As my regular readers know, the Success Story Series features (mostly local) business owners and citizens who are doing something remarkable with their lives and their businesses. I share these success stories to inspire and energize the entrepreneurial spirit.
This month’s success story features Adam Horsman, Manager, Brute Services, a San Francisco transplant and supply chain whiz kid whose business, Brute Box Moving, achieved quick success through leveraging digital marketing and, specifically, search engine optimization (SEO).
I caught up with Adam at YakiniQ, a cute Japantown café (famous for yummy sweet potato lattés if that’s your thing):
Anna Colibri: Tell me a bit about Brute Box Moving and the customer experience.
Adam Horsman: Brute Box Moving delivers empty recyclable moving crates to your home or office, you move, and we pick everything up when you’re done. Complete rental packages start at $79 including delivery. Our goal is to provide a product that’s easier, cheaper, faster, and better for the environment.
The process to order is simple, customers comes to our website, often via organic search because we’ve put a lot of time into SEO, learn about our service, see that it’s an easier, faster, cheaper alternative to cardboard boxes, and they schedule a delivery, receiving their boxes as early as the next day. When the move over, we pick up their boxes. It’s a win for the the environment and, in terms of cost and convenience, a win for the customer.
AC: What makes Brute Box Moving unique?
AH: It’s really a white glove service. The fact that we have a seamless online ordering process, all the extra moving supplies you’ll need, we deliver everything to your home, and we pick everything up when you’re done — including recycling! To top it all off, we come in at a very sharp price point, making us to 40% cheaper than buying traditional cardboard moving boxes.
AC: Tell me a bit about yourself and your background. How did you get involved with moving crates?
AH: My background is in supply chain management. I worked for Microsoft for a number of years and then worked for Amazon, ultimately moving to California to help launch Amazon Fresh, which is on-demand grocery delivery. After about 5 years at Amazon, I was eager to start something for myself, so I left to launch my own business and Brute Box Moving was born.
I started Brute Box because I’ve personally moved a lot, and I was always frustrated with the traditional cardboard box move. Being familiar with distribution centers, where these crates are commonplace, the idea clicked and I started pursuing it.
AC: What is the strategy behind your business?
AH: In terms of how I manage my business, it’s a very data-driven approach, with a focus on educating the customer. We’re working to disrupt an industry with a service that most customers aren’t familiar with. Our goal is to educate the customer, demonstrate the value, and let customers see the difference. To accomplish this, I spend most of my time working to optimize our position on Google and Bing.
AC: How do you use digital marketing in your business?
AH: Because we’re an ecommerce business, I use digital marketing extensively, from SEO to AdWords, to social media, each with an individual strategy towards getting in front of and educating the customer.
AC: Who else is in involved in your business? Who is your team and who do you rely on?
AH: We have a couple of drivers, a customer service person, a developer, and myself. I’ve also used the online design, development and content community extensively. Sites like Upwork, Fiverr, and 99Designs are great for scaling your business.
AC: I’d like to hear something about your offline marketing and your role in the Bay Area business community.
AH: My focus has been on education. We’ve worked to partner with a number of Bay Area companies, offering employee discounts for our services. Additionally, we work with various local and national organizations like the BNI networking group and the Green Festival.
AC: What does the future look like for you and your business? Any ideas on projects or different services you’d like to add on?
AH: Brute Box Moving will continue to focus on the rental moving business, and we’re beginning to explore other related industries, including valet storage.
In October of 2015, Brute Box Moving was purchased by Corovan, California’s largest moving and storage business. With numerous Corovan locations throughout California, this acquisition builds a great foundation for for growth outside of the San Francisco Bay Area.
AC: What are valet moving services?
AH: Valet moving services are a growing industry that makes storage more convenient for people. We pick up your stuff, store your items in a central location, and you can have specific boxes delivered at your request, often with very narrow delivery windows. Because so many people live in urban areas with smaller apartments and less storage, they can use services like these as almost a second or expanded closet.
AC: What do you love most about the Bay Area? What do you love most about your industry?
AH: I love the intensity of the people around me. I get energized by that. Growing up in Seattle, I didn’t see the same level of intensity, and it’s great to be at the epicenter of so many innovative ideas.
With the moving industry specifically, I like the fact that we’re able to come into a space that really hasn’t changed for a hundred years and we can innovate and improve the experience. I enjoy that, and the fact that it’s better for the environment. We are making a difference and decreasing dependence on cardboard boxes.
AC: Since you’ve been so successful, what are your top tips for small businesses?
AH: What I’ve learned is that I can’t be good at everything and that I need to focus my time on things that provide the best return. I could, for example, edit something in Photoshop, but that would take me way longer and likely not provide as good a result as if I outsourced it to a Photoshop expert.
Recognize that you can’t be good at everything. Focus your time on what you’re good at. I use Upwork, Fiverr, Labor Ready, and more. It’s also a flexible way to get my labor needs met until I can hire someone full time.
That, and also try to get something going as soon as possible and prove to yourself that you have something that works before you fully implement that the model. Bootstrap it at first.
If you’re in the moving business, literally rent a U-Haul and use day laborers to get a sense of what works and what doesn’t before you invest.
AC: Let’s start talking about the personal side of owning a business. Many business owners spend their days at their desks, in front of computers. Any tips for keeping your body healthy and feeling good when you’re at a desk all day?
AH: I really like my standing desk. I like the variety of both sitting and standing. I like doing that as much as possible.
AC: Final words, Adam: What do you think is most important in life — and business?
AH: Balance. That’s the biggest thing, finding the balance between home life and business life. I’m kind of a workaholic so I have to find ways to turn it off as much as possible. Especially, early on, you’re always thinking of the opportunity cost. You might feel guilty if you read a book instead of writing a blog post to work on your SEO, but taking breaks and focusing on things besides your business keeps you happy and healthy in the long term.
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