Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Looking for a great house in the Manassas area?

I won't post a lot of stuff like this, but I'll do it for friends. ;-)

Matt Spinosa is another one of those Realtors-with-character. I now know of at least three, which makes me feel like a wealthy man. (I wrote about the other guys here.) Matt and I hang out on Saturdays, so I can assure you that this isn't some kind of pay-for-play deal. Unless, of course, Matt wants to pay me something. I'm not saying he can't, just that he hasn't...

Anyway, he asked if I knew anyone who would be interested in this property. No, I don't, but then I don't know anybody these days. I change diapers and occasionally send memos to the guys about TPS cover sheets when I have the time. I do, however, have a website and blog that reaches a modest number of people every week.

So, here you go? Wanna be my neighbor? Manassas is a hidden gem. I hate hyperbole, but it's better than Paris.


Monday, October 21, 2013

Movers didn't show up?

I get a call about movers who don't show up at least once per week. I get that unforeseen circumstances can greatly delay a crew, (we PLAN on it), but just...disappearing? That's unacceptable, and it astounds me how common it is.

Before I get all "judgey," I should note that we have a couple of bad reviews on our Yelp page due to something like this. They were from back in the days when we didn't even have an office, much less the complex set of overlapping technological and procedural systems we do today. They happened at the height of the summer busy season when we don't have time to put out the fire in our hair (we'll get to it after we answer these 1,000 emails...) I had to hand the reins to my senior guy to go to a funeral out west a couple of years ago, and he was instantly overwhelmed. Things got complicated and at least one person's job didn't make it to the Master Calendar.

That, hopefully, is in our past. Now, even if one of our crews is running late (usually due to a prior job having a lot more "stuff" than expected, or if there was some barrier like a broken elevator), the customer will get a call either from the crew leader or one of us back at HQ.

In fact, our systems have vastly improved: We have initial response time goals, we send follow-up emails, we have system reminders, move-day policies and procedures, follow-ups, etc.

Basically, the worst threat to our system is the regrettable number of sub-systems that take a certain amount of manual oversight to keep running smoothly. Still, it works 99 percent of the time.

This is the result of seven years of trial-and-error experimentation. While I'm sure there's a simpler system (which no doubt costs a fortune), it works, and a good amount of our positive feedback is about our responsiveness.

The guys we affectionately call "Craigslist Cowboys," those guys who charge something like $55/hr (three-hour minimum), constantly change their "company" names, and more often than not get bad reviews for things like not showing up, just don't put in the time and effort to build the systems necessary to manage the complex logistical leviathan of a moving company--of any size. It's another one of the things most often misunderstood by guys getting into the industry -- it's not just as simple as picking things up and putting them down.

Now watch -- I'm about to eat crow. We're still operating in the new HQ with computers tethered to our cell phones so we can get estimates out. That's BEGGING for some ironic humbling.

Showing up on time is our first First Principle. If we think we're not going to be able to do that, we let our customers know. We never just don't show up.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Such great advice!

I was poking around the back end of our website and I discovered that I basically left a comment feature open and unmoderated. If you go to the Testimonials link under the Kudos tab, you'll see hundreds, maybe more, of spambot comments. Some of them are truly awesome, like this one:

I must say, like a great deal because i liked reading through what you needed to point out, My partner and i couldn't help yet lose interest after a few years. Its as if you were built with a great comprehension about the subject issue, however, you did not remember to incorporate your potential customers. Perhaps you should think about this specific coming from way over 1 viewpoint. Or you could possibly wont generalise so considerably. Its better if you think maybe by what others may have to declare instead of just getting a intestine reply to the subject. Think with regards to modifying your own thought procedure along with supplying individuals that may well see this the benefit of the particular doubt
I couldn't agree more. I COULD think by what others have to declare instead ofjust getting a intenstine reply to the subject.

Wise words...wise words...

Friday, October 11, 2013

Potential new MTB World HQ

I'm definitely counting chickens before they hatch, but this is one potential new place we might move into. It's our favorite, as you can see from the digital nesting going on...

One potential benefit: we get into storage! There's ten times more room than we need here.

Nice. Looks like we scored a 5-star on Yelp.com today, too.

Thanks, Ashley!

If Ashley is your real name, that is... We don't have an Ashley on our calendar for the last few weeks or so, so we're kind of guessing at who you are. Either way, thanks!


Here's the review:

I love MTB. Wonderful employees, easy to use online booking, and the prices were better than any other company. Not only were they extremely professional, they were on time. HIGHLY RECOMMEND!! Also, if you are using MTB, check out their sister company: RENT OUR BOXES. These 2 companies will make your move as easy a possible.

Just got a new positive review on a website!

There's an extremely popular review website out there that a ton of people use. If I understand their legalese correctly, I'm not allowed to post its name, our grade, the review, or pretty much any detail that would somehow infringe on their collection of reviews that we earned.

So, suffice it to say we earned the highest GRADE possible, which brings our total reviews there to LXXXI, and the name of the site rhymes with "Hammy's Fist."

My Truck Buddy will not be shutting down the Beltway

Just an FYI -- there's a thing happening starting today called "Truckers Ride for the Constitution." Apparently thousands of truckers are going to come to the DC area and basically clog the roadways.

Now, this probably won't endear me with some in the industry, but come on. You will not find a more zealous defender of the Constitution than me, but with all the misery in the region right now, jamming a hot poker into the perpetually festering wound we call DC traffic is not going to inspire a lot of sympathy for the cause. It's just going to hack a lot of people off, including me.

So, if you see one of our trucks caught in a moving roadblock, please know that MTB is not participating in this event. We have better things to do like, oh, I don't know, staying in business and, ideally, finding a new place for MTB World HQ.

Reasons for False Negatives Test Results for Lyme Disease

Lyme disease -- it's horrible and hard to detect.

I came across this in my morning procrastination from real work. It caught my eye because this (almost) hit home for us this year.

Earlier this year, we noticed what looked like a tick embedded in my oldest boy's buttock as we got him ready for his bath. My wife, who has a sister who once got Lyme disease with horrible effects, freaked out and told him to stay still while she went and got a flashlight and/or flamethrower or something equally effective for the removal of ticks. "Don't scratch it!" she yelled over her shoulder as she ran down the hall.

He's five, so naturally the first thing he did was scratch it off, severing the tick's head from its body. Probably. We were never sure if it was a tick, but there was a red dot on his butt for a few days, and not long after, his appetite went to nothing and he always complained of having an upset tummy -- possible signs of Lyme disease (or so I'm told.)

His blood work came back negative for Lyme's, but we knew that wasn't necessarily it. We got him on some light antibiotics just in case. As it happened, it wasn't Lyme, it was mono. What a relief! Still, it could have been different, and we might have been falsely lulled into a sense of relief or complacency, missing the best time to combat Lyme disease.

Anyway, this is a public service announcement. All those beautiful fall colors are about to drop into our yards, transmogrified into piles and piles of brown. If you have kids, it will take Class-10 Omega force fields to keep them out of the piles of leaves you so carefully create in your yards. So, at the very least, check your kids for ticks often.

Here's a non-disgusting link to instructions about how to remove ticks. There are also some nifty ways of creating your own natural insect (including tick) repellents here.

Monday, October 7, 2013

New Milestone for MTB: 110 Yelp reviews and a 5-star average

David, our GM stopped me on the way out last week. "Got a present for you," he said.

"Multiple streams of passive, residual income?" I asked, foolishly hopeful once again.

"Better! We now have 110 reviews on Yelp and we got our 5-star average back."

That was indeed a nice present.

I've blogged about Yelp numerous times, so I don't think I need to record my thoughts on that yet again, and my thoughts remain the same, but they sorta/kinda came through for us this time. We recently combined all of our Yelp "real estate" (we had multiple listings around the area for some reason), and the result is what you see here. It's a new record for us.

It's especially nice to get our 5-star average back. We lost that a couple of years ago due to a couple of bad reviews (reviews, I might add, were, shall we say, somewhat unfair). We languished in 4.5 territory until last week, when the extra ten or so pushed us out of what I think of as review Purgatory.

Nobody but the Yelp IT guy knows how their algorithm works, but it appears we've achieved some numerical milestone that earned us the extra half-star average. 

Thank you again to all who reviewed and continue to be "brand ambassadors" for our struggling little service. I'm always working to earn the trust people put in us.