People have been on the move for thousands of years; the curiosity to find new lands created explorers, adventure seekers, and simply ordinary people seeking better opportunities. This behavior has evolved rapidly in the last two decades as humans now live in a digital world centered around technology which has fundamentally changed how we exist.
Yet the companies that service the movement of household items and personal possessions have existed in essentially the same form for the last 100 years – devoid of significant innovation. For the most part, the moving industry has consisted of family owned, generational businesses.
My great-grandfather owned a hardware and furniture business in a small town called Weirton, West Virginia. Weirton is an immigrant community of steelworkers; honest people who worked hard for their families. Our store was a pillar of the community for fifty years until big-box retailers like Ace Hardware and Home Depot forced us out. It wasn’t a fast demise.
My uncle had taken over the business and tried to make it work for years but when he died, so did Alpert’s Hardware and Furniture. Unfortunately, this fate is inevitable for most small moving companies like ours.
“According to the Small Business Administration, more than 70 percent of all family businesses do not survive through the second generation, and 8 percent do not make it to a third.” – Kit Bond
My first summer at New York University, I got a job at a moving company in the Bronx. Days consisted of running up and down stairs, double parking on tight streets, and battling traffic and busy New Yorkers.
Nights involved calling leads, performing in-home estimates, dispatching trucks and running payroll. I worked my way up and soon made more money that some of my friends who went to Ivy league schools.
Twenty years later, my vocation is still to help people move their lives. Moving offers individuals greater freedom and allows them to pursue their dreams. I believe that all people have the right to live and work anywhere they want.
We are an industry of caring, empathetic people who guide individuals through an emotional period of their lives. Yet, moving companies use outdated systems that create inefficiency, hinder growth, and often times do little to enhance the experience for customers. The industry literally runs on paper with no investment in technology.
Over the past two decades, the internet has become an ever present part of our lives. Nowadays, a moving company is expected to understand SEO, SEM, AdWords, and paid acquisition in order to compete and stay relevant. Is this realistic?
I’ve grown up during this era. I’ve scratched my head as the incumbents didn’t take it seriously. As a result, predatory lead generation sites and brokers have exploded, harming the industry while eroding profitability. This story feels similar to what my family went through. Who is watching out for the generational moving companies?
“Don’t be afraid to take a big step when one is indicated. You can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps.” – David Lloyd George
People are moving more than ever and now it’s all about the experience. That’s why Erik Christensen, my wife Daniela, and I started Crater. We build technology for movers who own trucks and warehouses. Our software eliminates in-home estimates and replaces them with virtual video surveys via our software platform.
We are creating a modern, convenient buying experience for the consumer and cutting sales costs for moving companies, allowing movers to focus on improving operations and delivering a great experience.
We have learned a lot working with moving companies over the last three years. We initially launched a pure software product. We soon found that many movers didn’t have the people to support the technology, so we built a call center to handle video surveys for them.
Over a hundred thousand surveys later, the most common question from those customers was, “where’s my estimate?” We were left with the conclusion that there was much more we could do to improve the industry and Shyft was born.
Shyft is the ultimate moving experience. We support the mission to provide customers with a hassle-free, affordable solution. How? By providing software and services to moving companies that make their businesses more efficient and by generating qualified corporate leads.
I believe that success is when all parties benefit from the service, especially the smaller generational moving companies like my great grandfather’s who are finding it tougher to compete. We want to work with moving and relocation companies to innovate the industry together through powerful technology and a personalized customer experience.
Ultimately, we seek to eliminate the obstacles that individuals face during a pivotal moment as they shift their lives and those of their family. This is our mission. The world is shifting rapidly and we are here to ensure that the moving industry, and the individuals who work so diligently to support it, are ready for the next 100 years!
Alex Alpert, Founder & CEO