About this episode
Nick Huber was a track star at Cornell when he fielded a call from a parent that would change his life. A fellow student needed to store their stuff over the summer, and Huber was offered money to pick up his classmate’s stuff and keep it until the fall. Huber realized that other students who lived out-of-state might need a similar service, and Storage Squad was born.
Along with his partner Dan Hagberg, Huber built Storage Squad to 30 locations and more than $2 million in annual sales when he decided to sell for “low seven figures” while avoiding an earn-out. Huber’s story should serve as an inspiration for anyone who wants to bootstrap a service business. This interview is jam-packed with knowledge bombs, including:
• How Huber streamlined his business by asking employees to do less.
• What to look for in a business partner.
• Why paying employees like owners is a mistake.
• The definition of an escrow.
• Why D1 athletics is the perfect analogy for entrepreneurship.
• How to find a new business idea (hint: look for an industry that still uses a fax machine).
Check out the written by John Warrillow on Why Your Employees Don’t Get It.
Curious about what your company might be worth? Start with a Built to Sell Valuation.
Show Notes & Links
(02:31) John Warrillow: “Somehow I found you, and I’m like, “This guy’s interesting, because Sweaty Startup.” I’m all about not the tech Silicon Valley stuff but the real deal. I think you had like 5,000 followers, so I followed you. And then I looked again and you have like 12,000, and then 20,000, 30,000. You’re at 100 and something thousand followers now in the space of what, a year?”
(04:31) Nick Huber: “2011, junior year, Cornell. I had two summer leases for apartments… I needed to sign a lease for the next year, had one from the year before, trying to find a sublet for both because I was not going to be an Ithaca. I posted my apartment on Craigslist for rent, nobody wanted to rent it because everybody was doing the same thing.”
(05:32) Nick Huber: “Went to my now business partner, Dan Hagberg,… And he got more excited than I was and we ran around in our cars together, 50-50 partners from right there forward. And luckily, he had a house with a basement that we filled up with stuff. Fast forward, I guess it was about a six-day blur, eight or 10 grand in cash sitting on our bed and we had ourselves a little business.”
(08:01) Nick Huber: “So we made a goal, we wanted to get 250 customers in the next year while we were still in school as seniors. We convinced a friend at Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa all to run branches of our business and bought a couple of cargo vans on Craigslist for $1,500 a piece and went big in our mind, which was uncomfortable. And the rest is history, I guess.”
(09:52) Nick Huber: “We tried a couple of very complex payment structures and we’ve learned really quickly that not everybody thinks like an entrepreneur and it’s best to just pay somebody a good wage to do the work.”
(15:13) Nick Huber: “2014, we went from 1.5 million in sales to 2.2, and the stress was cut by 80%, and our profitability tripled… Putting those systems in place and getting specialists inside of our business who could focus on what they were supposed to be good at, it allowed us to scale. And that was the turning point for Storage Squad to go from something that Nick and Dan had to be a part of, Nick and Dan had to own, Nick and Dan… if Nick and Dan went away, then nothing happened, to, okay. If Nick and Dan are focusing on hiring and managing and putting these systems in place, they’re not supposed to have a job in the inner workings of the company, and that’s how it can grow.” (Read: Eight Key Drivers of Company Value: Hub & Spoke)
(16:51) Nick Huber: “It wasn’t necessarily small, but it was prestigious schools where there was a lot of international students and out-of-state students. Like Florida and Georgia and Texas 80% of their students are from that state, whereas Cornell, Penn State, Michigan, Northeastern, Harvard, those schools, 70% of the students couldn’t even drive home, they had to fly home, so they store their stuff with us.”
(24:25) Nick Huber: “If you want to succeed in entrepreneurship, look for a business that, A, has a lot of profit, and B, has a fax machine, and compete with them.”
(39:22) Nick Huber: “Yeah. They did a press release on their website, so it’s Zippy Shell. It’s a company that does pod, pick-up and delivery. They drop off a pod at your house and move. It’s a really innovative company.”
(47:22) John Warrillow: “Yeah. For folks listening, if people ever want to learn about that tipping basket concept effectively, there can be a certain number of claims, a certain amount of claims against the escrow. And once the basket tips over, you hit a certain threshold, basically the entire amount is accessible by the acquirer.”
(53:28) Nick Huber: “I love teaching, I love doing this stuff with you, I love my podcast, The Sweaty Startup, I love sharing ideas. And I think if money was everything to me, that would be important, but I really like cycling and playing golf, and hanging out with friends, and I have two young kids.”
(54:23) Nick Huber: “They’re all service businesses, none of them are fun, none of them are sexy. So if you’re looking for a get-rich-quick scheme, go somewhere else, but go to SweatyStartup.com/Businesses-I-Love. And that’s a list of businesses that Nick Huber loves.”
About Our Guest
Nick Huber is just an average guy from Leopold, Indiana and his mission is to help people do common things uncommonly well.
Nick started the Sweaty Startup in December of 2018 because he believes the Shark Tank and Tech Crunch culture is ruining the real spirit of low-risk entrepreneurship. In college, Nick connected with many other entrepreneurs, and of the 20 or so people pursuing tech and “new idea” startups, not a one succeeded. They all went and got real jobs.
Nick is living proof that you don’t need a new idea and you don’t need to change the world to buck the 9-5 and design the life you want.
Nick founded Storage Squad with business partner Dan Hagberg in 2011 as an undergrad in college. The company has grown to 34 major colleges in 9 states and services over 10,000 customers each year. They successfully scaled one of the most logistically challenging services on the planet in the most expensive cities in America.
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