Movin' On Up: Two Men and a Truck Duo Think Big!
The moving business has been good to Brooke Wilson and her husband and business partner Les. Together the couple have built a company with multiple Two Men and a Truck territories that generate annual revenue of more than $12 million.
When we first interviewed Brooke in 2016, she and Les had just been recognized with Multi-Unit Franchisee magazine's MVP Influencer Award for a Husband & Wife Team. At the time, she spoke of how she and Les were successful in business because they divided and conquered with well-defined boundaries and responsibilities and formalized business strategies. It was clear they had a plan and were executing it well.
Brooke says they have continued to be active in their business over the past three years. During that time, she says, they invested in the advancement of two of their managers through a sweat equity ownership arrangement in their Greenville, North Carolina market. The buyout was completed and today the two managers are full owners of that market.
Elsewhere, they made a strategic decision to sell their franchises in the Maryland/Washington, D.C. market, where they were first in the territory with Two Men and a Truck. "As the brand opened more franchise facilities in the area, the decision was made in recognition that the further growth and domination of the market was dependent upon a single area developer, rather than various independent operators," she says.
Today, the couple control the Raleigh-Durham Research Triangle market and the South Atlanta market with 5 franchise operations across the two states. They have also built an internal leadership team designed to support higher volumes. As a result, she says, they have made their team available to outsource to other Two Men and a Truck franchisees.
"In 2018, our team was hired to aid a franchise unit experiencing subpar performance," she says. "We completed a thorough evaluation of the business to analyze and understand its unique challenges and opportunities, then implemented positive changes in business operations and process to more favorably position the business. The result was higher values for the franchisee." She says they plan to continue offering this resource to other franchisees while focusing on the strategic growth of their own business.
"This year, we aim to add two new markets, increasing our annual revenue number to $18 million," she says. "We also aim to diversify business, adding more opportunity to build revenue." We'll check back with them in another three years to see how it went.
Name: Brooke Wilson
Title: Multi-unit franchise owner, president Lead Dog Ventures
Company: Two Men and a Truck & Lead Dog Ventures
No. of units: 5 (though the nature of Two Men and a Truck "units" are different than most franchise systems)
Family: Les Wilson, husband and business partner, 3 dogs, 1 cat
Years in franchising: 17
Years in current position: 15
I made sno-cones and milkshakes at a small family-owned roadside country stand.
My mother has been a huge influence on my business style and work ethic. While she wasn't always the greatest mother in my youth, we have grown to be best friends. I better understand the sacrifices she made as a pioneering female in a male-dominated business world.
#1 in Operations among Two Men and a Truck franchise peers; 13- time Leader in Excellence Award winner; Safety Award winner; 2010 Franchisee of the Year; 2016 Husband & Wife Multi-Unit Franchisee of the Year.
Next big goal:
Diversification. We are always looking for new business concepts to broaden our investments.
Best business decision:
To surround myself with diversity. The most successful business leaders are those who build a team of varied perspectives, experiences, culture, and education.
Hardest lesson learned:
It's important to balance friendships and business partnerships. In a small franchised business environment, this can be difficult.
As a business owner, I'm available at all times! However, I enjoy the flexibility of working from home often after several years of team-building focus.
I do my best to stay active, but man... food is great! I work out with a trainer twice a week in an effort to stay healthy and still enjoy the indulgences of life. Dog walks are also a great indulgence I absolutely love!
Best advice you ever got:
The best advice I have ever gotten is to always go with your heart but lead with your head. You can only fake it for so long in an industry you don't enjoy, but if your heart is in it you will never truly work a day in your life.
What's your passion in business?
Moving people forward. Our team is the backbone of our business and we want to make sure that everyone at all levels has the opportunity to spread their proverbial wings.
How do you balance life and work?
This has always been a huge task because my husband and I work together and have done so for almost 18 years. We have a rule that no work is discussed at home and for the most part, we succeed in that endeavor.
Desserts! Who doesn't love a good piece of cake?
Rules for a Knight by Ethan Hawke. This small book of short stories reminds me of my grandfather, a constant gentleman in my life.
I love a wide variety of genres.
What do most people not know about you?
I love to garden and I love cooking. I was also a cheerleader and basketball player in high school and used to love college football before my husband ruined it for me.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
A creative director.
Jost Van Dyke, BVI.
Person I'd most like to have lunch with:
My great grandfather, CC Dickson. A true inspiration to my mother and my entire family for his endeavors and tremendous character.
Like Teddy Roosevelt said, "Walk softly and carry a big stick, you will go far."
Management method or style:
Communicate your goals and hold your team accountable to those standards.
Dealing with my husband and all of his quirks. The entire business world is also becoming much more challenging as customer expectations continue to increase while tolerance decreases.
How do others describe you?
Tough, driven, smart.
One thing I'm looking to do better:
I'm always looking to do everything better.
How I give my team room to innovate and experiment:
When my team comes to me with questions, I lead a conversation. I ask their insight. Whenever possible, I avoid giving a quick answer.
How close are you to operations?
In our industry, operations and sales are the two customer-facing aspects that are crucial to success. I stay as close to operations (and sales) as is necessary to drive our business to the next level.
What are the two most important things you rely on from your franchisor?
Data and process training.
What I need from vendors
: Speed and competence.
Have you changed your marketing strategy in response to the economy? How?
Our services are tailored to every customer as we try to meet their specific needs. Some want to be thrifty while others think of our industry as a luxury service. The approach is very different for these two, but both require a measure of reach on the social media front.
How is social media affecting your business?
Social media can make or break you. We have to meet our customers on their playing field, which means that flexibility is absolutely critical.
How do you hire and fire?
We hire for attitude and train for skills. On the firing side, no one should ever not see it coming when it comes to a termination; and, a business should be quick to fire and slow to hire. Take the time to hire the right person, and when it isn't working let them go quickly before the negative influence on your business is magnified.
How do you train and retain?
Build them up and make sure they know how much they mean to you once they join your team. To some extent, training starts in an interview. You set the expectations of the business, and continue to build on it throughout their employment as you develop skills and--hopefully--move people forward.
How do you deal with problem employees?
Coach them up or ship them out. Again, no one should ever be surprised when they are terminated.
Fastest way into my doghouse:
We continue to expand, open, sell, and develop new markets. This year, we aim to add two new markets and increase our annual revenue to $18 million. We also aim to diversify, adding more opportunity to build revenue, and have a 97 percent referral rate.
Growth meter: How do you measure your growth?
Market share growth is the true measure of sustainable long-term growth.
Vision meter: Where do you want to be in 5 years? 10 years?
Still moving my people and businesses forward in a positive manner while aging gracefully.
Do you have brands in different segments? Why/why not?
As of today, not really, but that is the next area we are pushing for in our group. We have built an amazing team with great talent and diversity. We are ready to take on new challenges!
How is the economy in your regions affecting you, your employees, your customers?
Raleigh-Durham has had the #1 economy in the U.S. for almost a decade, which means that capacity is the greatest hurdle. On the other hand, our Atlanta markets have been less stable economically, which means that our challenges are totally different as maintaining a workable staff in a seasonal industry is a constant focus.
Are you experiencing economic growth in your market?
Always in North Carolina. Things seem to be on the steady incline in Georgia.
How do changes in the economy affect the way you do business?
While low unemployment is a staple of a strong economy, it can create significant challenges in terms of recruitment strategies.
How do you forecast for your business?
We always plan for growth and build our strategies to facilitate that plan. We use historical data compared to market research and financial projections to anticipate the direction of the housing environment.
What are the best sources for capital expansion?
Reinvestment of business profit, sound investments, and SBA financing.
Experience with private equity, local banks, national banks, other institutions? Why/why not?
Staying local has been our best strategy since the change in the banking world. There is always a trusted resource that you can reach out to. We shop around and make banks work for us.
What are you doing to take care of your employees?
Constant development and advancement opportunities coupled with sound long-term retirement planning strategies. And, always appreciation.
How are you handling rising employee costs (payroll, minimum wage, healthcare, etc.)?
Education and expansion of services that we offer will continue to drive our business and allow rising costs to be absorbed. As with most costs, there is usually an offset in other business areas, whether renegotiating vendor agreements or raising prices.
What laws and regulations are affecting your business and how are you dealing with it?
We continue to watch minimum wage policies. The decriminalization of marijuana is a rising concern and will greatly impact on our drug-free, federally regulated businesses.
How do you reward/recognize top-performing employees?
Public recognition, great travel opportunities, pats on the back, and of course, cash!
What kind of exit strategy do you have in place?
Our current plan is to build a truly self-sustained business which can potentially be sold to our employees on a co-op basis.
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