Moving Up the Ranks From Mover to Franchisee
Franchise Players is Entrepreneur’s Q&A interview column that puts the spotlight on franchisees. If you're a franchisee with advice and tips to share, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joel Trost started working as a mover for Two Men and a Truck at the young age of 19. Over the years, he climbed the ranks in the company, from mover to manager to franchisee. Today, he is the owner of 16 franchises spread across the U.S., with more on the way. Here's what he's learned in the process of "growing up with the company."
Name: Joel Trost
Franchise owned: Two Men and a Truck, with locations in St. Louis, Indianapolis, Chicago and Boston.
How long have you owned a franchise?
I have been a franchisee since 2004. I started as a manager in Lansing before I became a manager in St. Louis. Working my way up there, I then purchased St. Louis East and three Indianapolis locations. After that, I bought six in Chicago and six in Boston. I will also be opening up in Sioux Falls, S.D. next year.
Well, I started moving furniture in 1999 and I got into managing after that. I then became an owner as a partner with my mentor who had taught me everything as I was moving up within the system and trying out different roles. I continued to grow with the St. Louis Two Men and a Truck family. It became a huge opportunity for me to achieve ownership and business success through franchising.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
I was growing with the company! I started working with Two Men and a Truck when I was only 19 years old. Being so young, I hadn’t tried out a lot of other work experiences, and the moving industry is what I know best.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
Two Men and a Truck was my first real job, and I wanted to grow with the company. They do a really great job at elevating talent within the system. Many of the current franchisees were once movers or drivers. You can tell when a company’s culture is one that you want to be a part of. This really has been an amazing career path for me.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
Franchise fees are $56,000. It is about $100,000 for trucks and $10,000 for office and start up IT. The total cost ends up being around $160,000. Plus, of course, you need working capital. It all depends on the city costs. Boston costs were somewhere around $400,000 to get started, and we have budget about a $1 million.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
Most of it was experience and growth from working there since I was younger. The person who brought me on as a manager in my early 20s became a mentor of mine and I went into business as a partner with him. So I have learned most of the stuff I do from him and continue to use him to help advise me if I need suggestions or help.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
I think in Chicago in particular it was challenging to hire the personnel needed for the demand of the business. When we got going, there was an immediate need for us to be there and there was a high call volume, but we didn’t have the staff figured out yet. We needed to find the right people to supply the high-quality of customer service that we hold as a standard, so finding the right amount of the right people was hard.
Another challenge, as I continue to open franchises, is that as a multi-unit owner it is challenging to find high-quality, good managers that are willing to relocate and grow. That's the business, really. If we have good people, we invest in them, and we have them join as franchisees with us.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
I would say that whatever the franchise is, I would request contact information for other franchisees from the franchisor. I would reach out and call franchisees and ask them what their experience is like. I think that it is very important that you get a variety of people in the system to reach out to.
Odds are that corporate would give you the four best recommendations. However, I would ask to speak to those who are the most successful and financially on top, then to people who are relatively successful but not in the very top group of franchisees, and then to people who are struggling and to ask them what they should have done differently and why they aren’t successful.
What’s next for you and your business?
We are continuing to expand and we have recently opened Boston, so that is a big project right now. My next venture in line is Sioux Falls, S.D. will be opening in April.