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Two Men and a Truck: The Maturation of a Franchisor

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Two Men and a Truck a growing franchise system was receiving kudos as an example of the small family owned business that evolved into a successful franchise. Then it encountered problems. Learn how the Two Men and a Truck franchise program got back on the road to success.

When Two Men and a Truck started franchising in 1989 they followed the same path as many other start-up franchises. Namely, going from a small family operated business to launching and operating a franchise program.  One of the more unique aspects of the Two Men and a Truck franchise was that they were in the moving business, which is not a traditional franchise business. Apart from a brief foray by one of the large van lines into franchising, the moving industry was devoid of franchise companies.  Enter Two Men and a Truck, but as the franchise system continued to grow the franchisor was heading for a bumpy ride.

Founded by Mary Ellen Sheets in 1985 the company began as a local moving company in Lansing Michigan. In the beginning there was one pickup truck used by Mary’s sons Brig and Jon Sorber to move people in Lansing.  From this simple beginning, Two Men has grown to over 220 locations with operations in four countries. However, not unlike many new franchisors they reached a point when the addition of more franchisees started to put a strain on the franchisors’ resources.  According to the soon to be named President, Randy Shacka: “ In early 2000 the franchise was doing well experiencing double digit growth, at the same time we were transitioning from a family owned business to a large franchise operation. New challenges were slowly starting to emerge but it was easy to be complacent. Things really began to change around 2007. Add the problems brought on by the Great Recession and Two Men was suddenly facing serious issues. Faced with the need to focus more on managing the system rather than simply adding new franchises, Two Men implemented some key changes”.

Shacka who was V.P. of Operations during this time said, Two Men shifted its employee mix by reducing corporate staff in 2007 and replacing some existing staff with more specialized skill-sets; individuals with an operational background as well as individuals with true business experience. 

 This was part of a new three part strategy of people, process and technology. Simply stated, Two Men wanted staff that could better support and meet the needs of their franchisees and build a strategy of growth for the future. In addition, new processes such as standardized training and other operational programs could add efficiency to the entire franchise operation. Lastly, the greater use of technology would lead to a more centralized franchise support model. For example, an on-line learning center with 24 hour access for its franchisees. The objective of this three-part strategy continues to shift Two Men from a franchise that had been primarily growth orientated to one with operational balance. This strategy is working and the company recently celebrated its 30th consecutive month of growth with 13 straight double digit growth months.

Randy Shacka is well equipped to lead Two Men into this new era. A graduate of Michigan State with a degree in engineering, Shacka started out as an intern for the franchisor eleven years ago. After graduating from MSU he moved to Florida where he served as Operations Manager for a Two Men Seminole County, Florida start-up franchisee.  Randy told me, this experience provided him with a keen understanding of how a franchise operates and the challenges franchisees face.  He was able to draw upon this knowledge after he returned to Michigan to work in franchise operations.                    

 Randy Shaka Randy Shacka has literally worked his way up the corporate ladder, moving from Franchise Development Coordinator to V.P. Operations to Chief Operating Officer. In August he’ll assume the role of President of Two Men and a Truck.

Randy believes that having worked in a franchise operation provides him the knowledge and experience that enables him to better relate to their franchisees and what they need to be successful. From a franchisee standpoint his resume should provide him with added credibility. Randy expects Two Men to add 20-25 new franchisees each year with the operational staff, processes and technology in place to support this increased growth.

From a franchisee perspective there is an air of optimism regarding Randy’s leadership role.

Rob Felcher has been a franchisee in Grand Rapids, Michigan for the past 4 years. Rob has been with the company for 18 years in various capacities. Starting out as an employee and then working for a franchisee. He has 11 vans and reports that things are going well. Rob told me that the franchisor went through some growing pains but things are looking up. In fact, Rob would like to acquire another franchise at some point in the future.

Ashley Anderson has been a franchisee since 1994 in Bay City, Michigan. She owns 9 vans and feels things are much better. She recalls a time when franchisees weren’t being heard. Ashley believes it’s important for franchisor leadership to have worked in the trenches and Randy’s experience should be a real advantage.

In terms of franchisee participation each region has a Team that includes franchisee representatives. The Team meets on a quarterly basis and during the national convention. Ashley believes it’s important for franchisee representatives to represent their fellow franchisees and avoid using their position for their own benefit or to serve as a messenger for the franchisor.

After speaking with Randy Shacka and some franchisees I came away with the understanding that the Two Men and a Truck franchise operation can successfully administer continued system growth without experiencing past problems.

© 2011 FranchiseKnowHow, LLC

Ed Teixeira is the President of FranchiseKnowHow, LLC. He can be reached at franchiseknowhow@gmail.com

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