How Three Strangers Became Partners and Now Run A Successful Moving Company
YMM: How did you start your journey as an entrepreneur?
Ben Hoskins: When I was in high school or college, I used to sell baseball cards and so – in a way – I was used to having my own business already. I liked it better when I could be my own boss. I knew I would work harder and have freedom to create my own schedule if I had my own business. So when I read an article in Fortune magazine about 1-800-GOT-JUNK? I decided to buy a franchise in San Diego in 2003. There I got started with just one truck and one part time employee.
Robert Christensen: I was in the military, and after finishing a tour of duty, I was living in Europe and working for UPS. I decided to come back to the US, because after 10 years I knew I couldn’t afford a house in Germany (where I was at the time). I grew up on a farm and wanted to own my own piece of land. When I moved back to the US, I was working for UPS again. I was competing in mountain bike races and- at the time – I happened to break two bicycle frames, so I needed a part time job to have the bikes ready for the next competition. I got a part time job working for 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, working Saturdays and Sundays. The owner at the time came up to me and asked me to run the business. She made an offer and that’s when I put in my resignation at UPS. After Ben took over the business, he came up to me and said: “these are the numbers that we need to reach to make it.” I took him up on the challenge and together we were able to revitalize the business and keep growing.
YMM: How did you decide to start a moving company with You Move Me?
Ben Hoskins: I was in San Diego for a while until I made a decision to move to Vancouver, WA. I decided to buy an existing junk franchise there in 2009, where Robert Christensen was the General Manager. I asked Robert to stay in the business and we have worked together since. Around 2011, we started hearing about You Move Me. Rob and I had previously talked about starting a business in another home services sector with a historically bad reputation, as we had observed that, whenever someone asked for referrals for home services no one had good things to say – they always had a bad experience to share. That is how we knew if the opportunity came along we could make a difference. In 2013, we decided to jump in together in this new venture and launch one of the very first You Move Me franchise locations. Shortly after that, Nathan Day joined our team in 2014.
Robert Christensen: Tyler Staszak and Josh Herron came up with the idea for You Move Me, and everyone was very excited. Ben and I came up to Vancouver, BC and met with Tyler and Josh. We had worked in the junk business for a long time, and we always used to get a lot of 5-star reviews saying “why were my junk haulers better than my other contractors? Why are they always the ones who go above and beyond?” We knew if we could bring the same energy and people to the moving business, we could make a difference.
Nathan Day: I was hired six months after You Move Me launched. I met Robert his first weekend back in the US! At the time, I came over to Robert’s home and told him I was at a dead-end job with no growth opportunities. I asked if he thought You Move Me was going to succeed, and Robert’s answer was–
Robert Christensen: –”I have no plans to fail”.
Nathan Day: At the time, I was a landscaper–chasing lawn mowers in the Oregon rain. My then-boss told me I would never get another raise because I had tapped out. I was just looking for a job that would pay an extra dollar or two an hour. A week after talking to Rob, I joined You Move Me. Later that year, Robert had a terrible bicycle accident and was in the hospital for a while. That’s when I had to learn how to run the business.
Ben Hoskins: When Robert was in his bicycle accident, everyone that worked for him rose up to the challenge and were able to prove that we have a solid team and partnership.
YMM: How did Robert and Nathan meet?
Robert Christensen: Back when I was planning to move back to the US, I still wanted to be a professional cyclist, and Portland was the most beautiful yet financially accessible place to practice cycling at the time. My brother-in-law was Nathan’s keyboard player, so when I moved to Portland my first weekend in town I was introduced to Nathan and the rest of the band. We’ve known each other since 2002.
Ben Hoskins: When Nathan was running things he used to bring his son Ethan, who was in high school at the time. After Ethan graduated he started working for our junk business. He is now one of the top three nominees for top trucker of the year, competing against thousands of other truckers from the US, Canada and Australia. And Rob’s wife used to babysit Ethan!
Robert Christensen: That was her first job when we moved back to America. Nathan needed a babysitter.
Nathan Day: We keep it all in the family.
YMM: What do you wish you knew then that you know now about running your own business?
Nathan Day: I learned everything on the job. Learned everything from Rob from how to do a move to how to manage the company.
Robert Christensen: I wished I knew scaling a business is just as hard as starting the business. The bigger you get, the number of problems don’t diminish.
Ben Hoskins: I wished we all knew how hard this business is. I wished I knew how stressful moving days are for customers and why that affects how they act sometimes. Even though we want to be the hero and solve their problems and wish you could appease their stress, and sometimes you can, but sometimes they are still stressed and it’s hard to measure their satisfaction.
YMM: How did your previous experience prepare you to own your own moving business?
Nathan Day: Working as a landscaper taught me how to drive a truck and trailer, lead a two-man crew, and do hard work. When Rob was away, I learned sales and how to do moves and dealing with stressed customers and make them happy at the end of the day. I became a problem solver. I became an estimator, and realized my skill set is in selling. This is the easiest product to sell, because you are selling the hard work of your team to help someone’s move be less stressful. I have only had three jobs in my life: YouMove Me, landscaping, and my other job was at an 83-year-old music store–Day Music–that my family held for 5 generations. It was handed to me in severe long term debt and had to close. I learned to close the door on a failing business in the best way possible. It was a huge learning experience. Now, If I go into a customer’s home for an estimate and I see a musical instrument, I always ask where they purchased it–more than a handful times it’s a longtime Day Music company customer. I never imagined lifting furniture for stressful customers would provide me the opportunities to own my own business.
Ben Hoskins: Nathan is a very talented musician, he repairs instruments and gives lifelong free music lessons for those interested.
Nathan Day: The average age of our teammates is 20-something, so a lot of them have musical ambitions and I encourage them and provide support when they need it. Whenever a customer discards a musical instrument with us, our team would bring the instrument to me. I clean and restore the instrument and gift it to someone in our team. Giving guitars to my team is a favorite end of day surprise. All come with free lessons for life if interested. Something magic happens when you give to your team! Also, more guitars are given to me the more I give away. So far I have fixed and gifted 12 guitars to our guys, and have another eight in my office waiting to be restored and be given away.
YMM: What surprised you the most about owning a franchise?
Ben Hoskins: The first year we launched we were the smallest new franchise that made the least amount of revenue–
Robert Christensen: –I remember that first year, we were dead last.
Ben Hoskins: There was no home-run on day one, we were in last place. However, 2014 started to get busy and that is when Rob was hurt. We then started figuring out the business and saw there was something here. Now, we’ve had more longevity than a lot of other people who entered this business at the same time as us and couldn’t make it.
Robert Christensen: We’re doing alright.
YMM: What is the secret sauce to your success with You Move Me and in your partnership?
Robert Christensen: The secret sauce is we really care about our people, starting with Ben. Ben is easy to work for and he makes it hard to disappoint him. When you get treated well by your boss, for me, it just made ultimate sense to treat the next guy the same way. It is 100% the people, how we are treated and how we treat each other. I’m getting teary-eyed just talking about it!
Nathan Day: I couldn’t agree more. I don’t want to disappoint my boss and my friend, that goes down to our managers and truck teams. We host an environment where we all want to do well and make each other proud.
Ben Hoskins: We are aligned in what we are trying to do and we trust each other in doing the right thing and always doing better. We have the same goal we are looking towards. I’m a firm believer in letting your team go and use their strengths and talents and their smarts in reaching our collective goal. If you do a good job you’ll get a good reputation, get more jobs and get to do good by your team.
YMM: What is the most rewarding part of being a franchise owner?
Robert Christensen: I tell every single new employee that my goal in this business is, when a potential customer sees us or our trucks I don’t want them to think “that’s a good company”, but say “those are good people.” If I could do anything through this job is teach our young men how to be good citizens out there, moving is just what we do and how we pay the bills.
Nathan Day: This is one of the surprises I’ve learned. We take young men and turn them into leaders and that is a huge opportunity and really enjoyable to see the development our guys go through.
Robert Christensen: Everyone needs to learn a job at some point, and you learn a lot by doing hard work. For everyone of our teammates this should be the worst job they’ve ever had and their next job they should be able to be 100% better because of what they learned in this job.
Nathan Day: To me this is the best job I’ve ever had, and it grew organically and I’m really proud to be here and very thankful to Ben and Robert for the opportunity to be a part of this.
Ben Hoskins: We want to be the best home service a customer has ever encountered. We want our customer to say: “Wow that was the most pleasant, easiest encounter I’ve ever had”.
Robert Christensen made a miraculous recovery and he is back enjoying his passion for mountain biking. Ben, Robert and Nathan co-own and manage You Move Me, and are heavily involved in their community in the Portland/Vancouver area – working closely with the Clark County Food Bank, among other non-profit organizations. You Move Me Portland recently celebrated their biggest January ever in 2022.