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两个人一辆车,这位女士怎样缔造搬家王国

Dinah Eng 2018年01月09日

上世纪80年代中叶,现年78岁的玛丽·艾伦·希茨一边在联邦政府担任系统分析师,一边在密歇根州首府兰辛开小搬家公司作为副业。开公司的时候,同事取笑她想发财。失去一次晋升机会后,她彻底抛下了铁饭碗,投身市场参与竞争,将小公司发展为一家大型连锁企业,业务遍布美国四十个州,还拓展到加拿大、英国和爱尔兰。2016年,公司年营业收入高达4.42亿美元。

Mary Ellen Sheets stands proudly in front of the Two Men and a Truck fleet in Lansing in 1991.COURTESY OF MARY ELLEN SHEETS

我叫玛丽·艾伦·希茨,以前从没想过要从商。

我在美国密歇根州小城奥克莫斯长大,母亲是护士,父亲经营几条小巴专线。当时的女孩子长大后要么当护士要么当老师。

虽然考入了密歇根州立大学,但我其实只想嫁个好老公。20岁那年,我嫁给高中时代的男友,生了三个孩子,也没读完大学。

1980年,我离婚了。两个儿子乔恩和布里格都在念中学,他们都想周末赚点零用钱,手边正好有前夫留下的卡车。于是,我和孩子们用Two Men and a Truck的名头在本地报纸上打了一条小广告,很快就有客户打电话来。生意好的时候一天接到12通电话。

1985年,两个孩子上大学离开家,还是总有客户打电话来,我想也许能开家搬运公司。孩子们支持我创业,我请了两个员工乔和埃尔默,又花了350美元买下一辆破卡车,总是出故障。

在那之前,我从没管过人。乔问我能不能开卡车回他家,我说可以。我不知道他没有驾照,有一天警察打来电话,说他在兰辛城内开车狂飙。

I never intended to go into business.

I grew up in Okemos, Mich., where my mother was a nurse and my father owned some small bus lines. Back then, women either became a nurse or a teacher.

I went to Michigan State University but I really wanted a “Mrs. degree.” So at 20, I married my high school boyfriend, had three children, and didn’t finish college.

We divorced in 1980 when my two sons, Jon and Brig, were in high school. The boys wanted to make some spending money on the weekends, and my ex-husband had left his truck behind. So we put a little ad in the local paper for Two Men and a Truck, and people started calling. We got as many as 12 calls a day.

In 1985 the boys were away at college, and I still kept getting calls, which led to this idea to start a moving company. My boys said go for it, so I hired two men named Joe and Elmer, and paid $350 for an old truck that broke down all the time.

I hadn’t ever supervised anyone before. When Joe asked if he could keep the truck at his home, I said okay. I didn’t know he didn’t have a driver’s license, and one day the police called me, saying he had been racing around Lansing.

Mary Ellen with her sons Jon (left) and Brig. COURTESY OF MARY ELLEN SHEETS

我只能去取回卡车,找别人把乔那趟差事跑完。又有一次,两个员工在卡车驾驶舱里打了起来,客户打来电话投诉。他们两人在我手下干了一年,后来乔决定离开。我当时肯定昏了头,他们比起现在的搬运工太不专业了。

那时候市场推广很简单。我们在卡车身上写着“Two Men and a Truck…又快又便宜”,就好像活动的广告牌。我做了些可以撕下的宣传单,贴在杂货店和洗衣房的布告栏里,还在本地报纸上打了两行字的广告,一周广告费约两美元。

每个工作日,我白天在州政府做程序员,晚上接搬运的活,周末也干搬运。我喜欢这门生意。州政府办公室的同事拿我开玩笑,说我的公司永远不会成什么气候。

可后来,公司第一次挣到了1000美元,我感到干劲十足。我开了十张支票,每张100美元,然后统统捐给本地的慈善机构。第二年,我们挣了18万美元。

我又买了一辆卡车,新招了三名员工,之后每年5月都添置车辆,后来我妈妈家的后院停了五辆卡车。公司的营业收入逐年增长,1989年达到56万美元。

后来,州政府一次升职机会没给我,我就辞了工作,全职开公司。我曾经听到有人议论说,“她才不会走呢”,但我实在受不了了。

一些大搬家公司讨厌我们。他们的卡车容量大,通常做跑遍全国的远途业务。我们只做短途搬运。上世纪90年代初,美国经济不景气,大公司就盯上了我们的生意。搬运行业是个排外的圈子,大公司为了抢生意制造了各种壁垒。

我一点也不懂搬运方面的法律。有一天,州警察局的人上门找我查看文件资料,发现有七趟活没有获得搬家执照。我只得上了法庭,为七次违法经营业务支付罚款100美元。我成了罪犯,照片还上了兰辛地方报纸。

那时候,搬家执照是家族传下来的,外人想要就得找人买。大公司不希望我们拿到执照,我们就成立了一家名叫Busy Bee Movers的新公司,买到搬家执照后转让给Two Men and a Truck。

公司的生意越做越大,很快加盟连锁店开遍了密歇根和佛罗里达。前十家连锁店是我的三个孩子、一个前男友和一些做生意过程中认识的人开的。

1994年,共和党找我竞选密歇根州的参议员。我就让女儿梅兰妮接手特许连锁经营的搬家公司,儿子乔恩负责密歇根本地的搬家公司。公司有22名员工,在一栋只有一个卫生间的老房子里工作。

我喜欢和孩子们共事。但意见不一致时也很容易吵起来。我的办公室里总是放着面巾纸,大多是自己用的。当时压力真的很大。

后来我决定不去竞选参议员。回到公司后只担任顾问,女儿继续当总裁。2008年经济衰退以前,公司年收入增速高达30%,现在年增速回落到10%。

2017年,我接受了股权买断协议,然后正式退休。能创立一家增加工作岗位并且能回馈社区的公司,我感到很骄傲。

女性的职业生涯无疑有天花板。工作中,女性必须拿出105%的精力奋勇前进。我不知道职场天花板会不会有一天彻底消失。我的应对方式是创业开公司,结果还行。我鼓励其他女性也找到属于自己的事业。

最佳建议

玛丽·艾伦·希茨

Two Men and a Truck创始人

无视怀疑你能力的人。有一位当地大学的教授对我说:“你没有什么可以授权加盟经营的。”有位律师告诉我:“你得把业务做到几十万美元才能搞加盟连锁。别费心思了。”要我说,千万别被这种人打击信心。

尽可能弥补过失。如果在搬家公司搬运过程中损坏了东西,通常的赔偿标准是每磅(约合0.45公斤)0.06美元。可如果弄坏一张十磅重的桌子只赔0.6美元,其实并不合理。我们的做法是送给客户一个写着“很抱歉”的盒子,里面装一只咖啡杯和一张礼品券,并且尽量修补损坏的物品。这样客户的感觉就很不一样。(财富中文网)

文首发于2017年12月15日期《财富》杂志,原文标题为《一位女士、两名男士和一辆卡车》。

译者:Pessy

审稿:夏林

I had to get the truck and find people to finish that job. Another time, the two men got into a fight in the cab of the truck, and a customer called me to report it. They continued working for me for a year until Joe decided to leave. I must have been nuts. They’re not the kind of movers we have today.

Marketing was simple. We had signage on the truck, which said, “Two Men and a Truck…Fast & Cheap,” which was like having a billboard. I’d make tear-off strips and put them on bulletin boards in grocery stores and laundries. A two-line ad in the local paper cost about $2 a week.

I was working for the state as a programmer during the day and set up moves at night and on the weekends. I loved owning my own business. People at the office made fun of me, saying it would never amount to anything.

But that first year I made $1,000 and felt so empowered. I sat down and wrote 10 checks of $100 each, and I gave the money away to local charities. The second year we made $180,000.

I added one truck and three employees every May until we had five trucks parked in my mom’s backyard. Annual revenue grew every year. In 1989 we made $560,000.

I quit my day job and went full-time after being overlooked for a promotion. I heard somebody say, “She’ll never leave,” and I couldn’t stand it there anymore.

The big moving companies hated us. Their trucks were big, and they did moves cross-country. We did small moves, but when the economy got bad in the early ’90s, they wanted our business. The moving industry is a good-old-boys’ network, and they put up all kinds of barriers to stop me.

I didn’t know anything about moving laws, and one day the state police came and looked at our paperwork. They found seven moves done without moving licenses, so I had to go to court, and I paid a fine of $100 for seven misdemeanors. My picture was in the Lansing State Journal for being a criminal.

Back then, moving licenses were passed from father to son, and you could only get one if someone sold it to you. The big guys didn’t want us to have a license, so we incorporated as Busy Bee Movers, bought a license, then immediately transferred it to Two Men and a Truck.

The business grew, and soon we had franchises across Michigan and Florida. The first 10 franchises went to my three children, an old boyfriend, and other people I picked up along the way.

In 1994 the Republican Party asked me to run for the Michigan State Senate, so I asked my daughter, Melanie, to take over the franchising company, while Jon would run the local moving company. We had 22 employees working out of an old house with one bathroom.

I loved working with my kids, but if you had a disagreement, it was very emotional. I kept a box of Kleenex in my office, mostly for me. It was very stressful.

I decided not to run for office, but my daughter remained president when I returned to the company as an adviser. We had 30% growth annually until 2008, when the recession hit. We’re back up to 10% growth annually now.

I took a buyout in 2017 and retired. I’m really proud of building a company that creates jobs for other people and gives back to the community.

There’s definitely a glass ceiling for women. Women have to work 105% to get ahead. I don’t know if that glass ceiling will ever break. But starting my own company worked for me. I encourage other women to do the same.

Best Advice

Mary Ellen Sheets

Founder, Two Men and a Truck

Ignore doubters. A professor at a local college told me, “You have nothing to franchise.” An attorney told me, “You’ll need hundreds of thousands of dollars to franchise. Don’t bother.” I say, don’t be dragged down by people like that.

Make it right. The standard reimbursement for moving breakages used to be 6 a pound. If we broke a 10-pound table, we’d be liable for 60, but that’s not right. So we used to give an “I’m sorry” box to customers, with a coffee mug and gift certificate in it, along with fixing whatever we broke. It made a big difference.

A version of this article appears in the Dec. 15, 2017 issue of Fortune with the headline “One Woman, Two Men, and a Truck.”

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