Today on The Fastest Growing Companies podcast, we're talking to the Founder & CEO of Simple Box, Ross Black.
Today on The Fastest Growing Companies podcast, we're talking to the Founder & CEO of Simple Box, Ross Black.
Chris Ronzio (00:39):
What's up everyone. Welcome back. I'm Chris Ronzio and today I'm here with Ross Black. He is the founder and CEO of Simple Box. Hey Ross.
Ross Black (00:48):
Hey, how are you doing, man?
Chris Ronzio (00:49):
Good. Thanks for being here.
Ross Black (00:51):
Yeah, it's great to be here.
Chris Ronzio (00:52):
So, tell me just the basics. What is Simple Box for anyone that hasn't heard of it?
Ross Black (00:58):
Yeah. We, we're a storage company and we do portable storage, so we'll help people move from one place to the next. Um, moving is probably at the top of the list of people's like most stressful thing that they could imagine doing, there's a lot of excitement usually with it too. But, our goal is just to kind of simplify the moving process, even as someone is kind of doing it themselves, you know,
Chris Ronzio (01:24):
You try to make it easy, make moving easy. I've got, I don't see too many employees face-to-face these days, but I've got one team member that's in the office that's moving right now and I know how stressful it can be.
Ross Black (01:35):
Chris Ronzio (01:36):
Thank you for what you do. Now, I was on your profile before and saw you've had this company for 24 years. Is that correct?
Ross Black (01:42):
Chris Ronzio (01:43):
I feel like that is a lifetime.
Ross Black (01:45):
I know. I feel like, I feel like I'm old. We're starting to act our age finally now, but yeah. I started the company when I was in high school. So, that's gave us a little bit of a headstart on the number of years. I guess.
Chris Ronzio (01:59):
I love that. I started my first company in high school too, but I only lasted 12 before I jumped out. So you are more disciplined than I was.
Ross Black (02:08):
I was just talking with a friend saying lik the one thing my no business plan ever really talks about is like, how, how is this going to end? And especially as a like student, you know, or a teenager, you're not thinking about the end of anything. Right. You're just thinking about beginnings. I wish someone would've walked me through that a little earlier.
Chris Ronzio (02:26):
So, 24 years in business, but in the last like three or four years, you've gone from 16 people to 30 people like doubled in size. And so it seems like over the last few years, like you said, starting to act your age, but really . have hit some kind of growth. I like to ask people why did they get into this business? I mean, for you in high school, how did you decide to make a mobile storage company?
Ross Black (02:50):
Oh, I know, probably by accident and I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs. My parents moved to America when I was 13. And so, kind of had this idea that, that anything is possible, you know, but my parents had restaurants and bakery. I grew up in a bakery. And so I just saw them working so hard every day to make donuts and hope to make a nickel off each one of them. And then hope that the same people that bought that donut today will come back tomorrow and buy another one. And I just, from like a pretty early age, I think I knew that I would be in business of some kind, but I wanted it to be something that had a little longer, like a little longer cycle between when you needed to ask your customer to come back again. And there's probably nothing longer than storage because I think it's like Newton's first law probably an object at rest tends to stay at rest unless enacted on by another force.
Chris Ronzio (03:56):
That's your business story right there. Yeah.
Ross Black (03:56):
Chris Ronzio (03:58):
So, to last this long and be in business and successful this long, what do you think has been like the thing that makes your company so special? Why do people pick you?
Ross Black (04:08):
Well, I think it's a heart of service, and that I get from my parents for sure. And I mean, it's not just me, it's our whole team. My dad just, I think instilled on us like hospitality, open your doors, serve enough people and help enough people get what they want and somebody you'll be able to get what you want. I think that when it comes to the storage side of things, it's just, you're looking at this mountain of stuff. This stuff is not the most important thing in your life. Um, but it definitely is an important thing that it's got to get dealt with. So you can focus on the things that actually matter most. We just feel like the best thing that we can do is just, it's just sort of like, it's basically, how can I help you? And it's usually I can help you by just providing a space, getting as close to where you need it as possible, and then you can carry on and do what ever else you need to do.
Chris Ronzio (05:01):
Just solve the problem quickly. Right? As long as you help them, we have a core value. That's a, it's called carry the groceries, because right before I started my first business, I was bagging groceries in a supermarket. And I just thought like, what would remind people of that helpfulness of just like to carry the load for someone else?
Ross Black (05:20):
Absolutely. Wow. That's a great, I love that kind of image for your value too so, yeah.
Chris Ronzio (05:27):
Cool. So, as you think back, you know, you obviously have had the business a while, but for the first 20 years you operated, you, you built it to a team of, you know, a dozen or 15 people. And then for the next four years, you doubled in size. And so what was the tipping point you think that really made you take that next leap?
Ross Black (05:50):
Probably, we were probably in this kind of like whitewater, owning a job instead of owning a business mode. And honestly, I'm still probably there at what a lot of my days are there still, but I think just realizing that we've got a good concept, people love it. Um, and we love serving in this way. But it really would be so much better if we were solving problems now that could be multiplied in the future and just kind of eliminate some of the hassle and the headache of running a business, but kind of multiply the opportunity to. I think I probably just had this bit of uneasiness myself thinking like, oh man, we're just in this awkward spot of just a couple of locations and just a fairly small team. One person leaves on vacation when you've got a dozen on your team. And you're all like carrying quite a heavy load, but when you've got 30 people, you can manage that a little better.
Chris Ronzio (06:53):
Yes. So the uneasiness you mentioned when you've got a smaller team, how did you bring yourself to take the risk of adding more team members and kind of going into that uncomfortable space where maybe it's growing bigger than you think you're ready for it? Did that, did you feel like that?
Ross Black (07:10):
Yeah, I think my whole family has always had this, like it's almost like my big fat Greek wedding type of mentality. Like the more the merrier. And so we constantly are always inviting people in like, Hey if you're looking to work with people you love and do work that you would love, to come and join us. So it probably happened, it probably didn't feel so much like a risk as a, like oh, let's just keep adding to this. I hate to say family because sometimes that can be really strange, but...
Chris Ronzio (07:50):
It's like an abundance mindset, if you find more good people, then it's easier to grow. So over the last, I guess, couple of decades, have there been moments where you felt like, I don't know if this thing's going to work?
Ross Black (08:03):
Oh, my word. Yeah. I feel like every Thursday night, Friday's using like my most productive day, because every Thursday, I think I'm just feeling, you know, kind of take an evaluation. I've tried to practice GTD and so Friday morning ends up being my weekly review and I just have this like haunting. Wow. Did I get anything done this week? Or did I get any of the right things done this week? So probably almost on a weekly basis. It's like, that's my Thursday thing. And it probably does compel me to make Friday really count, instead of cruising into the weekend, I really make it a strong end of the week.
Chris Ronzio (08:45):
I love that you do the getting things done, but that it also causes you stress.
Ross Black (08:50):
Exactly. This is not what, not what he intended, I think. Right?
Chris Ronzio (08:54):
It's motivating, at least. It's working. So then, when you think about the growth over the years, there's gotta be something that, maybe about your business model, maybe about the type of customer you focus on, maybe about the locations you serve. I mean, what sort of areas did you focus or double down that really helped you grow? Yeah, we focused, just in the basically complete opposite area where our kind of the big name competitors are. It's where we live. I've got four kids. And so we kind of just focused on serving areas where we live and where our friends or family live and kind of think about that like 1000 fans concept. And you can maybe cheat a little bit by having a hundred, like family members or friends or whatever, you know? That definitely was a strategic choice, I think, just to choose, to not even be where our competitors are. I love our competition because they do, they run really professional organized businesses and it does compel us to kind of keep pace. But at the same time, we really are, I don't know, serving in such unique markets that I don't have to be looking over my shoulder constantly here.
Chris Ronzio (10:14):
I know you mentioned your four kids and I've got two kids as well. I think a new and untapped market would be public storage containers for children, so...
Ross Black (10:21):
Oh my goodness.
Chris Ronzio (10:22):
Kids can like put all their crap in there, just leave it in the driveway. I think that'd be fire.
Ross Black (10:29):
I tell you what, what so much of our customer base is, it's deferred decision-making for people in their kind of late forties, early fifties heading into empty nest. They've got all of their stuff, all their kids' stuff. Maybe even an older generation's stuff. And it's like, what do I do with it? I know there's value here somewhere, but I have zero time or just bandwidth to actually decide on these things. And so it's like shove it all in, in a box. We'll deal with that on another day.
Chris Ronzio (11:00):
Ross Black (11:02):
I know, man.
Chris Ronzio (11:04):
All right. How about you and your role, like over the years, you know, from high school to now, I imagine you've evolved quite a bit. And so, whether it's the day-to-day your responsibility is, or just your, how you are as a leader, how do you think you've changed to enable some of this growth?
Ross Black (11:23):
I think I'm just now, like we talked about acting our age. I think I'm just over these last couple of years realized that I am the bottleneck in our company. I could probably be quite a bit of the heartbeat, but if the decisions need to be all filtered through me, I mean, I suffer from the same kind of indecision fatigue or decision fatigue or whatever, where you, where it's like, oh, I just don't know what to do. I think over the last few years, have really tried to just encourage my team. Like I trust you, you make great decisions. You wouldn't be on the team and you wouldn't be feeling comfortable in your role if you weren't a good, common sense decision maker with great customer service who fit our ideal team player values. And so I think that probably has been a change for me over the last couple of years. And it really couldn't have come a moment too soon. Just with some of the things that our family has worked through over the last year, I just wasn't, I just wasn't even available or around in order to really be able to make a lot of this decisions. So.
Chris Ronzio (12:33):
Ross Black (12:33):
Chris Ronzio (12:34):
Yeah. That's so valuable. So, I guess then for anyone listening, are there key roles or people you've put in place that you just wish you hired sooner?
Ross Black (12:43):
Oh, my word, yeah. A year and a half ago, we hired a head of operations. A friend of mine, Peter that I had, every Thursday or Friday, I would probably reach out to him saying like, oh my goodness, you want to meet for coffee? And we'll just talk about the latest issues that I'm dealing with. And he would kind of like, kind of coach me through it or just kind of brainstorm some solutions with me. And finally just asked him, would you just come and work with me? So he came on as head of operations and that, I wish I would've started right at the beginning. Cause my brain does not think really systematically. Like here's how to just repeat this process again and again. And so he's been a wonderful addition and then head of finance... Again my brain just, I make so many emotional decisions, gut level decisions. A lot of times they're right. But someone who just makes decisions without emotion, just looking at the finances is another area where I'm so grateful that we brought someone on for that, I guess about three years ago now. And that really, yeah, timing wise. That's probably where we've seen our, our growth come without too much chaos.
Chris Ronzio (13:58):
Wow. So, it's totally parallel. What a correlation between adding some of the operations and the finance side that you felt you didn't have, and then seeing that growth kind of skyrocket. That's great. That's, you know, thinking back in my business, I have more of the operation side, but yet I hired the finance person and I've got the marketing creative. So sometimes you just need to piece together the right building blocks.
Ross Black (14:21):
Absolutely. Yeah. I've heard this idea like think who not how, and I think I was constantly thinking how, how, how can I? How can I do these things? And, just when realizing like, well, who could do these things? Or who could, it's not just doing the things, but just taking responsibility for the outcome, right?
Chris Ronzio (14:37):
Absolutely. Uh, who not, how is, I think a Dan Sullivan concept, strategic coach. The book just came out. It was incredible. So highly recommend that if that's where you heard that.
Ross Black (14:50):
Chris Ronzio (14:50):
Yeah. Awesome. So what's next for Simple Box, as you think ahead to the next 24 years.
Ross Black (14:58):
[laughs] That is so, oh, it's so good to think that way. It's like, what do you really want? What do you want 24 years from now? Or even two years from now. Right? And, hey, I think you're in Arizona, right? And we have just opened our first location. We're like two months into serving in the west side of Phoenix.
Chris Ronzio (15:17):
Ross Black (15:17):
And, I believe we'll end up with probably two or three more locations, just serving customers that are moving to and from the area, around there. I love Hawaii. I love Maui. I've just been fortunate to be able to go on family vacation there a couple of times in my life. And I just, I don't, I think this will happen. I don't know if it will, but it's a great, like a picture to put for our whole team. I just say like, we'll know we have made it when we have a location in Maui, a business reason to go to Maui. And I just think about like, everything we do works with containers, everything that goes to and from Hawaii is in a container. Why can we not just put the two things together? So I think that's, that's the longterm where I would love to be. Just to serve, the Hawaiian islands, and enjoy it also.
Chris Ronzio (16:09):
I love that. So everybody that's listening, listen, how Ross is painting a future vision, casting this vision, designing a business in a way that suits his life. You know, you like Maui. So you want to take your business to Maui. That is something that so many people I think can learn from because really we design our businesses. We choose what the plan is for the next few years. And, you know, I think in my first business I said something very similar. We ended up shooting videos in O'ahu every year, every January. And is like a two week vacation that was just part of the job. So, I can't underscore that enough, you know, create a vision and then go get it. So thank you Ross for that. Before we wrap up here, you know, if people are looking to learn more about your company or you, where should they find you?
Ross Black (16:56):
Yeah. A website getsimplebox.com and, that probably points to a lot of my contact info. And probably most social media, it's like @rossdjblack. I'm, not super, super active, but I'm getting better at it. So.
Chris Ronzio (17:18):
Well, you heard it from Ross. He grew from 16 to 30 people and just the last few years after 24 years in business, he's clearly figured something out, built a great culture. Very family oriented, is focused in, on true fans to be different from the competition, removed himself as a bottleneck from the business and supported himself with some great leaders in finance and operations. So take a page from Ross's playbook or a few pages if you've been listening to this, you know, think through who you can supplement yourself with and how you can cast a vision for what you want out of the business for your life. Ross, thanks so much for being here.
Ross Black (17:56):
Well, thank you. And, um, I know, like I know a bit about your company and I don't know if you know that entrepreneur leadership tribe, ohh my word, you have so many raving fans there. And I'm a part of that group as well. I heard this quote about like, the immature mind constantly hops from one thing to another, the mature mind seeks to follow through. And I feel like what you are doing, not to do a sales pitch for your service, well I should, after you've done this for me, but I feel like what you do is you just help people. Like here's how to not be bouncing around, whether it's in training or just like in any kind of a process and just follow through. You want to become a mature person, you want to have a mature company? Here's what you do step by step. And so, I dunno, you've got to just like find a way to hop into that entrepreneur leadership group, because there's, you have so many raving fans there. People just kind of unsolicited saying like Trainual the bomb. And so, yeah.
Chris Ronzio (19:00):
Yeah. I appreciate you sharing that. We love the whole Ramsey Solutions team and entrepreneur leadership, and I think we're going to be at the next event whenever that is. So, very cool. Thanks again for being here, Ross. We'll talk soon.
Ross Black (19:11):
Absolutely. Appreciate it.