Webinar recap: How to structure your team to scale with Lorne MacInnes
Lorne MacInnes is the President and CEO of Ferguson Moving & Storage. Under his leadership and with a team all aligned around a shared vision, the business has grown rapidly into a Canada-wide franchise.
Keep reading for a recap of our conversation with Lorne, or watch the full webinar here.
Q&A with Lorne MacInnes
What’s your leadership style?
Lorne believes that personal success is only achieved by helping others reach their goals. For this reason, the org charts are upside down at Ferguson Moving, with Lorne at the bottom offering support to the rest of the organization.
When should you think about franchising your moving business?
There’s no perfect time to franchise, but waiting until profits are high and processes are all on paper is a good idea. It’s impossible to expand and grow if the business still exists in one person’s head.
Once every system is documented and one location is running like a well-oiled machine, then you might look at expanding with franchises.
Lorne actually put off expanding initially after realizing that he had too much of the business in his head and not recorded on paper.
“I had my first franchise disclosure document created and I went through it. And then I realized I'm actually not ready to franchise because there's too much in my head about how everything runs. And I'm kind of the Wizard of Oz, like with people coming and asking questions. So I actually stuck the document in my drawer for the next two years to get more things out of my head documented as processes and systems that other people could be trained on and follow so that we could expand and grow.”
Creating processes in order to delegate and grow
“When you start a business, you need to know everything about everything,” says Lorne.
“You need to know that truck over there has a slow leak in the front right tire and if you don't fill it up every three days, you're gonna have a flat—that times a million. So you've got all this stuff going on and it's very hard to let go of that and give a truck to somebody. And you start feeling like you have to overwhelm them with information. They haven't even left the bloody parking lot and you've given them like 18 things that they got to watch out for with that truck or that job or that customer. And it's a ceiling for your growth.”
But an owner who keeps information in their head will always struggle to build a profitable business.
Lorne says that he struggled with this for a long time before realizing that it was going to be a barrier to his and the company’s growth. He still grapples with it, but when he finds himself getting too in the weeds, he steps away and documents everything to get it out of his system.
Plus, workers are more successful at their roles when you empower them with information to do their job rather than constantly micromanaging them.
“I realized that I'm not going to be able to grow if I always have to be there. But I realized through giving my workers the credit for their success and letting them grow, that's really where you can start to see the company grow.”
How do you use data and reporting to keep the business organized?
Lorne is the first to admit that he wasn’t always as data-driven as he is today.
“That's something that I've adopted. I think even in my first few years of business as a young 20-something, I thought that I'll just charge what everybody else is charging or a little bit less so that I can get some business, and as long as I'm busy then I'll be making money.”
It didn’t take him long to realize that “as long as I’m busy then I’ll be making money” isn’t a great business philosophy. That’s when Lorne started really diving in and looking at the numbers. As the owner of Ferguson Moving, Lorne has weekly meetings with the heads of each department to go over reports.
But reports need to be more than just numbers. They need to provide real value so you can make informed business decisions.
“I want to make sure that the reports I'm getting aren't just a bunch of numbers that I don't look at. They need to have meaning…I've been there where I get monthly reports and I don't even know what they mean. So I want to make sure the reports that people are taking their time to put together for me are impactful.”
What core business processes should you have?
The best place to start is creating a vision for your company. A half-million-a-year business is vastly different from a 100-million-a-year business. From there, do a deep dive and start with the most chaotic area of business.
“If you feel like your books are a mess, I would start there. If you feel like your books are fine but your phone's not ringing, I would start with marketing,” says Lorne.
Lorne also cautions that, as much as possible, you should try to scale all processes at the same time.
“Processes for sales, marketing, operations, accounting, everything needs to scale at the same time because if you have your sales explode, then you're getting like a ton of customers but if your operations aren't keeping up, then all your customers that you're getting, you're losing them on the back end through your operations.”
How to hire movers when there’s a labor and driver shortage
Ferguson Moving isn’t immune to the labor shortages that are impacting the whole industry. Lorne says that on average, they’re turning down 10-20 jobs a day because they just don’t have the staff to support the workload. So a big focus right now is attracting more talent.
“Normally you could place ads all over the place and you would get a line up out the door of people that are gonna work. Because the moving industry typically pays more than a lot of other industries. It's a harder job but by paying more money, you attract more people. But that's been a real struggle.”
While this is challenging, Lorne sees it as an opportunity to innovate. In the past, he followed a very traditional hiring process– a staffing agency would find people, do a pre-interview and then pass them along to Lorne for an in-person interview. But Lorne found there was a huge drop off in interest between the two interviews.
To combat this, Lorne has adopted a new hiring tactic: Every two weeks or so, he brings in as many people as possible from staffing agencies. But instead of bringing folks in for traditional interviews, Lorne says they treat that first meeting as a paid orientation session.
“So you have 10 people show up and then we run through a script of welcome to the company, give a little bit of history, talk about what we do, we give examples of people that have risen in the company from being a mover to being a franchise owner, or working in the trucks and now they're in operations, or getting into sales positions, and talking about the different salaries that these people earn,” says Lorne.
“And then we also talk about the difficulties of the job, like lots of overtime, different start times, working in inclement weather, heavy lifting, and stuff like that. And then we asked everybody there, if you're still interested, we'll meet one-on-one with each of you. And for those of you who are still here, there are refreshments, there's coffee and water, and remember this is paid time. If you feel this isn't for you, feel free to withdraw your application and we'll pay you for the time that you came in today.”
Tech tools for your moving company
Technology is critical to run a moving company. Customer relationship management software (CRM) for movers is a place to keep detailed customer notes. GPS tracking on trucks is useful, and an app called Workplace where movers can create a customer account and post videos, and photos, and keep detailed notes helps keep everything documented.
“I like as many tools that look similar to Facebook as possible, very easy, transparent, and cloud-based. You can view them on your phone, and they’re very easy to train. And I think that as time goes forward, it's just going to get easier and easier and easier,” says Lorne.
What is the biggest challenge of running a business?
Lorne says the biggest challenge in business is scaling for growth. You have to comprehend all the different aspects of running a business from marketing to operations to accounting. But, the great thing is, these skills are transferable. Once you master them, you could open any business and grow it.
“Once you learn these skills in moving, you'll be surprised that these are very transferable skills to other businesses. I own a landscaping business and I know really zero about how to pull weeds and mow lawns and do all of the hedge trimmings and everything like that. But we've got a staff of 35 people who know what they're doing. And so we cultivate the business for growth by bringing in people. And then we've been growing that business for the last six years. And now I have a really good handle on the structure of how the company needs to run, but I still don't know how to operate a hedge trimmer.”
How much working capital do you need to start a moving company?
It really depends on where you are in life and what your business goals are. If you’re 20 and still live at home versus 45 with a family to care for, your needs are very different.
A good starting place is to know exactly what your overhead costs are and then have at least six months of working capital to start.
There is plenty of work to go around and Lorne says building a relationship with local competitors is a great way to share referrals and insider knowledge. And giving back is a way to express gratitude.
Watch the full conversation with Lorne here.
Full webinar transcript: How to structure your team to scale with Lorne MacInnes
Hello and happy Thursday, everyone. Welcome to our live Q&A of “Ask the Experts.” My name is Heidi and I'm the strategic partnerships manager at Supermove and we're on a mission to make moving simple for everyone with a platform that brings your whole team to one system, so dispatchers, your trucks, your operations, your sales, all to one platform.
Today I'm joined by Lorne MacInnes and look forward to talking about structuring your team to scale. And I'm sure there are a lot of different moving companies tuning in—small, big, maybe you’re already a franchise. But Lorne definitely has that experience so I'm really excited to be able to learn from him.
A brief bio about Lorne: He's based in Vancouver, Canada, and is an entrepreneur with a systematic approach to equipping and empowering partners and employees with the tools necessary to become successful. And with his company Ferguson Moving, his org charts are upside down with him at the bottom, offering support.
Under his leadership and with a team online under a shared vision, the business has grown rapidly into a Canada-wide franchise. He strongly believes that personal success is only achieved by helping others reach their goals. So we're here to learn from you how to structure your team to scale.
And I'll start off by asking some of the submitted questions that came in through the registration. And for those tuning in, as always, type in your questions and we will turn to the Q&A towards the end. So the Q&A is at the bottom of your zoom control panel and we'll kick it off. Lorne, how did you get into the moving industry and can you tell us a little bit about your background?
Yeah. I think a lot of people didn't really get into the moving industry on purpose—that's something that I hear talking to a lot of people and I'm no different. I love learning but I didn't do well in school. I struggled with sitting in a classroom. I wanted to be outside, but I always worked through school with part-time jobs. I did paper routes when I was younger than that. I did a lot of things to just work when I was in school.
But when school ended, a friend of mine, his grandmother was passing away and he and his mom were going to go up near Alaska to a city called Whitehorse to pay respects to her before she passed away. And he asked me if I wanted to come and it would be for eight weeks and I talked to my mom about it. She didn't think it was a good idea and I just finished graduating high school. I was about 2000 miles away from home but I went anyway and I thought I'd had a lot of money saved up from working at a gas station. I had $1800 and I had my own vehicle that I took with me. And I didn't realize the cost of living outside of your parent's house. And that money only lasted maybe about three or four weeks or something. And then I needed to get a job because I felt like if I called my family to ask for gas money to get home, they would kind of roll into the “I told you so.”
So, I started putting applications out everywhere and I got hired at a moving company when I was 19 and started to work for them and learned the ropes—all about the moving business. And I worked there for about a year and a half.
Wow and then to a CEO. Awesome story.
Yeah, that's how I got into the moving business, as the entry point for it. But after about a year and a half, I actually had a big disagreement with the owner of the company and I quit. And it wasn't just that I quit, I ended up leaving feeling like I can do this. And my goal became to build a company so big that it would dwarf his, that's how upset I was with the things that had happened.
Right, yeah, gotta have that motivation.
But I had no money. So it's really hard to start a business with no money. So what I did is, on the weekends I was already delivering pizzas for a local restaurant. And I thought, well there's a lot of other restaurants in the city that don't do delivery but they have doggy bags and stuff with leftovers. So I started going around, approaching them and asking them if they wanted to start doing deliveries and I had 22 restaurants say yes in the first week. And then I went and had a menu printed up with all of their menus in it. And every time I would go back to doing my pizza deliveries, I would drop off these menus and then I started getting more and more calls. And then I had to hire people to help me. So I was 20 at the time and I ended up having three drivers working from 4 p.m. until 1 a.m. doing deliveries for all these different restaurants like Subway, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and different places. So it's kind of like Uber Eats or Skip the Dishes.
So I was doing that and then after six months, I ended up being able to afford to get my first moving truck. And I started to get contracts with different places, like the post office. And I was doing appliance deliveries for different places, doing household moves, doing office moves. So my first appointment was 7 a.m. to pick up mailbags from the post office to take them to the government. And then at 4 p.m, I would switch to my food delivery business. So my hours of operation were 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. and I was working seven days a week.
Wow, long time. It's interesting that the way that you started your company was with these contracts, these partnerships. I feel like a lot of people start by moving their friends and then they just jump into residential. So that's really fascinating. I want to fast-forward to you now with Ferguson Moving. I'm curious, when did you think about turning Ferguson into a franchise, and what were the beginning days like when you created your first franchise?
Sure. So I bought into the business. I got into the company in 2001 after moving back to Vancouver. And by 2004, we'd already transformed the company from where it was because it was only about a three-truck business. But it was already something like 90 years old. But it was like a second-generation owner that had it. And he was doing everything by himself. And it was really like the inmates were running the asylum for the business. But a lot of people would come into that company and then turn around and walk out the door because it just was chaotic. But I saw good potential because even though there was dysfunction, with the age of the company it was still garnishing large clients to move and big houses and stuff, and that was the most important thing. And so we started to systematize the business with just the simple things.
And I actually started there as a driver because I was just going to start up my own company. But I went to the owner and thanked him for the hours. And I let him know—this was like two weeks into working there as a mover—that I'm probably going to move and start up my own company again, but I thanked him for the hours. And I saw he was doing everything himself, so I said if you ever need a hand doing sales, I've done hundreds of sales appointments myself so if you ever need a hand, let me know. And he called me that night and said that he talked to his wife and that he would like a hand. And I said, you know you also need help with operations because there's a lot of issues like the trucks are not being run well—you open up the door and a beer can rolls out. That's not good.
So after two weeks, I was the sales manager and the operations manager for the company. And that's where he really gave me free rein to make changes. And so we started to work on personnel changes, uniform changes, getting new trucks, and improving the sales processes. And right away, we'd gone from doing $300,000 a year to a million a year in sales. And then we had sold out of the storage that he had and we needed to get into a bigger facility. And he'd always known that I wanted to buy into the company. So in order to move into the larger facility, he wanted me to buy half the company so about 49%. And then we ran it for a number of years. And then in 2010, he was retiring, so I bought the balance of it. And it was kind of around that time I was already thinking of franchising because we had everything in play.
So I had my first franchise disclosure document created and I went through it. And then I realized I'm actually not ready to franchise because there's too much in my head about how everything runs. And I'm kind of the Wizard of Oz, like with people coming and asking questions. So I actually stuck the document in my drawer for the next two years to get more things out of my head documented as processes and systems that other people could be trained on and follow so that we could expand and grow. And that's really where I started to work on more of the development of the franchise at that time before I brought anyone on.
I wonder why it's not so common to document processes for people. As you said, everything was in your head, it was just experience. You knew how to put out fires, you knew how to do the sales operations. But I'm sure a lot of moving companies are in the same situation where things aren't documented, so they have no succession plan.
Yeah well, that was me though. I was very—and I still struggle with this at times—like when you start a business, you need to know everything about everything. You need to know that truck over there has a slow leak in the front right tire and if you don't fill it up every three days, you're gonna have a flat—that times a million. So you've got all this stuff going on and it's very hard to let go of that and give a truck to somebody. And you start feeling like you have to overwhelm them with information. They haven't even left the bloody parking lot and you've given them like 18 things that they got to watch out for with that truck or that job or that customer. And it's a ceiling for your growth.
And I think it takes until you realize you're not going to grow anymore as a company or as a person before you kind of hit that. So I struggled with that for a long time, that's where I was putting in like tons of hours and stuff like that. But once you kind of realize that you're not going to be able to grow from a million to two million to three million, four million… It still is a struggle for me because I still have that tendency at times, but I need to just get away, document everything, and get it out of my system. And so I'm a lot better at it now. But even when we opened up our first call center, I didn't like the way that people were answering the phone. And they would say things and I’d think, ah why did you say that—any owner will understand like kind of these cringe moments.
So instead of documenting and making scripts at that time, what I started doing is I'll pick up the phone and I'll talk and let them see, like model for them how it's done. And I think it just makes things worse that you don't empower people. So when we started to create scripts for this is what to say, train on the scripts, and then empower people on how to be successful at the role, and they actually can improve on the scripts. I've come back into the office since then and hear people on the phone now and wow, I could never be as good as that. They are really excellent.
So did you get to a point of burnout until you started delegating, or realizing you can't be the one that's running everything, being in charge of everything?
I don't know if I would call it burnout. I would think that I just realized that I'm not going to be able to grow. If I'm the center of the stage, if it's a performance, then I'm always gonna have to be there. But I realized through putting other people on stage, putting them in the line, giving them the credit for the success, and letting them grow, that's really where you can start to see that the company grows. And that's where I actually get more excited now about the success of people on my team or my franchise owners than I am even about my personal achievements.
Because you're able to create more change or influence more people, change more people's lives.
For me now it's a philosophy of I don't do any deal unless it's a win-win. Like you win, I win, everybody wins. I don't do any deals where you win, I lose or I win, you lose. I don't do those anymore.
When we were talking, you mentioned that a lack of structure creates a need to rely on the experts. So how do you make sure that once you do have structure and processes, that they stay in place? Or is that something you guys review, and constantly change?
yeah so when you put processes in place, the way that you deal with making sure they’re in place is the reports that you get. So I get different reports from different heads of different departments. So every day I'll get an operations report, every day I'll get a call center report, sales report, and these are reports that are coming to me that other people are assembling. And on top of that, it's the regular meetings that we have. So we'll have our weekly sales meeting, and our monthly management meeting, and so these can be done on zoom or anything. But the point is that you stay connected and we have an agenda that we go through. I really want to keep my meetings as short as possible so I'm on track, and that's where I have an agenda of what I want to accomplish.
And even with my reports, I want to make sure that the reports that I'm getting aren't just a bunch of numbers that I don't look at. I want to make sure that they have meaning. Anyone that's ever done any search engine optimization that gets a report from those companies, you know you get like 20 pages. And I've been there where I get these monthly reports and I don't even know what they mean and don't look at them and delete them and stuff like that. So I want to make sure that the reports that people are taking their time to put together for me are impactful.
Have you always been very data-driven or is that something that you've adopted?
That's something that I've adopted. I think even in my first few years of business as a young 20-something, I thought that I'll just charge what everybody else is charging or a little bit less so that I can get some business, and as long as I'm busy then I'll be making money. And it wasn't until probably my third year that I was just sitting in my chair exhausted and I got my financial reports from my bookkeeper. He came into your office because he was just a small business and he'll give me the reports and just that feeling of frustration like “Is he stealing from me? Is my bookkeeper embezzling money because where's the money? It says here that I made money and then I checked the bank and there's nothing in it. Where's the money?” And so I think that it's that failure of a business almost falling forward that creates that need to find out why and there's got to be a better way. And because we know anyone in this business works really hard, so you want to make sure that you're making money on it.
You can start with any part of your business, but what processes have to be set in order to start scaling?
I would say everything kind of needs to go up together. So processes for sales, marketing, operations, accounting, everything needs to scale at the same time because if you have your sales explode, then you're getting like a ton of customers but if your operations aren't keeping up, then all your customers that you're getting, you're losing them on the back end through your operations. And so I think in order to scale, it starts with a vision of what you want and it sounds like a big cloud statement to say.
But to break it down, how much money do you want? Then also what people need to realize is, what are you willing to give for that money? If you want to make 100 million dollars, what are you willing to give to get that? What sacrifice? Think of your family as well. How much time do you want to spend with your family? Because entrepreneurship isn't for everybody and some people would actually make more money with the job and have more time with their family. So I think it's making sure that you have the vision of what you want. Do you want three trucks, do you want four trucks, do you want a storage facility, do you want to get a million dollars a year, do you want to get $500,000 a year? What is it that you want?
And then once you have that in mind, then you can start to look at where the biggest problems are. So if you feel like your books are a mess, I would start there. If you feel like your books are fine but your phone's not ringing, I would start with marketing. Because I remember in those early days, I had a real desire to get more people to move with me and I thought putting an ad in the yellow pages would just make the phone ring instantly when it came out and it didn't work. So I had really no money, so if I didn't get moves, I didn't eat. I was putting fuel in the truck instead of food in my fridge. And I took the yellow pages ad down to the office depot, photocopied the yellow page ad, and then I drove around and put them into mailboxes with for sale signs outside. And then I would also leave a moving box with a roll of tape with my flyer on it, to make it stand out more—like here's a free box, there's a free roll of tape, and here's my flyer. And if I went around and dropped off like 50 flyers, I would usually get about three or four moves from it.
Wow, that's a tactic that I've never heard of. And do you still do that? I feel like that would definitely make you stand out.
No, I don't do that now. But again, even when I was in people's houses, if they didn't choose me I would just review, like play it like a movie in my head like why, why, why. And I just started to refine my skills in sales. But I was just super driven to make sure that I was winning the moves and that I would do a really good job on the moves that I won.
A question about this past year. Last year with the labor and driver shortage, how has that affected your business?
Yeah, it's been a real challenge for a couple of things where again, sales have exploded and then getting operations to kind of keep up with the labor shortage. We're turning down jobs right now. I get it in my daily reports. Yesterday we turned down six jobs but on average we're turning down about 10 to 20 jobs a day. And so our focus is let's get more staff and normally you could place ads all over the place and you would get a line up out the door of people that are gonna work. Because the moving industry typically pays more than a lot of other industries, whether it be in the restaurant or hotel/hospitality industry space. So it's a harder job but by paying more money, you attract more people. But that's been a real struggle.
But again we look at how we can innovate, how we can rise above that, and one of the things that we've done recently that I would encourage other people to do. I own another business now called Express Employment Professionals. So it's a staffing agency and I know how that entire industry works. And so what I would normally do is have them find me people and then we would interview them and then if we liked them we would bring them on. But what would happen is my staffing agency would already do the interview and then by the time we asked them to come in for an in-person interview with us, there's like a huge percentage of people not coming in because they maybe find something a little easier or whatever, they get a job somewhere else.
And so what I came up with is let's stop doing that. Let's have like every two weeks, one day where we bring in as many people as possible from staffing agencies. So I went to mine and I even went to a couple of my competitors and I said, I need to get drivers and movers, and they say how many, and I say I need 40. They’re like oh wow, 40. So people start assigning specific people in their offices to work on your account because that's a big order and so what they do is they send people down. So we can have 10 people come in but instead of it being for an interview, what we're saying is this is paid right, so you're just coming in for orientation and then we'll put you to work.
So you have 10 people show up and then what we do is we run through a script of welcome to the company, give a little bit of history, talk about what we do, we give examples of people that have risen in the company from being a mover to being a franchise owner, or working in the trucks and now they're in operations, or getting into sales positions, and talking about the different salaries that these people earn. And then we also talk about the difficulties of the job, like lots of overtime, different start times, working in inclement weather, heavy lifting, and stuff like that. And then we asked everybody there, if you're still interested, we'll meet one-on-one with each of you. And for those of you who are still here, there are refreshments, there's coffee and water, and remember this is paid time. If you feel this isn't for you, feel free to withdraw your application and we'll pay you for the time that you came in today.
Interesting wow, so that first meeting with that possible new mover or new hire is paid?
it's paid. So it actually turns out to be a lot cheaper than people think because I was spending about six thousand dollars a month advertising for staff and getting really dismal results. And for a recruiting agency, like there are 800 Express offices throughout the US and Canada and we're just one of the franchise owners of that business. And it makes a lot of sense to let them do all the work. Because you can go on to Indeed and stuff like that and you can post a thing and you'll get maybe a lot of applicants. But then somebody's gotta spend time to go through those, read those, set up phone interviews. It's a lot of work. And then check references.
So I outsource all of that, get all these people to come in, and then we will do the script that I talked to you about. And then for those that make it through the one-to-one interview, which is just 15 minutes of sit-down questions making sure they're a good fit, then we'll bring them all in together, and now we'll do a review of the job description. We'll go over the terms and policies of the company, and all of the things that they need to know. And then we have online training through Trainual. So we'll sign them all up for Trainual. We'll send them home and we'll let them know that we're going to give them one extra hour to complete the Trainual stuff at home. And then they're going to come back the next day. And then I introduce them to one of our top movers who's like our trainer and then he works with them in the warehouse with no customers around because there's always a lot of work to do in the warehouse. And then he takes them through three days of training in the warehouse before they ever get to go and see a customer.
But it's just something new that we're trying now because we are struggling with getting staff. But we have to ask ourselves, okay how much effort are we putting into getting staff? And I think it was coming down to on a scale of one out of ten, we're maybe doing a four. So okay if we're doing a four, what else can we do? And that's really where people who are business owners, that's where our value is. As entrepreneurs, we come up with ideas. It's very hard to turn to your staff and say, “hey guys what are we going to do?” because it's not their business like “I don't know what we should do.” And so you know again I can come up with the idea but I gotta document it, model it, show it to somebody else and that's what I'm working on recently to be able to pass that off so that I'm not the one doing it.
That sounds like a very creative idea that I've also not heard anyone try. But in terms of how much effort you are putting into hiring, I know there are a lot of people that talk about how difficult it is. They don't have enough funds to pay for an HR person or invest more into who they're outsourcing or staffing for the staffing agency.
Yeah, with staffing agencies you don't have to pay them like a ten-thousand-dollar finder fee for a person because they have evaluation-to-hire services. so you're only paying an extra three or four dollars an hour for the person that they bring in versus doing it yourself. But then it's a nice trial thing and if it's not working out, you don't even have to sit down with the employee because they’re not your employee yet. You can just call the recruiter and say, you know Jeff isn't working out and then you'll just never see Jeff again.
Oh, interesting. I got this question from someone that registered. What kind of tech tools do your teams use? You talk about reporting. Obviously, there's got to be tech in place in order to get those clean reporting points. And also do your companies all run with the same software?
Oh, the various companies that I own?
All the franchises.
Oh yes, they all run on the same software so we have our CRM. We have GPS tracking on all our trucks. We also use a system called Workplace which is a paid service of Facebook. So with Workplace, it doesn't connect people to their Facebook accounts. So they create their own account and it's somewhat like Facebook and you can post videos and everything in there. So for example, one of the things that we ran into a long time ago was our sales staff could go out, they could take great notes of the move details, of what the move looks like, but we found that it doesn't cover the nuances of who the customer is. So what we did is, every time a customer books, our sales staff bring out their phone and then they do a one-minute customer introduction video of you know maybe it's like oh we're moving Mrs.Anderson she's 80 years old she hasn't moved in 45 years. She's very nervous about everything. There are some rose bushes out front that she's particularly concerned about, so please put a ramp over the rose bushes so that we don't trample them. And she's in our hands and she's just relying on us to take care of everything so please make sure before you guys finish that you ask her if there is absolutely anything else that we can do to help you to make sure that she's looked after. Just that one little thing. it's a lot better to do it that way than it is to type all that out because it doesn't carry the same meaning.
Wow, that's a really interesting idea, especially because I think the crew will just glaze over the notes because there's so much to read through. At the start of the job, they're probably just overwhelmed but to make it easy and have a video for them to watch. That way you can say well it's been communicated.
Yeah, it's been communicated but also I think for the movers it's a real disadvantage for them because every day they’re going to a different job. And they don't know what type of customer—is the customer a director where they're going to tell you everything to do? Are they passive where they're not really sure what to do and they're not giving any direction? Or are they like a socializer where they won't let you get to work because it takes two hours just to walk through the house because they're telling you all kinds of stories? And so we really need to let our moving staff know what they're walking into. And then we teach them and coach them through our training on how to deal with the three different personality types.
Wow, you can summarize the personality types by emojis, like a fire emoji.
That's right. I'm gonna write that down actually.
Or a giant X. I'm just kidding, you probably won't send your crews to a bad customer. [laughs] Do you find that it's hard to train your new movers and your new staff in the technology that you guys are using?
Actually, I find it getting a lot better and easier as time goes on. And really that's where we try to find tools that are trainable, that are easy to understand. I like as many tools that look similar to Facebook as possible, very easy, transparent, cloud-based, you can view them on your phone, and they’re very easy to train. And I think that as time goes forward, it's just going to get easier and easier and easier.
Yeah, I like that comparison. Everyone's on Facebook for the most part.
Well, you see, there are even different tools out there that we've tried and if they don't look good like Microsoft teams was one. So Workplace costs us money. We were going to switch to Microsoft Teams because it's already included in our Microsoft Exchange fee so it's not free but you're already paying for it. But it didn't have that same dynamic easiness and look to it, and it was just a huge fail. And because the Workplace one used to be free, and then they started charging money for it, so that's where we were like, oh do we want to pay so much per user? But it ended up being a worthwhile expenditure.
Yeah, everyone's going to start using Workplace. I've never even heard of it so I'm definitely going to look into it. I think Facebook is going to own the world someday. But on top of being a moving company owner—this is my last question before we go into Q&A. If anyone else wants to type in your questions. Thank you, Kevin. So, on top of being a moving company owner, you run four other businesses. What have you found to be the biggest challenge in each business? That might be a very detailed question.
Yeah, it's okay. I think the biggest challenge in each business is scaling for growth. So again, it's like all the different parts of the companies that are going up, whether it's sales, marketing, operations of the business, or accounting. And so once you learn these skills in moving, you'll be surprised that these are very transferable skills to other businesses. So one of the other companies that I own, it's a landscaping business. I know really zero about how to pull weeds and mow lawns and do all of the hedge trimmings and everything like that. But we've got a staff of 35 people who know what they're doing. And so we cultivate the business for growth by bringing in people but not necessarily saying, you tell us what to do; rather, this is what we need. And then we've been growing that business for the last six years. And now I have a really good handle on the structure of how the company needs to run, but I still don't know how to operate a hedge trimmer.
I'm sure you have all these other business ideas you're gonna jump into, like start a pizza store, some pizza company, or something.
Oh, I never want to have a business with an expiry date.
That’s one thing that scares me. I tell my wife, never let me get into a food business, please, ever.
Ice cream? Or twinkies? Are twinkies okay?
No, no. Oh, twinkies, yeah maybe I'll get into twinkies. They last forever.
[laughs] All right, I'm gonna start with Kevin's question: In today's moving world, every company needs cash flow to survive. So how would you evaluate how much working capital you need to get the business up and running and begin building it?
Well, it depends on your personality and where your circumstances are. If you're single and 20, as I said, I used to put fuel instead of food in my expenses. But I would say, if you want to do it smartly instead of doing it like a 20-year-old, you really want to have a good idea of what your monthly overhead costs are going to be. So if you have no moves scheduled whatsoever, what are your monthly overhead costs? So your truck payments, your insurance, rent, any salaries that you have—what are those expenses? And I think you really want to have at least six months of working capital available to cover your overhead costs if you end up having no moves whatsoever. And that was actually something when COVID first hit, I thought a lockdown meant that nobody would be moving. And so I went through with our accountants to look at okay if we have to lay everybody off, shut everything down, but keep all the necessary payments going, what is that number going to be? And so that's what I would recommend: having at least a minimum of three months of working capital available, ideally six months to have enough of a cushion.
All right. Thanks, Kevin, for that question. Slava is asking: Hi Lorne, can you talk about independent contractors versus employees?
Yeah, so independent contractors versus employees. If you're talking about how to pay people…
I think mainly independent contract movers versus full-time crews.
Sure. Well for us we mainly just have our own staff. The thing with independent contractors is, do you really know how they operate? Are they going to your customer and saying, “next time call us. we're cheaper”? Are they treating your customer the way that fits in with the way that you would treat the customer yourself if you were there? I would say if you're going to work with someone that's got their own truck and they're doing stuff like that, you also need to be upfront with the customer that you're doing that. Because I don't do that myself but if you are open to doing that, just make sure the customer is on the same page as you. Sometimes I see things on Facebook, like “Oh I need three guys to help me unload in Alabama tomorrow. Anyone that could help me?” Can you imagine the horror that the customer would feel if they saw that ad? I never see any of the movers tagging their customers into that post. Like “oh my god Jim can't find three guys to help us unload tomorrow. Who is he gonna get? What are these people gonna look like? How are they gonna act?” And I think you need to have that same kind of paranoia as your customers have when you're talking about independent contractors. And I would make sure that you even go and watch the work that they're doing on their own jobs or with somebody else and just do a site visit. “Hey if you want to be an independent contractor for us, that's great. Let me know the next three jobs that you're on. I want to just come by and see them or send somebody by.” And then have a checklist ready when you go there of what it is you're looking for. Don't just wander in. Even if you have an app or a clipboard. Are they using floor runners, are they pad wrapping the furniture, are they labeling the boxes, are they setting things up the way that ideally you would like to as well? And then you can engage them into working for you as a contractor. But you have to be really clear with everybody because it can get you into a lot of trouble if you just rush into dollar signs, that I'm going to make more money, I don't have to turn down as many jobs. Because your reputation can get damaged.
Yeah, it's like a quality versus money balance.
Mm-hmm yeah. And sometimes, depending on how you set it up, the contract workers that you're dealing with know that you're making money off of the services that they're doing and they can start to feel like, why am I giving you any money because they don't sometimes realize that you're trying to run a business. You did marketing, you did the sales, and you spent a lot of time getting this customer. And for example, if you're invoicing the customer a thousand dollars but they're getting $600, I've seen that before where they start to question like why am I giving you $400? So it can get toxic unless you have everything thought out well in advance.
Yeah. All right, Slava, I'm gonna ask one more of your questions, and then I'm gonna wrap it up. But which GPS tracking have you tried? Which one are you currently using?
So I'm using one here called Positrace and it's a Vancouver-based one. It's really inexpensive, so in US dollars it's about $18 a month. And they give you the unit for free based on putting it in as a contract, I think for three years. And so we just pay that and it's a really good online tool. And it's just been one that I've been super happy with. Super easy to use.
using local tools. I like it. Lorne well I really appreciate you taking the time out of your day to talk to me, answer some questions, and really just share some knowledge with us.
And just wanted to close it out by saying that for anyone who did tune in, if you're interested in learning more about Supermove, please check out our website. You can sign up for a demo. And we're looking to be the best moving software out there, so check out what we have and hopefully, we can wow you.
Lorne, do you have any last words before I end the session?
I just really appreciate the opportunity to be able to speak with you. And I really enjoy giving back wherever I can to the people that are coming behind me. And I want to acknowledge all the people that helped me throughout my struggles because there's been a lot of people that helped me. So I really hope that in our industry that we lean on each other more for support. I think there's a lot of competitiveness within our business, especially with somebody that's more local to us. And I would say that I've gained a lot by reaching out to my local competitors and then with them referring work to me and me referring work to them. So really keep supporting each other because there's enough work for all the good guys to go around.
Yeah, I agree. I mean even from me being on the tech side of things, I see that there is a lot of competition. But there are also plenty of people that are very friendly in sharing their knowledge like Lorne, like Kevin. So I love that you're very grateful for everyone that's helped you and that you want to give back.
Well, thank you all for attending. I see that there are some more questions but Jeff, Slava, if you have any other questions feel free to reach out to Lorne if that's okay.
Absolutely yeah I'm on Facebook if anyone wants to reach out you can reach me there.
Awesome. But yeah thank you all for attending and look out for our next event by following Supermove on the social media channels. Have a great day Lorne. All right, bye everyone.