15 min read

How a husband and wife fell upon a $4k truck which led them to open a moving company post covid.

How a husband and wife fell upon a $4k truck which led them to open a moving company post covid.

We deep dive into the moving company Ajax Moving Services located in Texas and get wrapped into their journey that has made them a successful moving company in only 10 months.

  1. Find out how and why they got into the moving business.
  2. Find out how they have been successful in getting so many 5-star reviews.
  3. Find out where the majority of their business comes from and how they do it.
  4. Find out what they do to hire and keep great movers for their team.

Jason Bergenske
Hey, guys. Jason Bergenske here with the Moving Company Owners Podcast. And today we have the owner of Ajax Moving services in Texas. Jessica is on the show, and she's pretty much going to talk to us a lot about how they've gotten into the moving industry within the last year and the success that they've built so far and building this company and where they've gotten and some of the things that they've learned along the way.

So I just want to welcome you, Jessica. First off, you just want to tell us a little bit about your moving company, where you guys are located, how long you've been in business, and a couple of things like that.

Jessica Connel
Oh, yeah. So essentially we got started in June of 2022. So we've been in business for less than a year in Fort Worth, Texas here. And essentially how we got started was my husband had moved from DC out here to be with me, and he would then work as a mover to get to earn money for the house and whatnot because I had also just been recently laid off before he moved out here. And essentially one of the guys that he was working for said like, Hey, I'm selling this box truck, and you seem to have a really good head on your shoulders. Like, do you want to buy this box truck for me and hang out your own shingle? And so he came home and he talked about this like, I don't know if we want to do that. And I'm like, no, you have the skills. I have the skill set to build a website. I have a business degree, I can do accounting, I can do all that. Like, let's give it a shot. Let's do it, especially for, you know, getting a truck for such a good price.

Jason Bergenske
Which is neat. And I think we'll talk a little bit about that truck in just a little bit. So a couple of the neat things I looked up about you guys. Obviously, you're in Texas, and one of the neat things that I noticed is all of your guys, five-star reviews. I've owned a moving company in the past. I work with hundreds and hundreds of moving companies throughout the country, and that's usually one of the hardest things for all of us moving company owners to have. Not that we don't do a good job because obviously every moving company or, you know, for the most part, I believe, you know, tries to provide quality service and take care of customers.

But as they grow and as they get reviews, a lot of times it gets harder and harder to get five-star reviews. And that was one of the things we had talked about previously. And I am just curious about a couple of things. One, about your five-star reviews and why do you think you guys have been successful in getting only five-star reviews?

Jessica Connel
Yeah well basically you know one of the things that we really try and pride ourselves on is customer service. That's one of the things I'm the person who's answering the phone book and the calls. So I always try to be very, very clear on the phone like, hey, you know, just like my husband's going to be there. He's going to take care of you, or don't worry about that. And, you know, if they're from their inventory list of basically, hey, this might not all fit in our truck, we might have to take a second trip, just, you know, and I just try to be very clear upfront with, okay, these are all the things that might happen. And then my husband is very detail-oriented on, hey, here's how we're going to make sure that we take care of you whenever they are actually on there. And then on top of that. So I think like, you know, the personal connection with the customer really, really helps and whatnot. And then for the few crews that we send out, usually labor only without my husband there. We give them a little card with a QR code and give it essentially for our crew. We'll tell them like, hey, if you can convince them to give a five-star review, we'll give you a bonus so they can actually go and say, Hey, if you want to like really help us out, you know, you can we get a bonus if we get a five-star review on Google? Can you do that? And they're usually like, Oh yeah, I want to help you out more because, you know, again, that personal connection rapport is already built.

Jason Bergenske
That's awesome. And that's, you know, the biggest thing, you know, this day and age are reviews. People look at reviews and I think it's very important and I think it's awesome that you've gotten your employees to be able to buy into that, you know, into that aspect of helping you guys get reviews because obviously, it helps benefit them. And, it's neat too because, you know, there may be situations where you have customers that are unable to give a tip because they may not be able to afford a tip, but that's a way for them to almost give a tip to those employees for you just by writing a simple review because obviously, those movers get a bonus. So I think that's awesome and that's a great way of growing your business and building it. So I think that's neat. So just to kind of get back to the truck, So we you know, it's an interesting story because obviously, this kind of got, you know, I assume you guys were not in the market for looking for a moving company to open. So this is, you know, infamous truck here comes along that someone wants to sell you for $4,000, which is is is very inexpensive for a truck, for a moving truck especially. Right. That you can make money with which come to find out this truck while it did help you guys get your company started, obviously caused some headaches also. And I think that all movie company owners can relate to having moving trucks that break down or have issues or guys damage and stuff like that. So tell me a little bit about that. This you know, the truck that started it all.

Jessica Connel
Yeah well, the beautiful truck is one that we bought was a 1993 GMC top kick though. And so we bought it and it was like it was actually it was running really well for the first two weeks. And then and then it just started leaking oil over the place. We couldn't figure out what was going on. And then turns out like this, it, the actual engine was actually really good. But this one, like Bolt, got like fell into a piston and it completely then destroyed the entire engine. We had to do a full engine rebuild on it. So basically, right at the end of June, right when we first started, had no budget because we had spent every dime we had and then some on this on this $4,000 box truck, We then had to go and spend another $6,000 on a rebuilt engine to put in. And on top of that, it was out of commission for three months. So we were just for the entire first moving season that we had where we could have stocked up a lot for this. The slow season was all gone just in like renting U-Haul and other trucks and repairs.

Jason Bergenske
So I've been there. We've had I've had trucks back when we owned our moving company, I had trucks that were diesel trucks and our guys would put gasoline on them, which is significant damage. We've had trucks where they were overheating, but the guy thought he could make it to the next exit before, you know before he pulled over. And of course, they don't make it. And we've had trucks that we've spent more money on than we showed off to repair them and they still weren't fixed. So I can feel your pain there. But the good thing about that truck is it got you started in the business.

Jessica Connel
It did, yeah.

Jason Bergenske
Do you still have that truck now? That's the truck that you guys are running?

Jessica Connel
Yeah, it's the truck we have now. It's out, It's running. It's. We couldn't afford to wrap it, so it's actually just. Just painted by us and like, it works. It doesn't. I mean, it looks a little sketchy, but up. So that's why I just always insist on, like, my husband and guys like you, y'all at least have to wear moving shirts and look professional. If the truck's not going to sell. Yeah.

Jason Bergenske
Well, that's the next thing to come, right? So, I mean, you've only been in business for ten months. Eight?

Jessica Connel
Ten? Yeah, something like that.

Jason Bergenske
And I think you guys are doing phenomenal already for the amount of time you've been in business and having the reviews you guys have and having a website and you know, so many people trying to start a moving company, but they don't, you know, they don't get as far as you've already gotten. So and just now you came into the moving industry at a rough time. And if you can get through that, you'll get through all of it. And that's it for me. You know, we went through the 28, you know, housing crash. And as we sat there and watched over half of all of our competitors in our local area go out of business, this is actually a good time for you to start because if you can survive through this, you'll get through all of it. But that's neat. So, you know, tell me a little bit as far as you know, how you've gone about getting business. Like, how are you guys either advertising or marketing, or is it are you going out knocking on doors or is it mostly word of mouth, like kind of, you know, what do you guys think that you attribute to most of your business that's coming in?

Jessica Connel
Yeah well, actually when I first before I came on here, I was actually doing my, like my advertising right of return. So I actually have some worries numbers. The number one thing that's been working for us has been those Google reviews and also getting on Google guaranteed whenever we first started and we are still trying to get reviews, get our name out there, and whatnot. We did a lot of the paid leads and all that lovely stuff that I don't like doing, but it got us started. It got us business whenever we didn't have any reputation or anything. But yeah, that and direct mail have really helped us. What I do is I, you know, I have a letter and I have a that's, that's typed out and I hand sign every single letter that I send out and send depending homes. And I also have like some I also have a picture of me on the website, I have my dog's post. It is like I work for the branch managers of the house we work with of the business and I like to incorporate them. And then at the bottom of the letter, I have a photo of my dog sitting at my computer with a cup of coffee and it looks like they're working. And I put on there say, Hey, you know, here's a little offer for like, hey, here's $50 off your move. Use the manager special because moving is rough. Are you off?

Jason Bergenske
So that's awesome.

Jessica Connel
Yeah.

Jason Bergenske
And that's and that's me and that's you know, it's interesting, too, you know, and I think we talked about earlier, but, you know, my grandparents started the company we owned, which was changing Metro moving storage in Orlando back in the sixties. And I kind of grew up in that business and all, you know, all of our advertising when I was a kid was a picture of my dad and my two sisters and myself, and I was probably six or seven years old. And we used that picture probably until I was 25 or 30. And it just helps connect with people that, you know, people really like the family aspect. They really like seeing that they're real people and that you're going to care about them. And I think that's the biggest thing. And I think that's a big advantage that all of us independent moving companies have over the big named companies like to men and college Hunks and things like that. Because, you know, at the end of the day, those companies, in my opinion, they're not as family oriented in the sense that they're changing a family's life. A few years, you know, for you guys, every customer you do, every customer that you move, the money that comes in is taking care of your specific family, helping your kids go through school, stuff like that. So That's right. That's really neat. How are you guys going about hiring and stuff like that as far as getting extra helpers and stuff, That's it's a big thing that all moving company owners since COVID I think have struggled with is getting good quality candidates to go out on the truck and help.

Jessica Connel
Yeah, honestly, what's been working has, you know, whenever my husband was working as a mover for other companies, for other companies before we started this one, he made a lot of connections with people. He made a lot of connections with other movers that he was working with. And he goes like, okay, I know that you know, like, I actually worked moves with you. So I know you're not going to going to be stupid on location or anything like that. So I trust you. So that's been our number one thing so far. And then people that those guys refer, if we need someone outside of that, that's then that's kind of been the biggest thing. And now we have a kind of a set group of like five or six guys that we that are our go tos that, that do really well.

Jason Bergenske
So that's awesome. And then are what are a couple, you know, one or two big mistakes you feel like you've either made starting the business or since the business has been open that either you would change or not change. You know, we all have mistakes we've done, and sometimes those mistakes, we're happy we did them because they taught us something. Other times they're mistakes. We made a mistake, man. I wish I didn't do that, but it doesn't matter. But, you know, in your scenario, what are a couple of things?

Jessica Connel
Um, I think a couple of the big mistakes I've made have been, I guess, not knowing or I guess not paying attention to the rate of return on different advertising revenue streams is one of the things where we've been spending a lot of money on something that we thought was bringing this in a lot of money. And then I actually like, hold on, let me pull the numbers into a Google Earth Google sheet and like actually run the numbers like, oh, we're not like we're only making 30% on that, like 30% over what we spent on this. Like, no, definitely not worth it and things like that. And then the other thing would be mistakes would be, I guess, accepting, I guess booking customers that I could tell on the phone were crazy because it's like, okay, if they're crazy and mean to me on the phone, then they're going to they've, they're ten times worse on location whenever my, my husband and the other movers are there and it's like, okay, like that's money we don't want, we don't need to do that.

Jason Bergenske
So yeah, there are definitely a lot of times in the moving industry where it's sometimes better not to do a move. We've all had those customers that tell us that there's hardly anything in the house and we get there and it's ten times as much. We've had the ones that conveniently forget to tell us that the truck has to park a half mile away, even though we've asked them how far away. Right. So so that's very interesting also.

Jessica Connel
Yeah.

Jason Bergenske
So, so neat. So tell me as far as your guy's company and where you're at now, like what's next for your guy's company. How do you feel you guys are going to continue going on? Obviously, the housing market's down some, you know, obviously, it will return. I mean, it always has and always will. Where do you guys see yourselves in the next year, the next two years? What's kind of the plans for moving?

Jessica Connel
Well, we hope to be able to buy another truck soon and like and become a two truck company, hopefully. Also, what we've been doing is, I guess, just refining our marketing a little bit more. We kind of discovered that because we're in South Fort Worth, there are some areas that actually aren't too far from us, but are technically outside of the normal Metroplex area that they have money and they can't and they're easily accessed from our location and whatnot. That we can really sort of target and like, okay, let's become our you know, we're not going to become the number one in Fort Worth in the next year. We have several to two men and truck on my sons, a lot of really big guys in the game, but we just can't outspend for advertising revenue and whatnot. But just like a county south of us in like Summerville County or Accounting, like there's Glen Road, there's Granbury, there's a ton of homes being built out there. A lot of people are moving out there and flying out there like, Well, we'll go and do that and we'll actually go out there and do those moves that a lot of other companies won't.

Jason Bergenske
So yeah, so that's awesome. And what's kind of one of your guy's specialties as far as moving? Do you guys do pianos, Do you do sales and stuff like that, or can tell me a little bit as far as your guys moving company, what's your specialty, do you think?

Jessica Connel
Yeah, we do. We do pianos, we do gun saves. I think what we really one of the things that we specialize in is being able to move gun safes. One of our like our, main movers that work with my husband every day used to work for specifically a gun-safe company where he did nothing but deliver gun safes all day. So he is he's. He's a pro at it. Yeah. And so between that and my husband, who's six-three, used to be a, I think I think he was that used to be a defensive tackle and in high school and whatnot, like they're both strong, strong people. They, you know, the two of them will take an £800 gun safe up a flight of stairs and whatnot and no problem.

Jason Bergenske
So so I'm going to go ahead and ask you a couple. I call them the quickfire questions. So they're just some questions and just kind of off the top of your head, you know, answers to them. So what's the best piece of business advice you have ever received?

Jessica Connel
I got it from both my father and my grandfather, who both run businesses. Basically, it's knowing your numbers, knowing how much money is coming in every month and how much money's going out, and what they're going to like to sit down and go over that monthly. Because if you don't know where your money is going, you can easily gut-think you're pulling in a bunch of money, but actually you're losing money every month.

Jason Bergenske
Yeah. And that's actually a very good statement. You know, there's a lot of people that all they look at is their gross revenue coming in. They're not looking at their expenses. And you can sometimes make more money with less gross revenue than you can, you know if you're not watching it. So what's the one attribute or characteristic of a successful founder?

Jessica Connel
I think, you know, probably the ability to pivot easily. You got to be flexible. You've got to you got to be able to like, okay, we had this weird setback like, oh, like let's like, don't completely give up, move on to something else. Like, let's figure it out. Pivot, figure out a way to make it work.

Jason Bergenske
That's awesome. What's your favorite personal productivity tool or habit?

Jessica Connel
Um,, my favorite one is probably it's this app called Artful Agenda. It basically takes an I used to use a DaVinci planner and I liked the way you could like prioritize everything and whatnot. And this is basically like it's a DaVinci planner, but it's on a page or on your phone. And I also keep track and organized.

Jason Bergenske
I mean, what's a new crazy business idea you'd love to pursue if you had time?

Jessica Connel
Oh, I mean, my, uh, my husband. I want to start a farm, you know, but we live on a 10th of an acre, so as of right now, we can't do that.

Jason Bergenske
So which actually brings up a very funny fact that you brought up earlier is that you have chickens, and they're in the house.

Jessica Connel
They are? Yeah. Well, I mean, they're baby chicks. I just got them. I just got them a few days ago. So they're in a cart. They're in a cardboard box brooder in my office right now, which is why I'm out here in the living room, because there's I have like, I have ten chickens and two ducks in there right now.

Jason Bergenske
The ducks and the chickens get along. Okay?

Jessica Connel
Oh, yeah, they do. They're all fine.

Jason Bergenske
It's awesome. What's an interesting or fun fact about you? Most people don't know.

Jessica Connel
Probably that I. I actually used to work in L.A. in the film industry for about ten, ten years before I came out here. So, yeah, I worked for work for Larry King, work for Tastemade. Work for BuzzFeed. Yeah, for something people out there.

Jason Bergenske
And it definitely possibly helps you in your and your moving company. As far as your marketing and advertising and stuff like that.

Jessica Connel
Absolutely does. Yeah.

Jason Bergenske
Awesome. What's one of your most important passions outside of work?

Jessica Connel
Oh yeah, I like gaming. I like playing Dungeons Dragons games. So there you go. I do that. Yeah. It's awesome. Mm-hmm.

Jason Bergenske
Well, I just want to thank you very much for being on our podcast. Thank you for having me. And thank you for taking the time and doing it. And answering questions. And, you know, we wish you guys everything but success and just keep chugging along. The economy definitely will get better, I promise you. I think it's actually awesome that you guys started in this economy because it's going to help you because you can make money right now and you can get through it right now, which is I mean, you know, February, January, February, March, those are usually the slowest months in a moving company, especially if you can get through this, and especially

Jason Bergenske
in a downturn economy where the houses aren't selling as well, you're going to be able to really thrive when things start coming back and houses interest rates come down on houses. So a quicker and so.

Jessica Connel
Also again thank you.

Jason Bergenske
Yeah so thank you very much for being on it.

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