No matter what stage our business is in, we always try to find “startup” opportunities within our company. We look at our company as if it were its own economic ecosystem with hundreds of untapped opportunities.
Omar Soliman is a published author, entrepreneur, and TV personality. He’s the co-founder and CEO of College Hunks Hauling Junk, (http://collegehunkshaulingjunk.com/) a junk removal and moving franchise that services more than 50 markets in 30 states. CHHJ was named one of the fastest-growing franchises in the nation by Entrepreneur and currently employs more than 1,000 people nationwide.
Omar was named on the “Top 30 Entrepreneurs in America Under 30” list by Inc. and is an Ernst & Young “Entrepreneur of the Year” finalist. He has appeared as a frequent guest on FOX Business News and MSNBC and has also appeared on ABC’s “Shark Tank” and AMC’s “The Pitch.”
Omar co-authored his first book along with his business partner, Nick Friedman, titled “Effortless Entrepreneur.” The book has become a bestseller and is a must-read for anyone looking to start a business.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
Our idea started when we were college students home for summer break. We were two broke kids looking to make some extra money, so we borrowed my mom’s cargo van and put up flyers around the neighborhood that said, “College Hunks Hauling Junk,” with the purpose of clearing out people’s garages and basements of junk and clutter. That night, my phone rang, and we were in business. I went back to school that fall and entered a formal business plan into the University of Miami business plan contest, and it won first place and $10,000. That’s when we knew we were onto something.
What does your typical day look like, and how do you make it productive?
We now have 75 franchises across the country and more than 100 employees at our corporate headquarters, so my typical day has evolved considerably from the early days of moving stuff in a truck. One of the most productive things we do each morning is have our entire team stand up in a daily huddle. We review good news, core values, bottlenecks, and metrics for the company and also a brief report from one department. It’s so simple, yet it’s an incredible way to get everyone out of their silos and energized.
For me, productivity is measured based on accomplishing annual priorities. The annual priorities are accomplished by completing quarterly goals, and quarterly goals are accomplished by completing weekly and then daily tasks. The stuff I’m working on daily that isn’t driving a quarterly goal is losing the company money and has to take a back seat or be delegated to someone else.
How do you bring ideas to life?
As an entrepreneur, I have no shortage of ideas — maybe even too many ideas. My first step is to graph my ideas based on impact versus the time and resources needed to bring that idea to life.
The ideas that have the highest impact with the lowest drain on time and resources are the ones I tackle first. Everything starts with a vision, so I write down how I envision it will look and feel three years from today. The next step is to share the vision with the people who are responsible for bringing the idea to life. They have to be behind it and be just as excited about it as I am in order for it to become a reality.
Lastly, a vision without a plan is a hallucination, so the next step is to reverse-engineer the vision and figure out what exact steps need to happen in order to make that vision a reality. When ideas come to life, it’s one of the greatest feelings in the world, and it’s even more special when you can share that feeling with your team.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
We’re living in exponential times. Billions of dollars of market share will be won or lost over the next few years. It’s hard not to be excited about the Internet of Things. This trend will usher in more opportunities for disruption and innovation and is extremely exciting for a company like ours.
We have hundreds of trucks across the country and are literally moving “things” every day. There’s so much opportunity for us to take advantage of the interconnectedness to create an amazing client experience and revolutionize an industry that has been littered with mediocrity for decades.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive?
I don’t look at my phone or respond to emails for the first hour after I wake up in the morning. I try to use that time to live in the moment and be grateful for what I have. There’s a direct correlation between how my overall energy and productivity are throughout the day and how long I wait before immersing myself in technology.
What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?
When I was 19, I worked at a CD store in the local mall. I think my paycheck after taxes came out to five bucks an hour, which wasn’t as bad as the fact that they played the same 10 songs on repeat for the entire day. (Mind you, this was at the height of “Who Let the Dogs Out?”)
It was owned by a big corporation that had all types of counterintuitive processes and rules that didn’t make any sense. The employees hated working there, the managers hated working there, and the bad attitude rubbed off on the customers. Needless to say, a few years later, the company declared bankruptcy.
I remember thinking that I would never want to run a company that was so out of touch with its frontline staff. I learned how a negative company culture could literally drive an international corporation into bankruptcy. I also learned that if you hear the same song 50 times a day for three months, you will hate it for the rest of your life.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I would raise money in the early stages instead of growing organically. While organic growth gave me an incredible understanding of the business and the ability to do things on a budget, I don’t think I would ever start another business without raising capital and aligning with strategic investors.
I would also buy lots of Apple stock.
What is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
No matter what stage our business is in, we always try to find “startup” opportunities within our company. We look at our company as if it were its own economic ecosystem with hundreds of untapped opportunities. When we uncover an opportunity, we put together a small team and tell team members to treat it like it’s their own business within the business.
Nothing beats the attitude and scrappiness of a small team trying to accomplish important projects. We sometimes have two or three “startups” running within the larger organization. While some may fail, others have been transformational for our company and are the reason we are where we are today. This has been a great way for our team members to become “intrapreneurs” — that is, entrepreneurs within the confines of an organization.
What is one failure you had, and how did you overcome it?
The economic recession in 2008 was a major low point for us. People were losing homes and couldn’t afford to pay for groceries, so paying for junk removal was low on the priority list. We had just started franchising and needed to figure out ways to survive and keep the lights on.
This low point ended up being the greatest thing to ever happen to us because it forced us to diversify and act differently. We added moving and labor services that now account for almost half of our revenue. We also focused on being a purpose-driven company instead of worrying about profits. We put all our effort into our company mission to “Move the World.” This purpose is the fuel for our organization, and everyone from the frontline teams to the CEO focuses on making a positive impact with at least one person every day.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
An antibacterial floor mat to sanitize the bottom of your shoes before you walk through the front door of a home. Everyone is concerned about germs, yet we walk all over our homes with shoes that have been in the grossest places. Why not have a sanitizing mat at your front door that someone can step on that cleans the soles of your shoes of germs and microbes? Call me, and lets make it happen!
You can have the idea as long as you call it the “Soli-mat” in honor of my last name.
What is the best $100 you recently spent?
Seeing the World War II museum in New Orleans. I’m a big history buff, and that museum is incredible. It really immerses you into the human perseverance, pain, and bravery that young men and women had to go through.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
Yammer for intercompany social media and communication. It’s a great way for our franchise owners and team members from across the country to stay engaged with one another.
Zoho for project management and franchise onboarding. It allows us to ensure every task to get a franchise opened is managed and accounted for.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“Traction” by Gino Wickman. It lays out a great model for businesses to increase efficiency.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
Omar on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OmarJunkman
Omar on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/omar-soliman-8119791
Omar on Twitter: https://twitter.com/OmarJunkMan