I’ve been enjoying these walks down memory lane with my clients – and I hope you are too! This latest chat with Mike, who owns a franchise with UNITS Moving and Portable Storage, spotlights an entrepreneur who knew exactly what he wanted from this next chapter in his life – professionally and personally – but was still grateful for support every step of the way.
You started a UNITS Moving and Portable Storage franchise in 2020. How has the business grown since you took the leap?
I signed the deal with UNITS in August 2020, and we opened our doors in January 2021. I can’t believe we’ll be coming up on our third anniversary this year – what an amazing journey it’s been! The UNITS franchise has been growing at a high rate across the U.S., particularly over the past few years. It even made the Inc 5000 and was #2778 for fastest growing companies in 2022. As we all know, the pandemic caused many people to move from one residence to another – and sparked many a home improvement project – so our portable storage units have been in high demand.
In addition to the market factors boosting success, we also have a great product. Our units themselves are of a higher quality than most of the offerings in the portable storage space, and our flexible delivery system means we can place our containers in places the competition can’t, such as hills, alleys, and backyards. But I think what sets us apart the most is our local edge. We’re backed by a national company (and have all the resources associated with that), but when a customer calls, they get a local representative who can provide advice on everything from road closures to the best place to grab lunch en route.
And because the franchise has done so well to-date, I purchased additional franchise territory at the end of 2022 – so we can keep growing. My original franchise covered the Greater Philadelphia area and Delaware, and this year, we will expand into South New Jersey – which is very exciting. We started with 185 containers; we’re up to 340; and my expectation is to grow to 700 containers!
What inspired you to start investigating franchises?
I’ve always worked for small, entrepreneurial businesses. I enjoyed being there for a company’s first chapter and playing a key role in helping it grow. In my longest stint, I worked for 12 years at a pump rental company, whose sales quadrupled before it was purchased by a large water/wastewater services company.
I liked working in Corporate America, but it can be tough on your personal life. I’d spent decades working well beyond 9 to 5 to ensure a good life for my three girls – but when I hit my mid-50s, I wanted my next career move to ensure a better life balance. At the time, a soft-landing was provided with a restructuring package that allowed me time to think about the right move.
I was also lucky that the outplacement coach from my previous role connected me to you! The entrepreneurial spirit of the franchise world felt right from the start – so from there, it was just a matter of finding the perfect fit.
And what made UNITS that perfect fit for you?
I grew up in the rental industry, and I love it. I understand the market and all the fast-paced moving pieces. And here’s some straight talk: I didn’t want to make the leap into the franchise world with an opportunity way outside my comfort zone.
In addition to a path that satisfied my entrepreneurial side and complemented my existing expertise, I also wanted an opportunity that would allow me to solve problems for people on a daily basis – as well as an opportunity that wouldn’t have me tied to a desk all my working hours. The UNITS franchise checked all my boxes – and more. I get to solve challenges (both for clients and the business) every day, and I’m frequently out and about to keep the business wheels turning – which is good for my head and my health. The business model also allowed me to spend more time with my wife, who wanted to be part of the business.
What were your biggest challenges in getting started?
The biggest challenge was finding a warehouse space to get started. I had experience looking for buildings in my previous role (typically buildings that were combinations of office and warehouse), but this time, the business model required a building that would be ALL warehouse. Fortunately, I had a great broker who helped facilitate the whole process.
At first, it was also challenging to learn the right sales pitch for the product and market – but that part has also been fun. I enjoy people, and since it all comes down to solving their problem, I’ve learned how to articulate the challenge someone is facing – and, of course, how we can help solve it.
What’s been the most rewarding aspect of franchise ownership?
On the career side, I absolutely love being my own boss! On the personal side, I can’t put into words how amazing it’s been to have more time to do the things I enjoy – such as travelling more with my wife. We went to Rhode Island over Thanksgiving and Arizona over Christmas – and Europe this summer. We also get to visit our girls more. They are now 26, 24, and 21 – two are living together in Brooklyn, and the other lives in Poughkeepsie. My wife has supported our efforts to start this business and she has helped me every step of the way. Having more time with her was also one of my requirements. I also have my brother working alongside us in the business and he has been an important part of our success.
I also appreciate the franchise’s location in Philadelphia. My wife and I were both born and raised here, and there’s something special about giving a business roots and wings in the same place.
What did you like best about our time together exploring potential opportunities?
I liked your honesty. I had a clear vision about what I wanted, and you were direct about what you thought would work – and what wouldn’t. You didn’t sugarcoat anything, and I appreciate that because it meant that we got to the best opportunity faster – so that my next chapter could begin!
What advice would you give to someone interested in franchise exploration?
Know yourself, and believe in yourself. Be clear about what you want – and why – and then chase it with 100% confidence that you can do it. There’s a lot of upfront legwork, and you’ll wear more “hats” than you can imagine, but there’s so much freedom and reward in holding the reins. So grab those reins with purpose and conviction!