Sometimes movers just take your stuff…

Scammers, holding stuff hostage, and Craigslist

I came across this today: a moving company found on Craigslist didn’t just do a bad job and hold these customers’ things hostage – they stole the whole load!

The gist: the customers found some movers on Craigslist, hired them, and then the guys took off with about $75,000 in furniture. (It must have been pretty high-end furniture because, judging from the video, it appears that they have a smaller, maybe 16′ truck. So, it wasn’t necessarily volume we’re talking about here. But I digress…) The customers were somehow able to recover a box of some personal papers, but the movers have apparently disappeared.

I guess I’m not too surprised because I see and hear new examples of crazy every day. One common tactic shady movers use is to low-ball the quote, get control of people’s items, then demand exorbitant additional fees based on usually flimsy or intentionally confusing fine print. The sad thing is that it’s often legal because they say that rates might go up if yadda yadda yadda. Until you pay up, the moving company holds your stuff hostage.

It’s common, and therefore not too shocking, but what is shocking is how in 2016 this kind of thing is still happening. With a plethora of review websites, consumer advocacy groups, and heck, cameras on virtually every cell phone now produced, shady operators still try to get away with it. Given the number of stories or reviews I read about this, I’m guessing it happens a lot more often than we even hear about. Aside from it being just plain wrong, it’s an incredibly stupid way to do business. People use moving companies at most once per year. It’s not like needing to pick up milk every couple of days. So, while repeat business isn’t as big of a factor, reputation is. The once-and-done transactional model is a great way to go out of business.

The other thing about this story: Craigslist. It’s been years since I relied on CL for generating business, and I don’t knock it as a place to get started, but even in the few years since I began doing this I’ve seen CL become pretty much useless for advertising moving services. Everyone with a relatively strong back, access to a box truck, and no real relationship with integrity thinks he can start a moving company. With a seemingly low barrier to entry, starting a moving company seems like the easiest and quickest way to make some extra cash.

It’s a bogus impression – to do it right and legally, you have to be ready to fork over a ton of cash right from the get-go. There’s insurance, marketing, a place to park your fleet (and make no mistake – in order to net any profit, you’ll need at least a small fleet to get started…) So, you see a lot of people who don’t bother with any of that, and they naturally gravitate to the shady underworld of Craigslist.

My advice to anyone seeking moving services: check out any of the many consumer review sites like If price is your first and most important concern, you’ll surely be able to find cheap movers, but the trade-off is almost always reliability, integrity, and restitution if things go bad.

Just remember: for the time-being, the moving industry still very much deserves its reputation. Do your research and expect to pay a little more for legitimate movers. (The higher price comes from compliance with state and federal regs, decent wages for the workers, and the taxes and insurance legitimate companies must pay. But that’s for another post…)

Nauck: affordable housing in Arlington.

Yes, Arlington

I was doing some research around the question, “How close in to the city (DC) can a normal person realistically buy a house in Virginia?” and I came across this: In Nauck, a rare mix: Affordability and Arlington.

I was primarily interested in single-family detached homes. There’s still a lot of other inventory – condos, apartments to rent, etc. – but we move a lot of people who are interested in getting their own place, i.e. a place where nobody’s going to hassle them what they nail up on their walls, among other things.

If you’re familiar with the area, you probably wouldn’t think Arlington is within the realm of possibility. But, there it is. A little patch of ground just north of Shirlington, with all of it’s awesome restaurants and coffee shops (check out the Carlyle, the home of the most amazing flourless chocolate waffle in the galaxy.) It’s a short drive into the city – even factoring in rush-hour traffic, and a ton of other great places.

The Post article has more info, including the other area highlights and some historical nuggets, but the main thing is the affordability of the area.

Karisue Wyson, an agent with McEnearney Associates, said affordability is a major selling point in Nauck, where about half of current listings are priced under $500,000.

“If you’re thinking about moving to Arlington, you’re searching for affordability,” Wyson said. “There are very few communities in the area where you can buy a single-family home for under $500,000, let alone for $400,000.”

The above article is a bit dated (June 3rd,) which stated there were 11 houses for sale ranging from $155,000 to almost $1 million. I took the liberty of checking out current stats, wondering if it was still a “budget-possible” location, or if maybe the Post’s article had launched a rush on the area.

As of today (9/26/16) it looks like there are about six active listings for single family detached homes, ranging in price from $425,000 to $1.3 million. So, we’re not seeing quite the range of deals as we did back in June, but still, for the location, that’s not bad.

Here’s a sample of what you can get. It’s a four bedroom, two bathroom SFM for $425,000. With some “light maintenance,” that’s not bad for the area. Not bad at all.

1936 Kenmore St. in Arlington


It even has a little yard!

There are four under contract, ranging from $329k to $669k. I guess you have to move fast.

Anyway, I thought that might be helpful. If you’re thinking about moving and getting your own place, feel free to call or write. In addition to running MTB, I’m also a Realtor and love helping people find homes that are perfect for them!


Great Post-Move Survey from Hannah T!

SurveyAs a past customer, I had high expectations of the work that you could do. This group exceeded my expectations with the work. Not only were the guys conscientious with our things but they also hustled because traffic forced them to be late. I appreciated their willingness to get things in the proper places and couldn’t give a more glowing review!

–Hannah T, 7.29.16

If you don’t love it or use it, it’s clutter

That’s from a post I saw on Basic Organization’s Instagram feed. It’s a perfect quick measure for assessing the value of all your crap.

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 9.18.58 PM

By that I mean all my crap. I was just going through the house, making sure all the doors were locked, and this is what I saw:

  • A ginormous pile of stuff moved out of the laundry/storage room that we’d put there while we redo the laundry room so we can store our crap.
  • Piles of lumber and faux brick paneling for said laundry room.
  • Laundry baskets full of clothes.
  • Dozens of tiny shoes (four kids X shoes for two or three occasions = a lot of freaking shoes)
  • Lots of furniture (much of it also tiny because we’re creating a Montessori environment here.

In other words, we have a lot of stuff. I’m always thinking we need to reduce, re-use and/or recycle, but where to start?

Janet at Basic Organization provides a good starting point: “If you don’t love it or use it, it’s clutter.”

OK. Call me convicted. I have probably a literal ton of stuff I don’t love or use. Sigh. How did it come to this?


Some things you just can’t teach…

Knowledge of and experience in our market means a smooth move for our customers

The other day we got a call from a guy at a particular apartment building in VA. It’s actually one of our favorite buildings to work with because, well, it’s just nice, but also because of the staff. Some places have a vibe, you know? The people are happy, things hum along, etc. (I should really set up a meeting to learn about their management philosophy and methods…)

IMG_4710Anyway, the customer was moving out of this building. He asked for a quote, we gave it, and he called back about an hour later. “You guys have got to be kidding,” he said. “Your estimate is two hours longer than everybody else’s!”

He was right. It was, and for good reason. Like many buildings, while they may be fantastic in all other respects, the building’s loading dock was at one end of the building. That’s great for about half of the units, but for the units on the other side, it means a much longer cumulative walk over multiple trips to and from the truck.

It’s the same situation for another building in DC — it has the main loading dock which is relatively far from the bulk of the residences, but it also has an interior loading dock. This slows the move-in/move-out process considerably. That delay is reflected in our estimates that involve that building. At first people are miffed, but when we explain it, they almost always understand and appreciate it.

David, the general manager, (and the guy about half of our customers mistake for the owner of MTB, hah!) explained to him that the newish building was also experiencing it’s first year of turnover. When the first residents began moving in about a year ago, most of them were housed on the far side (as in distant from the loading dock), and now that some of them were moving on, that’s where most new residents were being placed.

The customer understood. When David explained why our quote was slightly higher than the rest, the guy was almost astonished. “Nobody else knows that,” he said.

I suppose. Maybe other companies know it or not, but that’s kind of immaterial for us. We believe it’s vitally important to tell it like it is — the last thing we want to do is set bogus expectations for our customers and “tick” them off on move day. It’s much better if we set certain expectations and then beat them. It’s not rocket surgery — I think I first realized this in my first job as a pizza place bus boy in Battle Ground, WA.

Sure, we blow the estimate from time to time, but when it’s obviously our fault, we don’t hold the customer accountable. But for the most part, particularly with David, we’ve achieved a level of “awareness” of our environment (the DC area) that you don’t get on Day 1 of My Moving Business.

Anyway, that’s just a little vignette from a day in the life of MTB. If you’re looking for experience and professionalism, give us a call!

It occurs to me that I never made an official announcement about my new career…

It also occurs to me that I have a blog. That’s cool. I should probably post more.

But that’s not the announcement — here it is: I’m now a Realtor (federal law holds that I have to add the ® whenever I write “Realtor®,” but fight the power). I made the switch for a variety of reasons, but they boil down to two: running a moving company carries with it a hell of a lot of risk, and since I support a family of six (which includes me), the risk/reward ratio skewed too far into “risk” territory. Also, come on, it just mades sense — about a quarter of the people who we move are moving into new homes. Last year that was about 700 people. There’s an opportunity here. I’m probably the least competent entrepreneur on the face of the planet, but even I can see that.

But aside from “avoiding risk” and “making a ton of money,” it gives me an opportunity to help people out by applying the same principles we’re perfecting with MTB. Just as with moving, real estate clients want people they can trust. MTB’s First Principles, “Show up on time, work hard and fast, be friendly and careful, and keep it simple” don’t translate perfectly, but the gist is the same — have integrity and work hard for your clients.

At any rate, my license is held by Keller Williams, which is, I gather, the biggest real estate company in the nation. I wasn’t as interested in that when I signed up with KW — I was more impressed by the people I know who work there. My Realtor, for one, Ryan Donovan. Matt Spinosa, a buddy and incredibly gracious man is another. My buddy TJ from the old journalism days belonged to another firm, but that whole firm moved over to KW just because it’s so great. All three of these guys defy the stereotype that a lot of people have about Realtors by being men of integrity who approach every transaction from a place of genuine service.

That’s not some kind of marketing shine — these men are models to follow. I’m a better guy just for being in their orbit.

Speaking of people of integrity, I was fortunate enough to be recruited by a “group” within the KW universe. (There are a ton of “groups” in real estate. Ever notice that? A big reason for it is that real estate transactions are big, hairy, and complicated. If a solo agent becomes successful, he simply MUST start hiring a team to handle all the details and clients. A well-run and focused group can not only “merely” handle all the details, but can focus on particular clients’ particular needs.)

KG Logo

That’s the deal with The Kilner Group, the team that recruited me for some reason. I can’t say enough good things about them, particularly the team leader, Patrick Kilner. He’s not my boss, per se, because technically I’m an independent contractor with KW. Nonetheless, I’d follow this guy over the trench wall anytime. Not only does he have all the personal qualities you’d hope to find in someone who represents you in the complex real estate transaction process — integrity, honesty, diligence, etc. — he is truly committed to finding like-minded individuals to develop into other leaders.

And judging from the relatively short time I’ve been “hanging out” with other team members of the Kilner Group, he’s got a real talent for finding and developing talent. Each person is very different, but still has the same drive to be the best, both personally and professionally. And “best” professionally means that they recognize and respect the dignity of every client they serve.

Honestly, I have no idea how I lucked into it. A co-worker from a job ten years ago mentioned my name to Patrick, sure, but that was only the beginning. I somehow survived the fairly intense interview/vetting process. Go fig.

Anyway, this is a new thing and I’m jazzed. (Jazz hands!) I’ve been at it for a few months now and have yet to make a dollar, but things are picking up. If you’re an MTB client, there’s a good chance you’ll be hearing from me.

Buuuuut, here’s the deal — I have no intention of trying to convince anyone to do something they’re not interested in doing. We’re talking about buying and selling houses here, not some kind of consumer electronic trinket. If doing thousands and thousands of moves has taught me anything (whether as an actual mover in the field, or handling customer concerns/questions back at MTB World HQ), it’s how to be a counselor. If you’re just interested in getting some information about the process, or if you’re ready to go for it and get into a new home, I’d love to help. But if that’s not something you’re really thinking about right now, no worries.

If you are interested in talking about that home purchase, give me a call.

Oh, and PS — I have no intention of shutting down MTB or otherwise leaving it. The day-to-day operation is in the very capable hands of David Swain, Ara Der-Boghossian, and Leon Fenwick. They are my leadership team, and around them I almost feel like I need to work harder to keep up with them.


Survey says: “I have been impressed every single time…”



I have used your company twice now and I have been impressed every single time. Your movers are prompt, polite, hard-working, and competent. They took the time to scope the entire townhouse, take a quick inventory, made a plan, asked questions when needed, and got to work. Before leaving the first site, they verified that everything was in fact moved out. I was impressed by their teamwork and how careful they were with my furniture. Additionally, they were nice enough to inquire the “best route” to the new place. This small touch, made me realize it wasn’t about the added dollar, but doing the job right. I can’t say enough how wonderful my movers were and I will definitely use My Truck Buddy again once I save up enough to buy my own place.

–Laura R., Post-move survey on 3.21.16

5-star Yelp review: “You will find no better company!”

Yelp 5-stars


Two moves later and we say…USE MY TRUCK BUDDY!! You will find no better company! Reliable, efficient, trustworthy!! David and company knew we were trying to beat the rain and came as early as they could. Literally, we closed the door to the trailer and the rain started falling. THANK YOU My Truck Buddy for making our moves in DC easy for us.

–Sabrina O., Yelp, 3.22.16

Great 5-star review from Jay C.

"If I could give them 10 stars I would!"

Custom Yelp Logo“Amazing!! Typically, when a business has consistent 5-star reviews, something is fishy. These guys just moved my one-bedroom apartment from Alexandria to Arlington in 1hr45min and I’m happy to report that all the good things are true!! They came 15 minutes early, waited patiently until I arrived a few minutes after them (ran out of boxes–typical) and started right away. They confirmed all of the stuff to be moved before they started, and the truck was so efficiently packed that they fix some extra stuff I had planned on leaving behind.  The guys were very pleasant, careful with everything, wrapped the damage-prone pieces, and never stopped moving. If I could give them 10 stars I would! This was my first time hiring professional movers and it was money well spent.”

–Jay C., 1/8/16

Here’s to a Happy New Year!

And 6 ways (of 32) I'm going to kick more butt and simplify my life in 2016

Happy New Year!

That went fast, didn’t it? Sure, everyone’s experiences time differently, but here at the tail end of one year it always seems like…”What? Where did the time go?” After all, I’m still planning for the summer rush of 2014. Gotta get on that…Happy-new-year

Many thanks to the 2500 or so people who used MTB this year. Seriously — I always appreciate it, and after the terror wore off of realizing the business was “out there” and visible to gobs of people, it was an amazing, humbling experience. And to the many thousands of people who tried to book our services, I’m very sorry — we’re going to be hiring like mad in the spring. Hopefully we’ll be able to help you out!

I won’t list all the amazing statistics from the past year because, well, I’m one of only 45.8 percent of DMV residents who actually enjoy business-related statistics. But I’ll say this — work requests were way up, jobs completed were up, reviews were up, and we capped off the year with our 6th consecutive Angie’s List Super Service Award (more on that when they, you know, actually send me the award. Seriously, Angie, why’s it taking so long this time?)

I’ve been working on my goals for the new year. I don’t typically like to do this, nor do I stick to them very well, but the last nine years or so of running MTB have shown me the value of at least attempting to set and accomplish them. I got to about five pages of Goals, Objectives, Strategies and Tactics, and even got so far as scheduling milestones, due dates, and even blocks of time on such-and-such days to handle recurring activities.

And then I broke down with a near heart attack. What I laid out was impossible. Or nearly so. I’ve been here before, many times, and I can already see I’m setting myself up for failure. So, while I’ll still have several goals, here’s how I’m going to approach them:

Get up early

This is one of those lost bits of wisdom from the past. Not everyone truly realizes how important it is to start the day before the day starts you (I just made that up.) It is so important to have quiet time before the day begins, to pray, to meditate, to just think through the things that you need or want to get done. If you get to work, whatever that work might be (including finding work), during the morning rush, you’ll be sailing into the wind for the rest of the day. Lose the morning, lose the day.

Of course, this means going to bed earlier. You’re basically hosed if you try to get up at 4:30 AM after going to bed after 11:00. You can fake it better when you’re younger, but trust me, kids, it gets harder. Establish good habits now.

Schedule everything — but don’t overdo it

I read this article about Cal Newport early this year. The gist is that to-do lists are evil, and that if you want to get things done, plan backward from the time you want to leave for the day. I couldn’t agree more. It’s NOT easy to do this, though. It takes discipline. But it also doesn’t take long to realize that yes, you actually DO have enough time in the day. I’ve struggled with this mightily since the birth of our fourth child, constantly trying not to blame the kids for sucking up all the time in our lives which, of course I was using for their benefit. Or something.

The point — if it’s important, put it on the calendar and stick to it. A magnificent side benefit is that you have a very real, justifiable reason for ignoring the myriad distractions that will descend upon you like a Biblical plague if you dare try to schedule anything. Actually, it’s kind of a Catch 22 — the more you schedule, the more Fate attacks.

One not-so-obvious peril of scheduling, and one that’s killed me numerous times, is thinking that scheduling every minute of the day is wise or productive. It’s just not. Schedule free time. Don’t try to fit all your to-do’s into one day or week. It just ain’t gonna happen, and you’re going to frustrate yourself before January 15th. Be realistic.

Prepare everything

When my alarm goes off at 4:30 or 5:00 (if I’m slacking), I need to get moving. I have a couple of different morning scenarios: 1. I get dressed, commute to work, work out, and get on with my day. Or, 2., I get dressed, work out, commute to work, and then get on with my day. Whichever I chose, I need to be prepared, and doing so makes a HUGE difference on how the rest of the day goes. If I have to look around for shoes, make a lunch, or even make coffee, the system is derailed. The “launch time” of the day could be delayed by 45 minutes or more. Therefore, I’ve found that it is absolutely essential to have everything packed up and ready to go the night before.

Kill time wasters

I’m going to murder the voracious time-sucking things that have plagued me for years. I’m looking at you, Facebook. If it’s work-related, that’s one thing, but if it’s “I’m losing focus so maybe I’ll just check FB once before switching to a new project…” then no.

Then there are the vicious, seemingly important time-wasters like “projects.” For example, I need to rebuild the database I built to track guys’ Yelp and Angie’s List reviews. It’s fun, I like to do things like that, and it’s important, right? Well, yes and no. It’s important for me and the guys to recognize them for their hard work, and for them to be recognized. But the system I have right now works, and there are at least a half-dozen things more important than a perfectly streamlined database.

I probably lost 1,000 hours to “fun projects” over the years. No more.


That brings me to one of the most “unnatural” things I need to do: delegate. I’ve been terrible at this. I always think that by the time I explain the project to someone else, I could have done it already. I know how that sounds, but it has less to do with anyone’s inexperience, and a lot more to do with my difficulty explaining things, especially if those things have lots of moving or dependent parts. Nobody knows the systems of MTB better than I do, so it just “makes sense” to do it my own damn self.

No more of that, either. For my sanity and the health and prosperity of the business, I’m going to off-load more than half of my workload onto others this year. I know my team can handle it — I saw a lot of the Daily Show on work computers this year. Ahem.

Kill all those “back of the mind” things

I am going to slaughter any and all of the things causing mental drag. First off, I have to identify them. You know how you can go for days, weeks or months with this nagging feeling that you should be doing something? Or that you did something wrong? Sometimes it’s not obvious what it is. But for a lot of people, including me, it has to do with ignoring tough things you don’t want to deal with right now. It can be big decisions, but it can also be a million stupid little decisions you have to make.

For me, that creates DRAG. It can be the inbox. It can be clutter in my office, or the mountain of accumulated furniture down in the warehouse out of sight. Seriously — I finally noticed that when our warehouse is filled with tons of “giveaways,” i.e. furniture people didn’t want, or that didn’t fit in their new places, I was carrying all that tonnage on my shoulders. It was weird — that stuff has no bearing on email I need to write, or tweets I need to compose, or phone calls I need to make. But…it does! That huge load of garbage (some of it, anyway) 50 feet away feels like a comically huge backpack riding high on my shoulders.

Of course, there are the big, real, dangerous things, too. The audits coming up or the compliance filings or the problem employees that need help and/or discipline. Things that don’t directly advance the profitability or stability of the company, or that don’t promote the “general welfare” of everyone here. I just do not want to deal with that crap today. And so I don’t. Or I didn’t. And when I didn’t, it added up to paralysis.

No. More.

These are simple things. Everyone will have their own way of doing things. These are just some of mine. If you find them helpful, great!

Anyway, Happy New Year!