Examine moving franchises that have helped Canadians through unique challenges and lifestyle changes
By Georgie Binks
COVID-19 restrictions have made life transitions, downsizing, and moving homes challenging over the past two years. Thankfully for the many Canadians who have moved during the pandemic, these three essential service franchises have been more than happy to accommodate, while doing it safely.
ONESource Moving Solutions
When Danielle Carriere bought ONESource Moving Solutions in January 2019—just before the pandemic hit—she never could have imagined the challenges and opportunities it would bring. “Our company grew like crazy,” she explains. “Families couldn’t cross the border or travel, which left their loved ones needing assistance. Retirement communities, which were essential services like us, were allowed to move people out, whereas the general public wasn’t always allowed in to assist.”
The franchise bills itself as a “one-source solution for all your moving, downsizing, estate, and organizing needs.” Danielle explains, “Our concept is to help seniors, professionals, and families take the stress of out of changing their address.”
The company began by specializing in moving seniors, but is now even busier with professionals.
One big challenge for ONESource during the pandemic was emptying properties. As Danielle notes, “We’d normally donate to local charities, but charities were closed. We had to learn a different way, so we adapted to online auctioning to empty properties completely.”
Staffing was also a challenge, she says, but “the franchisees and our corporate location have phenomenal staff. Our team members who work everyday in the business are very passionate about what they do and would never leave our clients unsupported.”
The company, which was declared an essential service, continued with on-site estimates but took special measures. “All team members were tested regularly, had PPE, and followed all the proper rules. We just had to adapt how we did things with clients, how many people were around, making sure everyone was wearing their masks. We had to let the clients know that wearing masks and equipment sometimes made the job a little slower, but nobody ever minded.”
The franchise has four locations now and is looking to expand across Canada. The benefit for franchisees is the top-notch training, ongoing support, and quarterly meetings. “Franchisees need to be driven, motivated and love people,” says Danielle.
She says she loves her job. “The benefit [for me] is to show people how to help [others, and] basically take the stress out of changing their address. I show franchisees how to do the job I love. I get a lot of personal satisfaction out of it—you’re helping people in very stressful times.”
When Transition Squad president Viraf Baliwalla started franchising, he was helping clients sell their homes privately. But all that changed quickly. “Our first client had a mother with dementia and was going through a downsizing process,” he says. “I’d gone through it myself with my father and noticed my friends were going through it with their parents. I saw how much pain everyone was going through at an already traumatic time. I felt it was better to help those in need rather than helping people save some commission. So, we pivoted and became Transition Squad.”
Transition Squad helps seniors downsize and works with families settling an estate. It provides services packaged to the needs of each individual client, from finding a good home for their belongings to clearing out the premises and moving clients to a new home. “We’re unique because we have our own online auction platform and process,” says Baliwalla. In fact, a large chunk of the franchise’s revenue comes from online auctions.
Transition Squad has been an essential business throughout the pandemic. “We did more business during the COVID-19 period than we’d done prior to it. It forced us to re-evaluate some of our processes to make them more streamlined and profitable,” says Baliwalla.
The franchise is home-based with extremely low overhead and a flexible schedule. Minor staff shortages were an issue early on, Baliwalla says, but they weren’t significant.
The ideal franchisee has to be genuinely empathetic to their clients’ situations, organized to manage multiple jobs at a time, able to assemble a good, small team of freelancers to guide and coach, and be willing to roll up their sleeves when necessary.
Extensive training is delivered via Zoom, YouTube, and other technologies. Ongoing support is provided by Transition Squad Downsizing Academy which provides one-on-one coaching and experience sharing.
And you’ve got to have heart. Baliwalla says, “It’s a great feeling when clients tell us we relieved them from a very stressful ordeal. It’s not just about finding someone who can afford a franchise. It is about finding the right people who can create the right rapport with the clients. After all, this isn’t just ‘stuff’ we’re dealing with. It’s people’s lives, feelings, and memories they’re entrusting to us.”
TWO MEN AND A TRUCK
For some franchises, the pandemic has been very difficult to navigate. But not so much for TWO MEN AND A TRUCK. John Prittie, president and CEO of the franchise in Canada, explains that “2021 was a banner year with approximately 20 per cent year-over-year growth. Had there been a larger pool of employees, the growth could have easily been 30 per cent or more.”
That’s because so many Canadians decided to move during this time. “Countless families moved from the city to the suburbs or the suburbs to the country. As a result, demand for moving services went through the roof. Many customers decided to move from one province to another, resulting in longer moves and increased revenues.”
TWO MEN AND A TRUCK is a full-service moving company offering packing and unpacking; local, regional, and long distance moving; and storage and junk removal services. It started in the early ’80s in the U.S. and is now the largest franchised moving and storage company in North America with close to 400 franchises in Canada, the U.S., and the United Kingdom. There are currently 30 locations in Canada with plans to expand to 40 in the coming years.
When the pandemic began, the company was declared an essential business and its top priority was ensuring the safety of franchisees, their employees, and customers. Masks are worn in the truck and on the job site. The brand now completes virtual on-site estimates to help save time and money.
One of TWO MEN AND A TRUCK’s biggest challenges during the pandemic was recruiting and retaining movers and drivers, so it initiated several changes to wage and benefit programs.
Supply chain issues have also exacerbated an ongoing issue in the industry with the acquisition of new trucks and equipment. Prittie also says there have been challenges to operating in Canada because of ‘fly by night’ operators taking advantage of unsuspecting customers. Still, he adds, “It’s a great industry to be involved in as Canadian families move on average every five to seven years. The company enjoys many referrals and repeat customers.”
Franchisees don’t need prior experience—they simply need the skill set, desire, and financial capacity to join the team. They receive three weeks of training in the U.S., Canada, and their franchise location.
Prittie says they’ve done well throughout the pandemic. “Franchisees are resourceful, have strong interpersonal skills, positive attitudes, and are highly motivated individuals.”