Herd leader, Wade Lombard, had a blast in early May sharing the Square Cow story with the folks over at Main Street Hub. This was an exciting event — Wade even got a chance to meet the co-founders of Main Street Hub. Main Street Hub is a full-service marketing company that helps small businesses have a voice online. Their mission is to create thriving local economies. Main Street Hub invited Wade to give a fireside chat at their Austin offices to give their employees insight into the mind of a small business owner.
Square Cow Movers started out as a small family run business with two trucks and three family members in 2008. In the early days, brothers-in-law Wade Lombard and Derek Mills were the muscle, doing the majority of the mooving themselves. Now, 7 years later, Square Cow Movers has over 100 herd members, nearly 30 trucks, and 5 branches across central Texas The secret to Square Cow’s success centers on a customer-first code of ethics, manners, attention to detail, passion, and hard work.
As a small business owner, Wade was able to describe the personal highs and lows that are tied to owning your own company to Main Street Hub employees. Here were some of the questions asked at the event, and Wade’s responses:
What inspired you to start your own venture? Why a moving company? Was your family on board?
So, my business partners are my dad and brother-in-law. A few things happened that made us want to do this. I was in-between jobs, my dad was looking for something new, and we had a desire to bring our whole family together in one place. There were other reasons, but these were some of the biggest.
We decided to be a moving company after we looked at buying a moving company franchise and decided that we could make our own model for a moving company, a better one.
The first three years of our business were rough. Kimberly, my wife, was not on board. We were not making enough money, we had kids and medical bills and other financial obligations (like food) and it was tough on us as a family. I call those the dark years, and I don’t miss them. You would show up to kids’ birthdays sweaty and gross and looking like you had given up on life. Money doesn’t make you happier, but it sure can make life easier.
Biggest milestones in the beginning? Biggest hurdles?
Culture. For example, the first couple of years we told our movers to tuck their shirts in, every single day. After 2-3 years in we started witnessing the head movers telling their crews to tuck their shirts in. Culture started to take hold in many different areas, everybody started buying into it. It was company wide and felt special. But obviously tucked shirts reflected more than that. The shirts simply represented the attention to detail and care we expected from our guys when they were out on their moves.
Take us through a typical day. Tell us about a typical fire that happens? What do the problems usually look like? How do you pick and chose what fires to address?
It feels like there are always challenges with employees and mechanical issues with the trucks. However, those don’t really take as much of a our time as they used to. Our management team does such an amazing job of leading the charge on those fronts. Customer service dominates the majority of my time. Sometimes I will deal with a client who doesn’t feel like they received the service they were promised, other times I’m talking with a client who simply wants to spend an hour telling us how great their move went (seriously, it happens).
We are in the moving business after all so from time to time we finish far from our goal of perfect. It would be stupid for me to say that we don’t make mistakes and that accidents don’t happen. They do. When those fires ignite, that’s when I want to be involved. Otherwise, I’m spending my time focused on next steps and taking care of the details I just don’t have someone else handling yet.
What are the common misconceptions about owning your own business?
Common misconception is that you don’t have a boss. The answer is yes, there is no one above me, but there are no jobs beneath me. I might be looking at a Profit and Loss Statement and then get a call that they need an extra hand moving a piano across town and I am on my way to help out. We do things that some folks think are crazy or stupid, but they need to be done and who else is going to do it? If the trash needs to be taken out and everyone else is busy, I take it out. Business owners have their hands in everything from the important game changing decisions to the mundane everyday tasks.
As you’ve grown and have to spend more and more time managing and running the business – How do you stay connected to the needs of your customers? How do you think about growth (for ex, when to open new locations? Or the attributes of the people you’re looking to hire?)?
A few things here. We put growth above everything else in our company. We started with two trucks. Every time we hit a financial goal, it wasn’t to give ourselves bonuses or give ourselves raises. We would hit a financial goal and celebrate by buying the next truck. Until we could support our mission for growth as well as handle giving ourselves more money, putting money back into the company won every time. That mentality exists as much now as it did 5 years ago.
Since customer service is one of our biggest differentiators in the market, our entire business is built around communicating with them every step of the way. We have built communication into every step of our process. From when they land on our website to the guys answering the phones in the office, to the guys walking into the clients’ houses, to the follow-up survey we send out at the end of a move, we make it our mission to almost over-communicate. Building that level of customer service into our process allows us to never lose touch with our customer’s needs.
Looking back at all of this — why would you want to do this? What would you do differently?
I’m not a guy that doesn’t have regrets. My biggest regret is wishing I hadn’t spent so much time worrying. The stress and worry I allowed into my life early in the business nearly squeezed the life out of me. I struggled to experience joy for 3-4 years while I continued to stress over things like payroll, lead generation, etc.
I’m not sure you can escape that worry when you are first starting a business, but if I knew then what I know now, I don’t think I would have been so wrapped up in it, let it control me.
How do you as the business owner view social media?
It’s really challenging to capture the ROI on, but I don’t want to be left behind. It’s a brand builder. It’s easy to see how Yelp and Angie’s List return an investment. But we do ask folks how they heard about us, and sometimes social media comes up. On some level it’s a faith thing, but we have seen over the years that social media moves the needle for us, there is no doubt about that. However, putting a dollar figure next it seems ambiguous. That being said, we’re 100% confident social media helps to galvanize our brand.
Conversations are happening about Square Cow in places we don’t have access to. People recommend us to their friends via Facebook and Twitter, they take pictures of our trucks and put them on Instagram and Pinterest. Social media helps build trust with our brand with people who are just getting to know us online.
How did you choose your digital marketing solutions?
It was not about finding a big corporation. It was about the relationship and reliability of the rep. If it wasn’t for my awesome rep at Yelp at the time when we first started, we may have fired Yelp as a solution for us. For our social media and website and SEO solutions, it’s the same deal. Obviously their results are important, but being able to call up my rep and be able to talk to them from a comfortable and familiar position, when I don’t have to explain my brand or my vision to them every time we get on the phone or meet up is invaluable to us. I desire the personal relationship with my web team that my clients desire from us.
With a sense of humor, a lot of faith, passion and hard work, Wade and his family have helped their business to succeed.
We hope that this insight will help Main Street Hub employees keep the perspective of a small business owner in mind when they set out to help their own clients establish an online presence.