How College Hunks Hauling Junk implemented a winning advisory board

By Marissa Levin Levin_Marissa

“Get On Board” will be spotlighting companies that have successfully implemented advisory boards. This month, we spotlight College Hunks Hauling Junk, the largest and fastest-growing U.S.-based moving and hauling franchise opportunity. If you have a successful advisory board and would like your firm to be spotlighted in this column, please email Marissa at marissa@successfulculture.com. If you are looking to implement an advisory board, we would like to hear from you as well. See below for more information. 

College Hunks Hauling Junk (CHHJ) is the largest and fastest-growing U.S.-based moving and hauling franchise opportunity. Started by two college kids in 2005, the company now has over 70 franchise locations throughout the U.S. and over 1,000 employees system-wide. Headquartered in Tampa, FL, the company has been on the Inc. 5000 list five years in a row, and was recently named to Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500. In addition, the company has appeared on numerous national television programs, including the very first episode of ABC’s Shark Tank. In the following interview, Nick Friedman, CEO and founder of CHHJ, provides a comprehensive view of his company’s winning advisory board.

College Hunks Hauling Junk

Nick Friedman

Tell us about CHHJ. How long has it been around, and how long have you been CEO?

The summer before my senior year of college, my best friend from high school and I were back in Washington, DC, looking to make some extra money, so we borrowed my friend’s mom’s cargo van and put computer printout flyers around the neighborhood that said “College Hunks Hauling Junk.” People had a need for the service and had a playful reaction to the name, so we wrote a business plan our senior year of college, which ended up winning first prize in The Rothschild Entrepreneurship Competition out of over 150 entries. We graduated from college and briefly worked for consulting companies in the corporate world, and we decided to quit our jobs after about six months and start hauling junk full time. In 2008, we moved our headquarters from Washington, DC, to Tampa, FL, to open a call center and begin franchising.

What are your core service offerings, and who are your primary customers?

Our core service offerings are full-service commercial and residential local moving, packing, loading, unloading, donation pickup and delivery, as well as junk removal from homes and businesses. Basically anything that trucks and labor can be utilized for, we offer. We provide friendly collegiate teams to deliver a stress-free experience for anyone who needs something moved or removed. Our primary clients are homeowners, typically the female household decision-maker who has disposable income and appreciates great service. We also do a lot of work with businesses and referral partners such as property managers, realtors, assisted living facilities and corporations.

When did you first implement an advisory board?

We first implemented an advisory board in 2010, during the peak of the economic recession.

What prompted you to do so? Was it in response to a pain or challenge, was it in response to a growth strategy or goal, or was it a combination of the two?

We had just started franchising our company, and we were starting to struggle financially due to the economic downturn. We were not sure if we were struggling because of the economy or the business model or the brand or what, but we needed to enlist some unbiased expert guidance and input. We knew our business model and brand were strong, but we did not know how to strategically grow through challenging economic cycles, nor did we know whether we should expand our service offering from just junk removal to junk removal and moving.

How many people serve on your advisory board?

Currently six people.

How did you recruit your advisors?

We made a short wish-list of about 20 influential experts in the Tampa region who we felt we could benefit from in terms of their subject-matter expertise, including franchising, marketing, finance and technology. We created a cover letter and sent it to all 20 of the people on our list. Some people ignored our invitation, some people graciously declined for one reason or another, and some people accepted.

How often do you meet? What is the format?

We meet on a quarterly basis. Here is a rough outline of the format:

  • Discuss how we will achieve the growth we desire.
  • Role of board is to advise and help hold the CEO and leadership of company accountable.
  • Focus on experts in niches such as marketing, advertising, HR, strategic alliances, multi-unit franchising, international business, and those who have helped build companies at leadership level.
  • Possible attendance and presentation by executive team members, with questions from board.
  • Agenda:
  1. Review of vision
  2. Cover questions on the prep package without restating it
  3. Creative discussion, insight gathering, and debate around two to three critical areas the company is working on (group discussion)
  4. Review of company financials
  5. Discussion of company’s future
  6. Bottlenecks
  7. Top 3 quarter/month/year

What information do you provide to your board prior to the meeting so that it is as impactful as possible?

  • Company’s achievements since last meeting
  • Areas in which company is struggling
  • Key metrics
  • Financial flash report and financial statements showing key ratios and performance versus budget, including previous quarter and year performance
  • Key decisions the company may be facing in the coming quarter and year
  • The vision, as an ongoing reminder of what’s being built
  • Focus on specific facts and feelings leadership team has regarding company

Do you have a board of directors? If so, how does it integrate with or complement the advisory board?

We do not have a board of directors currently. We do have an advisory council comprised of some of our franchise owners, and they help provide feedback and issues that the franchise system faces. The franchise advisory council helps complement the advisory board by providing more granular field feedback and recommendations. Both groups have a mutual respect for one another.

What has been the single greatest benefit of your advisory board?

The biggest benefit was our decision to add moving services to our core competency, which took place in 2012. The board was very instrumental in helping us to decide to add a service line to our core business, and it was also very helpful in helping us execute on this additional revenue stream. The results have been significant. Moving now accounts for nearly 50 percent of our overall system-wide revenue.

What advice would you give to a CEO looking to implement a board? 

Be patient; it takes time to materialize and gel. Be disciplined and commit the time, because the board members are committing valuable time as well. Read Marissa’s book! I wish I had read her book back when we first assembled our board, as it has much more specific and executable processes to assemble an effective board. Also, do not be afraid to ask someone to join. The worst they can say is “no.” Think of it as a sales opportunity to try and invite someone influential and experienced to join.

“Get On Board” will also be spotlighting companies that are looking to implement advisory boards, and will serve as an online recruiting center to connect potential advisors with these firms. If you are currently building an advisory board, please email Marissa at marissa@successfulculture.com

Marissa Levin is chairman of strategic communications firm Information Experts, and CEO of Successful Culture, a consulting firm that helps CEOs build excellent cultures. She is the author of Built to SCALEwww.successfulculture.com. Contact her at marissa@successfulculture.com or on Twitter @marissalevin. Contact us at editorial@smartceo.com.

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