College Hunks Featured Article: Inc Magazine
Nick Friedman had an idea.
Suppose you could take the natural high spirits that compel college students to kidnap one another’s team mascots and toilet-paper rival frat houses and harness it for good?
Friedman is president of College Hunks Hauling Junk, a $3 million franchiser headquartered in Tampa. The company’s 47 franchise locations (updated Feb 2013) employ mostly college students and recent grads; even about half of the franchise owners are in their 20s.
Friedman motivates employees almost exclusively through internal competition. Franchises and individuals vie for bragging rights and (generally modest) monetary rewards in contests over total revenue, average job sizes, customer loyalty, disposal costs, and a long list of other performance measures.
“A person’s day-to-day tasks don’t necessarily connect to external competition,” says Friedman, explaining this we-have-met-the-enemy-and-he-is-us approach.
“Internal competition helps them be more productive at what they are accountable for. And ultimately, that puts the company in a better position to win market share.”
Friendly rivalry, of course, is endemic to college life, and the company’s early employees translated their frat-war sensibilities to the job. Shortly after College Hunks’s launch in 2005, haulers from its Virginia branch went out to their truck one morning and found it lathered in shaving cream and draped with a University of Maryland flag.
They retaliated with a dead fish in the Maryland branch’s truck.
Rather than reprimand the offenders, Friedman and CEO Omar Soliman fanned the flames. “We wanted to harness that competitive, prankster enthusiasm and channel it for good,” says Friedman. “So we challenged the two locations: Who can haul the most junk by summer?”
He offered a Bahamas vacation to the winning team. Maryland triumphed, and a culture was born.
The founders soon dispensed with volume of junk collected in favor of key performance indicators as the bases for contests. They developed a dashboard — available to the entire company over an intranet — and created competitions around the numbers tracked there.
Most employees check the dashboard every day for their own and rivals’ latest standings. To keep things fresh, Friedman and Soliman periodically add new contests. In the latest, franchises vie to see which can donate or recycle the most junk, thus burnishing College Hunks’s green cred while reducing landfill costs.