South-Western - Management  
Two Men and A Lot of Trucks
Topic Entrepreneurship
Key Words Entrepreneurship, family-owned business, franchise
News Story

Mary Ellen Sheets wanted to help her two sons drum up more business for their moving company so she drew two stick figures in a truck cab and put an ad in the local paper. The response to the ad was so great that Sheets kept getting calls, even after her sons had left for college. Reluctant to turn away the business, she bought a pickup truck and hired two men to do the heavy moving. Her only capital investment in the company was the $350 she paid for the truck in 1985.

Three years later, Sheets decided to run the business full-time and quit her government job to devote time and attention to it. That year, she sold her first franchise to her daughter. When the company had sold ten franchises, her lawyer told her she was going to make it.

Sheets saw a real need for local moves that were not met by the big companies largely devoted to long-distance moving. She also saw that the moving business had a bad reputation. Sheets decided that her company would be known for customer service. The company's mission statement is "Treat everyone the way you would want your Grandma treated." She gave her movers uniforms and business cards. Sheet's goal is to bring a personal touch to an industry that is known for its stressed out customers. Because of the careful service Two Men provides, 95% of its business comes from word-of mouth, cutting their advertising costs.

As the business grew, Sheets saw the need for consistency. In 1998, she established Stick Men University, where franchisees learn every step of the business from answering a customer's first call to record-keeping. There is also a two-story house set up on site where the franchisees can practice moving challenges like crating fragile china and navigating narrow staircases.

Two Men is once again a family-run business. Sheets is the CEO and daughter Melanie is president and COO. Sheets' sons are also involved-one owns a franchise and one works as the director of licensing. Today, Two Men and a Truck operates in 27 states. They made 250,000 moves last year and generated $150 million in revenue. There are 152 franchise locations. Each franchisee invests about $100,000 in franchising rights and start-up costs, and then pays royalties of 6% with a 1% advertising fee.


What were some of the things that Mary Ellen Sheets did right that helped her to create such a successful business venture?


What are at least three things that someone involved in a family-owned business needs to be aware of?

Source "Two Men and A Lot of Trucks," Business Week Online, Apr.14 2005, pp.NA.
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