Two Men and a Truck on Bootstrapping to Global Growth

By Jane Whitttington on April 5th, 2016 / Comments

Yes, it really did start with two men and a truck. In the early 1980’s, two high school boys, brothers Brig and Jon Sorber were looking for a way to make a little extra money while they were in high school. They invested in an old pick-up truck and had their mother, Mary Ellen Sheets, help out by designing a logo and using it to advertise in the local Lansing newspaper. The boys kept busy moving people in Lansing and surrounding suburbs. After they left for college, Sheets kept getting phone calls from people requesting moving services. Even though she was working full-time for the State of Michigan, she saw that there was obviously a need for such services. In 1985, she hired a couple of movers and paid $350 for a truck.

That $350 was the only money Sheets ever invested in the company.

Two Men and a Truck continued its growth under Sheets’ leadership. In 1989, her daughter Melanie Bergeron opened a franchise in Atlanta, Georgia.  That was just the beginning. Today, there are over 350 Two Men and a Truck franchises, including 22 in Canada, one in Ireland and four in London. Two Men and a Truck is now the largest franchised local moving company in the United States.  The headquarters in Lansing oversees the Lansing operation as well as one in Pasadena, California.

Two Men and a Truck is now celebrating its 30th year in business. All four family members serve on the Board of Directors. Bergeron is now chair of the board, Brig Sorber is executive chairman and Jon Sorber is executive vice president.  Sheets continues to serve in an advisory capacity.

“We have been blessed to have the family as a model of our core values. We appreciate their guidance on our journey,” says current CEO Jeff Wesley.

It hasn’t always been a straightforward journey for the company. Wesley says the when the recession hit it was both the worst and the best thing that could have happened for the company.

“Two Men and a Truck looked at the model that had worked for some 20 years and asked, ‘How do we change it to make it better?’.  We overhauled our whole operating system and hired a team of IT professionals and invested in technology,” he said. “We rebranded and revamped our relationships with our franchisees. We looked at training and sales and made needed changes. While in hindsight, it was a tough time, we took the initiative to improve what we do.”

In the last four years the business has doubled in size, seeing over $400 million in business this year.

“We’ve been growing about 17 percent a year for five to six years straight. We see that continuing. It’s a combination of continuing to innovate and focus on customers and the customer service aspects of our brand and hiring great people, people who are passionate about their work. We are working constantly to improve all aspects of the business,” he said.

Why Franchising? How it works for Two Men & A Truck.

Franchisees offered a fast and flexible way for the company to expand nationwide. The franchisees receive support from the company before the business even begins.  Investment in support services is considered money well-spent. In fact, 99.8 percent of franchises prove to be successful.

“Before selling a franchise, we vet the potential owners for their core values and their passion for the brand. We invest heavily in support,” he said. “We have a start-up process, and then we stay connected with the franchise with one-on-one support for the first two years.  We also offer specific support services, like marketing or financial management, that can assist a franchisee in areas where they may need help.”

One of the most admirable aspects of Two Men and a Truck is their tremendous investment in their communities. When Sheets made $1,000 in her first year in business, she gave 10 percent of it away. That practice continues and similar efforts are expected of the franchisees. Once a year, there is an effort to collect necessary items for women’s and family’s shelter. Another collection effort donates items to veterans who are living in shelters. Another program benefits animal shelters. In addition, they collect food for food pantries and warm clothing for those in need. We encourage all of our employees to volunteer in their communities. On occasion, they donate moving services. In 2015 alone, they donated almost $3 million of moving expenses. They also continue to give financial support to many organizations including the American Cancer Society and the Red Cross. Two Men and a Truck has  donated close to $25 million to local charities.

“Two Men and a Truck has achieved a lot in making the journey to business success. But it’s important how we make that journey,” he said. “The opportunities to give back to our communities make this business truly special.”

For more information about Two Men and a Truck, visit their website at www.twomenandatruck.com

About the Author

Jane Whitttington

Jane Whitttington

Jane Whitttington is a freelance writer and editor who lives in Grand Rapids. A Michigan native and Michigan State University grad, she enjoys reading, travel, politics and volunteering.