Q&A with Ashley and Ryan Shahan, who have opened a new College Hunks Hauling Junk and Moving franchise in Houston, Texas
Ryan Shahan and his wife, Ashley, have transformed the downturn in the oil industry into an opportunity to live their dream of owning a business. Ryan was a safety advisor for a major oil drilling company when he found out they were offering voluntary severance packages. Ashley was a preschool teacher who wanted to spend more time at home with their three children while running a business. They decided to use Ryan’s severance package to invest in their future and purchase a College Hunks Hauling Junk and Moving franchise. This is their story:
How did you find out about College Hunks Hauling Junk?
Ryan: We actually went through a franchise consultant. She was putting on a meeting through SCORE, which is kind of a non-profit business organization. I saw that she was putting on something about franchises. We had been interested in the concept of franchising, and so I went to the meeting to talk with her, and we signed up for her services. A full battery of personality tests and financial analysis determined what would work best for our situation. And so she presented us with three options, and we went through the due diligence with all three of them, and decided on College Hunks Hauling Junk.
What sets College Hunks apart as an opportunity, and why did you pick it?
Ashley: Well, what set it apart for us is that it is a values-based company. We really identified with the fact that they care a great deal to meet the needs of their customers. I’ve always read reviews before I buy something or before I hire a company for service to find out if they are a good company. College Hunks is a business that really seeks to do the best thing by their customers, and to be an honest company. And so, that was also a great fit for us.
Ryan: Any company can say they have values, but if they’re not actually standing on those values, then it’s going to fail. The values that College Hunks has definitely lined up with our own personal values.
Ashley: And, they have a strong network of people that have really great advice. We can go to them at any time and they’ll share with us, “Here’s what not to do. Here’s the mistakes we’ve made,” as well as point us in the right direction.
Ryan: The other franchisees have been amazing. That’s one of the best things about College Hunks. I have yet to meet a rude franchisee. Everybody is just completely forthright with information. If you have any questions whatsoever, you just find another franchisee, call them on the phone and they’ll spill their guts.
What kind of person makes a good College Hunks franchisee?
Ashley: Somebody who shares a similar passion for the service industry, who can identify people’s needs and then find a way to go above and beyond to fulfill their needs.
Ryan: Our purpose is to move the world. It’s not just to move the world physically. It’s also to move the world emotionally, and actually have that impact in the community. People use us every day to come into their house, come into their private world, and so if we have the mentality of the “listen, fulfill and delight” we’re actually going in and saying, “Hey, we want to be a part of your life. We’re part of your community and we really want to touch your life more than just moving your stuff out.”
Is there a misperception about the moving and junk-hauling industries?
Ryan: We had a customer who wasn’t familiar with the junk-hauling industry, so he didn’t know exactly what to expect when we showed up. We have uniforms on, and shirts tucked in and pants are clean. Everything looks good, and all of these things set us apart. Of course, his eyes are really big and he’s looking at us, and sure enough, he’s like, “I’ll be honest. I didn’t know what to expect with you guys. When I first hired you I thought you were going to show up with tattoos all over your body and a big beer belly sticking out with a torn T-shirt on, and maybe some coveralls. I didn’t really expect you. You guys look professional.” That’s a pretty common misperception about the junk-hauling industry, but more about what College Hunks does to go above and beyond.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Ryan: I’m the operations manager and Ashley’s been getting everything done with the commercial marketing. After my morning routine, I’m checking emails to see if any jobs came in overnight. I’m basically starting to go through planning out that day if anything new came up. Calls come in at any given time. Our name is out there all over the place. At midnight people can book a job with us online. You come into the office. Get everything going. The guys come in. You do a morning huddle with them, so you start going over our core values to make sure you’re showing them that this is what we really believe and this is what we stand for. Then you have them practice a few things like their elevator pitch they’ll be giving to anyone they come into contact with that day. Then we get everybody jazzed up to go and take off to do the jobs that you’ve got set up for them. Once they’re gone my day really begins, because then it’s making phone calls to possible leads. You show up on different calls with the guys. You’re talking to a lot of people throughout the day. At the end of the day you do your closeout meeting with your guys when they come back as a group. I make it a point to talk about how the job went. Any lessons learned. Anything we can transfer over to the next crew. Then we turn them loose, and send them home. And start closing out our day.
Ashley: As a mom and co-owner of this business, it’s been great, because I still have the opportunity get up in the morning, get the kids ready for school, get them off, and then I have time to be able to do the admin thing like calling customers. But then I can work from my home, and get creative and come up with ideas and a vision for how we can build relationships with other professionals, and then actually get to go out in the community and build those relationships.
Ryan: Kind of on that same note, the beauty of owning our own business is you get to set your schedules. That’s one thing we didn’t get to do in previous jobs or a previous career. And so your day looks how you want it to look.
How large is the opportunity for growth?
Ryan: I guess, to answer a question with a question, well, how big do you want to be? How big do you dream? How big is your vision? How big do you want your operation to be, because that’s how big the opportunity is. I go with the saying “Dream Big, Think Big and Act Big” because we want to be a bigger company. We want to have the biggest footprint within our territory that we can have.
Who are your main customers?
Ryan: Our main customers are people who place a high value on their time. It’s hard to say that this is our target age or demographic because people put value on their time regardless of their socio-economic status. It’s people who would much rather be doing anything besides spending time cleaning out their garage or taking stuff to the dump or taking something two hours to get the landfill.
How does corporate support your growth?
Ashley: They’ve taken a wealth of knowledge from current successful business owners, pretty much packaged it up in a very understandable way, and we can take that information and learn from it, and grow with it and establish systems. They’ll always answer our phone calls. They’ll always answer our emails, and any way we need support, they’re there to help us out. They’re also building national accounts with other companies so that the brand as whole is getting more established. The nation is becoming more aware of College Hunks. They are really fantastic at giving us all of this information and all of these opportunities, but then taking a step back, and letting us be creative with our own abilities, and actually grow our own business and take ownership of this business that we’re forming.
What do you like about the business?
Ryan: I love the people and the interaction with our employees, because you will be an employer. The weight of responsibility that’s placed on your shoulders when somebody works for you can be either burdensome or it can also be something that’s very inspiring. Because I know that I have four guys that work for me. I need to provide for them. I need to come up with ways for them to make the money and have the things that they need. But on top of that, I need to build an environment where they can learn about business and grow their business acumen. So, two years from now, my own personal goal is to have two people that I’ve trained up, that I’ve taught, that I’ve mentored, and they launch out on their own to open their own business.
Another thing I enjoy is that customer interaction. I love talking to the customers because everybody’s got an original story. Everybody’s got something that you can either learn from or something that you can just enjoy talking about.
Ashley: I love the creative aspect of the job. Stepping outside my comfort zone, and learning things about myself that I didn’t know before, things I can do that I didn’t know I could do. There’s an opportunity now to step out and try these different things.
What does franchise ownership allow you to do that you couldn’t do before?
Ashley: What it allows us to do that we couldn’t do before is to accumulate resources to then go out and accomplish even bigger dreams and a bigger vision that we have for ourselves and for us a couple and for our family. Whether it be relationships or financial gain, whatever it is, we have the opportunity to fulfill a bigger dream for our lives.
Ryan: For me, it’s the freedom aspect. I can set my own schedule and do this. You’re going to put in a lot of work. A lot of hours. But you have the freedom to do what you need to do. You have the freedom to make the decisions you need to make. You have the freedom to build the way that you want to build. You have the freedom to interact with customers the way that you need to interact with customers, and provide for your employees the way that you know they need to be provided for.
Would you recommend this franchise, and if so, why?
Ashley: Well, I already have. I have family members that are now very interested, so maybe there will be some more College Hunks in our family. But also the fact that we share a core vision with the founders of the company.
Ryan: Would I recommend College Hunks to others? Absolutely. No question in my mind. You’re dealing with a proven system. You’re dealing with a solid system with a solid foundation. As you would find out by meeting Nick Friedman and Omar Soliman, the founders, the same mentality that they had from the beginning of keeping it a fun environment, of making sure that it was something that was solid as they grew is still in play today.
Is there anything else that I’m not asking?
Ryan: The only thing that I would want people to understand is our desire to make an impact in the lives of others as well as our community. That’s why we own our own business. That’s why we do what we do. It’s to make an impact. If you can leave this world in better shape than when you came into it, and have a legacy that you can pass on, not just through your children but to others within your community, then I think that is very well-lived life. College Hunks provides us that opportunity to have the biggest impact.
Ashley: For us personally, what you would want to know about us is our faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ. He has impacted us to see a much bigger picture than ourselves. To understand that we carry a lot more than we think we carry. We have a lot more opportunities and abilities than we can see ourselves.
Learn more about College Hunks
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