Be patient. There is no shortcut to success, and no overnight success happens overnight. An example of this would be when we tried to shortcut success by inventing new ideas or new businesses thinking they would be successful faster- such as “College Foxes Packing Boxes” or a Cleaning Service we launched called “Collegiate Cleaning.” Both of those attempts ended up being shiny distractions from our core business and caused our timeline to success to lengthen.
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nick Friedman.
Nick Friedman is a Visionary and Co-Founder of College H.U.N.K.S.®, the largest and fastest-growing junk removal and moving franchise opportunity in North America. Nick started the business in college with his childhood best friend and now business partner, Omar Soliman, in a beat-up cargo van and has grown to over 100 franchises nationwide. He has since been named among the Top 30 Entrepreneurs in America Under 30 by INC Magazine and was named on the same list as Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, as one of the 30 most influential CEOs Under 30 by Under30CEO.com. Nick is also a two-time Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award Finalist. In addition, Nick has been featured in numerous business books and textbooks, as well as Forbes, Fortune, and many other national publications. He was also featured in a Newsweek story entitled “College Kid to Millionaire,” along with the founders of FedEx, Dell Computers, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft. Nick also was a guest at the White House appearing with MTV on a panel about youth entrepreneurship. Nick’s company has appeared every year on the INC 5000 list of Fastest-Growing US Companies, has been profiled numerous times on CNN, MSNBC, CBS, NBC, FOX News, and has appeared twice on the Oprah Winfrey Show. Nick has appeared as a guest on National Television Reality shows, including ABC’s Shark Tank, Bravo’s Millionaire Matchmaker, and CNBC’s Blue Collar Millionaires. As an author, Nick co-wrote a bestselling book along with his business partner, Omar Soliman, entitled “Effortless Entrepreneur: Work Smart, Play Hard, Make Millions” (Random House, 2010), which aims to motivate aspiring entrepreneurs with his fun and entertaining approach to business. Nick is a member of Young Presidents’ Organization(YPO), which is a global peer network with more than 22,000 members in more than 125 countries, all dedicated to becoming better leaders through education and idea exchange. The YPO companies employ more than 15 million people around the world and generate 6 trillion dollars in annual revenues. Nick is also an active board member of the Entrepreneur’s Organization, is a founding member of the Young Entrepreneurship Council, and is a founding investor in the Gen-Y Capital Partners, which seeks to invest in young start-ups. In college, Nick received his Bachelors Degree in economics from Pomona College in California where he competed for four years on the Men’s Varsity Basketball Team and won the Pomona College Coach’s Award, was named to the National Association of Basketball Coaches Academic Honor Roll, and was designated a Pomona College Scholar. Since graduating from Pomona College, he has also completed a 3-year Entrepreneurial Masters Program at MIT. Nick has been a guest speaker at numerous high schools, universities, businesses, and entrepreneurship groups, including INC Magazine’s Leadership and GrowCo Conferences, the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship Conference, the Business Innovation and Growth Conference, and the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship. Nick is also fluent in Spanish and spent a college semester studying economics in Madrid, Spain. He continues to be active in the community, volunteering his time as a basketball coach and mentor to aspiring entrepreneurs. Nick Friedman is available for select keynote and lecture speaking engagements.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My best friend from high school, Omar Soliman, and I borrowed his mom’s beat-up moving van to do some moving and junk hauling one summer. We wrote a business plan our Senior Year, which won an entrepreneurship competition, and then we quit our jobs after college to launch the business year-round. From there, opportunity skyrocketed. Within about three years, we had hired our first employees, and soon after that, we began franchising. We had been brought up to follow the traditional career path after college, and this was far from it!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
We have had the fortunate opportunity to appear on multiple national Reality-TV shows, including the first-ever episode of ABC’s Shark Tank, the Season Premier of Bravo’s Millionaire Matchmaker, CNBC’s Blue-Collar Millionaires, AMC’s The Pitch, HGTV’s House Hunters, A&E’s Hoarders, TLC’s Hoarding, Lifetime’s Military Makeover, Bravo’s Below Deck, and many many more… We joke that we have been on more Reality TV shows than the Kardashians!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When we first started the company, we were doing all the work ourselves! Many small business owners out there can probably relate and will remember what it was like to be both the employee and the boss at the same time. We answered the phones, set the appointments, drove the trucks, hauled the junk, and did the bookkeeping. We made our fair share of mistakes in that first year, but here’s a funny one! The 1–800 number on the back of our trucks was re-routed to our cell phones, so every time someone called to complain about a College HUNK driving erratically… we were usually answering that phone call while in the driver’s seat! We would have to switch into manager mode and let the caller know that we do not condone this type of driving at our company and that the employee in question would be formally reprimanded. I may have wanted to fire myself three or four times that first summer.
We were probably driving erratically because we were doing too much at once. We would be rushing to the next job, talking on our cell with customers, and checking in with each other. Being Jacks of all trades wasn’t doing us any favors and we knew we couldn’t continue to do it all ourselves. We needed to work ON the business, not IN it if we wanted it to grow. If we wanted to add another truck, let alone another location, we’d need to enlist in the help of additional staff and empower them to take ownership of the work we’d been juggling that was ultimately holding us back. Creating systems and training programs that enabled us to duplicate the business model in other markets was what made it possible to scale the business.
Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?
As a purpose-driven, values-based, and socially conscious organization, one of the social commitments we’ve been proud to make during the pandemic was to provide free moving services for anyone facing domestic violence. We saw the national reports about increased domestic violence incidents during COVID-19 lockdowns because victims were forced to stay home with their abusers. We have partnered with certified domestic violence shelters nationwide to approve and refer all victims who requested a free move, both for their safety and the safety of our movers. Then College HUNKS took it from there. Thus far we have completed over 100 of these free moves for survivors of domestic violence, as we are passionate about helping those who are unable to help themselves.
Another community milestone from 2020 was through our non-profit partnership with U.S. Hunger (formerly Feeding Children Everywhere). As of September, we reached 1.6 million meals donated. We donate 2 meals for every completed job, and College HUNKS also contributes to this organization by donating transportation services to deliver meals, and also hosting hunger projects where meals are prepped and packaged by volunteers. We’ve intentionally built giving back into our company’s framework to support the communities that support us.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
Particularly emotional social impact moves stay with us… For example, last year, we participated in a significant renovation project in collaboration with Lifetime’s “Military Makeover” and Montel Williams. We were able to modernize the Hixon family’s home, who had recently suffered the loss of husband and father Chris Hixon, aged 49, to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The beloved wrestling coach and athletic director was also a 27-year Navy veteran who served two military tours in the Persian Gulf. That story weighs heavy on your heart, and it still weighs heavy on mine today. Being a part of that project felt as though we were doing our small portion to give back to a man that gave so much, including his life.
College HUNKS is also nominated as an ideal franchise for veterans and we are a proud participant in the VetFran franchise for veterans’ program. Veterans exemplify everything that we value in our own business, and in the people that we bring on board as franchise owners. Today over 10% of our franchise system are veteran-owned.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
First, we believe a light needs to be shined on domestic violence… It is an issue that is rarely talked about, and we didn’t realize how big of a problem it really is until we began offering survivors a way out through our free moves for survivors of domestic violence program.
Second, we believe that childhood hunger is something that needs to be addressed, starting in our country. Food insecurity is rampant, especially during 2020, and in a country full of abundance and hope, that should not exist given our extensive resources as a country.
Finally, we believe that leadership development and entrepreneurship should be taught in schools. Building Leaders is one of our Core Values, and we pride ourselves on being a platform that educates, empowers, and employs a workforce of future leaders.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Leadership is the ability to recognize the potential in someone and to be willing to develop that potential. A leader takes smart risks, admits mistakes, and questions actions inconsistent with one’s own vision and values. Leadership focuses on growth, honesty, and holding oneself and one’s team accountable.
We know there are a lot of options for our customers when it comes to hiring movers, so we aimed to build the brand around the people performing the service, not just the service itself. Omar and I saw first-hand how customers were just as interested in knowing WHO was helping them move and haul their junk as they were in the service itself, or how much it cost. It was important to our customers that they felt they knew and trusted us with their family’s things, as Trust and Care are the two most critical emotions when allowing a stranger into your home to perform work. With that, it was decided that our employees would be the face of the business, and the name College HUNKS Hauling Junk & Moving was born. We also turned “H.U.N.K.S.” into an acronym that stands for “Honest, Uniformed, Nice, Knowledgeable, Service,” to broaden the definition and the brand promises our clients should expect.
Part of our Building Leaders Core Value includes upward mobility opportunities, and we have numerous examples of frontline employees who have gone on to own franchises and generate millions of dollars annually.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Be patient. There is no shortcut to success, and no overnight success happens overnight. An example of this would be when we tried to shortcut success by inventing new ideas or new businesses thinking they would be successful faster- such as “College Foxes Packing Boxes” or a Cleaning Service we launched called “Collegiate Cleaning.” Both of those attempts ended up being shiny distractions from our core business and caused our timeline to succeed to lengthen.
- Work ON the business, not IN the business… When we first started, we were doing all the work ourselves. People would call the 800 # to complain about erratic driving and we would be the ones answering the phones in the driver’s seat apologizing. We realized finally that if we were going to have another truck, let alone another location, we needed to create systems and processes so that the business could scale.
- Without Margin, there is No Mission… The soft stuff doesn’t work unless it follows a performance-based toughness… When we first started our business, we were super passionate about a vibrant company culture and charitable giving. However, we failed to recognize that without a margin, none of those things could exist. We almost donated ourselves out of business as a result. We needed to have a careful balance of mindful business mechanics and metrics while also giving back intentionally and developing a winning fun culture that others want to be a part of.
- Don’t chase the money, chase the vision. While you need to be fiscally responsible, the income is not the ultimate goal of the business. It is simply a means to create a platform to do more good. If you have a purpose that is bigger than making money, you will keep getting out of bed in the morning even when things are tough. During the housing crisis of 2008, our business felt like we were pulling an anchor through the sand. We were losing money, and it was hard to stay motivated if we thought only about the money. But when we focused on our higher purpose, it became much more impactful for us to keep pushing forward and persevering.
- Appreciate your heritage and embrace change. When we first started the business, we were strictly offering junk removal services. But when we realized we had an opportunity to expand our market to include moving services, we had to recognize that it was a change that would ultimately take time and provide a bigger and better opportunity for our franchise owners, clients, and team members.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I would love to inspire a movement that teaches kids in middle school and high school the following skills that are extremely relevant in life —
- Money management
- Building and keeping good credit
- Picking the right career
- Self defense
- Public Speaking
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Faith x Focus x Effort = Success (in anything).”
This formula is relevant to me in my life because if I ever want to achieve success (in business, family, fitness, or any other area of life), I need to evaluate how faithful I am in achieving that outcome, how much focus I am giving to that, and how much effort I am putting into it. This has been a constant in our business success, and as I reflect on our journey and my life, anytime my life has wavered it’s inevitably because either my faith or my focus or my effort is not above 90%.
More generally, a book called Purple Cow by Seth Godin really resonated with me around the time we launched College HUNKS. The book’s message was centered in the need to be remarkable in order to stand out. It explains that if you’re driving down a country road and pass a herd of brown cows, you may not even notice them because of how ordinary and common they are. If you saw a purple cow among them, you’d not only notice, but you may even pull the car over, take pictures, share it on social media, and tell your friends and family. A purple cow would be so remarkable and unheard of, that it would be nearly impossible to pass over. What stuck with me about this message as we began to build the business, was that both a cow and a moving/junk hauling company are not inherently remarkable or unheard of on their own. Moving and junk hauling businesses had been around for years, so we knew the concept and the service itself wasn’t going to differentiate us from the competition. In order to stand out and be remarkable, we had to humanize the brand. We know there are a lot of options for our customers when it comes to hiring movers, so we aimed to build the brand around the people performing the service, not just the service itself.
Lastly, my Dad always says to “Remember to Stay in the Moment”, which is very difficult for a visionary entrepreneur always looking ahead. But it is so important to stay present, otherwise, we may miss the entire journey called life.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
Mark Cuban, because we appeared as a guest on the very first episode of Shark Tank, but he was not a Shark on the show yet. Also, I’m a huge basketball fan (I played in College) and because I appreciate his zest for life and business and giving back.