And in that spirit, we’re buzzing with Two Men and a Truck founder Mary Ellen Sheets this week.
When Sheets founded her moving company 25 years ago in Michigan, she had only a single truck and a pair of movers. Now, Two Men and a Truck is a multinational franchise with locations in Canada, the UK and Ireland. She has since retired from a managerial role within the company, but still travels to new franchise locations and maintains a significant presence within company culture.
We chat with Sheets about how the Two Men and a Truck concept originated, how they’ve left a mark on the moving industry and their incredible passion for charity work.
BuzzBuzzHome: How long have you been in the moving industry?
Mary Ellen Sheets: A long time. I started about 25 years ago.
BBH: And that’s when you started Two Men and a Truck?
MES: Well I was originally a computer programmer for the state of Michigan. My two sons started moving people in a single pick-up truck and when they went away to college, I kept getting phone calls. I bought a truck for $350 and hired two movers and started moving people. It got bigger and eventually I quit my job with the state.
BBH: It’s grown very significantly since then!
MES: We have about 265 locations. 20 are in Canada and we have one in Ireland and one in the UK. The rest are in the US.
BBH: What’s the story behind the name “Two Men and a Truck”. Is it meant to reference your sons?
MES: When my sons started moving people we put an ad in the local newspaper. That was the first line in the ad. They were hardly two men and it was hardly a moving truck back then *laughs*.
BBH: You just paid a visit to Canada. Tell us more about your trip.
MES: We were here for the grand opening of the Cambridge facility. The new franchisee there is Justin Prittie. He’s only 23, but he’s so excited. He’s going to have the best time running this company. I know he’s going to do a fantastic job.
BBH: How does one become a franchisee?
MES: We have the potential franchisees come to our home office in Lansing, Michigan. We’ll have lunch there and get to know them. We’ll look at their financials and help them with a business plan. If they seem like they’ll be a good fit and they like us then we’ll go ahead.
BBH: Two Men and a Truck is a real family business. Can you tell us more about how that works?
MES: I was there for 14 years by myself and then I left to get into politics. This is just crazy. I was asked to run for the state senate. I asked my daughter, who had a really good job at this time, if she’d come and run the franchise company. She said she would even though I didn’t have any money to pay her. Eventually I returned to the company after backing out from politics but my daughter stayed on.
BBH: Would you say the moving industry has evolved over the past few decades?
MES: I think we made a noticeable change because we were the first ones to franchise. Since I had a background in computers, I just assumed that everyone in the industry was using them. Our company is very computerized and connected. We’re certainly not a mom and pop company, but at the same time we don’t want to look like a big corporation so our branding is very local-friendly.
BBH: We’ve heard that Two Men and a Truck has done a lot of charity work.
MES: The first year when I was in business I was a single mom, so I didn’t have much money. The first year I made $1,000 and that was a big deal. I decided to give it away so I wrote 10 cheques to 10 local charities. It made me feel so good to help other people. I realized that when you have a company, you can help other people even more than as one person. That’s been the basis of our company. We call ourselves “Two Men and a Truck, the movers who care.” We do a lot for our communities and we don’t expect anything back. My daughter told me the other day that, collectively, our franchises have donated over $260 million to different charities over the years.
In Canada, Two Men And A Truck is very active supporting and promoting the Mikey Network, whose aim is to get defibrillators in public places, from schools and swimming pools to ice rinks and restaurants. And, in fact, there is a program now being rolled out called Mikey On Board, where every one of our 20 Canadian franchises has CPR and AED-trained management and staff, with a Mikey defib on every one of our vehicles. We truly are in the business of saving lives.
Thanks for buzzing with us Mary!