YMM: How did you start in the moving industry?
I have known James Alisch for 25 years now. He started You Move Me and, when he talked to me about the brand, I saw the potential and we talked about partnering to build the business. I loved the brand and the feel of it – building a team that can deliver the promise and transform the moving industry locally. I loved the idea of making a difference in people’s lives.
I started as General Manager of the Vancouver business. I earned and bought into the ownership of it, then moved into the corporate side to rebuild the corporate structure during 2018 and 2019. When Laurie [Baggio] bought You Move Me, I decided to dedicate myself fully to running the franchise.
YMM: What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve come across while running your own franchise business?
Mike Dahlman: The [Covid] pandemic. I finished with corporate [duties] in January of 2020, and covid hit 6 weeks after I took over the business. I thought [taking over the franchise] was going to be either a really good or really terrible decision. At that point [in the pandemic], customers didn’t want us in their homes. People were postponing their moves and a lot of things were put on hold. The part that was good is, I thought: “who else to navigate this but me?” It would be hard to leave this for someone else to navigate, but I also thought it’d be nice to have some stability and a paycheck. However, people didn’t stop moving; things took a big breath and – by July – things started slowly coming back to normal. In the end, we doubled our business during that time.
YMM: What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about running your own business?
Mike Dahlman: The team I have around me supported me throughout this and care about this business as much as I do; they invested their sweat and tears to push through this and if they hated anything about it, it wasn’t obvious to me. They were 100% in from day one and committed to taking this business to where they all felt it could go – pandemic or no pandemic. Nobody ever achieved anything great on their own, this is absolutely a team effort. There was risk for them too, but they believe in what we are trying to achieve and wanted to see it through.
YMM: What’s been the most rewarding thing that has come from running your own franchise business?
Mike Dahlman: It’s seeing the success for my team. Winning Mover of the Year and Franchise of the Year awards in 2022, the reviews, the outside validation so that the team can see it was worth it to push through. We’ve had great people rally and join the cause, and it is as strong as it was before. Sometimes when you grow, it can be hard to maintain the same culture. I think our culture is just as good or maybe even better through the growth we’ve experienced, and we continue to bring like minded people who believe in the mission – we’ve even doubled the team since pre-pandemic.
YMM: Speaking of your team, you have had the same core team for quite some time.
Mike Dahlman: We are able to retain employees because with us, they get to learn, they get better at what they do, they get to earn, and it feels like a family looking out after them. Here we give them opportunities to grow. Our Operations Manager Brayden, for example, who is looking into our expansion plans – he has worked for me since university. Jeff also came to work for a summer and kept returning, and now he’s our Vancouver sales manager. Mike, Alison, Patrick Ward (who’s had every role in the team), Karl, Tiana, the list of incredibly valuable teammates goes on and on.
YMM: What is the secret sauce to help you retain and engage your team amidst the current workplace climate?
Mike Dahlman: It’s important to show my staff what the opportunity is. With our team, our movers have control and influence over what they can earn month over month, rather than being told to work hard and maybe somewhere down the road you get a raise or a promotion. We have people at the highest level of the organization that are people who started at the bottom, so that gives my crew the ability to see the opportunities ahead of them.
YMM: What has been something you’ve come across while running your business that has had a big impact on you?
Mike Dahlman: A lot of the charity work we do sticks out for me. We were able to help an organization in the Downtown EastSide by sending clothes to Working Gear – they supply clothes, hard hats, and industry appropriate clothes and gear for people who can’t afford it so they can find jobs. Their mission is to support and empower people that want to re-enter the workforce. We’ve also partnered with KidSafe Project by delivering food to kids that don’t have food security. As for customers, we have over 1300 reviews! Just today, a customer said: “we use you guys every time because your level of professionalism is like no one else in the business. It feels so good to move with you guys.”
YMM: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Mike Dahlman: On a beach! [chuckles]. I would like to see my core group who started this with me in 2020 achieving their goals of owning homes and having their own businesses and living their best lives. For me, it is just about delivering what we have been delivering on a greater and greater scale so we can continue to impact more people.
YMM: What advice would you give your younger self?
Mike Dahlman: Grow your people, grow your business, and be patient. What I see from so many people now, is that they want everything right now but everything that’s great takes time to build, you just have to do the work and do the right thing and the right things will happen. A lot of people talk about the things they will do when they have the money. “I’ll do charity work when I get x amount of money.” The reality is that giving and being generous is what will bring prosperity; or some would say: “we’ll have a great culture when we can afford it”, but you can’t afford not to build a positive culture. Do kind things, simple acts of kindness for your team and the community. It starts with little acts of kindness and it can grow and expand as your business expands, but you gotta start where you gotta start.