During a recent client move, Debbie Meyer and her team took tons of garbage to the dumpsters in a three-day process.
It was a job worth tens of thousands of dollars. Meyer, owner of Chandler-based Moving You Simply LLC, only charged a fraction of that.
“I didn’t want to turn someone away in a dire situation,” Meyer said. “We came to an agreement and it turned out to be a significant discount.”
Meyer has a business to run, so why did she do it?
“It made me feel good to go home at night knowing that I’d helped a family,” she said.
Meyer became an entrepreneur in 2007, at age 50, when on the advice of her family she opened her company, which specializes in properly packing, moving and organizing seniors, families, corporations and offices in Arizona and beyond.
“It’s kind of a natural knack I have to understand space and floor plans,” Meyer said. “Sometimes I don’t even have to measure, I can tell if it’s going to fit or not.”
And with 20 years of experience as an organizer at several places, including Hewlett Packard and Nextel Communications, she knew what she was getting herself into.
“That’s a huge differentiator between a lot of people that dive into something without knowing too much about it, and those folks will have a harder time unless they get smart in a hurry,” said Gary Naumann, director of the Spirit of Enterprise Center at Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business.
Meyer said she started by following every lead, educating the community about her services and integrating herself in the community of seniors.
Even average-size jobs reflect the personality of the company.
“The move was very professional,” said Hardy Good, whose mother was moved from her townhouse in Phoenix to the a retirement living center. “They were careful, conscientious, and did lot of things my mother would have had to do herself but they did it for her.”
Depending on the size of the job, Meyer will have three or more movers on her team.
“I’m in the trenches, from sorting to downsizing and packing,” Meyer said. “And I take pictures of drawers so everything goes back the same way.”
While sometimes she might not make the best profit, Meyer said she always makes sure her people get paid.
Rick Murray, CEO of Arizona Small Business Association, said making concessions is the norm. To Murray, navigating this economy cannot be done by going with the status quo.
“The biggest challenge, at this time, is helping small businesses figure out there are ways to be profitable in this new economy but it just takes time and patience,” Murray said.
In the last three years, ASBA has seen an increase in the amount of members from 4,000 in 2009 to a little over 11,000 in 2012, while boasting an 86 percent retention rate.
But with most small businesses failing because they run out of cash, Naumann, who also teaches entrepreneurship at the ASU graduate level, said if you don’t have the confidence or experience, it’s going to be hard to take all those hits that small-business owners take on a daily basis. Among other tips, Naumann suggests startups conduct a self-assessment to analyze strengths, and hire to accommodate where needed. He also suggests would-be entrepreneurs identify opportunities by evaluating how big the market for this particular business or product is, among other ideas.
Meyer keeps her overhead low withing Moving You Simply because its a home-based and she and her crew do their promotion at networking lunches.
“Even though I come from a family of entrepreneurs,” Meyer said, “I was always shy and I had to learn to come out of my cocoon, believe in my business, and above all, myself.”
And while Meyer believes in her mission, according to Naumann and his outlook on small businesses, there is a lot of heavy lifting ahead.
“I do feel things are starting to turn, though that doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods,” Naumann said. “But the heavy lifting is coming at a time when we’re asking ourselves how we make things better instead of just spiraling down. So we still need tremendous emphasis and support on entrepreneurship at all levels.”
Since 2007, Moving You Simply has had almost 500 assignments, and its income has grown every year.
“Some years where we had less jobs we had bigger projects, so that balanced the difference in income,” Meyer said. “I’m not the highest (as far as fees), but I’m not the lowest either.”
Meyer said if the team is on a job and hits the agreed time before the job is finished, they will go off the clock because they don’t want to walk away from the job or rush the client. So her biggest company expense is giving away hours.
“Maybe I could have made more money by not giving away hours, but I’m not going to start charging for every email, phone call, or additional time spent because of bad family dynamics,” Meyer said.
She said the toughest part of the job is really that she never knows what’s behind the door.
“I’ve been in homes where there are dead animals and people are still living there,” Meyer said. “I don’t wish these types of situations on anybody, not even on the competition who can at times be brutal.”
But Meyer said the job also has many rewards.
“It’s the tears of happiness at the end of the move,” said Meyer. “When people say, I can’t believe this happened as smooth as you said it was going to happen.”