WILLIAMSBURG — A moving company serving Greater Williamsburg is under new management, and its owners hope you’ll notice the difference.
Stephen Milne is the co-owner of Two Men and a Truck in Newport News. He and his business colleagues purchased the franchise in January from the previous owner, who moved back to Michigan to spend more time with her grandchildren.
Two Men and a Truck operates 350 franchises specializing in moving around the country, and Milne is hoping he and his team can lead the Two Men and a Truck franchise in Newport News through an ambitious growth spurt in 2018.
The way to do that, according to Milne, is to focus on providing the best customer service they possibly can.
“We’re just getting started, and we’re not focused on just making money, we’re focused on helping people,” Milne said.
‘Drinking from the firehose’
When Milne and his colleagues purchased their moving business in Newport News last month, it joined franchises in Norfolk, Richmond, Charlottesville and Chesterfield in the ownership group’s Virginia portfolio.
While Milne may be a seasoned professional with nearly six years in the moving industry, he said he was out of his element when he first got his start. He had a background in sales, selling software and real estate from the investment side.
“I was drinking from the firehose from day one. There was so much info to learn and things to figure out.” — Stephen Milne
His introduction to the company came in June 2012 through his friend Nathan Bocock, who co-owned a franchise in Tallahassee, Florida. Milne came on board and managed the Tallahassee business for a year, where he was also introduced to the steep learning curve of the moving industry.
“I was drinking from the firehose from day one,” Milne said. “There was so much info to learn and things to figure out.”
There were regulations to follow, certifications to attain, records to keep, and, of course, possessions to move and customers to please. Milne said he was on the phone with Bocock and co-owners Bryan and Rebecca Feldman “all day every day,” as he learned the ropes.
Bocock taught Milne about finances, including loans and salesmanship.
Bryan Feldman “is really sharp at the organizing side,” and advised him on the upkeep of moving trucks and the certifications and registrations he needed to operate.
Rebecca Feldman “has a really good grasp on people” and handles both the human relations and financial aspects of the businesses the group co-owns.
The team opened a franchise in Richmond in 2013 with Milne as co-owner. After nearly six years in the business Milne still leans on his teammates, but he’s figured out his role in the team.
“I contribute more like a head coach,” Milne said. “It’s about getting people energized in attacking a goal.”
The goal for Two Men and a Truck is simple — provide every customer with a quality moving experience – but the job itself is never easy.
‘That’s why they call us’
Milne isn’t just looking to continue the status quo for his new Newport News business. He’d like to see its operations grow, and rapidly.
He believes the demographics in Greater Williamsburg and Newport News suit the Two Men and a Truck model, with many families and small business moving to, from and within the area.
“We expect to grow,” Milne said. “Right now, we expect to grow the business [in 2018] over last year’s revenue by 60 percent.”
That means expanding their fleet of trucks, hiring new people, and developing the skills of the 16 employees they currently have on the payroll.
One-third of Two Men and a Truck franchisees nationwide got their start in the company by driving trucks and lifting furniture.
“We tell all of our guys we want them to improve and learn new things, develop their skillset,” Milne said. “Anybody can move up the ladder and learn different parts of the business.”
It’s all about people in the moving industry, and in a strenuous profession, Milne sees it as his job to invest in his team and bolster their morale.
“It’s a hard job,” Milne said. “We’re in business because people don’t want to move things. That’s why they call us.”
‘Focusing on our food’
Expanding isn’t just about buying more trucks and hiring more drivers. If a moving business can’t deliver customer satisfaction while delivering their furniture, they won’t get very far.
Seventy percent of Two Men and a Truck customers are either prior customers, people who were referred or people who have seen their trucks. In order to reach their goals, Milne said they must keep the customers they have happy.
“That’s our main goal. Everything else just follows,” Milne said. “If you perform a great move for somebody you’re going to perform another one.”
With the change in ownership of the franchise Milne hopes to see an improvement in customer satisfaction – one more in line with the 97 percent referral rate across all of the team’s franchises last year.
“I’ll be candid, part of the reason we’re coming in is to improve that customer experience,” Milne said. “It hasn’t been up to our Two Men standards here [in Newport News] in the past. We’re coming in to make that good.”
He added that so far in 2018, the Newport News business has achieved a 100 percent referral rate.
For Milne, the key to their success has been over-communicating with customers in order to tailor their service to the customer’s needs.
It begins when providing the customer with a preliminary cost estimate. A Two Men and a Truck representative will visit the home or business and talk through the moving process, offering advice and asking questions about every last detail.
Is the dryer front-loading? Does it have a stabilizer? Will it be going to the first floor or second in the new home? Can it be disconnected before the movers arrive?
Asking these questions ahead of time is essential for a seamless moving day.
“We want to help the customer with what’s best for them,” Milne said. “We’re not trying to sell them on Two Men or upcharge them on mattress bags or packing paper if they don’t need it.”
Customers will also receive a phone call and a survey relating to their satisfaction the day following the move.
Milne likened the business practices to those of running a restaurant.
“If your food doesn’t taste good nobody’s going to come back there — it doesn’t matter how nice the general manager is, or polite the servers are,” Milne said.
“We’re focusing on our food.”