Nick Friedman has made millions on what he says has been done since the Stone Age: hauling junk.
When he was 22 years old, Friedman and his schoolmate, Omar Soliman, became the youngest franchisors in the U.S. by starting College Hunks Hauling Junk. In six years, the national hauling and moving company has expanded to 35 franchises and more than 200 people.¬†
“We took a very simple concept that’s already been done, put a very catchy angle on it and a big emphasis on customer experience,” Friedman, now 30, told us. “It had a bit of sizzle with the name and the colours.”
After graduating from Pomona College, Friedman started working at a Washington, D.C. consulting firm that he had built up his resume for, all the while feeling “very disillusioned with life after college.” He always thought about his job the summer before, when he and Soliman “were literally hauling junk in a cargo van making money.”
Friedman then decided to abandon his cubicle and invest all his time in College Hunks Hauling Junk. He’s since been named one of the top 30 under 30 by Inc Magazine alongside Mark Zuckerberg, and has been featured on shows like Shark Tank and Oprah. System-wide revenue is expected to reach $10 million this year.
“There’s always going to be a need, or a pain, that can be improved upon,” says Friedman. “Anything that solves somebody’s headaches or frustrations is a solution, and solutions are businesses.”
Friedman told us that when they first started their business, they would hire the first person that filled an application. Now, they hire based on skills, but they also look for the 'intangibles,' like honesty, integrity, and personality.
His favourite interview question to ask: 'On a scale from 1 to 10, how lucky are you?
'Four out of five businesses fail in the first five years, and your friends and family are going to tell you not to start a business because they would rather you follow a safe and secure route,' says Friedman.
'You have a vision and you pursue it no matter what.'
When Friedman and Soliman decided to formally start College Hunks Hauling Junk, they knew things would have to be different: 'We couldn't use his mum's cargo van anymore,' he says.
They also redesigned their logo, so it could be used anywhere, and bought the phone number 1800-JUNK-USA for $13,000 from a medical office.
At the beginning, Friedman made the mistake not to communicate enough with employees. He thought they would know what to do, just because he did.
'It's one thing to empower people to develop their positions, but if we're not giving them instructions or directions, they're going to feel lost,' Friedman told us.
This is what Friedman learned from one of his favourite business books, 'Good to Great.'
'I didn't read many books until after college, which is kinda crazy, but a book is the biggest return on an investment you can ever make, because a book can get you a $2 million idea,' he says.
'People's buying decisions are 90% emotional, and then they look to justify it with logic,' says Friedman.
'We were charging a premium because we had a great name and catchy brand, but we weren't getting the repeat referral business because the service was no different than somebody else with a pickup trunk, so we learned to provide a better experience.'
'I look at my to-do list every day and it's like 30 things long,' he says. 'I have to pick five things that I'm going to work on that day, everything else I delegate, delay, or toss altogether.'
'Omar and I have disagreements, we have arguments, but we never disagree on what direction the company is going in, and we never disagree on what our mission and our values are,' Friedman says.
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