Thursday, December 27, 2012

Don't quit...

It's a great morning, but the to-do's (the comma is acceptable, I'm told) just finally added up to vapor lock. I was happily plugging to-do items into the right categories, texting/emailing/calling for information, scratching ideas in books, taking voice memos, and then something occurred to me that has major ramifications on how we conduct part of the business and...

I stood there, hands together in a prayer-like fashion, smiling, but the expression on my face frozen, a small trickle of drool emerging from the corner of my mouth. Suddenly, I could think no more.

I'm sure everyone's been there at some point, and I did what everybody does in such a moment -- I checked  Facebook! The first thing I saw was the latest post from Michael Hyatt, the guy whose work "Platform" is pretty much becoming the playbook for MTB's marketing efforts. The blog is called "Whatever You Do, Don't Quit."

I love it when things like that happen.

I have no intention of quitting. I'll probably drop dead while working on some new project or another. But the temptation to work...ah...veeerrryyy slooooowly is always there in the hard times.

So here's your positive message of the day: don't quit!


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Let me be frank for a moment...

I just got off the phone with the umpteenth caller about our Living Social deal. I get it -- it's structured a little weird (you pay for a voucher that gets you a lower rate for a specific period of time). It took me a long time to get my head wrapped around it, but it actually makes sense and you DO save money off our regular rates.

However, I need to have a talk with you people.

No, not YOU people, i.e. the 99 percent of our customers who are awesome and friendly and forgiving of our thankfully increasingly infrequent start-up foibles. I'm talking to you people who would never use us if we weren't offering a chunk off our already low rates, and who will never use us again at full price. Specifically, I'm talking about people like the woman I just spoke with who said she's trying to decide between us "and a couple of Mexicans on the corner." (I must note: I have zero animosity toward Mexicans, Central Americans or South Americans, all of whom are among the friendliest and hardest working people I've ever met. However, if we're talking about unlicensed and unregulated workers, that's another story, and really, the subject of this rant...)

Here's the thing: we haven't raised our rates in about a year and a half. Maybe two years. And our rates are already well below standard industry rates. (I was recently shocked to learn the rates of one of the companies in my "Trusted Mover Network.") For a long time I was perfectly happy keeping them where they were because they were about what people expected, and they were just enough to allow us to keep the lights on and grow a little bit. Sometimes people would feign outrage upon hearing our rates, but because more people would say "Wow, that's really reasonable!" I'd know that the former people were full of it.

I have ALWAYS striven to be fair with people, ever since the first days with just me and my pickup truck.

No.
Enough with the preamble--here's the deal: If price is your main concern, then there are plenty of other options out there for you. Craigslist has literally dozens, probably hundreds, of small-time operators who haven't paid the dues we have. They pay no insurance fees, they pay no taxes. They pay their guys squat, expect nothing of them except a little discretion when they steal people blind. Their names are as permanent as smoke in a tornado, so they have no stake in building a reputation. They can simply change their names and screw the next customers over.

Through literal blood, literal sweat (obviously), and literal tears, we've earned hundreds of 5-star reviews on Yelp.com. We've earned three consecutive Angie's List Super Service Awards, and we've maintained an 'A' average with the Better Business Bureau (which, admittedly, does seem to be more "pay for play" than I'd like, but whatever, we've had no complaints.) We take customer service very seriously, and I personally guarantee to lose sleep at night if I think a customer believes we've wronged them somehow.
This is our third consecutive Super Service
Award, thank you very much.


So, if price is your main concern, don't buy the Living Social voucher. Go with the $55/hr guys. Maybe they won't screw you over. Maybe they'll actually address your claims in a timely manner. Maybe, just maybe, you'll get a new illegal start-up moving company that still is concerned about customer service and will do the right thing regarding damages. I, however, pay my fair share. I pay more in taxes per quarter than I've paid in entire years of my working life. I am building a LEGITIMATE company, and once again, I assure you, I pay my fair share, and then some. And I do it by treating our customers with respect and fairness.

If you can respect that, then please let me serve you. If not, we're not the guys for you.

Sincerely,
Chris

MyTruckBuddy.com


Saturday, October 27, 2012

The new standard for move preparation

When people ask how they should prepare for their move, we tell them to "box it, bag it, break it down." It helps things go fast and keep costs low.

I came across this picture today. While I have to deduct points for not using uniform-sized boxes, it's still THE best use of space and symmetry I've ever seen.

Prepare like this and we'll knock your move out in half the time. (Just leave one square foot empty so we can start removing items...)


Thursday, September 20, 2012

My Truck Buddy and Rent Our Boxes tie the knot

Judging by the skyscrapers of paperwork surrounding my computer, it's official: My Truck Buddy now runs the DC franchise of Rent Our Boxes. This means we now have a unique way to offer our customers moving boxes and packing supplies.

It made a ton of sense. (I'm now constitutionally unable to avoid moving-related metaphors in my communications...) We offer affordable moves for that category of people between do-it-yourself and GloboMegaCorp Van Lines. Rent Our Boxes (ROB) delivers very affordable boxes and moving supplies to busy people who don't have the time to scour the city and Craigslist for those things.

We partnered with ROB for awhile, but after a while, Bill Burris (who I still maintain looks like Jack Nicholson), decided to take the concept national and sell the local franchise. He offered, we accepted. I had to sell my collection of live dodo eggs to finance it, but we did it. (I kid -- Bill made a very fair offer).

So, now we've more than quadrupled the amount of office stuff we have to somehow fit into the MTB Command Center, but we can further help customers by providing an additional service that fits into the MTB ethos of superior service at a ridiculously good rate.

Look at me -- I sound like a businessman who thinks he knows what he's talking about...

A bit about the boxes

We love these things for several reasons:


  1. They're cheaper than anything you'll find in a storage unit, U-Haul, or Home Depot. Lowe's does offer, I believe, cheaper boxes, but I wouldn't store anything heavier than a brooding attitude in them. More on that in a second.
  2. They're designed for moving trucks like ours. That means that if you stack two wardrobe boxes next to three large boxes next to five medium boxes (or thereabouts), they'll all be the same height. Why is this important? Because nothing adds to the time of a moving job like "playing Tetris" with multiple-sized boxes, bags and et cetera. In other words, it reduces overall job time and saves people money. Happy people tell their friends, so it's great for everyone.
  3. Free delivery and pick-up. No need to waste time looking for the best, cheapest option -- we have it. And it costs nothing for us to deliver them AND pick them up later. Not enough time in your life? I can't help you with most of that, (although I can show you some great time management techniques I use), but I can save you a lot of time hunting for, and disposing of, boxes.
We're pretty jazzed about this "acquisition." The businesses almost seamlessly complement each other. We have a lot of work to do on the administrative side (getting emails to go to the right inboxes, making sure the phones work -- making sure we don't answer the phones with "Truck Buddy, this is Chris!.") 

So, we've got you covered. Next up: packing and cleaning services. After that, we buy a senator.



Friday, September 7, 2012

My Truck Buddy: the awkward years

I was looking for a pic in the historical files for something and came across this. Hoo boy.

The definition of cool in 1991: a '68 el Camino


It's interesting to note that my very first car, a '68 el Camino, foreshadowed my future profession. Forget free will, baby. I was fated to haul things. (I hauled my friends to Lollapalooza in 1991).  I suppose I should feel sad about that, but hey, it's simple.

(Forgive the quality -- it's a picture of a picture...)


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

When your competitors attack: the best kind of praise

Truck Buddy Jimmy went down to the moving supply company to pick some things up. I just got a text from him:

"I was led to New Haven like a lamb to the slaughter."

Why? I asked.

"All these big companies were in there saying we weren't a real company for how 'we do things.' They all ganged up on me. I didn't back down. We do a completely different style than the tractor-trailer guys."

Here's my read on it: they're "butt hurt" (as the younger guys on the crew often say) that we maintain a decent reputation in an industry filled with fraud and abuse. Everything we do is completely legal. We passed our DOT safety audit. Our insurance coverage equals an amount I likely won't MAKE in my remaining working years.

What, exactly, do we do differently? I dunno, but since I strive to run a company with integrity, treat people with respect, and offer a fantastic service at an extremely fair rate (considering the costs in this industry), whatever they think we should be doing differently probably isn't anything we want to do at all!

I don't know why they're crying -- if they were really "big companies," we're not really their competition anyway. Unless GloboMegaCorp Moving and Abuse is really bringing 53 foot trailers to move studio apartments across town.

These people probably still read newspapers. On paper! Hah!

Thanks, Hank and Kristin!

Got an awesome feedback letter. I can't tell you how helpful these are. The work is grueling with a high degree of difficulty (often times -- not always), and a lot of work goes into preparation, execution and follow-up. So, when we get a nice note like this, it goes a long, long way.

Special thanks to Ben and Allen for doing an excellent (i.e. standard!) job!


Hello,
My name is Hank ____, my fiance's name is Kristin _____.  We hired your moving services today for a move from [Arlington to Arlington].  I wanted to provide feedback as our experience with your service was outstanding.
Website and marketing:  Straight and to the point.  You hire good people to do a good job for your clients.  I appreciated the no [BS] way you present your company.
Reservations and Communication:  David was very responsive to our request.  We were able to ask for exactly what we wanted moved, when, and the types and pieces of furniture.  David worked with us to quote a price we thought was very reasonable given the local competition in the area.

Employees:  Simply put, excellent.  I know the guys found a little traffic along the way, but when they arrived it was work from the first minute.  According to my fiance the guys first introduced themselves (a huge plus for my fiance), then sized up the situation.  They quickly communicated their strategy and started working to meet the estimated time for service.  While being patient, calm, and collected Ben and his partner (my apologizes, but we cannot remember the other gentleman's name) [It was Allen. --CJ] moved our stuff within 2 and a half hours.  Nothing was broken, and according to my fiance everything was treated with professional care.  Both gentlemen were polite, entertaining, and courteous to my fiance and her parents.  When I arrived home, I saw more of this professional attitude as they finished their work.

Cost:  Your company came in UNDER your estimate.  Thank you.  Seriously.  That is just good business to beat your quote.  It dedicates people to your brand.
In sum, I endorse your business and will highly recommend your service in the future.  Thank you.
Sincerely,
Hank and Kristin


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Bastards

Just another day on the job (from a few weeks ago). Someone broke into a truck and stole some stuff. Third or fourth time, by my reckoning.



Some days I fantasize about moving somewhere more civilized. Like Baghdad.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The recruitment speech I would love to give


A few weeks ago we had what is now a new record for shortest time with MTB. A new guy who seemed to have it all together emailed the morning after his first day to say he wouldn't be coming in that morning. He cited "mental health reasons" which I won't go into. Not "I'm hurting." Not "I'm sick." Just: "I can't handle it."

"But," he said, "I can make it in by noon if that helps."

So, he's gone. We needed to find more guys.

We invited 11 new candidates in for an unprecedented group interview and screening. 11 guys were invited, four showed up. Of those, only one had a valid driver's license. For a driving job.

We invited three more guys to a similar interview situation yesterday. One showed up. He may make the cut.

After the new guy with the "mental health reasons" bailed on his second day of work, a rant began forming in my mind. This is the gist of it, although somewhat edited to get a PG rating. Think of it in the vein of Alec Baldwin's phenomenal performance in Glengary Glen Ross. This is the speech I would love to give in the first round of interviews -- the group interview phase. 

I realize it may come off as arrogant, condescending, short-tempered, etc. Maybe it is. I'll work to improve my attitude, read more books by leadership gurus, and maybe realign my chakras at an ashram somewhere. Until then, new recruits are likely to get some variation of this orientation speech:


The Recruitment Speech I'd Love to Give 



Cartoon credit: the late master Gary Larson.

Here's what I want from you: hard work, honesty, integrity, reliability, punctuality and sincerity. If you don't know what any of these things mean, you are now dismissed. 

For those of you who remain, if you think those words are just placeholders for "I really need a job," you are also dismissed. Do not leave your resumes by the door.

Give me these things and you can make a living doing this. I will give you the opportunity to rise, to "get in at the ground level," as they say. No, this will never be the next Apple or Microsoft, but look at it this way: In five years we've more than doubled gross revenue every year. RIGHT NOW, we have to turn away more than 30 customers every summer weekend. Sometimes far more than that. That's potentially tens of thousands of dollars we can't earn -- right now, today -- because we simply don't have the men to do the jobs.

I see you shifting in your seats. You're eager. You're beginning to see the opportunity here. Maybe you're thinking that this, finally, is what you've been waiting for lo these many years.

Stop right there. I built this thing from a few hundred bucks and a whole lot of desperation and terror. I also  "waited" for opportunity to present itself. It never did because after I put in my obligatory hours in my day job, I went home and sat on the couch. Okay, I also drank a lot of beer. And I cursed the universe for not giving me a chance to shine.

The universe responded by giving me a lot of responsibility, and suddenly, no income. I ground it out day after day after day. There's no system. There's no miracle. There's no magic pill.

It's. All. Hard. Work.

I've paid my dues. I continue to pay my dues by making the tough decisions daily, tearing my kids off of me every morning as they cry for Daddy to stay home, and watching my wife put on a brave face as she prays for the strength to get through another 18-hour day with three kids by herself. So here's the deal: I'm not about to let some lazy, amoral, no integrity, no character son-of-a-bitch jeopardize what I've built. I've sweat, bled (numerous times), cried, gotten beat down by rising costs and regulations. It's beginning to pay off. Until this moment, it's been a learning curve. Going forward, we have a very real, very do-able chance at glory.

In other words, don't waste my time. If I schedule you for a 9:00 AM interview, 9:00:01 is late. This is a job ruled by the clock. This is your first test. It's pass/fail.

I don't trust you yet. Don't take it personally -- It's not because of you, but because of too many guys who came before you: the whiners, the big talkers, the guys who present themselves well in the interview, only to go AWOL on day one, leaving me with no one to do the jobs the customers entrusted us to do. A few have tried to steal from me and therefore would, in all likelihood, steal from our customers too. The one thing they all have in common? They're "fast learners," "hard workers," "take direction well," and "want to use their considerable skills in a dynamic work environment."

I've learned that it's all talk until you successfully pull a ten-hour shift in 100+ degree weather for two straight weeks. So, no offense, but you have to walk the walk before I believe your talk.

Do not bitch at me about hours if you do nothing to generate them. When I started this thing, I put ads on Craigslist and flyers in coffee shops. I used every minute of my downtime to generate leads. I taught myself basic web design. I learned about email marketing and database development. In the beginning, I started with one job. A while later I got three in a week. Then four, then eight, and so on. Eventually the business generated enough referrals based on goodwill to sustain itself without Craigslist and flyers.

So don't come around here complaining that you're not being handed a nice, easy, profitable schedule. If you want to work more, step up.

You want a comfortable, 40-hour work week you can schedule your life around? Great, so do I. But it's not going to happen in this industry. Besides, we just ground through some of the toughest, hottest weeks in MTB's history, and the veterans who came close to 40 hours almost died. You can't handle 40 hours yet.

This is not easy work, so don't expect to put in your time and get a paycheck. This industry requires people to push beyond physical discomfort. There's no time to put it off until you "feel like it." The job gets done, right now, today, or there are real consequences. MTB takes it farther -- the bare minimum is excellence. You push yourself to the limit and do it with a smile. No exceptions.

I better know everything about you before I hire you. Do NOT tell me 30 minutes before your first job that you have to get to an AA meeting Tuesdays and Thursdays at 4:00.

Steal from me or my customers? We won’t go to the police. I will hurt you.

Lie to me? You can’t. One way or another, I'm going to find the truth.

Break something—you pay for it.


Want a raise? Earn it. I don’t believe in giving raises just because someone needs the money. When I don't have to worry if you'll show up, or if you'll even bother to call in if you even THINK you're going to be late or sick or something, and when the guys beg to have you on their crew, and the customers mention you by name, we'll talk. Until then, you're on probation.

If your smoking, drinking or lifestyle keep you from performing as well or better than your team, time to hit the road.


In the beginning, I'll give you my word, but you have to earn my respect and friendship.

I don't care what you've done or who you've worked for. This is Day One of the rest of your life. Lose the attitude.

Like I said -- it's not personal. This comes from experience; experience gained through the naive application of such values as trust and optimism. When you go by a man's word alone, you risk getting burned. I have. Many, many times.

So, for those of you still here, here's what you can expect from me:

If you at least give it your best shot, I will work with you. If you're here on time, ready to rock & roll, I'll notice, and I'll give you more opportunity than you can handle. If you turn those opportunities into successes, I'll do whatever I have to to keep you here and interested.

If you have an unquestionable record of integrity, honesty and rightly directed ambition, I'll back you in almost any circumstance or situation.

If you're an honest, hard-working man of integrity, I'll help you through whatever crises in life come your way. Cars blow up, babies get sick, break-ups rip your guts out. I've helped guys out before, and I'll always do it for those who I KNOW aren't taking advantage of me. As a fallen man and recovering slacker, I know the value of surrounding yourself with people who excel in the virtues you aspire to.

If you're all those things I'm looking for, you will eventually outgrow this job. If I can't find a way to use your (by now obvious) leadership skills, I'll do whatever I can to help you succeed in your next career.

If this sounds good, welcome aboard. If not, don't let the door hit your ass on the way out.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

More kudos...

Got another one!


Hi David! I just wanted to say thank you and let you know that Jimmy and his crew did an AMAZING job today!!! We will be recommending you to all of our friends in the area. Thanks again! 

--Dana, 8/21/12

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Some customer feedback for My Truck Buddy -- thanks!

In the moving industry, your reputation is your company's life. It's somewhat difficult to stand out on things like price and services -- costs are pretty much the same for everyone -- so you have to stand out with other things. A company's reputation is one of the few things we have some degree of control over.

We rely heavily on Yelp.com which, as I've documented numerous times before, is a horrible, horrible business. Nonetheless, people use it, and many have been very kind to us. However, while only a small percentage of our customers write reviews about MTB on Yelp.com, a growing number write us directly. I wish these reviews were in a more public forum, but when things get tough, I'll take positive feedback however I can get it.

Here are just a few of the notes we've received in the last few months. Thanks goes to the guys -- particularly the veterans who've suffered through a confusing and chaotic learning curve to become the pillars and tradition-keepers of My Truck Buddy.


David -- Just wanted to tell you how totally impressed and satisfied I am with your work.  Everything was perfect, and I couldn't be happier.
 Thanks to all.
--Barbara, 8/18

David --

Once again, your movers were marvelous.  Quick, courteous, communicative, and efficient.  Of course, as the mother of a high school rower, I was very excited to meet your mover, Joe.

That you have such great guys working for you speaks volumes about the kind of company you have.

I will recommend you to my friends, and will call again in the future!

Regards

--Jennifer, 8/9

 Just wanted to say thanks for all the help today! The two guys that helped me out (Brian+another awesome guy) were incredibly helpful and finished really really quickly! [Note: we don't have a Brian on the crew. I think she meant Joe or Pete. -- CJ] It couldn't have gone any better. Never again will I move on my own! Please pass on my gratitude to the guys and make sure their bosses know how great they did!
 Thank you so much, 
--Kaitlin, 8/7 

Dear David - Can you stand to hear from another satisfied customer??  8 )   First, the online information was very helpful as was the estimate form and packing guide.  Second, your response was prompt. Third, you were quick to respond to questions and very helpful when I requested a change in the move time. Forth, according to my son who experienced the move, " these guys are amazing, they are so fast and so good!".  And last but not least the estimate you gave was spot on.  My son was so happy for the assistance in the hot and rainy weather on Saturday and I was very happy with the professional level of service you provided. Thank you so much.

--Jane, 7/23


 David:
 Just a note to tell you how great Pete and his team (Miko and another guy) were today for my move.  They were actually here early and went straight to work.  They even successfully dealt with the fact that my couch wouldn't fit through my front door!  (they brought it around the back and through the patio).
 They were truly professionals - please extend my thanks.

--Tracey, 5/29


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

"Strength and honor."

Every morning I wake up with a song or a phrase in my head. It's weird, particularly when the song is something by Miley Cyrus. But today it was Russell Crowe in Gladiator. As the soldiers are about to go to battle, he says to them, "Strength and honor."

How apt that that phrase resonates on an endless loop in my head today. Overall, things are good. Business is up, morale is mostly up, and the trucks are mostly in good working order. But that's not to say things are easy. Far from it.

In the last few weeks we've had two trucks break down. We were notified that our big DOT safety audit is scheduled for the end of the month. It's a routine thing -- if all your paperwork is in order. (And as anyone who has any familiarity with the back end of the business knows, paperwork is not my strong point.) We have one of the strongest crews we've ever had, but their numbers are dwindling -- guys are going back to school, looking for other, less physically demanding work, etc. Finding solid new guys -- "solid" in terms of physical strength, integrity, goal-orientation, etc. -- is a perennial problem. We have about two more weeks of busy season left, and we could break records if only we had the guys to do the work. After that, we'll be on the street in funny costumes flipping signs around. "Will move for diesel fuel."

Then there's the cloud of little to-do's that I just call "static." That's the endless list of little things that require a phone call or email, a scheduling commitment, attention... Most of these things aren't important to the overall mission of MTB, but they're still important. Some of them are very important in a broad sense (like compiling move statistics for marketing purposes), but they don't put jobs on the calendar RIGHT NOW.

And then there's the myriad vital things a good and available husband and father should do. On that front, well, I need a lot of work.

On days like today, the static threaten to drive me into the nearest movie theater and toss my phone into the nearest dumpster.

"Strength and honor." Again and again in my head.

Push through. In a couple of months there will be time to sleep. In a couple of months all these pressing worries will be replaced by one overriding worry: the work slowdown. Right now, that sounds wonderful, actually. I know I won't feel that way when the trucks sit outside my office window for days at a time, of course.

Another Gladiator quote comes to mind: "On my signal, unleash hell." Yes. I'll start there today. I'll start by unleashing hell on this trashed office. Yes. That feels like work...

Friday, August 10, 2012

3 Essential Moving Tips from My Truck Buddy

Naturally, one of the most common questions we get is "how can I make this go faster/be cheap? Other than following the tips in our Moving Guide, the shortest answer to that question is:

Box it, bag it, break it down.


All three parts of that have the same goal in mind: to reduce clutter and "random stuff."

Box it. 

Boxes are an essential part of the equation. Without doubt, the fastest moves we've ever done are those where there is nothing but boxes and furniture. Even when we're asked to move just boxes and furniture, but there's a lot of random stuff laying around, it invariably slows down the guys because they have to move it, step around it, or frequently ask "Is this going on the truck?"

Rent Our Boxes boxes are specifically
designed for trucks like ours, making for a very
efficient, well-packed truck!
Neat rows of boxes lined up and ready to go out the door reduce the time between the start and end of the load and unload. Trust me, this is one of the most essential things you can do.

In addition to actually using boxes is getting uniform-sized boxes. Of course, you won't likely be able to pack everything you have in one size box, but three sizes are usually just as good, particularly if you use Rent Our Boxes. They actually designed these to be the same height when stacked in rows. That is, you can stack something like two larges, three mediums, six smalls, or many variations thereof and the height of the rows will be the same. (Pictured to the left). Why is this important? Because dozens or more of randomly sized boxes takes longer to stack safely, and leaves inefficient gaps in the truck. In short, it costs time, and time is money!

Bag it. 

Inevitably, there will be things that just won't go into a box, or don't need to. Pillows, for example. Or, if you empty out your dressers or chests of drawers, bags make great storage tools. Again, the point is to reduce clutter, thereby increasing speed and efficiency.

Break it down. 

We're more than happy to disassemble anything that would best be transported in pieces. Beds, bookshelves, whatever. There is no extra charge for this service, but in the interest of keeping time and costs low, if your bed is disassembled, shelves have been removed (and wrapped in stretch wrap, ideally), etc., all the Truck Buddies will have to do is pick it up and pack it in the truck. Simple!

So that's it in a nutshell. As always, if you just want to discuss how your move can be done in the most efficient manner possible, give us a call!

Chris
My Truck Buddy

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The MTB Moving Guide -- it works.

People call all the time asking for tips and tricks to making their move go as smoothly and painlessly as possible. These are code words for "how to make it as cheap as possible." (Come on -- we both know it's true...) That's alright, because I want it to be as cheap as possible, too. This may seem counter-productive, but when people don't pay a lot for a great move, they're happy. Happy people tend to tell other people about their experience. Then people call! And in a business where if your client base is likely to use your service once a year, at best, we want as many people coming back as possible.

Also, offering a great, fair rate is just the right thing to do.

So, I wrote the My Truck Buddy Moving Guide. It's based on our experience of several thousand moves, and summarizes all the best practices we've found to help things go as quickly and affordably as possible. It's just a summary, mind you, because every job is different, and there are literally hundreds of factors that can make or break a move.

We had another motive for writing it -- to make our day easier as well. Despite my most strenuous efforts, the guys still want "a life." Having sacrificed my social life about five years ago to the gaping maw of the moving industry, I only vaguely remember what it's like to sit on the porch with friends, have some beers and not worry about a thousand variables...

But I digress. Or whine. Or whine-gress...

Anyway, the guys like to get their jobs in a reasonable amount of time with minimal hassle. It's a tall order in this industry, but not crazy. That's the other reason I wrote the Guide. And now that it's been out there for awhile, it's been downloaded and used hundreds of times. We're starting to get a lot of feedback about the Guide, and it's mostly positive. (Some people say I try to hard to be amusing in it...) People who actually follow the advice in the Guide report great results. Their moves go faster, there's less hassle, and the final price is very affordable. The guys get to have a life!

Conversely, people who don't use the guide run into trouble. For example, today I'm dealing with a situation that happened yesterday. The apartment wasn't packed, there was random stuff all over the place, half of the items to be moved weren't listed on the estimate request form, etc., etc., etc. It's not fun.

I'm actually surprised that the Guide is as useful as it is. Working with the maxim that one shouldn't let "the perfect be the enemy of the good," I had to cut vast swaths of verbiage out of it to keep it short and useful. I thought I was leaving out a lot of good stuff, but just had to get it done. But now that the results are coming in, I might give it a couple more rewrites and offer some sort of guarantee. For example, "If the Guide is followed to the letter, we'll guarantee a Do Not Exceed amount, or the labor after the high end of the estimate is free." (Obviously that'll take some work...)

Anyway, check it out. IT'S ABSOLUTELY FREE. And it could literally save you hundreds of dollars on your move. (If you're completely unprepared, of course. Please don't do that...)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Got a financial plan? You should!

As long-time readers know, (haha--"longtime readers?"), I'm a big Dave Ramsey fan. Not so much for the financial advice stuff, but for the EntreLeadership counsel. Still, he seems to know what he's talking about.

This is from DaveRamsey.com: The Power of the Plan: Tap into the power to save yourself heartache, time and money. Basically, American debt (personal debt, that is -- we'll avoid talking about the national debt) went up by several billion dollars from April to May, according to the Federal Reserve. Most of that was credit card debt.

I know financial woes. In 2007, we bought too much house (ironically packed into about 950 sq. feet.). One thing led to another, I lost my job, credit card bills EXPLODED as we scrambled to survive. It's why I started this business. We pretty much made the wrong decision whenever we could.

We paid for it. Me in a very acute way -- our debt and related woes sentenced me to five years of hard labor in this industry. Day by day, grueling hour after grueling hour, I worked to climb out of the hole.

Anyway, that's a story for another day. My point is that far too recently, my wife and I sat down and made a plan. The business is starting to show signs of life, and now that we have reasonable confidence in getting another few years out of it, we're starting to dare to hope and be optimistic. The plan we outlined is ambitious, and it will require a year of "rice and beans," as Ramsey puts it, but it means we have a shot at actual financial peace.

There were immediate unexpected benefits of having a plan: even though we are nowhere near our goal of buying a house by this time next year, we're on the same page, have the same goals, and are speaking the same language. We've always worked well together, but our priorities were somewhat incongruous -- she wanted stability, and wanted numbers, projections, accounting, etc. I just wanted to make sure we had adequate crew coverage and a few working trucks to get through the next day. It was like that for years. With our master plan, it's almost easy. Hah -- well, not exactly easy, but at least clearer.

Check out the link and Ramsey's free online tools. Might be helpful.

Question: what kind of budgeting and money management tools do you use?

In the tangled garden of chaos, a rose...

Just got this in. After Saturday's hour-by-hour crises, THIS makes for an unusually good Monday. (And it's a financially staggering payroll day, too!)

Thanks, J! We appreciate it!


Dear David - Can you stand to hear from another satisfied customer??  8 )   First, the online information was very helpful as was the estimate form and packing guide.  Second, your response was prompt. Third, you were quick to respond to questions and very helpful when I requested a change in the move time. Forth, according to my son who experienced the move, " these guys are amazing, they are so fast and so good!".  And last but not least the estimate you gave was spot on.  My son was so happy for the assistance in the hot and rainy weather on Saturday and I was very happy with the professional level of service you provided. Thank you so much.
J. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

My 20th high school reunion: past and future collide

So...tomorrow the Class of 1992 is celebrating our 20-year reunion. I can't attend because I'll be working and I can't afford to charter a jet to transport all of our kids, but I'll be there in spirit.

Running a moving business has made me decidedly less...sentimental...than I used to be, but I suppose I should pause a moment to reflect on what I've learned since graduating high school.

Let's see...life lessons...life lessons...

I'm struggling here. The absolute first thing that came to mind is that you're probably better off to carry a bottle of Lysol with you if your work requires you to use a lot of public restrooms. I'm not kidding. That's the first thing I thought of. The second was:  "pockets are temporary storage--at best."

There must be something more transcendant in there, right? I suppose. Here's one: "Put others before yourself." Yeah, that'll work.

Another one: shut up. Seriously -- unless what comes out of your mouth is useful, positive or otherwise builds people up instead of tearing them down, just shut up. That's especially true -- at least for me -- if you feel the impulse to be funny all the time. I now have more experience than I'd like to confess about how words can kill.

Kind of makes blogging impossible...

Anyway, the last 20 years are a blur, and I imagine the next 20 will be much of the same. Listen up kids: it goes fast. Think you've got an endless life of boredom and/or suffering ahead of you? Well, you might, but it actually goes pretty fast. Don't sweat it.

So, here's to the Battle Ground High School Class of 1992. Me and Dennis will raise a glass to you tomorrow night (well, probably tonight, too.) I'll be there with you in spirit -- seriously, don't sit on me. I'll be at the back table, third chair from the right.

And keep your pockets clean.

C.

Monday, July 16, 2012

"Is being a mover hard?"

That's the number 12 search string on Google that led people to our site last week. That tells me that I must complain a lot on the blog and website a lot.

To answer the question, my sensitive friend, yes, being a mover is a piece of cake. In fact, it's like EATING cake, while getting a pedicure, while wearing a seaweed and mud mask applied to your face.

And running a moving company? Oh man, there isn't a better gig. That's like being able to FLY -- flying through cotton candy clouds over fruit punch-flavored rainbows astride a friendly unicorn that affirms your wonderfulness every hundred yards or so.

Is it hard? No way. I can do this right up until my first heart attack.


Friday, July 13, 2012

A touching "Thank you " letter


I usually wake up at 5:30 or so every day. The first thing I do is check for texts or emails that tell me what the crises are for the day (guys get sick, trucks get flat tires, etc.) There's usually something. But the other day I received an email from a past customer that set the tone for the day, if not the week. We strive to "wow" people on every job, and we apparently nailed it with this customer, "N."

So, thanks, "N.," for making our day. We hope we can help you in the future!

Hi Chris:
I just wanted to write you and say, again, THANK YOU, for the moves!  You have moved me three times (I'm the woman who did the review saying "Helllooooo Thor"...) and now I am moving again, out of your market area!  I'm moving to New Jersey, and I'm actually really rather hurt that you guys can't be involved.  Sucks!
Well, I didn't want to depart without you knowing that you were appreciated very much.  When I didn't have anyone at all to help me, when I was in "precarious" situations and NEEDED to get OUTT, when I didn't have a ton of money but didn't want to jip you, you were there.  May sound silly, but this means a whole lot, knowing that there is a company out there that genuinely cares...and when you mention a situation such as moving to/from a new home...yes, that is a big deal.  A very big deal.  Home is everything.
So, if you've had difficult days, or if you would like to wake up and start fresh, I hope this note can assist.  It is genuine.  I can't say I will miss Washington DC, but the few times I met you and was able to get help with getting settled -- these all are something I will miss. Much love Chris! (and that is meant in a most non-creepy, platonically amiable fashion. I will not show up on Leslie Avenue with a proclamation. No fear! )
Sincerely,
N.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Everybody LOVES statistics!

At least everyone I know loves statistics. Since my social life pretty much revolves around the people I work with -- people whose livelihoods revolve around what the numbers are doing -- "everyone" may be a small dataset, but still...

One of those guys is Jon "Denver," a Truck Buddy who stops by to "work" in the slow season every year. During the long winter downtime, we drank a lot of beer and made spreadsheets and databases. He was phenomenal at teasing useful, actionable data out of the seemingly infinite number of spreadsheet rows and columns. And one of those megaprojects he took on was a worksheet that gives us job time averages.

The immediate use for those was obvious: when we had a big enough dataset, we could start basing our estimates on that rather than do it "artistically," i.e. applying experience to every move request that comes in. While we still have an actual human (Dave) looking at each and every form and providing an estimate, we now have an extremely powerful tool to base our estimates on. The result is greater accuracy and faster response times.

With these statistics we learned a few things, and a few things we suspected were confirmed. For example, the top three types of jobs we do, by far, since we started aggressively tracking this information last December are:

1 BD to 1BD apartments. We've done this 210 times. The average time from start to finish is 3.05 hours.


1BD to 2BD apartments comes in second. We've done 121 of these since we started tracking the data. The average time: 3.32.


2BD to 2BD apartments. Instances: 101. Average completion time: 3.87 hours.

The stats we've been keeping also tell us how well the application of those stats is being done. For example, this shows the process could use a little work:


The breakdown:


In general, this is good. When we give estimates, we give a low and a high number. For example, a typical one-bedroom apartment might be bid at 2-4 hours. This chart shows, based on 535 examples JUST from what we call a "Standard Local Move," (which doesn't include POD/truck loads, deliveries, multiple-stop moves...), that:
  • We are under the HIGH end of the estimate 82 percent of the time. 
  • We are under the LOW end of the estimate 20 percent of the time.
  • We are right in between the HIGH and the LOW 62 percent of the time. (Ideally, this is where we want to be.)
  • We are over the HIGH end 18 percent of the time. (This has gotten higher due in part to an ever-widening dataset. When we first started collecting this information, our Over High statistic was awesome -- under 4 percent...)

I think this is respectable, but obviously we want to be in between the high and the low 100 PERCENT of the time. Ideally, we'd be able to plug all the factors into the MTB Estimatron 3000 and get a precise estimate every single time. However, that's impossible. Even if we could quantify all the variables, we'd still be off because there are always surprise factors (other movers hog the freight elevator, traffic patterns change, etc.)

Nonetheless, we can tighten it up a bit, which is what we're always working on.


Continuing trends:

In general, people "trade up" more often than not in the DC area. That is, they move from a smaller place to a larger place in one year.

If people don't trade up, more often than not, they move into a similar place. Not only do they more frequently move into the same STYLE of place (1BD, 2BD, etc.), they move into a place with similar features, such as three-floor walk-ups, similar views, basement apartments, etc.

This is just a small slice of the delicious, juicy data pie we've been cooking up. With our custom-made MTB Estimatron 3000, while still a work in progress, we can tell you, for example, how long a typical one bedroom apartment job with three floor walk-ups takes, or how many jobs we did in a certain zip code, etc., etc. Personally, I'm looking forward to the end of the year when we will have one full year of data collection completed. That's THOUSANDS of records just bursting with sweet, sweet data.

Damn. I'm hungry. Must be time for lunch.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Speaking of mighty deeds...


Truck Buddy Pete has his hands full these days. Literally. Only now the precious cargo he's hauling around includes twin baby boys, Attitcus and Magnus, born on Saturday. He finally got back "on the grid" for a quick Facebook pic after what sounds like a very long labor. Mom, the boys and Pete all appear to be fine.


Good job, buddy! We're all happy for you, and will do whatever we can to make the transition from no kids to two insta-kids as easy as possible.


Congrats! 

"Dare Mighty Things"

If you find anything cooler than this today, let me know. I doubt you could because, objectively speaking, from production value to project scope, this makes everything that came before it look like crap. Just crap.

You might gather that I'm some kind of science or science fiction nerd. You'd be right. But something else impressed me about this video: It's one of the most awesome feats of logistics and moving mankind has ever undertaken. (Obviously putting men on the moon with equipment less sophisticated than an iPhone ranks higher, but this is up there.)


Seriously though, the message at the end of the video resonates with me, albeit on a much smaller scale.

"Dare Mighty Things"

Yes. That.

The last five years of My Truck Buddy have been a a running laboratory in doing mighty things. The first mighty deed was surviving an unexpected layoff when I was the sole provider for three people. Then it was staying alive while working through 15-20 days and nights, doing moves, building a work force, bidding jobs, and navigating a Byzantine and often contradictory labyrinth of rules and regulations. I'll be honest -- if I didn't have to do it, I wouldn't have. But I had a growing family, now populated by three beautiful babies who've only known love and no suffering. It kept me motivated to keep challenging myself and moving forward when all I wanted to do was collapse in despair and booze.

Building a little moving company, while a logistical nightmare for a liberal arts slacker like me, is nothing like programming some hardware to remotely land safely on another frakking world. But it's my challenge and my Mighty Thing.

What's yours?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Become a stand-up (person): stand-up desks

I'm telling you -- stand-up desks are, like many things from the past, the way of the future. 

The Art of Manliness has a featured article up about these great pieces of furniture.

I mentioned somewhere on here that I'm building the website for my office landlord's stand-up desk company. Why? Because I love taking on brand new projects I'm barely qualified to do in the midst of a crushing workload. Also, I'm a huge fan of the desks. Not long ago, I discovered that I'm much clearer and focused when I work standing up. When I sit down, I'm sluggish and lazy. So, in exchange for the website, the landlord gave me a stand-up desk. 

Worlds of difference. 

They're great for the health reasons -- better posture, increased blood flow -- but if you have kids, especially boys, they're fantastic for security reasons. They can't reach the top of the desk to get into stuff. Highly recommended.

Anyway, here are AoM's 5 reasons to switch to a stand-up desk:

1. To avoid an early grave
2. To lose weight
3. To save your back
4. To increase your focus
5. To gain a satisfied tiredness 

They go into each point in some detail.

The website isn't up yet, but if you're in the Del Ray area of Alexandria, come by and see what the Stand Up Desk Company offers. Here's a pic of the one similar to mine:


Do your back and your creativity a favor -- get a stand-up desk!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Master time, or it will master you.

I recently discovered Michael Hyatt, one of those social media gurus who has a huge online footprint that he pretty much grew in the last five years or so. I grabbed his book "Platform" as soon as I realized he didn't exhibit any of the smarmier characteristics of other social media gurus. That book, by the way, is ridiculously awesome if you're interested in building an online "tribe" of loyal followers. (At least in theory -- I'm just now implementing his ideas, but they seem sound and practical...)



Anyway, he recently posted something that hit me at just the right time. It's a post about reclaiming your time. If you have a hectic schedule, or if you find yourself struggling to keep on top of a crushing daily workload, you should check it out. Here's the link: http://michaelhyatt.com/more-margin.html


I was especially gratified to see his working weekly calendar because I recently created something very similar. I've been calling it my "Task Matrix," which is a grid breaking down my daily, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly tasks that come up regularly. Its also broken down by department: CEO, Admin, Marketing, Legal, etc...


If you need help organizing your life, this post is well worth it. Check thou it out!


Double-duty furniture for small apartment living

Have you ever checked out ApartmentTherapy.com? You should. Cool stuff, and a lot of it is geared toward the very people we help--people with smallish apartments that require a lot of feng shui to fit all their stuff and still maintain some peace-of-mind.

This is exactly what I'm talking about: "More bang for your buck: Double-duty furniture ideas." I recognize this bookcase -- it's our old nemesis the grandaddy Ikea Expdit. We've seen a lot of these used in just this way. They break up rooms to create separate sleeping areas, or sometimes just to create a private space for reading, an office, whatever.

Now, I'm NOT recommending that you get one of these, particularly if you live at the top of a three-floor walk-up (or higher!), but they ARE pretty handy. Just sayin'.

Anyway, check it out. It could be helpful.

Question: What kind of solutions have YOU come up with to deal with small or crowded living spaces in the city?

Friday, June 29, 2012

If you're trying to apply for a job with MTB...

The best way to ensure you're NOT hired is to call me. The ad on Craigslist was clear: send me your resume, tell me a little bit about yourself, don't call. This is the first test -- if you can't follow that direction, in my experience, you won't follow other, more critical directions.

I'm sorry if that sounds harsh, but this is the first line of quality control.

While I've got your attention, let me remind you that if you're late to an interview, or don't show up at all, there will be no second chance.

I'll be reviewing resumes and emails early next week. That's your best bet. Thanks much!

C.

Back to the drawing board...



This is Joe, the person most responsible for the creation of My Truck Buddy. Short story: when we found out he was "cookin'," we had to scramble to find an extra source of income when my wife had to quit her day job. One thing led to another, and the business went from barely covering beer money to...well, this money sucking leviathan that's likely to put me in therapy.

Anyway, today is "Take your son to work day," apparently. He was mostly in it for the train ride, but I'm pleased to see that he's working on the "brain board," the place where I flesh out new ideas to discover how they won't work. (Sorry...it's also apparently Ennui Day.) I'm not sure where he's going with whatever idea he has, but I like what I see so far. It looks like some sort of "Circles of Responsibility" diagram. That's critical because we have a number of talented guys with certain skills I don't quite know how to implement (or pay for). Hopefully Joe will clear that up today. I'll buy him lunch if he pleases me.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Warning you from Manassas

Have you ever been to Manassas? Good. Don't come here.



I mean, there's really nothing to see out here. Circumstances forced us to move out here a year ago. I won't go into that, suffice it to say it rhymes with "Mussian Rafia" and we were compelled to skeedaddle. In that time, it's been a struggle to find happiness and enjoyment.



I mean, first of all, there's the distance. It's about 30 miles down either I-66 or I-95, both of which are a white-knuckle, aneurysm-inducing travel by car. I've taken to riding the train every day, which helps, if you can stand lush green forest scenery for 99 percent of the trip to or from the city. There are streams and occasionally wildlife, and don't even get me started on how much work one can get done when you don't have to fight the nose-to-rump rush of traffic every day.



Then there's Old Town Manassas itself. On Saturdays there's a farmer's market right by the train tracks. People mill around as though they haven't got a care in the world, "enjoying" violin music and fresh-baked bread. I guess this is where the unambitious and unmotivated go to expire.



Let me warn you: it's primitive. Not a single vendor has anything like a "Bonus Card" or reward points for your purchases. And if you actually want to risk trying some totally unique and delicious salsa, or beautiful, luscious produce without the barest hint of the safety of chemicals or pesticides, be my guest. Fortunately, there's usually some kind of Virginia vineyard represented that offers generous shots of their wares to get you by.



I had to escape the sweaty hoi polloi, so I ducked into Prospero's Books. I was immediately disappointed -- nobody assaulted me with an offer to buy an electronic book reader that can also waste my time with Internet surfing. And good luck finding anything -- row upon narrow row of wood shelving groaned with, admittedly, a huge selection of cheap books, but if there was an organizational system to it, I couldn't discern it. One could spend hours there "making discoveries" without knowing what time it is at all. And the rack of 100-year-old books? Who wants that? I couldn't find one single pop-history screed by ANY talk show host. Hello? RELEVANCE, people!



It was depressing. I bought my stack of books (on PAPER, if you can believe that!) and retreated to Simply Sweet, a nearby coffee shop. It's another one of these non-chain type of shops with no uniformity of branding to speak of. Despite my concerns, I found a table to read and write with few interruptions, and those only to ask me if I was doing alright and/or needed a refill. At least they have the humility and self-awareness to charge less than $7 for a simple cup of coffee.



Yeah, this isn't the place for you if you like city living. It's WAY too slow and friendly. Oh, and I almost forgot, if nearly untouched Civil War battlefields that send you into fits of reflection gives you hives, you definitely want to stay away from the free Manassas National Battlefield Park. You might start breaking out with "perspective" and "peace" or, God forbid, "appreciation."



I don't know how much longer we'll be able to stand it, but since we have another year on our lease, I guess we'll have to suck it up and get by. Consider yourself warned.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Yet more Yelp shenanigans

My Truck Buddy earned eight new five star reviews in June. We received a few more in May. All of the June reviews and at least one of the May reviews were archived within a few days, often less.

These are all legitimate reviews.

I try to keep this blog positive, always looking at the silver lining and all that, but right now I'm so frustrated with Yelp that if I were to see one of their executives on the side of the road with a flat tire, I'd totally not stop.

I'm sorry for my outburst. It's just hard sometimes, you know?

I'll man up and write more later.

Looking for My Truck Buddy?

Well, you found us! This is actually just the blog, though. I recently redirected an old URL to the blog because it wasn't doing much for us.

If you want to learn about how we can help you with a move or delivery, you'll want to go to MyTruckBuddy.com, the full site. (Why isn't our blog hosted on our website? Because I was a novice when I set all this up, and I still barely know what I'm doing. I can lift boxes, though.)

Feel free to poke around here, and come back frequently! We're tweaking the blog and some of our services to be more useful and, perhaps, more entertaining.

Cheers!
C.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

How to escape the Zombie Apocalypse

I came across this neat blog last year called The Art of Manliness. It definitely won't appeal to everyone, but for men (and not a few women) who want to know how to do things, it's a surprisingly awesome resource. Some of the things they cover: How to go canoeing and stay dry, how to make maple syrup like a Vermonter, or how to give an effective sales pitch. I like the site because it captures the essence of what I believe a Truck Buddy should be: innovative, competent, confident, helpful, etc. As me sometime how I think the Boy Scouts could learn a few things from us.

I just noticed one of the latest posts: How to Build a Get Home Bag. What's a Get Home Bag? It's a small pack with (hopefully) all the supplies you'll need to get from your place of work to home. Pretty simple.

I know -- some of you are rolling your eyes right now: "Oh boy. Right-wing survivalist wacko propaganda..." Not quite. I'm instantly repelled by that kind of stuff myself, but as someone who has a 30 mile commute, one way, up I-95, every single day, this caught my attention. It's not inconceivable that one of these days, particularly for those of us in the DC Metro area, we may have to "bug out" of work pretty fast. And since around a million or so of us live well outside of DC, it could become quite a nightmare to get back to loved ones or even just irritating roommates who, in the event of a serious calamity, don't seem so bad after all.

Unless they've become zombies. Then, well, don't go home.

Like I said -- it's not inconceivable that the relatively simple act of getting home a few miles away could take 24 hours or more. Regardless of which year's survey you look at, DC is still in the top five for worst traffic in the nation -- and that's before you throw a car engine-killing electromagnetic pulse or zombies into it. My unscientific observation of weekly traffic patterns tells me that most people are pretty savvy with traffic around here. People start their commute anywhere from 4:00 AM to 9:00 AM. It's staggered -- everybody does a reasonable job of trying to strategically reduce their commute time to the lowest possible duration. But, if everyone needs to go at once? Chaos. A couple of years ago we were hit by the "Snowpocalypse." One of the guys was just trying to get from the 14th St. bridge to the office -- a 10 minute commute with perfect traffic conditions. It took him over four hours. I won't describe the use he had to put to a coke bottle during that grueling journey...

So anyway, check out the link for some good basic preparation tips. It doesn't get into ridiculous detail, but it does give some decent ideas about how to prepare. It's completely apolitical, too, which I appreciate. (Yes, really, guys...)


Friday, May 11, 2012

This is relevant to my LIFE

An oldie but a goody, now 33 percent more relevant to my life:


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Welcome, little girl, and thank you, guys.

Baby Cecilia giving us hope of a peaceful infancy.
Last week, almost exactly one month early, our little girl was born. Baby Cecilia was born around 4:00 AM. She was 5lb, 12oz, and about 18 inches long. She has huge feet and she's beautiful.

Mommy and baby are both doing fantastically well. In fact, they both came home yesterday, which, like the birth, was quite a surprise.

I've often joked that with the arrival of each child, the business has taken off into a new, more productive, more complicated stage which, for the most part, was better than it was before. Paradoxically, each new stage is several orders of magnitude more stressful for a slacker liberal arts major like me, but also more peaceful. I imagine that the men on the deck of the Titanic felt a similar resignation as they watched the lifeboats row away. As with children, if do it right, you create something bigger and better than yourself or what you can imagine with a business. Eventually it takes on a life of it's own and you become more of a caretaker than a creator.

I have no idea how things are going to develop in the near future. There are massive projects that need to be undertaken, ridiculously ambitious goals to achieve, and a lot of foundation yet to build and/or patch. And now I'll have less time to do it. It's going to be exciting.

Fortunately, we have one of the best crews we've ever had. Without a good team, you're not going to get anything done. When I was called home last Tuesday to help while my wife suffered incapacitating contractions, I didn't expect that to be the last day I'd be able to work for an entire week. Had I known, I would have panicked. There was so much to be done. We're almost halfway through the year and I'm nowhere near ready to put a bow on the planning for the year and call it "good."

But it was no problem. The guys got it done.

I'm told a few of the veterans got together and figured out how to get through the next week and/or month while my schedule was suddenly blown to bits. While I was mini-vanning the boys around, trying to keep the house in order, and trying to figure out where the hell Joe's green beebee (blanket) was, I didn't get a single crisis call. It just...worked.

So, thanks to the guys of My Truck Buddy. I'm starting to think we might have something here.

Monday, April 30, 2012

The My Truck Buddy Moving Guide--now with video!

Well, promotional video, anyway. I thought I'd just slap some pictures together with some quick voiceover, post it to YouTube, and get lunch. Yeah, that was a week ago. I think my wife might have had our next baby. I'm not sure. I'll check in with her right after this blog post.

At any rate, here's a short little video I put together about the My Truck Buddy Moving Guide. Considering this is the first time I've ever done something like this, I think it turned out alright. I wasn't going for Scor-ceze here, just a legitimate promo for a legitimate (free!) document on our website. We want people to understand that we see moving as a partnership -- people prepare well, we do our jobs well, and the end result is happy people who receive an inexpensive, professional move.


Because all the gurus I read say that video is the Next Big Thing, I'll be working on as many as I can in the future. There's a million tips and tricks we can help people with that are better explained through video. So, stay tuned! (Well, not right now -- I need to get some rest. This almost killed me...)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Stand-up desks and working from home: a match made in Heaven

I'm as giddy as a schoolgirl huffing nitrous oxide. My stand-up desk is under construction!

A pic:

It's your funeral if you don't get one of these.
The deal is that I build a stand-up desk website for my office landlord, and he builds me a desk. Well, we're both WAY behind schedule on the various deliverables for each other, but he happened to have a client reject the design he commissioned, meaning there was this big hunk of unfinished wood just taking up space in the storage room.

"I have an idea..." I volunteered.

So, since the design is perfect for what I have in mind, he's just going to complete it and send it home with me. The timing is perfect because as my wife gets closer to her due date, chasing after two little boys gets more and more difficult, meaning I need to cut back on my work hours and attempt to work from home. Normally, I laugh -- LAUGH, I tell you -- at the idea of working from home. My boys are probably literally angels, but of a species that can fall and come back to grace at will. They destroy your home, then melt your heart. Let me just say it -- they're kind of evil that way.

Anyway, the problem I've had working from home is that my (old, antiquated) sit-down desk is downstairs in the basement. In other words, out of smacking range of the kids when they misbehave. (Come on, I'm kidding -- I don't smack my kids. I chain them to a stake in the ground out by the beehive.) Also, there is nothing more frustrating for me than having to get up, sit down, get up, sit down, get up, sit down a thousand times while I chase after the boys for some reason.

The solution, in theory: With a stand-up desk, I'm already in a fast-response posture. They may think they're getting away with something, but not while Daddy is working in a coiled-power-ready-to-spring-in-a-second's-notice mode. Also, since the desk will be on the main level where the boys have more access to me, they'll likely want to stay in what I call the "interdiction zone," which is roughly the length of my arms.

A stand-up desk will also be useful for all those sleepless nights coming up in a few months. Little baby Cecilia will be here somewhere around the end of May. This is my third time around this block, so I've learned a few things, logistically speaking. One of those things is that one should abandon all hope of relaxing with a baby in the middle of the night. Think you can find that "perfect spot" where you can relax, the baby can sleep and/or work on a bottle, all at once? Haha, no. Especially if you think you can watch a movie on an iPad or something, or even just play around on your phone. When you have a baby, phone, bottle, beebee (blanket) and spit rag in your orbit, nothing is "easy."

At least not with my kids. Our second boy, Kolbe, has only fallen asleep in my arms, while I'm sitting, twice in two years. The rest of the time, that little (redacted) ONLY falls asleep while I'm standing up. And did I mention that until recently, 9:00 PM is not too late for him?

So, I have great hopes for this desk. Since I'll be on my feet about 18 hours a day, at home, wrestling boys, cleaning bottles and helping my wife up and down stairs, I might as well just forgo any false hope of relaxation and work those calf muscles.

I've been putting work on top of any high surface I can lately. Standing up while working WORKS for me. It works for the desks' creator, Jeff, as well. He's got one stand-up desk in his office, and he put everything else on top of cinderblocks. I don't think he even has a chair in there anymore.

Maybe he read the latest piece on how sitting all day will kill you.

Gotta run. My back hurts.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The global empire expands...down the hall

About 15 months ago I had a parking problem. Our small fleet was growing, but we didn't have any place to keep it. It was only three trucks, but as anyone who's lived here for five minutes knows, apparently every level of government is largely funded by parking tickets. Parking trucks in secure locations in public places was costly -- it was almost a line item in our budget. (Hah..."budget." That's cute.)

This is where I process numerous bills...
I put an ad on Craigslist, noting that the parking situation was my main priority, but office space would be nice, too. One of the two people who responded had the ideal location -- parking and a small room with lots of built-in drawers. The price was great.

Long story short, we quickly outgrew it. Fortunately, the offices next to ours were vacated, and it was a natural progression to take over half the building. Now, I get an office and the guys get a place to relax or kill time before/between jobs. We also have plenty of storage space, and the guys (Jimmy and Dave) who do the scheduling now have room to do their thing, too.

This is where I check Facebook...
I'm so tickled about it that I now feel a huge pressure to build the company even bigger, if, for no other reason, to justify what feels to me to be a massive new expansion. I don't know how Trump and other CEOs can breathe when they buy entire buildings. Hah!

Anyway, here are some pics of the new MTB World HQ. Two things:

1. The office was painted that color when I took it over. It's salmon. Not pink.

2. I made the whiteboard in the last pic this morning. Instead of spending $200+ on a whiteboard from Staples, I just Liquid Glued some tile board to some wood siding and hung it from a wall. It weighs about 100 pounds, but it cost about $38 total. Yeah, I proud.


This is my thinking wall. As you can see, it's blank...


Friday, March 9, 2012

The end (or pause) of an era: Truck Buddy Jon is leaving...

Truck Buddy Jon is leaving to help his family's business in Pennsylvania. It is a sad day (more *Sad face.*)

The back of Jon's head.
I was tempted to write a big, heartfelt hagiography of Jon and all the great feats of brain strength we've done together here at MTB World HQ, but I couldn't think of much, so I'll be brief.

Jon started working with us in the late summer of 2010 or thereabouts. He had that oh-so-uncommon common sense, so when he decided to move to Denver and asked if he could start a branch there to support himself, I said "Why not?" After all, he had a valid driver's license which, back in those days made pretty much anyone eligible to be a crew leader, and I couldn't possibly pass up an opportunity to nickname him "Jon Denver."

Off to Denver he went.

Setting up a branch turned out to be quite impossible. It took me three years to get insurance here, and we couldn't support another branch in addition to our little operation here. So, he became a camp counselor or something, took a side trip to Peru or somewhere, but asked if he could come back and work during the slow season. (I'm sure he told me exactly what he did, but I was probably on Facebook...)

So, he got back here around September 2011, and since work went way, WAY down, and he had nothing better to do, he pretty much hung around the office making spreadsheets, as is his custom. You see, hippie Jon Denver used to wear a suit and work as an analyst in Ballston. He gets all giddy whenever you give him piles of raw data you don't know what to do with. Eventually, I figured this out and gave him projects to do to distract him from bothering me.

I'd ask him to take on what I thought were huge, impossible projects. "Jon Denver," I'd say, "It'd be really cool if we had a grid that showed actual move times between different types of homes. For example, how long does it take, on average, to go from a one-bedroom start type to a one-bedroom end-type? Can you do that?" Thinking I'd get some peace for a week or so, I'd turn back to my project and get to work.

Five minutes later, he'd say "Here you go. I noted how many records each instance is based on..."

It went on like that for six months. In that time we've ripped apart the business' systems and procedures so that now, we JUST might be able to survive the utter chaos of the busy season. In short, it may have been the most productive six months of my life, and certainly the life of the company.

Our brainstorming sessions would last from the time he got back from a job until our brains were mush. On move-less days, we'd start early on the micro level, tackling issues like how to build forms and databases, and work up to the macro level, such as what the company culture should be like. We'd take breaks to argue politics and religion until we'd get frustrated with agreeing uncomfortably too often. It was a feast for both the creative and practical side of the brain. Honestly, I'm afraid things will grind to a halt once he's gone.

A pretty typical brainstorming session (Jon not pictured).


I should probably explain that picture at the top of this post. It comes from how our desks are situated. He faces away from me, and he always joked that I was probably always trying to see how close I could get to touching the back of his head without alerting him because, you know, I have nothing better to do. I'd laugh and call him a psycho, but...he was absolutely right. I did that all the time. I just did a second ago, one last time, for the memories.

We'll all miss Jon Denver, but we wish him the best. It COULD be a sad day, but if there's one thing we've learned in these last few years, you can check out, but you can never leave.

Goodbye, Jon. We'll see you again soon.