Above: Stephen Hodges.
After working as a travel agent for many years, Stephen Hodges (pictured above) decided to try his hand at business, which led to the launch of Melbourne-based business Easier Move.
“Instead of being just one service, i.e. removals, cleaning or rubbish removal, we arrange all the services needed by the customer in order to make the normally stressful process of moving house a lot easier,” Hodges says.
Hodges talks to StartupSmart about how he has utilised his background as a travel agent, why Easier Move is needed, and why the business sends a thank-you card to every single customer.
What is your background and how did it prompt you to launch Easier Move?
I have spent 10-plus years in the travel industry, and the idea of Easier Move was prompted by the multitasking role that a travel agent plays in organising all the elements of a person’s travel requirements.
Booking flights, accommodation, transfers, tours, etc, is all completed by the agent.
I felt this could be replicated in the moving industry as moving house also requires the need for a range of jobs to be completed such as hiring professional movers or self moving, cleaning the house, changing addresses, removing/donating unwanted goods, and changing utilities over to the new house, amongst other things.
The reason I felt this would be a useful service is moving is generally seen as a stressful, time-consuming and burdensome process.
What does the business offer consumers and who is it targeted at?
The business gathers all the needs of a person moving house and books in the appropriate services.
From removalists to cleaners, packing/unpacking services, box hire, rubbish removal, utility and/or address changeover, moving insurance and any other services people need.
We have also booked such services as interior designers and landscape gardeners for people who were moving to a new house.
The target market is busy professionals who do not have the time or desire to make these arrangements themselves.
However, the service is also attractive to many people who have organised their house move before, which did not go well and they do not want to do it again.
How did you fund the business and what were your start-up costs?
The business was funded from my personal savings and start-up costs were $5,500.
How many staff do you have?
At the moment it is a staff of three consisting of myself, a booking agent and an office manager.
We are looking to expand with offices in other capital cities by the end of the year so this shall increase, and we are aiming to have 10 staff by the end of next financial year.
How do you promote the business?
The business has been promoted through local advertising, word-of-mouth and networking in the Melbourne region.
However, we are currently creating several instructional videos about tips on better moving practices, which are located on YouTube.
We want to be seen as a complete moving resource for everyone.
What are your revenue projections for 2012/13?
Revenue projections for 2012/13 are $110,000.
What is your point of difference?
The major point of difference is that Easier Move provides a full service moving experience, which eliminates the stress and time generally taken to complete this task.
Rather than just hiring a removalist to shift all your belongings, we ask you about and arrange all the other requirements so that your entire moving needs are taken care of.
There is no extra charge to the customer for us to complete this service [as opposed to] if they were to make all these arrangements themselves.
We do offer a premium service, which attracts a cost. This is more appropriate for people engaging in a large move either interstate or rurally.
In this, we can research requirements and provide an introduction to the new area, such as school options and contacts, useful facilities and other services, so a family is prepared and educated when moving to this area.
What has been your greatest challenge and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge we have faced so far is getting the message out there that this service exists.
As this is a new approach to moving, we complete plenty of jobs where a customer only needs one service as they had already booked many other services, not aware that we could do it for them.
The way to overcome this is by getting the word out in the public domain that we exist. We always provide a thank-you card to every customer at the completion of the job.
It is a small postcard that requests the card be passed on if they were happy with our service.
Like every service business, the best way for promotion is through word-of-mouth from happy customers.
What is the biggest risk you face?
The biggest risk at the moment is people not understanding the service. When they enquire about the service they immediately assume that as another person is involved, the cost of doing it will increase for them.
We are continually explaining that the prices quoted for the services are the same as if they made the call themselves.
Is there anything you would have done differently?
There is nothing major that I would have done differently at this point. The business actually started with a different name that I was only indifferent about before I thought of Easier Move.
With the requests from customers, we are always coming up with new ideas so the business will always move with what the customer actually wants.
As the service is designed to eliminate stress and create more time for people, we can only know what that is to them when they tell us.