Chandler Hanson of Next Chapter Movers on Learning from Failure
Please share a brief introduction about yourself and your business:
I’m 30 years old, and a local Houstonian. I’m a member of the Houston Apartment Association, Better Business Bureau, BIZPAC, Entreprenista, St. Martins Episcopal Church, and a Director of my HOA. When I am not running a company or taking on acting gigs, I am taking care of my husband, our plants, our dogs, and any DYI house projects. I come with a Real Estate background. I started as a Leasing Agent in Residential Property Management when I was 20 years old and worked my way up to Management by age 23. I then became a Realtor with Keller Williams Metropolitan at age 26 and enrolled in the University of Houston- Downtown for business. At this time in my life, I was privileged to work with and surround myself with some of the best Top Agents. I was also given the honor and opportunity by the same top listing brokerage in Houston to teach new agents how to Buy and Show Homes. Some of my best internal growth came from this brokerage during one of the toughest times in my personal life. One lesson specifically that stuck to me like gum on a shoe was, “Fail forward – Fast”! I dabbled in Commercial Management at age 28 to discover it was not for me and quickly moved on to Exterior Home Remodeling to chase the money. I was just about to turn 29 when I realized I was equipped with the desire, and self-motivation to take on my next challenge as a business owner. It wasn’t until 9 months later, I would buy my first home with my then Fiancé and hire an awful moving company that inspired us to start our own moving business. I knew I was ready to embrace my next chapter in life with the support and love of my now husband. That is where the name of the company Next Chapter Movers, comes from. Our brand is to help those transitioning into their next chapter in life. It’s been a beautiful learning experience and it gives my family the opportunity to serve our community.
What excites you about being an Entreprenista League member?
Having other like-minded females experiencing the same wins and losses as me. Also, having a network of resources to educate me on how to move forward with my business.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
A couple of bourbons, and a supportive husband.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I developed an entrepreneurial mindset from my days in Real Estate with Keller Williams Metropolitan when I was 26. I never thought of becoming my own boss when I was a child; I had hoped to be a famous film star. Television has always inspired me. My mother and I would stay home and bond over movies and television since she had an immune disease that prevented her from going out much. For us, staying in and watching tv was an outlet. Still to this day, I watch shows like One Tree Hill or Gilmore Girls to lift my spirits with nostalgia.
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out, and did it go as planned?
My marketing strategy absolutely did not go as planned. I thought with my Real Estate background I would market relationships with the brokerages and agents the most. I knew nothing about the moving industry when I started this company. So I had no clue how to market it other than the sphere of influence and some posts on IG. I knew from my days in Property Management I would rely heavily on my CRM for my prospecting. So, I researched for a while and found what I would believe to be the best one. It wasn’t until 3 months later after signing with them, a sales rep from the call center of the CRM questioned why there weren’t very many leads coming in for them to call. The call went dead silent, my response was awkward and mumbly. He then shared lead providers in our industry that their other clients used. After that, I reached out to those top lead sources and increased my bookings by 300%.
What is the biggest challenge you have encountered along the way and what did you learn from it?
Oh boy. I have learned more than this entry will allow me to type. The biggest challenge was not knowing anything about the industry I was entering. When I started the company, I naively thought I could rely on the support of my business partner and we would figure things out together. The reality was he had another career to focus on and he ended up being more of a silent investor. This meant the company was entirely on my shoulders to figure out. I didn’t know Texas Law, or the Market, or my Compts, and I certainly didn’t know anything about box trucks. It’s silly really…I mean, who would have thought the actual moving truck is essential to a moving company, right?! Haha! I know it seems pretty common sense, but unfortunately, this did not strike me as a concern at the time. I still laugh to this day when I am reminded I still can’t drive one of our box trucks. This just makes me that much more grateful for the employees that can. Not all heroes wear capes! I also regret underestimating the start-up costs of the business. I think it’s best to sit down with a start-up costs spreadsheet, and actually get bids for everything you need to form a budget before you invest so you don’t run out of money or ruin your company credit. Of course, there are things that happen in life and in business to test your endurance no matter how much you prepare. For instance, I could have never imagined the first truck we would buy would be in the shop monthly, off the streets, not earning ROI. In addition to self-financing the truck in cash, we spent an additional $10k in repairs in 3 months on a truck we thought was ready to go. Looking back at that, I wish we would have had a mechanic check out the truck before signing the As-is document. The title wasn’t even clean as the sellers promised and we had to come up with another $2k for that alone in addition to the truck not being legally operatable for another month until the title was cleared. We almost called it quits once when we got wind that our truck needed to be put in the shop for the umpteenth time, and it wasn’t going to be cheap to repair it. We were out of funds to allocate to the business, and the company wasn’t generating enough profit after operations to pay for the repairs to get the truck out of the shop. I had to take a step back, I was at a fork in the road, to either quit or fight. I took a week off to reflect on what went wrong. What it would look like if I bowed out and what I wanted next from life. This provoked all the answers I was looking for, I was just too busy and emotionally attached to see it at the time. I realized what I was doing wrong: I should have not completely self-financed without the help of a business loan or grant, I should have tripled the investment in marketing to profit the amount I was looking for, I should have red lighted more extravagant expenses to keep my operations costs lower, therefore, increasing my profit margins, and finally… I needed a better truck, period. Once these Edison-shaped light bulbs went off in my head I was ready to get back to work. I realized… I wasn’t done, I hate to lose. I had too much fight left in me and wanted to do it all over again, except this time, I would fail forward, even faster but smarter.
What is the accomplishment you are the proudest of to date?
My first move. Like most retail companies that keep their first check. I can remember it so vividly. It took four months after we started the company to get the truck and the company legally compliant. Then we finally booked our first move through Groupon and it was time to sink or swim. Unfortunately, I had just gotten a chemical peel, and I was a sight for sore eyes looking like an exposed lemon with mange. I persevered though, it was a small move below our normal minimum requirement, but I figured if not now, when? I could have never predicted how disastrous this move could be. HA! At the time, I only had one mover hired. So, I recruited my husband to be the second mover and driver since he was on the insurance. The client was a hoarder, the house was roach-infested and nothing was prepared. It seemed like an eviction situation, so they really needed our help. That was just the beginning. Unfortunately, the truck broke down after we loaded everything. Looking back at it now is poetic considering that would foreshadow our experience with that truck for the remainder of its career with us. We had to rent a U-Haul, order an Uber to get us to the U-Haul, and then we had to send the other mover home to protect our profit margins so we didn’t lose money on our first move. This left my husband and me to finish the job. We finally make it back to the client’s house with the U-Haul. After all of that hassle and delay, we attempted to start our truck praying we don’t have to pay to tow it, and go-figure, it fired right up. So as my husband drives the truck to the client’s destination, I am following behind him in the U-Haul in my chemical peel. We parked the trucks and of course, it begins to rain. As he starts unloading the truck, I’m thinking can this get any worst?! We are laughing every step of the way. Fortunately, there was a neighbor of the client that had a moving experience that had just gotten home. He asked if we needed help, we offered him cash to assist, and were able to successfully complete the job. Our client was happy and we had our first move out of the way. We persevered.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
Absolutely. The best way to retain a balance is to let go of the fear of losing control. Similar to life, in business, you can’t control everything that comes your way. It’s important to have an internal awareness of what’s going on around you and cognitively let it go. That way, you make room to take on the next experience and put your energy toward that. Also, by establishing a team you can give some rope to, you now have time to focus on your personal life. If someone messes up, that’s ok, we are all human, and it’s a learning opportunity. It’s back to failing forward, fast. By showing your team you prioritize your work/life balance, they will see you care about theirs and that creates even more loyalty.
What’s a piece of advice you can share that you wish you’d known when you first started your Entreprenista journey?
Focus on the outcomes, and get ready to pivot. Not everything that comes your way is going to give you the best value or results. The way you started out doing things, might not be the best way to continue doing them and that’s more than okay. For example, the calling center that my CRM offered billed me 12% for every booking. In the beginning, I was looking to set up vendors and get things going. I’d pay sometimes $300.00, for one booking that took two minutes for the call center to close. After seeing those invoices at the end of the month, I knew I had to pivot and create an internal Sales Representative position to protect my profit margins. I ended the business relationship with my CRM’s call center and instead hired 3 of my friends to be my inside sales team for over 80% savings with a higher closing percentage since they are trained internally.
What have you achieved recently that you’d like to celebrate with our community?
I applied for a Master’s Class with Prosperity Bank. I never thought I would get into it because they required information on my books and my business plan. Instead of passing the opportunity out of fear, I did my best and it turns out, my application was considered some of the best for a start-up. I was accepted and begin my classes in October 2022.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
Serving our community is why I stayed in this business. As such, when we can create a business we can create more jobs for people in our community. Also, my husband and I have a calling to help women in need that want help. There’s been a few times we accepted a job knowing there were no profit margins to assist where we can. I would like to see this company partner with more non-profit organizations that need our services to assist women in need. Perhaps we can utilize the company’s reputation to raise capital for the same cause.