New Times SLO: The Meathead Story
The Meathead Story New Times By Melissa Abramovitz June 20-26, 2002
In just five short years, Meathead Movers has defied the stereotypes, the naysayers, and the odds to become the number one moving company in San Luis Obispo County. This unique enterprise, run by two college-age brothers, has taken the simple philosophy of superior customer service and parlayed it into a thriving and growing company that has changed the way many people perceive the household moving industry.
Aaron and Evan Steed started their venture back in 1997, when Aaron was a high school junior and Evan a freshman. Because of their school and athletic commitments, the two were having difficulties finding part-time work that fit around their busy schedules. The brothers had helped a friend’s parents move several times and enjoyed the work, so they decided to start a household goods moving service.
They posted flyers with tear-off strips holding Aaron’s pager number and soon began getting some response to their ads. Aaron would usually get paged during school class time and would return the calls in between classes. “I didn’t even have a driver’s license yet, so we had to beg friends or clients for rides to our first moving jobs,” he recalls. “We got paid whatever our customers thought we were worth. We tried to earn tips by being polite, careful, and helpful.”
Evan and Aaron enlisted athletic friends to help with the jobs, and the Meathead Movers started building a reputation as hardworking, polite, careful, and honest young men. The name Meathead originally began as a joke, based on the nickname bestowed on athletes working out in the high school weight room, but the guiding principles and goals of the Steed brothers were never a joking matter. “We wanted to defy the stereotype of the dumb jock moving furniture and show that we could establish a high-quality, service-oriented business,” explains Evan.
And defy the stereotype they did. Their methods were greatly influenced by their backgrounds as dedicated athletes– Aaron as a championship wrestler and Evan as a top-notch football player. In Aaron’s words, “In wrestling you are constantly working harder to achieve new levels. You become physically and mentally stronger, and this gives you the courage to face obstacles and take on challenges you’ve never encountered before.” Applying these principles to their budding business, even when people told them the idea of building their own company would never work, the brothers’ vision of young, energetic sports enthusiasts creating a unique customer service-based operation kept them relentlessly striving to make it happen. Soon their fledgling enterprise was fielding as many moving jobs as they could possibly handle, and Meathead Movers became a full-time occupation for both brothers.
Now CEO and CFO, respectively, Aaron and Evan continue to base their management style on a coaching philosophy of encouraging excellence in every member of the growing Meathead team. The staff now number close to 100, including department managers, office personnel, computer experts, schedulers, packers and movers, and other positions. Whether they work on long-distance planning or are directly involved in interacting with customers in their homes, each employee is required to maintain a positive attitude, recognize the shared objectives of all Meathead associates, and, most of all, be accountable for their own excellence. All are involved in department meetings and are encouraged to give suggestions for making the company better. Each must memorize the company’s mission statement and take a test to insure that they understand the history and business philosophy, in addition to adhering to a strict dress and conduct code and to completing rigorous in-house training to fulfill OSHA safety requirements. Meathead personnel are certified, bonded, and paid to observe fellow workers on the job before they are allowed to perform any moving services. In addition, all employees are taught to be intensely aware of each customer’s needs and to maximize efficiency in an attempt to save the client time and money. When not carrying items, for example, Meathead movers jog to move a job along as quickly as possible.
Aaron Steed sums up the qualities of a Meathead associate as follows: “The typical Meathead is a strong, rebellious, yet moral, bad-ass mama’s boy.” And, he adds, that’s how it’s going to stay, since, despite the company’s incredible growth and diversification, the original purpose of supporting student-athletes by providing superior moving services has not and will not change.
Along with the tremendous expansion of the Meathead workforce over the past five years, of course, has evolved an equally impressive increase in business volume and variety of services offered. The company now handles about 240 moves per month, making it the busiest moving company in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties. As the youngest professional licensed movers in the United States, the Steeds recently expanded their workspace to include a suite of offices in the Crossroads Shopping Center in addition to the Orcutt Road warehouse and dispatch center that was previously their sole base of operations.
In addition to providing full-service commercial and residential packing and moving services, Meathead Movers has recently taken steps to make their customers’ relocations even more hassle-free. They now offer an online utility transfer service, making them the first-ever moving company to provide this amenity.
Also available for customers who desire them are packing supplies and Meathead hats, T-shirts, and sweatshirts for sale at the Crossroads office or through the website.
The future promises even more additions and improvements to the Meathead operation. Current projects in the works include developing an in-house computer software system and expanding into franchises or satellite offices in major college towns throughout the United States, according to long-distance department head Bret Hamlin. But, say the Steed brothers, no matter how much they improve and grow, Meathead Movers always intends to stick with their original commitment to superior customer service. “We always plan to give our customers a good reason to choose Meathead Movers over other companies. Our industry was lacking a business that emphasized the customer’s needs. The number one reason we’ve been so successful is we focus our energy on service, not profit margins,” says Aaron.
And no matter how much they may expand, the Steed brothers plan to continue to make it a priority to give something back to the community that has enabled them to reach their present status. Meathead Movers is proud to support the San Luis Obispo High School Booster Club and athletic programs, the Civic Ballet, Big Brothers Big Sisters, local police and fire departments, and United Way. The company also regularly donates their services to women in abusive domestic situations through the Women’s Shelter. “We feel good about being in a position to help others in our community, especially those in real need,” says Evan.
Probably the most poignant testament to the impressive journey of the Meathead Movers from a humble money-earning enterprise for two high school kids to the well-regarded corporation they are today is the fact that over eighty percent of the company’s business derives from word of mouth and repeat customers. Many clients report that their experience with Meathead changed their perceptions about household movers in general; a good example is a testimonial written by Jane Helloran, who states, “Moving is never fun. I’ve used your staff twice in the last 4 months, and both situations have been as close to fun as possible. I hope I never move again, but if so, you’ll be my choice. Congratulations – you understand the meaning of customer service.”