In 1985, brothers Jon and Brig Sorber began moving people around the Lansing, Michigan area to earn a little extra spending money. When they took off to college, their mother Mary Ellen Sheets continued to receive inquiries from potential customers, so she kept the business going with the help of her mother Helen Eberly – also known as Grandma Eb – and hired a few movers.
Fast forward to 2018, and the TWO MEN AND A TRUCK Home Office in Lansing, Michigan is a 54,000 square foot building, with more than 200 employees working to support every aspect of the franchise from safety, technology, and risk management to compliance, marketing, and operations.
Upon first signing a franchise agreement, new franchisees are introduced to TWO MEN AND A TRUCK’s First Gear program led by the Field Training and Development Manager Michael Arrieta. He started with the company 11 years ago in a one-on-one consulting role for franchises, but the system grew to a point where it needed someone to specifically focus on setting new franchises up for success and strongly aligning partners coming on board through a more defined process.
“At the end of the day, the franchise system has a lot of power in process,” Arrieta said. “Our processes and systems are what a franchisee is purchasing, so when we focus on process, the franchisees are more prepared and can launch their businesses more efficiently. We have a hand off call with the franchise development team, and we talk through what the process looks like to open a franchise, and create a plan together. If they have any questions at all, my team is available to answer them, and we make sure everyone is on the same page.”
To help define the process in early 2018, TWO MEN AND A TRUCK developed a playbook to share with new franchisees. The 100-page workbook provides a 10,000 foot overview of what the franchise opening process looks like and a list of every task that needs to be done on a weekly basis, which is then discussed on phone calls with project managers from each department.
The training team also facilitates a one-on-one Franchise Essentials workshop that new franchisees attend at Home Office about one month into their playbook training. New franchisees spend three days with each department reviewing their plan and helping them accomplish the tasks that need to get completed. The timeline to finish the playbook and attend Franchise Essentials is typically about three months, but it depends on the state’s authorities and regulations.
As franchisees get closer to booking moves, TWO MEN AND A TRUCK also has a training class called Gearing Up that takes place two weeks to a month before opening, and provides additional in-person training across all departments and in a larger group of new and existing franchisees and managers.
“My team and I have worked with franchisees for so long, so we know what to give them and when to give it to them,” Arrieta said. “We give them the information they need before they open or after they open, depending on what is necessary, and to ensure they don’t get overwhelmed.”
Josh Keeling signed to become a TWO MEN AND A TRUCK franchisee in January 2017. He says the corporate team really helped him get set up, walked him through the process, and provided a very detailed list of items to prepare leading up to his start date.
“There are different training courses at the corporate office, and it’s set up kind of like a crash course that gets you a master’s degree in TWO MEN AND A TRUCK,” Keeling said. “You meet with all the different departments to learn about compliance issues, safety, operations, finance, sales, accounting, and more. You get a chance to connect with every department, and they go into details for each aspect of running the business.”
The week a franchise opens, two people from Home Office will go to the location and complete in-person training for not only the franchisee, but also work with team members to get them comfortable with the processes. Keeling mentioned the in-person visit provided his staff with extensive hands-on training in the office, helping teach the team everything they can encounter on the job.
“We certainly don’t expect a franchise location to do any moves without training, so we’re there that first week to help train their staff,” Arrieta said. “The nature of the visit is mostly operational. We roll up our sleeves and show them how to train employees, safely lift different types of furniture, and we focus a lot of time on customer service. The goal is to train the staff because they haven’t done it before, but we are also training the trainer at the same time. After we leave, we will give franchisees and their teams phone support, but since we won’t be there in person, we want to train them to be able to handle anything that happens on their own.”
The corporate team then takes on more of a consultant role once the in-person training is completed and the franchise is open. First Gear is what the company refers to as the process before opening, and Second Gear is the process after they open. TWO MEN AND A TRUCK Franchise Business Consultant (FBC) Manager Les Bielby and his team helps franchisees in the Second Gear process and offer ongoing support with weekly or monthly calls that cover everything from operations, recruiting, accounting and HR.
Bielby explains the ongoing support is half prescriptive and half responding to franchisees’ questions. On check-in calls, the FBC dissects shortcomings in a location’s day-to-day activities and helps with things like lead issues or operational inefficiencies.
“We ask things like: What’s your PPC budget? What are you doing for marketing? How’s your SEO? Is the website up-to-date? How’s your sales conversion looking? Do you need coaching for your employees’ phone or web processes? Do you have capacity issues? Do you have enough movers and drivers to fill market demand?” Bielby said.
Through the Second Gear process, the Home Office team looks to see where there may be oversight and to help fix any issues. The team’s ultimate goal throughout the entire training and support process is to make the franchise location profitable and efficient.
“There is so much to learn in the training process that it’s nearly impossible to soak it all in at one time,” Keeling said. “Franchisees need constant reminders and assistance, and the Home Office team has been there every single time that I needed anything. Franchisees truly have a solid support system from the Home Office staff, and I can tell they genuinely want us to succeed. “