Brought to you by Roadway Moving
Roadway Moving was born from a man who saw an opportunity to infuse a little happiness into a drowning industry. Ross Sapir, an ex-Israeli soldier and bartender, had moved to America and was working at a moving company when he looked around and began to wonder why everyone was so unhappy. The employees, the customers, it was a miserable existence. He decided to change that, by starting a brand that focused on customer service first and foremost. It was time for a revolution.
We had a chance to catch up with Ross and chat about bringing his hospitality experience to the moving industry, why it’s not really about the money, and the best way to provide employee engagement for a truly happy company culture. Oh, and how Tony Hsieh’s Delivering Happiness inspired it all.
Jenna Marie Bostock: Tell me about the inception of Roadway Moving.
Ross Sapir: My story started when I came to America after serving in the military in Israel. When I was very young, 21 years old, I was working for one of the biggest and best hotel chains in Israel, as a bartender. It was such a great place and they invested so much in their people. They came up with a warranty for a perfect vacation—only 2% of people actually used it for a refund but people really appreciated that. We always strived to give them a great experience and I learned that it was really all about the experience and attention to detail. I didn’t really want to move, I just jumped on a plane and wanted to travel.
I ended up at a moving company here making good money as a salesman. I climbed the ladder and decided to open my own company. The moving company where I worked is how I learned what not to do. Don’t make people unhappy, don’t exhaust them, stop losing items, stop breaking items.
That’s pretty much what you see in moving. Unhappiness everywhere. Everyone hates moving. The employees and the customers. Why is everyone so fucking unhappy over here?
I thought, I’ve got to do it better. Life is just too short and too great. I opened Roadway and told my guys, I promise you that we will sell a million dollars within a year when we start. It won’t be easy. Then after a few years four million dollars, then we reached eight million dollars, and when we went from twelve to fifteen million dollars it was kind of like whoa. We must be doing something right. I developed my people and gave them that drive, the same way I did when I had soldiers.
Jenna Marie Bostock: How does the hospitality experience translate into the moving industry?
Ross Sapir: When you go to a hotel, you don’t just go to sleep in a bed. If that was the case it could be any hotel, it could be Motel 6. You go because of the experience, because of everything around that. The way they treat you, greet you, they remember you if you’re a regular, all those little things I wanted to bring to the moving industry. I never cared just about money, ever. Not even today. All I cared about was people, making them super happy and making them believe in the vision and the culture. I knew happy customers would follow.
I still think the same way. You should never refuse a small move, even a $500 move. If you have the ability to do it, you should. Then that person becomes a fan for the rest of their life. We look at lifetime value over here. That person who moved for $500 may move in 7 years from now to California because they’ve landed a job with Google, and this time it’s a $20,000 move! That philosophy is what brought us from 1 truck to 53 trucks to 200 employees.
Jenna Marie Bostock: How did you fund everything? Did you self invest or find VCs?
Ross Sapir: I never had anyone invest into me. I just didn’t pay myself for four years. Four years of very hard work and putting all the money back in the company. You gotta work your ass off. You’ve got to work 16 hours a day, you’ve got to think about yourself last. You can go months without giving yourself a salary but you keep investing in your people and the company and you grow.
Jenna Marie Bostock: What do you think helps Roadway stand apart from other moving companies?
Ross Sapir: We have a philosophy that we will never make a customer unhappy. We will do whatever it takes to fix any issue. All companies will hide behind liability, which is nothing. If I broke your TV I can give you $1.80 and I’m covered. What I would do when that happens, and it can happen, is I will buy you a new TV, ship it to your house (upgraded model) before you even know what happened. It’s now a crazy beautiful experience that that person that you originally failed is going to become your biggest fan and talk about you forever. I don’t advocate breaking TVs, but when it happens, do the right thing. Don’t hide behind limited liability.
I came into an industry that is saturated by horror stories. Americans put moving, especially long distance interstate moves, a one of the most stressful event of their lives. After a death in the family, but before divorce. We have 99.3% on time delivery rate, that’s better than Amazon. People have such low expectations in this field, and then you bring them in and you wow them and it’s a win-win.
Jenna Marie Bostock: Who has inspired you the most in this entrepreneurial journey?
Ross Sapir: What made me build Roadway differently was a book I read called Delivering Happiness, the story of the guy who opened Zappos, Tony Hsieh. This guy is amazing! I read his story about how he sold Zappos to Amazon for 1.2 billion dollars, and I wanted my company to be built on that book. I forced people on my team to read the book. Well, I paid them $100 dollars if they answered 5 quick questions directly. When you read that book you can start to understand the philosophy and the soul of what we’re trying to do over here. Your marketing is your customers. It’s the way that they bring you more customers.
Jenna Marie Bostock: What is one of your secrets to keeping happy employees and a really positive company culture?
Ross Sapir: I don’t think money will make people happy. As soon as you have some money you want more. It’s never all about money. People work for good money but it’s also about the way we treat people. You’ve got to build up pride in your employees and make them believe what they do is actually great. That’s how you keep them engaged, and engagement is what keeps people happy. It’s not about money, it’s about being engaged and respected. I know every employee by name. My door is always open. As far as incentive, we grew enough to really attract talent. Money keeps them calm, but if the energy is down and morale is low they still won’t be happy.
Jenna Marie Bostock: Best and worst pieces of advice you’ve ever received?
Ross Sapir: Worst is to talk with small people who can shatter your dreams. Those people can be toxic, you’ve got to get them out of your life. Negative or small-minded people will never help you reach big goals. They will always find a way why it’s not going to work.
Best advice is to get those people away from you, far away from you and your life. Anyone that could have a subconscious mind that could get you down. Stay away from that and follow your dreams and your goals and believe in them. If you don’t believe in yourself you won’t be able to sell it.