It started in the mid 1980’s with two teenaged boys wanting to earn some extra cash, and their mom spending her days in a cubicle, working as a computer programmer and systems analyst for the State of Michigan, dreaming of something more. With vision, hard work and a clear path to success, nearly 20 years later, Two Men and a Truck is the first and largest local franchise moving company in the United States, boasting over $200 million in sales and more than 200 locations worldwide. Meet Mary Ellen Sheets, the “accidental entrepreneur” and woman you should know who led this family-owned and operated business to the success it has achieved today, making Two Men and a Truck the fifth largest moving company in the United States.
While still in high school, Mary Ellen’s two sons Brig and Jon Sorber started an after school business using an old pickup truck to help people with simple jobs and short distance moves. They hauled trash then started to haul furniture. Once they saved a little bit of money, Mary Ellen designed a simple logo of two stick men in a truck, and took out an ad in the local shopping guide for “two men and a truck” and the calls started flooding in, and have never stopped.
When the boys finally left home for college, the phone kept on ringing, so Mary Ellen decided to make an investment. She purchased an old moving truck for $350 and hired two guys to keep the business going, a hobby of sorts. With 40 million moves in the U.S. each year, and almost half of the moves being local, Two Men and a Truck found an obvious niche in the market. Mary Ellen’s experience as an office manager had developed her administrative skills. She knew how to analyze numbers and manipulate data. Regular volunteer work at a local hospital gave her experience in managing the public. In committing herself to this business, Mary Ellen expanded her role as a single working mom into a smart, savvy, committed entrepreneur. By 1989, Mary Ellen quit her desk job and was running a local moving business, in an industry where women were scarce, and not particularly welcome.
Mary Ellen attributes the success of her company to the many virtues and core values that they stand for, which is to continuously strive to exceed customers’ expectations. “To treat everyone the way you would want your Grandma to be treated.” This is called The Grandma Rule. Focused on this level of customer satisfaction and offering competitive rates, word continued to spread about Two Men and a Truck. After being in business for a few years, Mary Ellen found that her movers would occasionally have to travel beyond city limits to move customers, which due to complicated state laws, brought new challenges to the business model. After exploring all angles, Mary Ellen shifted her plans and developed a franchise formula – by selling franchises of Two Men and a Truck operations to budding entrepreneurs in other small towns, the company was able to tap into its greatest opportunity for growth, and as the saying goes… the rest is history.
Having managed the business on her own until this point, Mary Ellen needed some help and she didn’t have to look far. Her daughter, Melanie, who was a pharmaceutical representative, quit her job to join her mother in 1994. Mary Ellen considers herself fortunate to have her daughter as President and C.O.O. and sons Brig and Jon, actively involved in franchise operations today. Although Mary Ellen is still the owner of the company, business decisions are all in the family. Included among these decisions are the company’s extensive philanthropic endeavors. Giving back to the community has been a part of the Two Men and a Truck mission since its first year in operation. Franchise locations donate thousands of hours and money to non-profit organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, Toys for Tots and the Salvation Army. Additionally, a portion of every move completed is donated to the American Cancer Society.
Hoping to inspire others to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams, Mary Ellen encourages women to “Get moving and do something! If you do, success will come.” Clearly Mary Ellen has achieved many levels of success and is surely a woman you should know.