The Tribune By Raven J. Railey April 18, 2001
In four years, Meathead Movers has blossomed from a couple of San Luis Obispo High School students earning extra cash to one of the largest moving companies in the county. It employs more than 60 part-time student athletes and four full-time managers. Aaron Steed, Meathead’s chief executive officer and co-owner, projects the company will move 1,600 households in the coming year. He declined to disclose any financial information about the business.
With the support of the Women’s Shelter, Steed recently started a program to offer free moving services to victims of domestic violence. With his encouragement, other San Luis Obispo businesses have begun to offer free services to these women too: College Auto Clinic, chiropractor Karen Hale, Farrell Smyth Real Estate Co., SLO Kickboxing and TriQuest Financial.
From his office on Orcutt Road, the clean-cut, ex-wrestler talks with The Tribune about helping victims of abuse, his challenges employing students and the importance of customer service to his business.
Why did you start a domestic violence program through your company?
Occasionally, we’d get phone calls from frantic women who needed to get out of their houses right away. You can hear and feel the terror in their voices.
They’re in a situation where they feel that there is no way they can rebuild their lives and start over. I figure I’m in a good position to give them their first step out the door by transporting all their items out of their house for free.
How do you make sure that the women who contact you are domestic violence victims?
That’s one thing I was nervous about when I started this program. Before we get contracted out, I have the women contact the Women’s Shelter. The shelter has to go and investigate the situation and they take all the necessary precautions before we even get involved.
I feel that’s just adding to our service because…they (the shelter workers) are familiar with the situations. They know how to work it.
How did you get other companies to join you and offer other services for free?
I just told them about it and they said, “Wow, I want to be a part of that”…It’s something you are going to feel good about doing when you’re on your deathbed.
What advice would you have for another company that wanted to start a similar public-service outreach?
Contact the necessary people you need to do it legitimately.
This is obviously a fairly high-risk program. I had to talk to my attorney about it. I had to talk to the Women’s Shelter…We do the jobs when the men are not at the job site. If the men do appear, we call the police.
If my company wasn’t insured and there was a fight on the job, the company would be held liable. But because I took the necessary precautions, we are able to do it safely.
Are there particular challenges you’ve had to overcome in hiring students?
I feel I’m one of the few employers that can say I’m thrilled with my workforce. I have the greatest employees.
Yeah, we’ve definitely had our challenges throughout the years-guys not showing up, guys showing up extremely hung over, people just not hustling, conflicting school schedules.
We set a very high standard…if someone is simply not performing up to Meathead expectations, we get rid of them…
Whenever someone does not perform up to par, I find out about it…I get a report back (from supervisors) on each job. Also, our customers fill out a detailed questionnaire after each and every job. I personally give a phone call to each of our clients after every single job.
What are Meathead expectations?
Our workers are clean cut…It’s our policy to have our shirts tucked in, be clean shaven. Very rarely do guys show up hung over because they know of our zero tolerance for drug and alcohol (use). If they do look hung over, they’ll be sent home…
Our guys have in their mind that they’re working for a tip. If their goal is to earn a tip, everything is going to follow through. They’ll be careful with their furniture. They’ll be polite. They’ll be hustling.
Since starting the company, what do you feel has been your greatest accomplishment?
The biggest accomplishment is maintaining superior customer service even though the company got bigger…So many companies, once they grow, the customer service just goes right down the tubes…Seventy-five percent of the jobs we schedule are from word-of-mouth…
Also, we’re giving Cuesta and Cal Poly students the opportunity to support themselves through college. They earn $10 to $15 an hour, they get to set their own hours and they get tipped on top of that…And we work around their school and sports schedules.
Being able to give students – my peers – the opportunity to go to college and have enough money is absolutely awesome. I love it. They love it.
Because they appreciate it so much, that pride shows on the job. It works all the way around.