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San Antonio is Latest Market for College Hunks Hauling Junk

Posted Sep 1st, 2015

A dynamic local economy means lots of moves into bigger spaces for residents and businesses, as well as plenty of removal opportunities

Jeremy Cates swapped an oil-industry career for a chance to be his own boss operating a College Hunks Hauling Junk moving and junk removal franchise.

Jeremy Cates swapped an oil-industry career for a chance to be his own boss operating a College Hunks Hauling Junk moving and junk removal franchise.

In Texas, the oil industry plays an outsized role in the economy. Many areas thrive, or suffer, when oil prices soar or plummet. The cycles can be unpredictable, and when things slow down many workers head out of state for other opportunities. Some, however, take a long-held entrepreneurial dream and begin finding ways to make that a reality. Meet Jeremy Cates, who did just that.

What were you doing before College Hunks Hauling Junk?
I began my working life as a licensed vocational nurse. I was working with Alzheimer’s patients, and it was something I truly enjoyed. But my wife’s father was a manager with Schlumberger, and I had an opportunity to really move up and be a part of a larger enterprise in the oil industry. I spent more than 15 years with that company managing crews and districts, and also developing technology and building customer relations.

It’s funny, those two jobs don’t sound like they would have much in common, but both of them really gave me insights into what I am doing now in terms of customer service. Whether you’re in a patient’s room or out in the field managing a crew, you very quickly learn how important it is to assess what people want or need and then provide it.

How did you find out about College Hunks Hauling Hunk?
When the oil industry began to slow, my company began laying people off. I made it through the first few rounds, but in March 2015 I got caught. I put my resume online in a few places and was contacted by a franchise broker. I’d been wanting to open my own business but wasn’t sure how, and he walked me through the process of using my 401(k) investment to form a C Corporation, which enabled me to really begin looking at making this happen.

I then began to look for opportunities, and College Hunks stood out right away for many reasons. I liked the way the company was structured — how open and transparent they were about the costs, and the potential revenues, that were involved.

What sets your College Hunks Hauling Junk franchise apart from other independent moving and removal companies?
You have to be all-in if you’re going to be a part of College Hunks Hauling Junk. I’ve already been talking to many Realtors around here, and they say there’s not a lot of moving competition. That means we can stand out early. There is a lot of junk removal competition here, but when it comes to customer service I know we can be the best.

We are going to be the guys you call to get something done, and then when it’s all over you’re going to want us to hang around for a beer because we’re so fun to work with.

What do you need to do to be successful in this franchise?
Advertising and marketing is huge with a territory like ours, but word of mouth is extremely important, as well. We want to make sure that every customer we have in the early days is not only pleased, but reports how happy they are on all their social media outlets. That kind of thing can build your online ratings, and the more positive buzz online, the better.

You also have to want to win the customer service battle. If someone else is doing it well, you’re going to have to do it better. I know we can do that, because I know what the competition looks like — and we present ourselves far better than they do. We’re on time, we’re nicely dressed, and we deliver. You’d think everyone in the business would meet those goals, but many do not.

Who are your main customers?
Junk removal requires a couple of different permits, but for moving we just had to register and then we could begin. That’s meant that we’ve focused on Realtors, as well as on reaching out to apartment managers. There are dozens and dozens of apartment complexes in our territory, and so we think we can get a lot of business just by making them aware of us. We also think those complexes, as well as condominiums, will be a good market for the Trash Butler service, if we decide to move in that direction.

Once we have junk removal going, we’ll be reaching out to residential and commercial clients and marketing each of those segments separately. There is a lot of potential for each side of the business to grow the other, and that’s very exciting.

What does a typical day look like?
We spent a good amount of time finding the right office space and then working to get it ready for opening. Then we spent a lot of our days working on hiring, and that’s been a steady process, as well.

Once we’re really up and running, I think may day is going to be a combination of in-office work with the team, and then going out to meet with clients and make sure the service is outstanding. Marketing and networking will be on the calendar, as well, because there are a lot of business groups and community activities that I want us to take part in.

What do you like about the business?
I like the entire spectrum that’s represented by the core values. I want to raise my children with these kinds of ethics, and I certainly look forward to growing a group of employees with these values.

Obviously I want to succeed financially, and I think College Hunks Hauling Junk provides every opportunity for me to do so. Between the help and support from the corporate team, and what I’m going to be teaching our H.U.N.K.S. here, we are positioned for success.

What does franchise ownership allow you to do that you couldn’t do before?
I’m not looking over my shoulder any more, worrying about being laid off. There’s a real freedom in that. Everybody has a boss, even if they own their own business, but I’m not playing corporate games any more. I was in middle management for a long time, almost 20 years, and that was more than enough. It’s no fun getting griped at from below and above! Now I really do set my own course, and that’s very rewarding.

How has the support been from the corporate team, and other franchise owners you have reached out to for advice?
Everybody takes my calls, every time. That’s remarkable. I’ve been talking with a few franchise owners, but it’s been the busy season so there are a quite a few I hope to talk to, and meet, when their business slows down a little bit. At the same time, I like it when they leave a message or send an email saying how slammed they are, because I want to be doing the same thing here in a few months.

Would you recommend this franchise? Why?
Even though it’s very early for me, I absolutely would say yes. The founders run things really well, and they know when to take their hands off and let us get to work. They are there to advise and to help, not to micromanage. They want us to follow the guidelines they’ve set out, and they know that will let us grow our businesses. They have great people teaching and mentoring us, and bringing out the entrepreneur in everyone. It’s just a great operation.

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