Strong moves up and expands naturally

Shaun Robinson co-founded Strong College Students out of his apartment at USF. The company’s new office in a 10,000-square-foot warehouse complex includes an area to train employees and franchisees. Photo by Mark Wemple.

There are still unpacked boxes in the corner of Shaun Robinson’s office from his firm’s recent move to a larger space. The 28-year-old executive has seen such an increase in business at his moving company that he had employees taking calls and servicing customers while the firm relocated to larger space.

And by espousing values of sustainability, like its plan to install a biodiesel dispense machine at its location, the firm is nabbing demand from the burgeoning green consumer. Robinson, president and CEO of the Tampa-based moving company, says the firm hit record earnings for each month so far this year and is primed to hit 900 moves for 2011. The firm moved itself in November when it outgrew its previous space, and is working on Robinson’s vision to turn the brand into a franchise. In fact, two Florida franchisees have already been signed, and another possible franchisee is located in Georgia. This bodes well for Strong College Students, Robinson explains. “The demand is there,” he says.

To keep his company’s mission strong, Strong College Students’ new facility, which he envisions as the national headquarters for his firm, serves as a training ground for potential franchisees. In the center, Robinson says he will run rigorous training sessions to ensure the franchisee understands the firm’s values — and how they fit with its business plan.

Running a firm with an employee base that mainly includes college students is somewhat an obstacle, but Robinson explains he is well equipped to surmount that challenge. He started Strong College Students while he was in college at University of South Florida, balancing girlfriend duties and membership in a fraternity. “I was there,” he says. The company keeps track of each student’s availability, adding staff if necessary, and even has a shower on site. This avoids the need for the student to go home between work and class. Managing schedules is difficult, but hiring a loafing college student can be even more damaging. Strong College Students bucks that worry by eschewing interviews and holding tryouts. “Anyone can be coached on how to perform well in an interview,” Robinson states. “We want to push (potential employees.)”

Tests of agility, speed and — of course — strength are held in Strong College Students’ headquarters at its training facility. A daunting set of stairs leads up to a platform housing renditions of an office, bedroom and living room. The employee is put to the test moving the furniture and receives a grade ranging from “A” to “F.” Throughout the test, management is judging for attentiveness, and a pop-quiz is administered. Robinson says he cherishes the opportunity to mentor college students who are uncertain about the future. He asks what their goals are for the next five years and what he can do to assist them. The strong bonds that develop between employees and management are similar to a fraternity, he says. “I’m kind of the cheerleader behind the scenes,” Robinson says. Robinson is confident that the strength of his firm’s model and its recession-resistant quality will bring in franchisees. “People will always be moving, there will always be people getting married, and there will always be children being born,” Robinson says. “Life moves on.”