When it comes time to move out of your condo or two bedroom townhouse, Dustin Kroft is ready to offer you an experience like no other. His team of clean cut gentlemen, rather than the classic rough around the edges group of guys, will move your furniture from your old place into your new digs. Oh, and if there are some leaves that need to be raked when you get to your new place, they can do that too!

Dustin is the founder of Rent-a-Son, a Toronto-based company that offers all the services that the ideal son would provide. The company has found its niche as a mover specializing in smaller moves (condos, apartments, 1-3 bedroom houses) and is growing faster than Dustin’s team can blanket wrap your bathroom vanity.

In this week’s edition of BuzzTalk, we chat with Dustin about the origins of Rent-a-Son, why social media is so important to him and the role Oprah Winfrey played in the founding of his company.

Enjoy!

BuzzBuzzHome: How did Rent-a-Son originate? Is there a classic founding anecdote?

Dustin Kroft: After my first year of university, a friend of mine and I were looking for some office work. We ended up going down to meet with one of my friend’s fathers to see if he could find us a job. He couldn’t really, but he said that his wife needed some gardening work done so he told us to come by and he’d pay us some cash.

Within a few days, two of our other friends had jumped on the bandwagon and were interested in making some cash. I had just seen an Oprah Winfrey show about “Rent-a-Husband”, a franchise in the States that rents out husbands to do handiwork. I was thinking we could do Rent-a-Son and do everything a son should do around the home — gardening, helping with a move, walking the family pet. Whatever you needed help with, we could do. That was when the idea was born.

BBH: How did Rent-a-Son evolve from there?

DK: We got some flyers printed off and went through the classic young business tactics of knocking on doors and posting the flyers in shopping malls and grocery stores. It was our summer business for two years. After that, we all decided to not do it anymore since a lot of us were going our own ways.

When I got back from university I had gone down for a series of interviews with Bear Stearns — funny enough, working in the mortgage-backed securities division — and they gave me a job on my last day of university. But then they called me up and told me I needed to go back to school for another year because my three-year degree didn’t exist in the States. I said forget that and went to work for my father for a couple months.

I decided to go back to school — which is the one thing that I hate the most — and registered for a business program at George Brown College. Through my human resources class we had to do an informational interview so I went to go meet with someone in advertising and he saw my resume and ended up loving Rent-a-Son. He asked me if I was interested in starting up again. I dropped out of school that night and put together a 40 page business proposal. I came back to him two weeks later and without even really reading the proposal, he said “I’m in.” That was the rebirth of Rent-a-Son in 2003.

BBH: So it first launched in 2000 and then re-launched in 2003?

DK: That’s right. I relaunched it with the concept that we’d do everything a son should do around the house. Our whole concept from the beginning was sending over a gentleman, a clean cut guy who’s different from what you’re used to in the blue-collar world. Moving was one of those things where people were having trouble finding companies with those qualities.

Our business is a great example of a case where customers have shaped the way we’ve evolved. We still offer our services for other tasks like gardening and odd labour, but the focus is now on moving and specifically smaller moves like condos, apartments and 1, 2 and 3 bedroom houses. We don’t do 4 or 5 bedroom houses. That means every small move is a big move to us. We don’t neglect people because they’re moving a 1 bedroom plus den.

BBH: What else do you think really separates Rent-a-Son from the majority of moving companies out there?

DK: The kind of people that we hire. We’re a modern moving company. We don’t hire career movers. We hire gentlemen and train them to be movers.

The moving industry is filled with old guys who have been in the business for years and don’t understand how to harness the power of technology and a lot of different modern applications in business to provide better service to our customers. I think that’s where we differ — it’s our people, our processes, and that’s why we have the reputation that we have.

BBH: How do you guys make sure you hire the best sons for the job?

DK: We have a screening process. We’re one of the only companies of our size that has a human resources and development manager working full time. His job is to train our staff into becoming professional movers. We have a simulator set up in our warehouse where guys are trained to wrap furniture, how to care for it, how to load it and how to deal with fragile items.

BBH: For a moving company, you’re pretty well covered as far as social media goes. Why is this so important to you?

DK: One of the greatest aspects of social media is that you get to show off your personality. A brochure can only say so much and it only creates a one dimensional representation of your company. Social media allows you to share who you are as a person and what your brand is. It gives people a more three dimensional idea of who you’ll be hiring.

BBH: Do you guys have a social media team?

DK: I do it myself. We’re actually in the process of hiring a Brand and Communication Manager. To be honest, I think I’ve only really learned how to use Twitter for my business in the last four months. It’s been difficult because we’re worried about writing relevant and quality content.

On a lot of social media outlets people just posting stuff for the sake of posting stuff and we’re not really interested in that. We don’t just want to say “Hey, use our moving services because we’re the best!” Our posts are about how to move, how to pack, how to find a good mover and I know a lot of those are typical articles, but we try to take a different angle on it to make it not so generic.

BBH: Where do you see Rent-a-Son in a few years?

DK: I see us just being a bigger version of what we are today. I don’t like to predict anything more than a year in advance. I’m too open-minded of a businessman to think about where we’ll be a few years from now.

We’re growing at a fantastic rate. We’re scaling up our business and thinking of getting into other areas of the service industry, but we want to be known as the condo movers in Toronto. We recognize that it’s a great market and that there’s no one who offers the same type of service we do.

BBH: Your friends must know you’re running a moving company. Do they call you up when you’re moving?

DK: It amazes me how many people I know have used our service. Everyone that I know — relatives, friends — have used our services before whether it’s to rake up leaves or for a full scale move. To be truthful, I don’t like working for people that I know because of that added pressure. You want to make sure everything goes off without a hitch.

Thanks for buzzing with us Dustin!

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