Three and half years ago, Don Valerio left his job in the corporate world to become a 1-800-GOT-JUNK? franchise owner. What attracted him initially was an article he saw in Fortune magazine describing 1-800-GOT-JUNK? as one of the fastest growing franchises in the nation. At the time, he recalls, he and a cousin were thinking about a business of their own and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.
“We really made the right decision to buy into this particular franchise,” Valerio states. “They supported us every step of the way going into business, and have continued to be there for us since. With their help, we've grown from a two-truck operation to seven trucks today.”
1-800-GOT-JUNK? was founded 15 years ago in Vancouver, BC, by Brian Scudamore, CEO, and in recent years has grown enormously.
The 1-800-GOT-JUNK? franchise owned by Valerio and his cousin covers approximately 70 towns and cities that make up the suburbs north of Boston, known as the North Shore.
“Territories are purchased in blocks of population, 125,000 people per block,” he explains. “We have ten of those territories, which is a fairly good size business.”
Valerio says his two-person crews, which are comprised of a driver and a navigator, will pick up anything city garbage haulers or charity organizations won't remove. 1-800-GOT-JUNK? recycles and donates 60% of the junk it collects.
“We are busiest in the summer months,” Valerio states. “Right now we have about 12 crew members working for us, down from between 15 and 18 last summer. Next summer, as we continue to grow our business, we expect to employ 20-25 people.”
Equipment, Valerio points out, can be leased or purchased through the Vancouver office. “They recommend certain vehicles from which we can make our selection. I have five Nissan UD 1400 model diesel trucks, ranging between 2003 to 2005, and two brand new Isuzu diesels rated 15,000-lb. GVW.”
Currently, Valerio has six vehicles on five-year leases and has purchased one truck. He notes that the 12-ft. dump boxes on the trucks are manufactured by Courtney Berg Industries in Calgary, AB, then shipped to U.S. truck dealerships for fitting onto the chassis. The trucks come equipped with tool storage boxes and tarps, and are also uniformly painted and decaled with the 1-800-GOT-JUNK? logo.
The cabover configuration of the Isuzu and UD trucks, Valerio reports, has proved extremely beneficial in navigating city side streets and tight driveways. “They have a tight turning radius and are very easy to maneuver.”
Valerio says his success as a franchise owner lies heavily in the trucks' dependability. Fortunately, he says that in addition to having a Nissan dealership 45 minutes away in Lawrence, MA — which handles 90% of his maintenance needs — he also gets great support from a local network of tire and maintenance facilities.
Valerio is responsible for every aspect of his franchise, from hiring, firing and training crew members to purchasing trucks and maintaining them — not to mention marketing, sales and customer service. He says the corporate office recently hired a fleet manager, Craig Jooste, whom franchise holders can call at any time with questions about running their truck fleet.
“Probably my biggest challenge is juggling everything and having to keep all seven trucks maintained on the fly,” Valerio relates. “I've developed an unbelievable network of support in my territory between mechanics, towing companies and tire dealers. I simply couldn't have made it in this business without their help. They know us as a small startup company and are always there to give advice and help with anything we need.”