At the client showcase in Jefferson City in 2010, John Cheary of
Affordable Moving Inc. describes the invaluable help received from MO SBTDC,
learning about profit and loss statements, followed by training in marketing,
accounting and finance.
Three years ago the moving industry faced a turning point, according to John Cheary. He should know. He owns Affordable Moving Services Inc., the National Van Lines affiliate in Branson.
The moving industry is to the economy like the canary is to the coal mine ... a precursor of things to come, says John. Demand for moving services dried up across the country in 2007, a year ahead of the national downturn in the economy.
"We could tell something was up," John recalls. "Commercial moves, military moves, private moves all virtually disappeared. Business was bad. I thought we were going under."
To determine his next move, Cheary sought advice from a long-time source of entrepreneurial guidance ... the business development specialists at Missouri State University's Small Business and Technology Development Center. Rayanna Anderson, director of the center, and Isabel Eisenhauer, SBTDC consultant, listened to John's dilemma and offered alternatives for him to consider.
"They can't make decisions for me and they can't sit in my seat, but they opened up my mind and gave me additional avenues to consider," says John. "Being a small business owner can be lonely. You can't confide many things with your employees or your customers or even with other small business owners, so where do you turn? I turn to the SBTDC."
Since then John has successfully consolidated his business. He reduced expenses, moved his business to a more efficient location, and downsized his staff while maintaining cash flow and retaining the focus of his business on the customer.
"We treat this business like a ministry, helping people in need," says John. "You get into people's lives. I take the approach that I'm teaching people about moving."
Teaching is second nature to John. Before he entered the moving industry, he'd spent 26 years as a high school music teacher and band director in Tipton, Monett, Springfield and Branson. He was dedicated to his students and developed an individually directed music system that he wrote and published in a six-volume textbook.
While he loved working with young people, John found his intensity and dedication took a toll on him. Retiring from teaching, he turned to a new field ... moving. Finding a new outlet for his intensity and dedication, John and his wife, Jacque, started AMS in 1996.
"Our goal is always to save the customer money. We try to educate the customer completely."
John's approach to his clients is similar to the approach he found at the SBTDC when he first sought expert business advice shortly after starting his company.
An initial class from Anderson in profit and loss statements led to a series of consultations on the growth and development of his business. Eventually he explored other aspects of business with classes from the SBTDC in marketing, accounting and finance.
While the economy boomed, the moving industry thrived. So did Affordable Moving Services. But 2007 came and the moving business came to a near halt. It was then John met with the SBTDC to discuss alternatives.
"We covered many topics, from how to keep from going bankrupt to what to do if we did go bankrupt, and everything in between," he recalls. "With Isabel's help we found a way to keep going. The joy for us is providing for the customers and my employees ... and I can bring my dog to work!"
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This story was featured in the September 2010 newsletter.
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