn't quite a cold and wasn't quite a flu. I don't know what it was, but it FELT a lot like I'd just burned the candle at both ends for 364 days, and I finally ran out of steam. I saw it coming, too. In the last few weeks, my 100 percent was more like my 25 percent of a few months ago. With great effort, I was barely able to concentrate on the day's objectives, and I was rarely able to achieve them.

It's time for a break.

Anyway, here's to 2012. We're ready to do some great things, and I hope people will continue to give us a shot. I hope that 2012 is everything you all want it to be, too. Cheers!


Thursday, December 15, 2011

My Truck Buddy lands second consecutive Angie's List Super Service Award Earns Coveted Angie’s List Super Service Award Two Years in a Row
Award reflects businesses’ consistently high level of customer service has been awarded the prestigious 2011 Angie’s List Super Service Award, an honor bestowed annually on approximately 5 percent of all the businesses rated on the nation’s leading provider of consumer reviews on local service and health providers. This is the second consecutive year has received the Super Service Award.

“We are extremely happy about the award,” said Christopher Jolma, founder and managing partner of “The business has tripled growth every year for the last three years, and while we’ve had a lot of growing pains, we’ve remained true to our core principle of service to the community. The Super Service Award is a welcome recognition of our daily efforts to serve people in the most fair, safe and efficient manner possible.”

“Only a fraction of the businesses rated on Angie’s List can claim the sterling service record of being a Super Service Award winner because we set a high bar,” said Angie’s List Founder Angie Hicks. “The fact that can claim Super Service Award status speaks volumes about its dedication to consumers.

Angie’s List Super Service Award winners have met strict eligibility requirements including earning a minimum number of reports, an exemplary rating from their clients and abiding by Angie’s List operational guidelines.

Ratings are updated daily on Angie’s List, but members can find the 2011 Super Service Award logo next to business names in search results on

Christopher Jolma founded in 2008 in response to the downturn in the economy. Initially an emergency “job,” MTB has since grown from a “buddy with a truck” to a modest fleet of trucks helping people in the Washington, DC area with its moving and transportation needs.

Angie’s List collects consumer reviews on local contractors and doctors in more than 500 service categories. Currently, more than 2 million consumers across the U.S. rely on Angie’s List to help them make the best hiring decisions. Members get unlimited access to local ratings via Internet or phone, exclusive discounts, the Angie’s List magazine and help from the Angie’s List complaint resolution service. Take a quick tour of Angie’s List and view the latest Angie’s List news.

Friday, December 2, 2011

If only he knew what the scroll wheel on his mouse was for...

Yesterday we received the most vicious email I've ever seen in MTB history. A potential customer was enraged, apparently, that we didn't include dollar amounts in our estimate. There was an exchange of emails, and he ended up writing a bad review on Angie's List.

Here's the problem: WE DID INCLUDE DOLLAR AMOUNTS. In fact, they were in a larger, bolder font. The customer knows this, but he's apparently an unstable person and decided to slander us anyway.

I wrote a response on Angie's List, and in it, I promised to include our full correspondence. After a little reflection, I've decided against it as the potential damage is relatively minimal. However, I will post the following two images as evidence that we did, in fact, give him a complete estimate. Furthermore, this has been our standard estimate template for about a year, given to literally thousands of people. In all that time, we've never had someone misunderstand the estimate so egregiously.

Here's the belligerent response we got from the customer after sending the estimate. Please note that this was the very first response we received from him after sending a full, complete estimate:

And here's the section he neglected to read. It appears in roughly the middle of the standard estimate we send out:

When I pointed out the misunderstanding, Randy said he was "deeply offended" that we didn't send a proper estimate, and that he'd be giving us an 'F' because of our dishonesty.

Too bad for us, I guess. All of this could have been avoided if we'd simply pointed out the scroll wheel in the middle of his mouse...