Grocery store clerk to business owner: Follow in Curtis McDowell footsteps

YMM: How did you get your start in the moving industry?

Curtis McDowell: I was going to school at the University of South Carolina, studying to become a physical therapist. [My wife] MJ was also going to school there. When MJ moved back home to Charlotte, I decided to move in with her, as we were getting serious. At the time I was working at Dick’s Sporting Goods in the bike and exercise department. I also worked at a grocery store doing little jobs, on the third shift. I didn’t like it, it was bad pay, and I needed to find another job quickly because I needed to make money. One of my colleagues at Dick’s Sporting Goods had a second job at a big moving company, which he referred me to. Because of my background and experience managing a team, I was able to start immediately as Assistant Operations Manager. I worked there for two years before I decided to start my own business.

YMM: How did you come across the opportunity to own your own franchise business with You Move Me?

Curtis McDowell: Once I started working at a moving company as an Assistant Operations Manager, I noticed that many changes could be made to improve the business. I saw the opportunity to do things differently; how I could do a better job. So MJ and I started coming up with names for our own moving business. We had a name in mind: Checkers Move: make your next move your best move. Then MJ came across You Move Me. At first I didn’t want to join a franchise, but then we continued the Discovery process and visited the head office in Vancouver in 2013. The core values, how it was always about the people, providing opportunities for the people from within -. I was sucked in. The company was really about caring for their people. I mean there’s even a heart in the logo!

YMM: Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

Curtis McDowell: Funny you ask. I recently went home, and Mom said “I found something you wrote in 6th grade”. She found an essay I wrote, which spoke about the things I wanted to do in the future: that I wanted to go to college, play football. No one in my family ever went to college, so I was the first generation to go to college, and I played in the club team at University of North Carolina. I also wrote about how I wanted to own my own business! When I was at USC I sold sunglasses at football games. So ever since the 6th grade, I somehow knew running my own business was going to be my thing.

YMM: How did you and your wife MJ decide to run the business together?

Curtis McDowell: She was always going to be a part of it, being part of the support system at the beginning, but then she slowly started getting roped in, because it became about the opportunities we could provide to others. The possibility of being able to help a lot of people led her to be more drawn in – especially after meeting other franchise owners – she was all in after that.

MJ is a full time pharmacist, works full time at You Move Me, coaches basketball and soccer for our little boys’ team, who are 3 and 6 years old. We knew we always wanted to help others, and the scale to help is much larger when you run your own business. You can help your teammates and the community. A full time job is great but you can do so much more on a larger platform.


YMM: What is the most rewarding thing about running your own franchise business?

Curtis McDowell: When you work in this industry, you help people more than you know. We hear a lot about customers who are going through a big life transition and we are able to help them. It goes deeper than moving, the people from the outside looking in just see it as a service. What we do is what someone would do for a friend – sometimes we are moving people who lost a loved one, and now they have to move because of that. So we have to lend an ear to them, check in on them. Moving is a service, but it is just the tip of the iceberg of what we provide. You develop these new friendships with people, and it gives you a good feeling, to make sure they are happy. We’re in the people business!

A great customer of ours, Mrs. Amigo, first connected with us when she had a death in the family, so we had to move her out. Then she got married so they moved again with us, later she had kids, so once again we helped her with their move. We’ve seen them grow through different stages of their life and have now built a friendship with them.

YMM: What is the secret sauce to your success with You Move Me and in your partnership?

Curtis McDowell: Working with your partner can be very challenging. We see each other at home and at work. Because we have the same outlook on life and have the same goals, it makes working with each other fun. We also see each others’ blind spots. I believe the reason we have success in our business is because of the people we surround ourselves with. Our team is awesome.

YMM: Where do you see yourselves in five years?

Curtis McDowell: I think we will have a couple successful companies, which will allow us to be in our kids’ lives more. We want to make it to all their games and talent shows!

YMM: What advice would you give to your younger selves?

Curtis McDowell: For me, the effort was always there. I always worked hard. I would tell my younger self to focus, stick with the process, and listen to successful people as often as possible.

Reading is another way to develop a great understanding. You gain more ground if you know what you are doing, it will get you on the fast track.

When we started You Move Me, we ran our office out of a storage unit, we had two small trucks, and it was just me and three other guys at the company. I thought I knew what I was doing because of my experience but there wasn’t enough knowledge to operate successfully. It was just one guy who knew a little about moving (me) and the other guys I had to teach.

Now we have our own office, 7 trucks, and about 30 teammates. You must focus, read, talk with those people who are successful, and stick with the process.

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