Webinar recap: How to Flourish as an Independent Mover with Cliff Crabtree

Supermove
Supermove
November 16, 2022
5
min read
How to flourish as an independent mover
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Cliff Crabtree, President of Crabtree Family Moving

President of Crabtree Family Moving, Cliff Crabtree, talked to Heidi Liou about growing his independent moving company. He grew up in the moving and furniture industry and his first job in college was working for a large office and home furniture company in Tennessee. Prior to starting Crabtree Family Moving, he spent 20 years in the finance and mortgage industry, and eventually found his way back to moving. His company is based in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he works alongside his wife and son and wife.

Watch the full webinar or read the transcript below.

Q&A with Cliff Crabtree

What was it like starting a moving company during a recession (2008)?

Cliff sums it up in one word: Bad. But they had to find something to do that would pay the bills. And knowing so many young people who also couldn’t find a job, he started the company by advertising for labor on Craigslist. 

“I was really surprised at the need that was out there that we didn't even know.”

It was truly a family business. His wife, sons, and daughter as well as every young man they all knew worked together back in those early days.

What are some of the biggest challenges you face in your day-to-day?

The biggest challenge Crabtree Family Moving has been seeing can be split between personnel and equipment. First, it’s the cost of finding and retaining good people and next it’s the cost of trucks, equipment and supplies.

“The only conversations I have with my suppliers is, ‘Hey we're going to have another increase. Hey, we're going to have another increase.’ and that's industry-wide.”

They’ve been waiting on five new trucks for over a year and they’re not the only ones. Not to mention the increasing cost of fuel.

How often do you look at the ‘numbers’ in your business?

In this business, it’s important to look at your numbers and understand what you have going on any given day. Taking a look at your calendar and how many jobs you have every day. Making sure the revenue you have coming in is going to exceed your spending. And that includes backend office things like marketing, truck rentals, etc. and seeing in what ways you can reduce your spending. 

“We don't have a category in our P & L that we're not reviewing daily. Multiple times a day.”

When did you decide to diversify your company to offer more than just residential moving?

It all started with a 3000-pound spinning t-shirt machine. After a move, one of their customers asked if they could move this large equipment, and after thinking about the how of it all, Cliff figured they could manage it.

They didn't do full companies or full office buildings on day one. It's always been an evolution and as they got more experience.

“I don't think there's been any one decision that all of a sudden, we're going to be commercial… If you brought it to us and asked us and we could figure out how to make it work, we did it.”

But Cliff knows their limitations and that they can’t service everyone. And if there’s something they can’t do for a customer, they know who they can refer in their place.

Out of all the different types of moves you offer, which one is the highest margin?

Cliff doesn’t look at his business this way. His team looks at how much labor and trucking expenses are compared to how much they need to make per day based on those, somewhat fixed, costs. [Note: that’s why looking at your P&L daily matters.]

What makes you stand out from your competition?

Being responsive. From answering the phones every day and sending estimates out to prospects as soon as possible, and just being involved with the customer from the start to the end of the move.

When’s the right time to start hiring more people to help run the business?

Cliff remembers how his team had to pry the phone and pen out of his hands so he would give up some control as the company grew. And it took him a while before he was willing to give up some of the day-to-day responsibilities. 

“Our company became a funnel and I was the stem of the funnel and everything was just gridlocked at me. In the mornings our crews couldn't get out the door fast enough because I hadn't had all the paperwork written up from the day before because I was still dealing with every piece of it. I always will remember that my dad who was former military and was a disciplined guy reminded me of this. He said ‘you know maybe you're the best at that, but can you do more than 10 other people?’”

He explains efficiency is a big part of the puzzle; you might not think someone else can do as good a job as you, but at some point – if you let them – they’ll become better than you. So now Cliff has project managers doing estimates, for example, something he doesn’t have to be doing. It’s all about trust and knowing what you can and should let others manage while you run the company.

What are the best ways to network and get [moving] business?

Local networking groups are great way to meet other business owners in the area and connect with them, as well as with realtor groups. It’s about building the relationships because it’s probably not going to pay off right away, but once you plant those seeds, you’ll reap the rewards eventually. Of course, Cliff also does traditional direct and digital marketing efforts.

Pro tip: bring coffee and donuts (or any treats) when meeting with realtor groups. It helps break the ice and everyone loves meetings with snacks.

Have you ever worked with a mentor in the industry?

With a resounding YES, Cliff says that he’s had and continues to have industry mentors. 

“There are some people that I call ‘Captain Kirk’ that have been to the final frontier already and have done a lot of great things.”

They are an important part of anyone's growth in the industry, and they can help you determine good ideas from bad ones since they’ve been there already. And, as part of the North Carolina Movers Association, they have just started a mentoring program for new members.

“The one thing about a mentor is they will tell you when you're doing it wrong and you better do it right because they probably did it wrong before you.”

Final words

This year hasn’t necessarily been slower, Cliff remarks, but rather because of the growing costs and inflation, their expenses are higher than last year. The trick to survival and growth in this industry is asking the right questions of your team, your clients, and your suppliers, and communicating with each other. 

Watch the full webinar.

Full webinar transcript: How to flourish as an independent mover with Cliff Crabtree

Note: This transcript has been edited for readability and clarity. 

INTRO

Welcome, everyone, to our live Q&A of the Ask the Expert series. My name is Heidi Liou. I'm the strategic partnerships manager at Supermove. We're on a mission to make moving simple with the software that brings everyone on your team from your sales to operations, dispatch to coordinators, all in one system. 

Today I'm joined by Cliff Crabtree, President, papa Crab, of Crabtree Family Moving, and look forward to talking about flourishing as an independent mover.

In this economy, it's more important than ever to look at every detail of your company and see how you can lower expenses to increase profits.

A brief bio about Cliff and Cliff I'll have you fill in the details after, but he grew up in the moving and furniture industry. And his first job in college was working for a large office and home furniture company in Tennessee.

Prior to starting Crabtree Family Moving, he spent 20 years in the finance and mortgage industry, then found his way back to moving. His company is based in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he works alongside his son Jared and his wife Adonia.

We're here today to learn from you and pick your brain about being an owner of a mom-and-pop moving company.

I'll start off by asking questions that were submitted during registration and open it up to questions from the audience. So as a reminder to those that are tuning in, there's a chat box. Feel free to post questions in there and then we'll be able to address them at the end. 

Heidi: But to kick it off, Cliff, tell us more about your story. How did you get into the industry and what brought you back into the industry? 

Cliff: Well, first of all, thanks for having me. And getting into the industry, I fought it kicking and screaming. [Laughter] 

No I was, like you said, I worked for a family-owned company in Tennessee when I was in college. He owned an office furniture company and then he started a home furniture company. He bought all kinds of closeouts on office furniture. I've moved more metal desks from the 60s and fireproof filing cabinets than any one human being should have to move.

But he was one of the first panel-system dealers. I was just thinking about that question and I was given the task of installing Teknion panel systems when he sold jobs, which I had no idea what i was doing, but—

Heidi: I don't even know what that is.

Cliff: Well, Teknion is one of the original companies that would put in the office cubicles.

So it was interesting that he sold those. But I think what really… all of that… and I've definitely moved enough couches all around warehouses and let's move all the furniture in the showroom today on a Saturday with nothing to do.

But I thought was most interesting is that with his warehouse, it got larger, a lot more things. He brought in a semi-retired guy to run the warehouse and us guys, the crew. And he was a former van line guy. 

And he would ask me on weekends to work with him. He had a deal with the guy on the corner and he got the u-haul trucks back before they tracked mileage and they had a cash deal going. 

But he moved people all over the country and i would leave, we'd get done work on Fridays at five o'clock and I would be gone until Sundays and I just was blown away.

And i definitely put it on my list of I do not want to do this when I grow up and here we go, fast forward 35 years and this is where we are so.

It's still a need.

Yeah yeah it was and it was funny that I'm like a lot of other people when the markets crashed and you know 708, started over in this. and it was a necessity, needed work. So and then it just evolved and grew so that's kind of the background.

Heidi: So what was it like joining during the crash? 

Cliff: Bad.

[laughter]

It was bad. Bad investments. Just had to find something to do. Had to start over. Had a lot of young guys that I knew that couldn't find a job and it was digging and scratching we started our company advertising on craigslist for labor and I was the original crew chief back in the day so it was rare but my sons, my wife, my daughter, and every young man that they knew were our crews back in the original days and that's how we started.

But it was really surprising at the need that was out there that we didn't even know and that was, looking back at it that was kind of an interesting start.

Heidi: Yeah. So you got back into it because it was something that you knew and there were other people that are looking for jobs, so you're like let's pull together all this talent and let's do something?

Cliff: Yeah, that was a lot. It was definitely a big part of it. And then it was just a family that everybody contributed. The original packer and Crabtree Family Moving was my wife you know. And definitely, my two sons were the original two movers and that's where we started.

Heidi: Wow. very humble beginnings for sure. And to fast forward to today, just kind of curious what are some challenges that you're facing you know in this recession. Even compared to 2008, like how has it been? I mean obviously, you've grown a ton and you have more trucks more resources everything. But yeah what are some challenges that you're facing today?

Cliff: Well, I think probably the toughest thing that we deal with now is where we're going to go to lunch, okay you know. Do my shoes match my shirt.

I never knew that was important until my crew guys told me that you know i had a pair of black shoes and a blue shirt one day. No, seriously I think you know we're not going to have anything unique in this. Personnel is obviously first and foremost with how difficult it is in our industry already. And now with the increasing cost to find people. That is, I would say, number one. 

But then you, trucks and equipment, cost and supplies. You know the only conversations i get from my suppliers is, hey we're going to have another increase, hey we're going to have another increase and that's industry-wide we're all seeing that.

And then trucks been waiting on five trucks for over a year, you know, and I'm not unique in that. I don't think there's anybody that's not having that trouble. And then, but I think just as much as that is being able to even find people to do work, servicing things for you. it's you know it's not unique to our industry that's for sure. But I think those are my primaries. obviously, the fuel costs are just… we looked at our fuel bill in May of 2021 versus 2022 and it's pretty scary, pretty scary.

Heidi: So you know increasing costs, how often do you look at your budget sheet and how… what are you doing to really make sure that you're able to still make a profit? Or are you kind of just like squeezing margins while expenses are rising?

I think all of us have had cost increases everywhere we can. That any you know the competitor says “i'm giving big discounts.” I doubt that. But I think that you just have to look at every category on your profit and loss statement and you have to make sure you're getting value for what you're doing. We don't have a category in our P & L that we're not reviewing.

You know that question is, anybody in our business not looking… we're looking at it daily. I mean there's no way you can't. Daily, multiple times a day.

But the biggest thing I think a lot of us do is looking at our calendar, of number of jobs that we have going and knowing what you have going on a given day.

And you've got your workforce at full capacity. Everybody's working. You know what your revenue coming in as and is it going to be enough to exceed what you're spending. You know pretty simple.

Heidi: Yeah, so are you stacking your jobs what two, three jobs a day? What is like the max jobs a crew can do?

Cliff: Light to dark, all day long, as long as we can go you know yeah. And they say working their fingers to the bone. Our crews are just doing a phenomenal job.

And when it comes to you said looking at you know, all buckets on your P&L, what's something that has had to be cut maybe this year because of the increase in everything? Is it like marketing that’s the first to go?

Marketing is definitely one of the things you have to look at and we've made some adjustments there. I think we've made adjustments in probably every facet. i mean there are things that you… we're more budget conscious of.

You know before if we needed a truck we just rented a truck. Well, truck costs have… you know you know everybody rents trucks and leases trucks in the in the high season in May, June, July when we're at our at our busiest peak.

Maybe you're looking at how you can use what you have in your existing fleet before you're going out and rent a truck out of just… Well it's just easy I've got an extra truck i'm ready to go.

But that's a primary focus that we're looking at in one of the ways that we can reduce.

But i think it's just, you know, you hear corporate America and they're like we're going to slash every department by 25%

But i think we're more cognizant of with our equipment, about monitoring when we spend, what we get fixed, what we don't get fixed and how we take care of our fleet. You know that's a primary thing that we do.

And just those are the two biggest ones that i can think of right off my head.

Heidi: And you said I mean I know that there has been you know the microchip shortage, trucks definitely being on backlog, but I hear that's getting better. Are trucks coming anytime soon are you going to get them? 

Cliff: Well, I can't answer for everybody else but I can answer from me and they're not saying “I don't know” anymore. They're saying that they're asking questions.

I had that with the company that we leased from and i was like oh wow you heard from the actual manufacturer. That's interesting. Yay, wow great, but that's where we are right now we're still waiting.

Yeah, all right well positive news. i'm hearing from a few moving companies that they're actually getting the truck hopefully in a couple of months versus… 

Well I mean at one point there was someone that I knew he was driving around and buying trucks like in different states just because you know there is no trucks to be grabbed in where he lived. So he was literally driving around going to auctions, buying trucks somehow. i don't know what kind of auctions are selling tractor-trailers or you know straight trucks. But yeah it's incredible.

Heidi: Cliff, so curious. so when you started your company, when did you decide to diversify your company to offer more than just labor and then after that residential? how did you start branching off? How did you make that decision?

Cliff: I think it's always been a gradual, steady growth. I don't think there's been any one decision that all of a sudden we're going to be commercial.

I was thinking about that and one of my early customers was one of the most unique people and he calls me up and he says they have this t-shirt machine can you move it for me after I had moved him.

Well, it was like a 3000-pound spinning t-shirt machine and I thought about it. I said can i get back to you and then finally, wow maybe i could use a flatbed and get that. And we had walls taken out. You know we've always done what we could do based on what we had and the resources we had at the time we had it.

So I don't think there's any just moment where we said hey we're gonna start doing this. i think we've always just been: if you brought it to us and asked us and we could figure out how to make it work, we did it.

So it's kind of always been an evolution and as we've gotten more experienced and you know we didn't do full companies and full office buildings and in day one.

But you know we've gotten to a point where we've done large [audio cuts out] floors of a company and those kinds of things. But it wasn't just when an overnight process and we always have only been able to take on what we felt like we could handle.

Heidi: So when there's something that you guys can't do and decide not to do, do you tell the customer that… do you give them a recommendation, or do you just say we don't do that?

Cliff: We usually just tell them there's nobody. If we can't do it nobody can.

No I think we've always… you know one thing we know is there's no way we can service everybody. Every one of us would like to but there's just no way. There's just so much work for everyone. And if it weren't for the group and our industry, we wouldn't but there's just no way.

But we've been around long enough to know the people who can do the right things, and we do, we refer people all the time. So it just, it really just depends on the circumstance, but we're always open to if there's somewhere else that somebody can do it better than us and can do it and we can't we pass it on.

Heidi: Yeah, that's great i think that's what i love about the industry. There's a lot of friendly competition there's a lot of sharing happening. Everyone seems to be very very kind and generous with business. Al least that's what i hear. That's what you're saying now.

But besides t-shirt spinners, what's the most interesting thing that you've ever moved?

Cliff: We went and this really will go back to the early days and it was another thing I was thinking about and there's another residential move. 

But we moved a customer out close to the airport that had a building that was basically just a gray building. No signage, no anything. And there were three thousand pound drills and lathes and these huge things. And we figured we brought in a huge forklift that we had to tilt to get it in the door. I think the father, and we worked with the son, basically was making a piece that went on a military jet. .

And we moved all of this stuff from one building to the other and it was… it felt a little covert at the time. It was pretty interesting but I was just worried about the presses not falling on feet and i i bought these 9000-pound straps and i tied them myself because i didn't want any of my people to get hurt and it was interesting. It was an interesting moment when we did that and looking back on that.

And then my son and I and one of his college roommates going to Colorado and getting caught in a snowstorm was another moment. And getting the truck stuck on the side of a mountain but we don't we don't have enough time on this for that story.

Heidi: Your moving skills saved you?

Cliff: I'll just say we got the job done. That's about as good as i'm gonna put it.

Heidi: Out of all of the different types of moves you do offer, which one is the highest margin? And I ask this because there's a lot of moving companies that, you know. they're looking to diversify but they don't know what they should be diversified like. You know what their first… you know what they should move into? So just if you can share with us a little bit what's most profitable for you.

Cliff: I don't think we have any one thing that's that's unique in a profit margin because you know you think about oh i'm doing this 10 000 square foot house. Or i'm doing this 500-square-foot apartment. Or i'm moving this large office building.

You know we try to get back to a measure that says we're using this much manpower, using this much truck, this much expense, and we want to make this much per day for that manpower.

It gets harder when you're looking at a commercial move and how to reel that back to that.

You know my son Jared has done a phenomenal job, as our commercial side has grown in doing that.

And some of the things we looked at in the beginning and they wanted it by a per piece and trying to figure out how to get it to that same spot but at the end of the day, you know we want to make a certain amount of money per day on any type of move or any type of work that we're doing.

And it's really just stacking that depending on how large that job becomes and trying to do that so I don't think there's any one certain way that really, one certain type of project or type of job that we make more on yeah so.

Okay yeah i mean i hear different things. I mean especially you know there's small shipments like some moving companies are getting into and I mean I know that there's companies that focus on small shipments as well. But for moving companies to be able to continue to diversify and find these different areas to go into junk removal, hot tub moving. Awesome. 

Heidi: What makes Crabtree Family Moving stand out from the competition? 

Cliff: I think it's just our charming good looks.

Heidi: [Laughter] I buy it.

Cliff: I think the thing that we always… you know even goes back to the beginning is that you know I answered the phone seven days a week in the beginning. I mean I answered the phone from when I woke up and the phone was by my head we answered the phone. We were quick to respond.

You know, we're involved in every facet of our business and we're… I saw somebody's little laugh there, that kind of cracked me up. 

Anyway, but I think the part of that it's not any one thing that I just think we're very active in what we do. We're quick to get an estimate for someone. We like the face-to-face with people. I think that's getting harder but that's another conversation. But I think that's something that we've always prided ourselves on is that it could have been Jared, it could have been me, could have been my wife. Austin's been with us for a long time. We're out in and doing an estimate in person and having face-to-face you know with our customer and we're involved from the beginning to the end.

So they don't, you know… They're not talking to customer service departments and other departments. That's getting harder for us to do as we grow.

But that's been I guess maybe is I don't know if that separates us, but that's definitely been our niche.

Heidi: Yeah, there's I think for some companies that are short staff, you know they ask me like does the Supermove do they have like outsourced sales rep you know. They ask about having help with that the call side of things so. I mean I'm sure it's like a conscious decision for you to say no we're not going to outsource the call center piece you know we're gonna be the ones taking the phone calls so i do think that that makes you guys stand out

Cliff: We try.

Heidi: Yeah so in terms of, you said you're involved all you know seven days a week from the very beginning and we had a question from Sean. He said I've been running a business for over 15 years part-time now, full-time the past three years. How do we go from call sean to call Austin accurate movers? I know it's time for me to get out of the way of the business day-to-day. Should I hire more help and push more Google and Yelp SEO? Or should we hire a salesman and work that end?

Cliff: You see my head's shaking. Yes, Sean. I can only speak for me. And they pried the phone out of my hand. They pried the pencil out of my hand, the pen and they said go do an estimate we can answer the phone. We can write the estimate. We can do these pieces. Our company became a funnel and I was the stem of the funnel and everything was just gridlocked at me.

In the mornings our crews couldn't get out the door fast enough because I hadn't had all the paperwork written up from the day before because I was still dealing with every piece of it.

I always will remember that my dad who was former military and was a disciplined guy reminded me of this and he said you know maybe you're the best at that, but can you do more than 10 other people that might do it 50% or 60% as well as you?

 Efficiency.

The efficiency. They may not do it as good as you, but what if there's more of them doing it almost as good as you and maybe at some point better than you. And that's happened you know. I have people that are out in the field. You know our project managers that are doing estimates. They're better than me now. i'm very happy that that has happened but it definitely took a while for me to release the reins per se.

Heidi: So it's a trust thing. Or you just… yeah you don't want to let go of it because it's your thing, right?

I think in part and you just, you know, there's a fine line of where you feel like you have to have your thumb on the control. And you have to you know get out of your—I saw someone make a note there—get out of your own way, and that's that's right, you really do. 

And i grew up in corporate America where corporate America trained me to micromanage everything. And this has been a lesson in my life, you know, that my family didn't grow up in corporate America like I did. They didn't get, you know, branch manager training 101 and go through every facet of understanding. So I had a lot of patience that i had to have as we grew as a company, they understanding the structure of what we're doing in a bigger picture of what we're doing. So you know patience was a must per se I guess.

Heidi: Yeah I find that a lot of the moving companies, our customers, or different moving company owners i talk to, they definitely pride themselves on being involved day-to-day. You know they're doing the dispatching, they're estimating, like how do you do so much so much, you know, when you're 24 hours each day? I find it really fascinating. It's so different than every, any other industry where you find that the owner is also the one moving at times, so it's crazy. 

Alright. I just want to switch gears a little bit, talk a little bit about interstate moves. So, someone that submitted a question, they said they recently acquired an MC number. They asked have you all started out of state moves and I know that you guys do interstate moves. But how do you guys go about, how is that going for you guys? And segue, I'd actually be curious to hear, have you ever thought about becoming a van line or are you happy being an independent mover?

Cliff: Oh, curveball! Good one, good one. Here's the political question yes I've considered. Yes we've been recently asked. We have been very independent for a long time and very happy with that so at this point no plans to become an agent anytime soon.

We've had a lot of success with out-of-state moves and probably something that is unique for us is we treat an out-of-state move just like we would a local move, whether we're going from the south side of Raleigh to the north side of Raleigh on a local same-day move, no different than if we're going from Raleigh to jacksonville, Florida. 

So Mr. Customer, we're gonna load your stuff. As soon as we close the door, we're gonna get in the vehicle and take the truck and we're gonna drive straight to Jacksonville. We'll be waiting on you and we'll see you tomorrow and we'll unload you.

And it has worked very well for us.

From that standpoint, I'm like everybody else you know when you talk about making cuts to your budget. The expense for fuel has definitely given us… this is an area that we really have been and we're going all over the place. We're doing a lot of out-of-state moves. 

And we've got a younger group of drivers out there that we're having to spend a lot of time to train and make sure some i sometimes wonder if they're ready to be driving across the country. 

But they have. They've learned and done a phenomenal job in a short period of time. But it's definitely a concern for us. every time that they leave and go cross country, you know, iI still lose sleep. That's a hard one.

Heidi: Yeah, and how do you handle long-distance shipments or moves to Canada or overseas that are outside of your hauling area? 

Cliff: We get very few requests. I have done a few that you know in our in our time frame. I don't have a lot of international experience. I have referred those to those larger than I that do have that experience. I have worked with some international brokers that have where we've, it's kind of like the loadout you know the container has showed up loaded it and then the rest is taken care of by someone else and it's you know so we've done the load, the pack—making sure it's done right—and then it's turned over to somebody else. So that's a whole nother animal for us.

Heidi: Yeah so you know because you're not a van line with I guess an established set of connections, I'm sure that you've made your own network of people that you can work with for these moves.

And you know you're talking about like you're happy being independent and you've already established you're out of state moves, you've already established a lot of your company. But for a new company that maybe is you know maybe one to five years old, would you recommend them you know join a van line in order to get their interstate moves going?

Cliff: Really you know it's an interesting question but I don't know that I would be the right person to answer that. You know i'm a i'm a board member for the North Carolina movers Association with several van line agents.

And they came up in that I probably if someone really asked me that one-on-one, I probably would refer them to one of them. Idon't know. we just started ours from scratch and you know did it our way. i don't know if there's a if that's a smart decision for somebody in their early years of starting their business, I really don't.

Heidi: Yeah. i've got a question from steve. Good afternoon Cliff. I think this is what steve sounds like. Very impressed by your story and commitment to quality service. I'm happy to see you in our service private network for many moves… all right you know he just wrote a little comment. Bye, steve. He wanted to say hi.

Cliff: Bye, steve. Hi, steve.

You're a famous one.

Heidi: Are you using electronic logging devices? I assume everyone is right? 

Cliff: Yes yes.

Heidi: Okay and hey Cliff happy to hear your company's story. I'm interested to hear if you care to share what your current lead generation sources are.

Cliff: I'm not sharing the secret sauce 

[Laughter]

All right what about our bbq sauce is the best? No I mean I don't think there's anything unique to what we do. We do have some direct marketing things that I wouldn't and that's being serious,

But you know I think one of the questions was what are my favorite ways to network. When I was in mortgage and finance in Raleigh, I was probably one of the original people joining a networking group when they just came to town.

So i was doing that and I was doing it on a you know kind of a through the mortgage and finance side, so you're dealing with a direct-to-the-consumer. but I really I saw business-to-business relationships in that I didn't really have personal experience.

So, as we started to really get to a point where we felt like we could have some success and compete at a little bit more larger scale and want to diversify our commercial side, you know I took Jared and took him to a networking meeting. And you know there's a room with about 40 people and he's like dad what are you getting me into.

But he has taken that and just exceeded our expectations. And the networking and the relationship building, he's developed a phenomenal commercial side with that and the one-on-ones we did. A lot of group… going into real estate groups. Anytime we could take coffee and donuts and get in front of groups of realtors and we did groups of 30 40 50 and more, and he pushed me out of the way on that.

He's done a phenomenal job with that as well. But i don't think there's any one path is right. I think you've got to put your finger in all of them.

And you know from direct marketing. Obviously internet marketing but any type of networking, in meetings and things like that where you can you know you just… it's interesting you go to those group settings, and you know there's never a mover in the group. They are always looking for that person so it's kind of like just a free oh here's an opportunity, here's a friend of mine getting ready to move.

So that's been a tremendous thing for us and in our a realtor network of people that we've, you know again that's just organically grown and grown. You know i remember back when we thought we had a whole lot we had 70 or 80 well that was 10 years ago.

And you know now somebody will say who referred us and it will be someone that none of us have a clue who the person is and it's just a nice it's just a nice feeling that we've made a good a good impact in our community and develop good relationships and it just kind of it kind of mushrooms for us

Heidi: Yeah, Michael says it's all about relationships of all aspects of the business: drivers, helpers, customers, networking. 

Yeah, I think that in terms of the smaller moving companies they don't have the time to be out in the community, networking, going to realtor meetings, but I know that there's a lot of benefit to making those relationships and they may not pay off at the right away but you're planting those seeds and you will get business from it later.

Heidi: Jason's asking, do you guys use a program to train drivers? If so where can I find more information for that? Are you the one training them?

Cliff: I am driver training number one guy and they are slowly taking that away from me too.

[Laughter] 

Because that is a constant. Yeah we have a really good operations team and ours is internal. We have a very specific thing that we take our guys through… the training that we go through. We don't have anything external.

I think our insurance company also you know we.. i was really surprised with the person they sent out spent a lot of time with us and he's given us a lot of good info that we've added too.

Yes Jason asked the question and I'm reading it yes that is correct and they have they were very helpful and we've incorporated what they've brought to us. But we're very specific in what we go through and we do that. iId definitely share that with someone one-on-one if they they want to reach out.

Heidi:  Kevin is asking how do you get backhaul for your trucks as an independent to get trucks, yeah back to your selling area?

Cliff: I beg. We've actually just started looking at someone that's allowing us to look without being an agent. It's too early for me to tell you but that's always going to be a tough part of being an independent is finding back off. 

We're getting more people coming to our market which has helped us where it used to be a lot of going. But we're getting so many people coming in that we've been able to incorporate some of that. It’s helped us a lot and with our network of people that we've done that.

I hope we as an industry of independence, over time, will start to develop more of that as a group because i think it's going to be critical to all of us to succeed.

Heidi: Like a public move board.

Cliff: Something like that 

Heidi: Tom is asking, hey Cliff i met Jared at AMSA's first and only independent movers group in 2019 before they folded into ATA. Is there another independent networking group or association out there that you belong to or are aware of? This is your time to pitch the North carolina Association.

Cliff: Our family, our company, we're members of the North Carolina Movers Association and you know we're well over 200 members across the state of North Carolina and it's a very active group. We have really over the past few years and embraced it and it's been a big help to us in having that network of people.

I will tell you this. Adonia and I in November 2019, went to the independent and small movers conference that they had in Virginia. And I think Chuck Bailey from Cornerstone was the person who set that up. And you know I think they were anticipating 50 to 60 people showing up and there were over 200.

And it was one of the most powerful because it was just a group of independent business owners sitting in a room and it was kind of like we spun the chairs around and we had real conversations. And you had top independent movers setting up at the table. 

I really hated that AMSA folded because and I know they're trying to start to rebuild this with the ATA, I hope it does because i think it's very very very very important.

And we just walked out of that meeting and our mind was blown. We met some phenomenal people. And that was really kind of an eye-opener for us that, what a good group of people they are in this industry. And how everybody wants to help each other.

But definitely, if whatever state you're in if there's an association. You know I've heard of others you know Pam Stanley our executive director was involved in the national level and she knows a lot of the others.

And you know there's some other good associations throughout the country. I think they're critical.

Yeah. Steve Weitekamp’s on this call he's in charge of the California Association so…

Which I was going to say, I've heard that that one is phenomenal and saw a lot of stuff on LinkedIn as it relates to theirs and I hear great things about their association.

Heidi: Yeah, it's definitely, I think probably the biggest associate state association. All right, I just have one last question and then I'll wrap things up. 

Cliff, this has been an amazing session, live Q&A. Thanks, everyone for all your questions. 

Have you ever worked with a mentor in the industry or reached out to other small companies to share leads?

Cliff: I think this is my favorite question because the answer is 100% yes. There are some people that I call Captain Kirk that have definitely been before us and been to the final frontier already and have done a lot of great things and they have been instrumental in helping us.

And just got to spend some time with someone, just recently and just… you know the one thing about a mentor is they will tell you when you're doing it wrong and you better do it right because they probably did it wrong before you.

And you hear some things maybe you don't want to hear. And that's, I think that's so critically… being able to bounce things off and when they've got a good idea, you've got a good idea, they hear it, they can see it working. But when you've got a bad one they also can say no no no no no no.

The honest truth.

We actually just started within the North Carolina Movers Association. We just started a mentoring program for our newer members and we're trying to expand upon that.

And it's really… I don't see how you can make it without it, yeah so yes 100%.

WRAP UP

Heidi: Well, Cliff, I really appreciate the time, your time. Thanks so much for spending the middle peak season to share your story, your experience and I really loved hearing about just all the challenges but also the excitement that comes with being you know running your own moving company.

And once again this live Q&A was brought to you by Supermove. We have a software that makes it easy to run your business all on one web-based platform and if you're not using any moving software today or just curious to see how we can help you level up your business, sign up for a demo on our website and you can mention that you attended this live Q&A with Cliff.

Cliff do you have any last words before we wrap up?

Cliff: I just saw someone ask one last question and I'll try to answer. They ask if this year is slower than last. And the answer to the question is it's definitely not slower, it's just added expense. So I don't think that for any of us business is slowing down. I think it's still growing but I definitely think we're all dealing with the same thing and the added expenditures that are coming with it.

But Heidi, thank you for having me. I enjoyed it. And to anybody out there, reach out to me, Linkedin, email, anything. I'd be glad to help anybody, anytime I can. 

I'm definitely asking questions of others all the time, so you know I think it's really important for all of us in our industry to be successful is to communicate with each other. And again thank you for having me.

Yeah, you're welcome. Thank you all for attending and you can look out for our next event by following Supermove on social media. Yeah, all right, Cliff, have a wonderful rest of your week. We'll talk soon 

Alright. Thank you. Bye-bye.

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