CRYSTAL LAKE – In the back of Alex and Wendy Petrusha’s first Two Men and a Truck location was a nursery with a playpen and a Little Tykes slide.
The couple along with their 4-year-old daughter had recently moved to the area from Detroit – Alex Petrusha worked for Chrysler for 13 years and Wendy Petrusha worked for an auto supplier – and they wanted to start their own business.
“We were going back and forth between the two and trying to juggle everything, our personal life and our business life,” Alex Petrusha said. “Looking back on it now, it’s the things that you remember that make it all worth while.”
The Petrushas now have two locations, the original one, which opened in North Aurora about 10 years ago, and the second one in Crystal Lake, which opened in 2011. (They also now have three children.)
This year, they were recognized as Franchisee of the Year, picked by the corporate Two Men and a Truck to be recognized at the annual International Franchise Association conference in Washington, D.C., said Matt Haller, the association’s vice president of public affairs and the chief of staff to the president and CEO.
The franchise sector represents about 3.4 percent, or about $472 billion, of the U.S. gross domestic product and about 8.3 million jobs, according to the International Franchise Association.
“The industry has really grown in the last 50 or so years, really in the last 10 or 15 years,” Haller said. “The types of businesses in the franchise sector have really ballooned in the last decade.
“While restaurants and hotels are very well known, there’s pet care and home care, different types of service industries. You can’t go to any street corner in America without encountering a franchise.”
Ten years ago, when the Petrushas were looking into opening a small business, a franchise seemed to make sense.
“There seemed to be less risk involved,” Alex Petrusha said. “I look at us as a small business. On paper, we’re part of the franchise. We don’t have all the freedom that a small business owner has to change things, but on the flip side, why go out and try to recreate the wheel?”
Petrusha credits the Two Men and a Truck model for putting him where he is as quickly as he’s gotten there.
At first, the lack of control was a challenge, especially coming from an engineering and analytic background, he said. But as time has passed, he said he has a better understanding of why the different rules and standards exist.
Two Men and a Truck got its start 20 years ago with two high school boys, Brig and Jon Sorber, who were looking to make a little extra cash. After the boys went to college, their mother, Mary Ellen Sheets, began to grow the company using the franchise model, said the company’s president, Randy Shacka.
“We’ve chosen to franchise out because we believe in finding people who have passion and energy,” Shacka said.
That includes people such as the Petrushas who were picked for the Franchisee of the Year award for their high customer-approval rating and Alex Petrusha’s work on the company’s advisory council, he said.
Two Men and a Truck
What is it? A moving company franchise
Location: 1095 Pingree Road, Suite 107, Crystal Lake
Office is open: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to noon Saturday