One fateful day in 2015, Paul Bolté was enjoying breakfast with a friend and talking business when the idea of franchising came up. “I remember my friend John said, ‘Have you ever thought about franchising? This company just did a move for my father, and they did a great job.’ I thought, ‘I’m going to investigate that,’” recalls Bolté.
Over the next few weeks, Bolté did just that, looking into opportunities with TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® Canada, the moving franchise his friend had recommended, and setting up meetings with its head office staff. He liked what he saw and heard, but wanted to be sure, so he checked out a few other options, just in case. But he kept coming back to TWO MEN AND A TRUCK. “It intrigued me because it fit parts of my business background, because I’ve always positioned myself as a corporate entrepreneur, taking existing businesses and helping them grow through marketing and media channels,” says Bolté.
Bolté spent the majority of his career in advertising and media, including 11 years in growing the cinema advertising division at Cineplex. Though he liked it, a lack of work-life balance meant there was little time to spend with his family. “As I worked extensive hours in the corporate world, my kids were growing up. There was a five-year period in there where I pretty much never saw them. So, I removed myself from the media industry and set up shop on my own at home, developing businesses for other people,” says Bolté. “Then, two years ago, I wanted something different again.”
Enter TWO MEN AND A TRUCK Canada. After a few months of more meetings, research, and due diligence, Bolté signed on as a franchisee. He opened his location in Scarborough, a large, diverse community in Toronto’s east end, in October of 2015. He says that the things that attracted him to the concept as a franchisee are also what make the company a popular choice for consumers. “What makes us unique, it comes down to the way we treat people – customers, employees, owners. The philosophy is people before profits, that people are treated fairly and with respect.”
Strong support from the start
Bolté says that he was immediately welcomed into the franchise family, and that those relationships set him up for the success he’s experienced thus far. “I went to the corporate office, I met with franchisees, I went to the headquarters in Lansing, Michigan, for training,” he says. “I had a line-up of things to accomplish before opening, and a lot of it was stuff I had no experience with, like finding office space that also allowed us to park our trucks there overnight. They helped with all that. They provided really good initial support, and it has continued all the way through.”
Having that built-in system to lean on has made facing the challenges of a new business and an unfamiliar industry infinitely easier. “Franchising already has a foundation, and it’s up to you to make the reality of the existing business successful for you. I’ve run businesses in my previous industry, but this was totally new. I learn all the time because of the experts around me,” says Bolté, adding that staffing has been an important factor.
“I needed to find people who had experience in this industry, and to surround myself with that. You have to have a bit of luck to find people who believe in the business and believe in me, too. We always say that we look at résumés, but what it truly comes down to is attitude. Our team is like a sports team: to do the physical work that they do, loading and unloading all day, they need to be conditioned for it, and they also need to value teamwork. They have to be confident in the person on the other end of the sofa when they’re going down the stairs with it.”
Bolté is also striving to alter public perception of his new industry. “Another challenge is that, as an industry, moving doesn’t have the best reputation. We all hear the horror stories about unpleasant surprises, and that’s tough. We – my team and TWO MEN AND A TRUCK – Canada as a whole – are trying to change that, and we are,” Bolté says. “I do the in-home estimates for customers. It’s the best when I ask how they heard about us, and people say that we came recommended by their neighbour or friend or realtor. We have one of the highest customer referral and satisfaction ratings in the industry. I’m very proud of our team.”
Putting the community first
Bolté says that the inclination to make people happy doesn’t end when a move is done. “Moving is a stressful time for people, and you want to help them. You also want to help the community, and that’s what differentiates us – helping people is part of our core values. We have a passion for it.” Bolté points to his team’s partnership with the Scarborough Centre for Healthy Communities Furniture Bank. “We take unwanted furniture items that are in good shape from our clients and, free of charge, take the items on our trucks to them, which then supplies them to refugees, to people leaving shelters, and to those who are trying to get a start.”
In addition to the more than a dozen truckloads of items donated to SCHC since early 2016, Bolté and nine of his team members also volunteered their time and three trucks in December to help deliver supplies and food to more than 400 families in need during the holidays. “It’s the grassroots kind of caring that makes for good word-of-mouth, but it also shows what we’re all about,” explains Bolté.
This is why, he says, he advises prospective franchisees to investigate all aspects of a franchise system before they sign on, paying particular attention to the brand’s culture. “You need to believe in the core values of the company. You need to feel good about the company you’re going to associate yourself with, and be passionate about the product,” says Bolté. They should also take the realities of the business into consideration. For example, he points out, while other businesses might see a bit of a slowdown over the summer months, that’s when moving companies like TWO MEN AND A TRUCK Canada experience a high demand for their services. “Be prepared for the fact that there will be challenging days when you’ll need to use all your resources to find solutions quickly and keep going.”
Bolté is already thinking about his next objectives, including increasing community involvement and, of course, doing more moves. “It’s all about moving forward. We’re always striving for a new goal and competing with ourselves. We’ve doubled our business, and we’re still striving for more,” he says. “But when I look back on what we’ve done in a year, I’m very proud of our accomplishments. We’ve got a great team of drivers, movers, and customer sales representatives, and we have a lot of respect for each other.”
He credits his whole team, both at his location and at head office, with getting him to this point. “It’s not about just me, it’s about our whole TWO MEN AND A TRUCK team. We try to make a difference, one move at a time.”
By Lauren d’Entremont