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Q&A With Firefighter And College Hunks Hauling Junk Owner Shawnn Lampson

March 9, 2015

A mover turned firefighter, this franchise owner saw an opportunity to combine his many interests into one successful business

When he was in college, Shawnn Lampson worked on many moving crews. He didn’t know then that he was building a database of knowledge that would serve him well down the road as the owner of a College Hunks Hauling Junk and College Hunks Moving franchise, but that’s exactly what he was doing. Now, a firefighter, owner of a College Hunks franchise in Kansas City, Kansas, and part owner of another College Hunks franchise in Austin, Texas, Shawnn sees how all of his skill sets have come together.

What were you doing before College Hunks Hauling Junk & Moving?

I’m a little bit different from many of the other owners, in that I’m a full-time firefighter, and so I work at my College Hunks Hauling Junk franchise only part time. When my cousin, Justin Henry, and I bought the franchise in 2010, however, I was here full time; it was only over time that I could scale back my involvement.

I worked for moving companies all through high school and college as a side job, and when I graduated in 2008, I would do that on my days off from the fire department. At the fire department, we work 24 hours on, 48 hours off, so I started advertising on Craigslist to find some work loading and unloading trucks. I even wound up with some employees, so really wanted to find a franchise that would allow me to make this a real business. I saw the College Hunks Hauling Junk founders, Nick and Omar, on Shark Tank and liked what they were doing, and so I contacted them to find out more.

What sets your College Hunks Hauling Junk & Moving franchise apart from other independent moving and removal companies?

The branding is the main thing. You see a lot of trucks from our competitors, but with College Hunks Hauling Junk & Moving, you also see the logo, the green and orange colors, and you see enthusiastic staff who want to learn leadership and mentoring.

We want people who are here to learn how a business works. I’ve got a guy working for me who’s in the music business; he does DJ work. He’s working on his own business, and he’s taking a lot of tools from us in terms of seeing how we run payroll, how we train our employees, how we do the daily paperwork. He’s also seeing how we advertise and work with the call center on sales. In the four years we’ve been open, I’ve had three or four employees leave to start their own business, and that’s really satisfying to me.

What do you need to do to be successful in this franchise?

One thing about owning any business or any franchise, you have to put in the work to be successful. There’s no giving up. There are ups and downs, especially at first. But then you start to grow, and more money starts to come in and you can adjust your schedule as you are able to bring on more people.

Add a manager once you are able to, and then add the other pieces to your team and your operation as it makes financial sense. We began in a storage locker, and now we have a 3,000-square-foot office and five trucks.

Every six months, it’s a new and evolving business. It’s constantly growing, and you have to stay focused on implementing your systems all the time. It’d be easy to keep my feet up on the desk during the winter because there’s snow on the ground. That’s when you have to maximize the opportunities.

Who are your main customers?

When we first opened our franchise, we were only doing moving. We were the first College Hunks Moving-only location, because that was all I knew. We’ve added in the junk removal over time, and now it’s about half of our overall business. Because of how we started, our main clients are older people who are downsizing and moving into a smaller home as they prepare to retire.

We do some commercial work, but I’d say 90 percent of what we do is for homeowners. When we first opened, we were going after big homes for moving. But that took two to three days and six or seven guys, and the more I learned about the profit margin and employee management from College Hunks Hauling Junk & Moving training, I switched my focus to smaller homes and apartment moving. Getting someone into or out of a senior living complex is far easier, and it allows us to do more jobs in a day. That’s also shaped how we advertise and who our core base of customers is.

What does the business’ typical day look like?

We bring in our moving crews around 7 a.m., because that’s an all-day thing. For junk removal, we bring in the junk removal teams throughout the day, because those jobs are shorter and more scattered.

First thing, we go over the jobs. Then we check out the trucks and send the crews out by 8 a.m. most days. Over the course of the day, we check in with them to make sure everything’s going well, and also talk to the customers to make sure they’re happy with the service as it’s going along. We text the crew, because we don’t want them on the phone unless they’re in between jobs or on break.

At the end of the day, our manager rounds up with the crews, especially the captains who are making more per hour and have more responsibilities. We make sure the trucks are refueled and are ready for the next day, and then we go through the paperwork and customer interactions to make sure everything is in order.

What do you like about the business?

I really like it all. I’m a former mover myself, almost 30 years old, and I’ve done this since I was 15. I own my own business, which is rewarding. I’m working with guys who want to be a fireman like me, or a policeman or even headed to medical school. We’re building relationships, and I like being close to the guys on the team so I can mentor and help them.

We really are a team. We’ve taken the trucks to tailgating events and rallies, and I really enjoy being out in public with them as a College Hunks Hauling Junk & Moving franchise team. I also like being able to give people a job that pays them well and works with their hours, while they are in school. We have worked hard to build the culture here, right down to the orange and green walls. We work hard, we have fun and we show everyone who’s with us how to run a successful business.

What does franchise ownership allow you to do that you couldn’t do before?

Once we were about 18 months in, I was able to hire a manager to take care of much of the operations, so that helped free up my schedule. And this summer, we had a baby boy and so I was able to take two weeks off — where else could I do that? Once you have everything in place, the flexibility is a very solid benefit. I’ve been able to start work on my master’s degree and continue working as a firefighter. I have the freedom to do those things because we worked hard to get good systems in place that let our trusted employees run the business.

I also have that freedom because we have the call center helping us grow our business. I’m not paying a secretary or marketing person to sit and be on the phone all day long, and that comes with the franchise. The call center allows us to be out growing our business, making presentations to Realtors and others about what we do, and training the guys on how to do a professional move or haul away junk effectively.

Would you recommend this franchise? Why?

I do recommend it. I’ve been doing this for a few years and still enjoy coming to work every day. I love working with the guys, and I love the satisfaction of working for myself. When we hit our goals in sales, or otherwise have a great month, we take the team out to dinner. Being able to do that is really rewarding, as well. We’ve done so well here that we decided to invest in the Austin College Hunks franchise a year and a half ago, so I think that speaks to how satisfied we are with our College Hunks Hauling Junk & Moving franchise experience.

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