Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year! Goodbye, 2013!

This is the time when most people or companies write lengthy retrospectives and make bold, grand, crazy resolutions. Believe me, I'm tempted to do the same. But for me it's tough for two reasons:

  1. This year went by in the blink of an eye.
  2. I'm too busy to be sentimental.
Still, I'll indulge in a little sentimentality...

The biggest event of 2013 for me had little to do with this business. This year we welcomed child #4 into our home. Baby Anna Sophia arrived in September. I remember precisely where I was when I learned of her impending arrival -- I was on the VRE platform in Manassas reading about a meteor that hit in Russia. My wife called. She was, to put it lightly, "concerned."

And then the rest of the year happened. It seriously went by in a blur. I took a LOT of time off to help my sick, pregnant wife deal with our three other beautiful little terrorists. I won't say I did it gladly -- the business demands a full-time attention span and then some -- but I was very thankful that this company allows me to be closer to the kind of guy I want to be.

Anyway, in September she arrived. She was beautiful. And now she even smiles at me and giggles and coos. And to see how our other kids dote on her and love her...oh man, you've never seen a more beautiful thing. 

But back to the business...

Tomorrow I'm going to look at the "metrics," the numbers that tell me how we did this year. I know right now that we didn't do as well as we'd hoped, but there are still some fumes in the gas tank. I know we did better than last year, we helped more people than any other year (more than some years combined), and that we're within spitting distance of our big gross revenue goal. Still, it could have been much better.

We lost some people this year. It's a high-turnover kind of industry, which is to be expected, but some of the people had been here a long time. Some left in good circumstances, some not. I guess it's natural in business, but I'm not used to it yet.

We paid off our trucks, which is awesome, but we now need more trucks. We found an amazing new HQ. We won the Angie's List Super Service Award for the fourth consecutive time, and we now have more visible Yelp reviews than we've ever had. 

On the whole, things are good even though we're in the midst of the normal deadly slow slow season. We have the best crew we've ever had, with most of the guys buying in to what we're trying to do here. We have plans, we have strategies, we have the wind in our sails. We have something better than a "sure thing" lined up for 2014 -- we have an epic battle where victory is by no means certain. That is far more interesting, in my opinion. It's quite possible 2014 will be our breakout year -- the year we cross some invisible line between fighting with all our might for mere survival to a comfortable, reliable number of jobs that not only pay the bills, but allow us to put money away, pay guys bonuses, and hell, maybe even get a health care plan.

On the other hand, it's entirely possible that we've overextended ourselves, and that we're going to crash hard. There are literally hundreds of things that could go wrong, things that could lead to bankruptcy, lawsuits, or the simple, inexplicable dissolution of fortune that leads MTB to an impoverished, ignominious end. These ephemeral fears keep me up at night -- nameless worries that haven't materialized but still terrorize me by their mere possibility. Talk to any small business owner -- they know what I'm talking about.

I want to give thanks to everyone out there who has given MTB a shot. I don't have the numbers yet, but we helped somewhere over 2,000 people this year. We received somewhere around 7,000 requests for help. SEVEN THOUSAND. I work hard and hope for the day when we can help every single person who put their trust in us by filling out a work request form. 

And we have a record number of "brand ambassadors" out there recommending us, telling their friends about their awesome experience, or writing reviews. I'm incredibly indebted to you. I wish for -- and daily kick myself for not creating -- a better system of tracking people in our "tribe" who recommend us or refer people to us. This simple (but heartfelt, I assure you) "thank you" doesn't begin to express my gratitude for you folks who speak well of us. This is a life-and-death struggle for us. (Seriously -- livelihoods are on the line. I just had a meeting, of sorts, with one of our long-time guys who constantly struggles to make ends meet. No jobs means he can't feed his family). So while an off-hand mention at the proverbial water cooler may be forgotten quickly, it is literally keeping someone clothed, fed, and sheltered.

That's small business.

I was going to write a bunch of stuff about my resolutions for the New Year. I started making a list, thinking I might have one or two areas I can improve, but I ended up with 30 game-changing, life-altering things that make me wonder what I've been doing with all my time. I'll get to those throughout January.

Again, thank you for using MTB, or even just following our story. I, and all the ridiculously hard-working guys here who do mighty deeds for people every day, sincerely thank you.


Monday, December 30, 2013

Air B&B's -- what's your experience?

Cleaning out the idea archives, I came across this article about a guy's experience buying and renting an "Air B&B." If you don't know what that is, it's basically a service for people needing short-term lodgings. There are quite a few in the area.

It's a neat idea -- if you have space to rent, you just go to their site and set up a free listing. Here's their short Getting Started Guide. You won't be able to retire on the revenue, but you could bring in some extra cash.

I'm interested in hearing about people's experience hosting AirB&B places as well as from those who have use them.

For hosts: Is it profitable? Has it been a good experience? A pain? Do people treat your space like a Ft. Lauderdale Spring Break bacchanalia, or are people mostly respectful?

For users: Have spaces been clean, comfortable? Do you have creepy landlords "asking if you need anything" every five minutes?

I'm genuinely curious. Not sure if I'd do anything with the information, but considering DC is becoming quite the boomtown, this might be one of those "good ideas..."

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Five-star Yelp review from Deborah D.!

Thanks for the great review, Deborah! I agree -- our guys aren't creepy. ;-)

I can't say enough good things about these guys.  I don't normally write reviews, but they definitely deserve it!  They were on time, friendly, professional, and best of all, knew what they were doing!  The price is about mid-range but after experiencing the move from hell a couple years ago, I decided never to go cheap again.  I chose My Truck Buddy because two friends used them and had a great experience (individually).  If you are looking for quality movers at a decent price, go with these guys without a second thought.  Very nice guys and fast!  The amount of moving time was within the timeframe I was advised of, and everything went very smoothly.  The guys were professional, sociable, diligent, and not creepy (as I've experienced with past movers)!  I will never use or search for another company again!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Employee Appreciation Shout-Out: Sean

Just wanted to note a mighty deed by Sean today. Actually, it's just one of many. He is universally respected for this kind of thing.

He woke up to a 100+ degree fever. He knew we were short-handed, so he manned-up and headed-out. When he met us at the office, he was a little "droopy," but otherwise ready to go. This is awesome because we were on a "Big Truck Job," one of those where we take a 26-footer out to who-knows-what. We rent big trucks when the job is bigger than a 2-bedroom apartment. In our experience, the chances for anything over that size to go sideways exponentially increases. Bigger place = more stuff.

So, when Sean boarded that beast, he knew that he could be facing a monster of a day -- and he has four consecutive Big Truck Jobs after that over the next few days. It's enough to make a lesser man weep.

He didn't weep. He was obviously struggling today, but it was only "obvious" if you know him. He never complained, he never took the easy way when possible. As the crew leader, it more or less naturally falls to me to carry the items from the truck to the lift gate at the rear. It's a fast pace, but relatively easy, particularly if you're unloading into something with multiple levels.

I asked if Sean wanted to swap roles -- he would bring things to the end of the truck, I'd carry. He refused. Not only that, he was always volunteering to take the heavier things. Whenever I work with him, I wonder if he thinks I'm the old man who needs to be taken care of.

And despite his state, he still did "the little things." For example, when we were maneuvering a kid's twin bed into place, he had the high end, and the other end was on the floor. As I bent down to grab my end, he twisted the bed a little so I could get my hand under it for the initial lift.

It's hard to explain how thoughtful that is in this industry. Maybe I've been out of the field for too long, but things like that go a long way to building an awesome workforce.

Thanks, buddy.

New Yelp 5-star review from Cathy G.!

I'm currently in a battle with Yelp over a bogus review ("We don't fact check," they say...), but Yelp isn't totally bad. Well, no, Yelp is evil, but people who write reviews on that site are almost all good and generous and articulate.

I get twitterpated when we get five-star reviews.

Like this one! Thanks to Cathy G. for writing a thoughtful review of our company. Thanks especially, of course, to Truck Buddies Ara and Sean for earning it. (More on Sean in the next post...)

We needed help unloading a u-haul into storage.  We hired two moving guys from My Truck Buddy and we were thoroughly impressed.  Right from the start of calling and asking questions about the business to shaking hands to say thank you at the end, it was an amazing experience.  The movers were on-time, kind, courteous, and super friendly.  They move quickly and efficiently when they could have gone slower and we wouldn't have fussed even though we were paying by the 15 minutes.  They moved our piano with such ease and caution.  We will be hiring them again when we move from storage into our new house!  And I wouldn't be surprised if they had high scores in Tetris!
I don't know how the guys fare at Tetris, but you could say I sort of majored in it. Who would have thought all those hours in college would have been such great preparation for this job? ["Everybody. --Everybody]

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Space Shuttle Fly-By -- What Movers Can Do

Back in April 2012, the Space Shuttle Discovery got a lift to the Dulles Smithsonian Air & Space museum. Before it completed its final journey, (assuming it's not retrofitted and tricked out for some sort of asteroid-interdiction mission, which I'm not ruling out), it circled the Capitol for a bit. Our old office was right on the periphery of the flight path, giving me an unassailable excuse to not work for a bit.

I came across this old footage when I was archiving some video for 390 other video projects I'm working on. I'd always meant to cut it up, add a blues track and turn it into a royalty free advertisement courtesy of one of our gigantic government agencies, so here it is!

I offer this as a testament to what men can move. I would love to have been a fly on the wall when they discussed how to move this beast across the country.

"Hey -- so what if we have to land the shuttle in California, but we need to launch it from Florida?"

***Thoughtful pause around the conference room***

"How about if we grab that sucker with both hands and bolt it to the back of a 747?"

Everyone sits up at once, the room erupts into chants of "U.S.A! U.S.A! U.S.A!"

Monday, December 16, 2013

New 5-star Yelp review -- thanks, Allison!

It's so nice to be getting reviews like this in the dead season. They're very encouraging. Thanks, Allison!

I have never written a Yelp review and probably never will again, but this company was so amazing. I was super nervous about moving and Leon and Charles made the day super fast and easy. They were very professional, but also friendly and didn't try to overcharge me or drag out the time at all. I was SO impressed.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Unfortunately, we're movers, not time lords...

In the winter, our slow season, we are almost reduced to standing on street corners in foam costumes, flipping signs to generate business. We will gladly accommodate everyone we possibly can, but we're restricted by the limits of space and time. We only have so many hours in the day, and so many guys to meet the demand.

So please, if you're even thinking about moving in the near future, or know somebody who is, make sure you or they book well in advance to secure your first preferred move dates and times. We often have weekend cancellations or reschedulings, but they're fairly rare. It doesn't hurt to call, but just be aware that procrastinating to book movers could mean you have to settle -- something we do not recommend.

The box rental business: our backup plan

In case you didn't know, we have a cardboard box rental business as well. It's called Rent Our Boxes/The Box Buddies. It's a nifty add-on service we provide, but it doesn't make any money (yet -- it's a work in progress). If, however, that business fails while we still have inventory, we are going to make the most epic box fort that has never entered the imaginings of any toddler boy.

Fort Truck Buddy: the BEFORE picture

Except now that we're mature adults, there will be whiskey and Nerf guns.

New Dad Survival Guide: the Mindset

Boy, a lot of this is true. I'm a dad four-times-over now, and yeah, there are definitely changes. I've had entire conversations with people where I had no idea what we were talking about because I was simultaneously tracking three highly mobile little Tasmanian devils, while interpreting the nearby cries of #4. It is almost impossible to do anything else while the kids are present -- my mind automatically switches to track-and-monitor mode.

An interesting thing in the article: it says that testosterone levels drop for about the first six weeks so as to make us more "nurturing." I suppose that's true. While it's been highly--highly--irritating to be completely unable to do anything but care for the new one when I'm home (and too tired to be effective while at work), I've definitely been at least 37 percent more cuddly. But now we're at the 6-week mark, and just like that, the wife and I were able to have a whole conversation about finances while at the dinner table with all the kids around us.

I said to my wife through the din, astonished, "Honey, we just had a conversation."

Anyway, it's a good read. It's full of science and stuff.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Thanks to Stefanie for the awesome Yelp review!

Yay Stefanie! Thanks! I'm glad we could help.

The fellas from My Truck Buddy made what should have been a stressful day really easy. They arrived on time and were in communication with me prior to their arrival. These guys worked hard and worked fast. My usual hand-wringing and gasping was not required as they handled all my things with care. As stated on the website in NUMEROUS places, My Truck Buddy is not a packing company. So if your stuff isn't packed, you're gonna have a bad time. Luckily, I'm not a total idiot so my stuff was neatly packed and ready to go. And go it did! The guys themselves were friendly and professional. I will definitely use MTB again in the future and recommend them to my friends.

Stefanie F. (12/12/13)

Still haven't gotten a Christmas tree? Consider encasing fire ants in carbonite.

Your daily cool: a man pours molten aluminum down a fire ant hill, digs it up, and creates "art." This is a two-fer -- you can get rid of that terrifying fire ant problem, and have a small, permanent Christmas tree.

Now, I've never heard of any of our customers dealing with fire ants, but I believe preparation is key.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Four ways to make your showers more productive

The shower is by far one of the main locations for idea generation for me.

Four Ways to Make Your Showers More Productive.

I came up with the original idea for My Truck Buddy in there. (It's changed a bit, but still...) I really should look for a waterproof phone case so I can capture all my ideas in there...

Survey! What is, or has been, your favorite place to live in DC?

Hey there--the learning curve for all of us simple types at MTB World HQ is pretty steep (What's a Joomla?) so we thought we'd start doing something revolutionary, at least for guys: asking.

One of the first things we want to know is where our customers actually, you know, live. Or better yet, what's their favorite place in DC. If you've moved and like a previous location better, which one is it? And why?

If so inclined, please take a moment to fill out the following form. We'd greatly appreciate it! And just so you know, no, this isn't a gimmick designed to drag you into an endless cycle of emails and newsletters -- we will NOT contact you after you submit the form (although you'll get a quick "Thank you" auto-response.)


Monday, December 9, 2013

UPDATED: Scrape ice off your vehicle's roof, please

Here's your morning PSA (since I know that if your power's out and your home from work, you must be reading this blog...)

I just spent the last 45 minutes driving to work through an icenado. No, the weather has calmed down, but I'd say at least 50 percent of the vehicles out there were carrying a load of ice and snow on their roofs. When they get up to speed, that ice sheers off, gets some air, and seems sexually attracted to my windshield. Fortunately, traffic was light so I was able to dodge all of it, but still...

So, please, do yourselves and your neighbors a favor -- scrape ALL the ice off of your vehicle. Not just the stuff obstructing your vision (and you people who don't do even that? What are you, base jumpers or something?)

UPDATE: I was chatting with an hold high school buddy yesterday. (Perhaps "old" isn't a good term to use for him -- he just turned 40, which may be relevant to this story...hah!) He said he hurt his back. We'd just been talking about chopping wood because that's what men do, so I asked him if that's how it happened.

"No," he said, "it's really embarassing..." As it happened, he was driving down the road when a large sheet of ice sheared off the car in front of (or near) him. It landed squarely on the top of his vehicle. Apparently it happened so fast he barely knew what happened. So, did he panic and drive his car into a guard rail? No -- this is my buddy D., the guy who back in high school shepherded me through many a vehicular problem. He is, in my world, the Original Truck Buddy.

No, D. just flinched. Unfortunately, the body not being what it used to, it caused some sort of pinched nerve or other malady. He's not down for the count, but he's going to have to go to the doctor or chiropractor twice this week because of it.

The lesson -- PLEASE clear the ice from your ENTIRE vehicle!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Two productivity pro-tips for fathers

People often ask me how I do it all. "You have four kids! That's insane!" Hah. We know people with eight and they're just warming up.

My method? Here's 1000+ words:

Me and baby E.A.S. at the helm.

A breakdown:

  1. Noise-canceling headphones. If you're easily distracted like me, you need to tune the world out. I like to just turn them on for silence, which works pretty well even in the midst of three simultaneous emotional meltdowns. When I need to power through, I like house music. Sometimes bluegrass. I find myself River-dancing on occasion.
  2. A baby wrap. If I'm on baby duty, the wrap is indispensable. On occasion, when the work doesn't require a lot of brain, I'll wear a backpack with a kid on my six as well.
    • Wait -- what's that under-30 millennial or perpetual adolescent? I've handed my whats over for safe-keeping? I'm what-whipped? Let me tell you something about the world, son: this wrap is standard issue for men. You know what I'm doing with that baby strapped to my chest? I'm building an empire, son. I'm taking risks. I'm putting my whole livelihood, and that of my family, on the line. I'm doing it in the midst of a domestic warzone that would leave you weeping for your momma and the safety of a wrap just like this one. Sit down.
  3. (Bonus) A stand-up desk (not pictured.) Got little ones with no respect for property rights or any comprehension of what liquids to do laptops? You gotta get yourself a stand-up desk. Aside from the security benefits, it's great for your back -- particularly if you're carrying a heavy front load of infant. And it poises you physically and psychologically for battle. 
  4. (Bonus)Wine or something stronger (not pictured). Because of course.

There's a friendly pro-tip for all you folks out there trying to build empires with little ones setting the place on fire. That's a freebie.