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From Bartender to Moving CEO: Building a Business on ‘Happy’

Posted in: I'm a Mover, Mover Spotlight

Business advice is interesting. We like it when we come across someone who has risen from humble beginnings to reach an admirable level of success. We like to read about them. We like to learn what they learned so we can do what they’ve done.

Recently, the moving world was introduced to Ross Sapir, an immigrant from Israel who took his experience as a hotel bartender and started a moving company that did a million dollars their first year. It wasn’t a direct road, though. It was his time working as a salesman for someone else’s company in between that got him wondering why moving made people so unhappy, and how he might be able to change that.

What the heck did he do differently?

“Happy” is a word that can be empty or full of meaning. For Sapir, it was the foundation of his business. In this Alister and Paine interview, he lays out a few of the ideas that got him and his company moving up fast. I’ll lay them out for you, along with some tidbits of my own.

  1. “We don’t just move stuff. We move people.”

Ross Sapir

This wasn’t just a quick phrase Sapir read on Twitter, but it was his experience working for a hotel was what taught him that. “When you go to a hotel, you don’t just sleep in a bed,” he says. “You go because of the experience.” He adds that if hotels were just about sleeping, you’d go to a Motel 6. (Of course, considering there are over 1,400 Motel 6 locations in the US, we can assume there are people who really just want a cheap place to sleep. But I digress.)

Put this in the context of a moving company. Sure, a customer may just want their stuff moved from Point A to Point B for a few hundred dollars, but if there’s a positive experience built into the process that customer becomes, as Sapir puts it, “a fan for life.”

That fan will tell other people about you and will call you again the next time they need to move. And that fan may have a lot more stuff the second time around, making their move a several thousand dollar deal. Some of you probably know how cool it is to have return customers. I definitely know I do.

  1. “We don’t hide behind limited liability.”

Sapir says if a TV is broken during a move, instead of giving the customer sixty cents per pound, he’ll buy that customer a new TV – maybe even something better than the one they had. This turns an ugly situation into a great one and an unhappy customer into another fan for life.

That advice said, we don’t advocate replacing every item that gets dinged, scratched or marred. Happy customers are good; bankruptcy is not. Rather, this unwritten, over-the-top policy of replacing an item that gets destroyed regardless of what is legally required should be the exception, not the rule, and it is the general mindset that you should highly consider adopting.

  1. “We read books.”

And we aren’t just talking about how-to guides and user’s manuals. We mean books by successful people in all areas of business and even beyond. Sapir mentions Delivering Happiness by a guy who sold his shoe company, Zappos, for over one billion dollars. (Yup, that’s billion with a ‘b’.) “I wanted my company to be built on that book,” says Sapir.

Whether you’re looking to build your bottom line, improve your company culture, become a better boss or just increase your level of satisfaction, there are tons of books out there to choose from.

And by the way…

Sapir tosses in a couple of other tidbits that are well worth heeding, including ideas that have nothing to do with moving furniture but everything to do with building a great moving company.

One, get negative and small-minded people out of your life. They’ll only keep you from reaching your goals.

And two? You have to work your butts off. In case we didn’t already know that!


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