College HUNKS. franchisee Dana Burton has an impressive resume, and she plans to use her expertise to build leaders
One of College HUNKS Hauling Junk and Moving’s Core Values is “Building Leaders,” and there are few new franchisees who are better-positioned to mentor new team members and help them grow than Dana Burton, who just opened her College HUNKS Hauling Junk and Moving franchise in Frederick, Maryland.
Dana earned an MBA at the University of Maryland, where she taught business principles to undergraduates. She has been a project manager overseeing the development of air traffic control systems used by the Federal Aviation Administration, and she worked to improve customer service experiences for CitiBank. She has managed a homeless shelter, run a baseball team and she is qualified as a Chartered Financial Analyst.
She knows marketing and financial analysis. “I am probably the most over-educated person that you can think of,” she jokes.
Her business serves Frederick County, Howard County and a portion of Montgomery County. This is her story.
Congratulations on opening your College HUNKS Hauling Junk and Moving franchise! How much help did you receive getting started?
Oh, my gosh — the number of people that have helped me through a whole range of things, I could fill an airplane hangar with them. I have just been coordinating a bunch of other people doing things. There have been some business licensing hoops that I’ve had to jump through to get ready to open, but anyone who thinks that will stop me moving forward doesn’t know me too well!
What were you doing before?
My previous job was as a project manager for a systems engineering company that worked for the Federal Aviation Administration. We helped plan and implement air traffic control systems, flight systems. As a project manager, you carry a little tool chest around and organize people to do a variety of tasks. I liked it; it was like juggling.
I left that job because of a health challenge, and then my mother died, which left me with a legal mess. Once I sorted out the mess, I began to concentrate on going into business.
How did you find out about College HUNKS.?
I was volunteering with SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives), which helps mentor people who are interested in going into business, and a guy came to talk to us about franchising.
He was a franchise consultant, and I decided to explore what my options might be. I gave him my background and explained my goals, and he provided several ideas of franchises that might be a match. I spent a couple of months evaluating them, and I decided on College HUNKS.
What made College HUNKS. stand out?
I think it was the Core Values. I mentioned working with SCORE on helping entrepreneurs get a start. To me, the College HUNKS. value “listen, fulfill and delight” is the same thing as excellent service. The value “always branding” also comes naturally in terms of marketing yourself at all times.
One of the things that impressed me is their superior customer service. It’s tremendously challenging to build an organization that can turn out that level of customer service consistently. I learned a lot about the “service factory” when I worked at CitiBank, and to me, that is what great franchises are. A “service factory” was what CitiBank called process engineering, which is figuring out and documenting the 100 pieces or steps that go into achieving a desired, predictable result. It’s about implementing processes that a team can follow, testing whether you’re getting the results you want, and then refining. I think executing things and making them work is really fun. There’s a lot of juggling, but there are also opportunities to be creative.
One of the keys is the nationwide customer service call center, which fields inquiries from customers on behalf of franchisees and helps schedule jobs.
I like the way the company had brought together junk removal and moving services under one umbrella. Whenever you move your home or a business location, you’ll need a mix of both services. By offering both, we make life easier for customers and also have more opportunities to generate revenue.
The other thing is they have developed a network of national partnerships with charities such as Goodwill, so we donate much of what we collect rather than putting it in landfills. Disposing of items in a landfill is expensive, so minimizing that saves money while also providing reusable items to people in need and helping the environment.
Another thing: The trucks are bigger than those driven by competitors. Third-party financing is available to help acquire the trucks, and they allow you to carry bigger loads, and handle more jobs in one truck, which allows you to do more five or six jobs in a day instead of three or four. Since there are labor costs associated with sending people on the truck every day, being able to spread those costs out over more jobs is a big financial benefit.
Tell me about the team members you have so far.
One of the people I have hired is attending the University of Alabama and is coming home for the summer. Another person is a recent graduate of a local high school, and he is looking to earn some money and get out and just experience the world and get a better idea of what it is that he might be interested in. I told him one of the most important things you can do is to get an education because it is the ticket for social mobility in America. College HUNKS Hauling Junk and Moving is a place where you can learn about business, marketing, customer service and get some ideas to help you build the next phase of your life. I want you to succeed in life, not just as a College HUNKS. employee. And they’re already learning. Before we opened, they spent time with the Rockville franchise, which is the corporate-owned location Nick Friedman and Omar Soliman first started. The general manager there and his staff has been very supportive and helpful, giving their time to me unstintingly to help me get up and running.
How do you plan to spend your time as an owner?
I see myself handling marketing, finance and administration. You can’t be a good marketer unless you get out and talk to your customers, so I will spend some time (riding along) on the trucks — not every day, but often enough to find out how customers react to us, who are they and what they think. I have done that throughout my career, and I look forward to spending time with customers. It’s also an opportunity to see what team members are doing, too, so I can train them and help them build their skills.
What are your goals for the business?
Financially, I would like to have a franchise that produces financial success in the top quarter of franchisees. I would also like to have a business that gives back to the community in terms of helping local people, including some with limited means, and teaching them about entrepreneurship. I want it to be a job that people want to come to and grow with. Employees don’t have to stay a long time — for some it will be a summer job between semesters — but I want them to get more than a paycheck from working here. I want them to learn how to run a business, how to run a meeting, how to analyze data, and how to be successful.