When asked what he thinks makes a company great, Doug Burgoyne keeps it simple: “Happy customers, happy employees and a positive bottom line.”
Burgoyne should know. He’s founder and president of Vancouver-based FROGBOX Inc. (www.frogbox.com), which, despite being in only its third year of business, appears on the path to greatness through a solid revenue model, forward-thinking ownership and clear strategic thinking.
FROGBOX offers a convenient, affordable and eco-friendly alternative to cardboard moving boxes and traditional moving supplies. They drop them off at your current home or office and pick them up empty at your new place.
Only one year after its 2008 launch, FROGBOX leaped into Seattle. That growth was followed up with an easterly expansion to Toronto in March 2010. Now with 12 employees on board, a proven revenue model, and hundreds of unsolicited requests, Burgoyne has made the decision to start franchising the business.
“We just made this decision final, so this is literally the first time we’re putting the news out there in any way, shape or form,” Burgoyne says. “We’ve been working on an operating manual and putting some systems in place, and will be starting to franchise in late 2010, with a rollout in early 2011.”
FROGBOX, he says, will choose a maximum of 10 North American franchisees to start – “high-calibre candidates who believe in our company’s social mission and share our conviction that what we’re doing has a higher mission beyond financial.”
Those qualities, he adds, will help ensure his company stays the course toward greatness, even when put in the hands of franchisees.
“Pitching in to protect the environment is a big part of what we do and, beyond that, we’re actually achieving our goal of changing consumers’ minds in terms of what they think about the moving industry. We’re making a difference in the market and on planet Earth. In my mind, it doesn’t get much greater than that.”
The powerful message of environmental responsibility, paired with exceptional customer service will, Burgoyne firmly believes, allow him to “build a brand and culture through word-of-mouth by providing the kind of service that people will appreciate, and won’t soon forget.
“It’s really about wanting our customers to have a great experience,” Burgoyne, 37, explains. Great service can be as simple as a delivery person calling to let a client know he is stuck in traffic and will be arriving a little later than expected. “When you have employees who are great at what they do, and who passionately carry out and deliver the service that we say we’re going to deliver as a company – that comes across in spades … even when a customer has been let down by your industry in the past.”
In fact, Burgoyne’s drive to change people’s views toward an industry that suffers from a largely “bad reputation” may, in the end, be what launches him to entrepreneurial greatness.
“Let’s face it, moving can be a real nightmare,” he says matter-of-factly. “Almost everyone has had a bad experience, myself included, whether it has to do with getting the right supplies, packing and organizing, or finding and hiring a reputable mover. One of our goals from the very beginning has been to try and change that perception, however we can.”
According to Burgoyne, it takes a combination of elements – not to mention a lot of hard work – to build a great business. “When I was thinking of starting up, I was actually at a crossroads in my career: I could accept a promotion from the [telecommunications] company I was working for, or I could follow my gut and take a risk,” he recalls. “People thought I was crazy, but I knew this was a great idea.”
In order to give his idea the legs it needed to stand on, one of Burgoyne’s first steps was to seek help from someone who had prior experience building a company from the ground up. “My professional background ranges from physiotherapy to high-tech sales. I earned an MBA from the University of Western Ontario … but starting a business from scratch was something that was new to me,” he admits. “I knew I needed to team up with someone who had those types of skills.”
Though he prefers to keep his silent partner silent, Burgoyne does reveal that this person has successfully taken private companies public in the past. He also says that, after the terms surrounding the newly formed partnership were solidified, the real work began.
“We spent eight months researching the idea and talking about the brand,” Burgoyne remembers. “Before we went full throttle, we wanted to make sure we were crystal clear on what the value of the business was, how we were going to grow it, and that it would be scalable from the ground up.”
Several discoveries made during this preliminary stage helped buoy Burgoyne’s belief in his fledgling company. “For me, the actual ‘aha’ moment was realizing that you could move with these boxes and it would be more convenient, just as affordable and arguably cheaper, and it’s environmentally friendly,” he says. “That’s when I knew that I wasn’t giving up my well-paying corporate job for anything less than a great opportunity.”
While FROGBOX, which Burgoyne launched with a silent partner in April 2008, isn’t a moving company per se, it does fill a niche within the sector that is often overlooked – not to mention playing perfectly to the go-green mindset of so many modern-day consumers.
“Most cardboard [boxes] can only be used twice, on average – though most are used less than twice – but FROGBOXes can be cleaned with an eco-friendly product and reused about 400 times before they need to be recycled,” Burgoyne says, pointing to the sturdy, stackable, bright-green plastic bins his firm rents out to customers for residential moves. “When you consider that, in Vancouver alone, about 450,000 cardboard boxes are used each and every month for residential moving, and that many of those boxes may potentially end up in the landfill … well, it seems like a no-brainer.”
In order to environmentally align the entire company with its signature product (FROGBOX also supplies customers with reusable totes and wardrobes, as well as eco-friendly moving supplies like recycled packing paper), Burgoyne equips all of his delivery trucks with computer software that maps routes and schedules based on postal codes, so that trips are ordered efficiently and mileage is greatly reduced.
He doesn’t stop there. FROGBOX donates a portion of its revenue to frog-habitat restoration projects, including the Vancouver Aquarium’s Oregon Spotted Frog Recovery and BC Frogwatch programs. The company has even partnered with Climate Smart to address climate change by helping businesses measure, reduce and offset their greenhouse gas emissions. And, FROGBOX donates one percent of its sales to frog habitat restoration.
“We want to run the company in every way we can with the lowest environmental footprint,” says Burgoyne. “We believe that we can be a successful business and do what is right for the environment – both at the same time.” The public, in turn, has rewarded FROGBOX with an overwhelmingly positive response – so much so that the grassroots venture has grown from a part-time Lower Mainland service to an international corporation operating in three major markets.
Burgoyne takes his cue, in part, from the success of another local start-up, 1-800-GOT-JUNK? – a waste-removal company he says provides a model to emulate when building a brand in an industry that does not have a particularly strong reputation.
In fact, when Burgoyne had a question regarding franchising and needed advice from an experienced entrepreneur, he turned to 1-800-GOT-JUNK? founder and CEO Brian Scudamore. Burgoyne submitted a question to Scudamore through Make it Business magazine (in which Scudamore wrote a business-expert column): “Hi Brian … My questions revolve around how to expand. We receive requests to franchise on a near-weekly basis, but have not decided if we want to grow through corporate locations or franchises. If you had it to do over again, would you still choose to franchise instead of opening corporate locations?”
Scudamore’s response, in part: “These are some of the most common questions I am asked as an entrepreneur. My answer is that, if I had to start my business over again would I still choose franchising over corporate locations – yes, I would.”
And so goes Burgoyne, following in the footsteps of an iconic Vancouver company.
Watch FROGBOX spring on to your television screen soon – the innovative company will be featured on an upcoming episode of the CBC-TV show Dragons’ Den (http://www.cbc.ca/dragonsden/), about promising entrepreneurs.