From humble roots to stateside success, removals franchise Two Men and a Truck is now setting up home in the UK
The last thing anyone wants when moving house or office is sloppy service. Thankfully, Two Men and a Truck has recently landed on British shores and is on a mission to take the stress out of removals.
For anybody not familiar with the Two Men and a Truck story, it all began back in the early-1980s in Lansing, Michigan. “It literally started with two guys and a truck,” says Colm Hefferon, UK director for Two Men and a Truck. “There were two brothers, Jon and Brig Sorber. In the summer, their mum Mary Ellen basically took an ad out in the paper and put them to work. The ad said: ‘Two men and a truck: available for whatever you need them to do.’”
After her two sons left for college, Mary Ellen Sheets continued to get enquiries from potential customers. “She was still getting calls and decided she would get another two guys,” says Hefferon. “It started to go well so she bought another truck, then she bought another truck and it basically just grew from there.”
What started as three branches in Michigan has since expanded into a franchise network spanning over 300 locations across the USA and Canada. The company’s first franchisee was Sheets’ daughter Melanie Bergeron and, as its growth started to ramp up, Jon and Brig Sorber rejoined on a full-time basis. “When it got to about ten franchises, the guys got more involved and really helped grow and develop the franchise,” Hefferon says.
Given the overwhelming success that Two Men and a Truck had enjoyed stateside, it seemed inevitable that it would soon look to take the concept overseas. It made Canada its first port of call before granting the master licence for the UK and Ireland to Kefron – the Dublin-based business removals and self-storage company of which Hefferon was a senior manager – in 2007.
The removals side of Kefron was first introduced when the company acquired a shredding firm in 2006. Despite having no knowledge of the removals industry, Hefferon and his brother kept the business ticking over but they knew deep down it could be so much more. “It was a decent business and we were making good money but it was very old school in its approach,” says Hefferon. “We weren’t doing anything all that special or interesting.”
It was while researching the removals market that Hefferon stumbled across Two Men and a Truck online. At the time, it was only advertising for franchises in the USA but, after reaching out to express an interest in bringing the concept to Ireland, Hefferon ended up with a little more than he bargained for. “They said they were really interested in developing their international business and that they’d like us to take on the UK and Ireland as a master franchisee,” he explains.
Understandably, Hefferon didn’t rush straight into a decision. “We weren’t sold on the idea immediately,” he admits. “We went out there to get a franchise and here we were with a master franchise. It was pretty daunting.”
However, such was the synergy between Two Men and a Truck and Kefron, it wasn’t long before Hefferon had signed on the dotted line. “They are also a family business and their core values were a very good match to ours at Kefron,” he says. “We are [also] a very customer-focused business and when we looked at Two Men and a Truck, there was a really strong focus on the people, on their training and on how they treat the customer. Its mission statement is to consistently exceed [your] customer’s expectations.”
That’s not to say that Two Men and a Truck was guaranteed to chime with customers on these shores. Like any American brand launching on this side of the pond, simply duplicating the US model in the UK would have been somewhat misguided. That’s why Hefferon used the company’s flagship operation in Dublin – as well as three pilot outlets in Chiswick, Windsor and Watford – to help ease its transition into Blighty. “Our challenge when we were promoting our franchise in the UK was that we did not have a UK presence,” says Hefferon. “So we essentially opened three corporate stores in and around the London area, ran them as pilots and then converted them into independent franchises.”
Finding the right people to run these pilots was essential: as Hefferon explains, they were seeking individuals with commercial – but not necessarily removals – experience. “We wanted people with good business experience and good management experience because it’s a people-driven business,” he says. And, as demonstrated by Two Men and a Truck’s first three UK franchisees, any future recruits need to be fully behind the brand. “The guys who came on board [as pilot franchisees] just had this absolute belief in Two Men and a Truck,” he adds. “From a values perspective, franchisees have to be a Two Men and a Truck-type person.”
Suffice to say, the performance of the pilot franchises has given Hefferon the necessary confidence that Two Men and a Truck can replicate its stateside success in the UK. As he reveals, the way that Two Men and a Truck charges customers – as well as its strong focus on service – is already standing it in good stead. “Whereas other companies will charge an estimated lump sum, we charge by the hour,” he says. “This gives customers control and complete transparency over the cost, which they really enjoy.”
Thankfully, it’s relatively easy for Two Men and a Truck’s franchisees to cope with higher levels of demand – the nature of the business means that expansion can happen at minimal cost to the business. “That’s one of the great things about Two Men and a Truck: in order to grow, you just add a truck,” says Hefferon. “You don’t need bigger premises, you don’t need to buy more stock, you don’t need more inventory.”
With the added security of multiple income streams, including box sales and storage, the attraction for franchisees is evident. “In terms of numbers, it’s a high-margin, cash-rich business,” Hefferon adds. “It’s not just about moving people’s houses.”
Despite this, Hefferon is keen to maintain a steady rate of growth, primarily to ensure that every franchisee has the best shot at success. “We don’t want to go too far too soon because we want to be able to support them, especially in the early days,” he says. The company is therefore aiming to launch six new franchises in 2016 and has a very clear vision beyond that. “Ultimately we want to have a Two Men and a Truck in every city in the UK,” Hefferon concludes. “There’s certainly capacity for at least 50 franchises across the country.”