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Founder and CEO of O2E Brands, which includes home-service companies including 1-800-GOT-JUNK?

Imagine this: You just bought a new house, sold your old one, and it’s finally time to move. You pack up, schedule a mover and head to your new home ready to start your next adventure. There’s just one problem: The movers never arrive. They’ve taken your money, your trust and a truck load of your stuff and disappeared down the road.

Believe it or not, this scenario isn’t uncommon in the moving industry. Every year, hundreds of people hire one-off movers trying to save money, only to be left empty-handed – and empty-pocketed – when they arrive at their new home.

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That’s because the requirements to open and operate a moving company are basically nil. Two decades ago, the government reduced moving industry standards, kiboshing residents’ protection against scam businesses. Over the years, this lack of regulation has made the moving industry ripe for criminal activity. Becoming a “professional” moving company now requires about the same information as signing up for a Facebook account.

Why professionalism matters in unstandardized industries

Given that the industry is basically the wild west of the business world, people thought I was crazy when I decided to launch a moving business. Naysayers said the moving industry was simply too big to make a difference with customer service.

I disagreed. My family and I had just gone through an exceptionally challenging move. The company we hired was unprofessional, disorganized and disrespectful. I knew we couldn’t be the only ones who had had this kind of experience, and I wondered whether there was a way to build a bigger, better moving company. That’s how our moving company, You Move Me, came to be: We wanted to lead a new way forward for the moving industry.

Customers in all industries share the same basic need: trust. They want to know the brands they spend their hard-earned money on will follow through on their service promise. In fact, the biggest destroyers of a company’s reputation are lying about or misrepresenting a product or service, or intentionally engaging in wrong or illegal activity.

With moving, the stakes are high: Customers are literally opening their door to strangers and trusting them with their possessions. It’s also an essential service that people don’t seem to think is worth paying a premium for. It’s this need for trust and propensity for a bargain that rogue movers take advantage of, offering ridiculously low rates and then running off with their customers’ belongings. But as the old saying goes, good things aren’t cheap and cheap things aren’t good. This is as true in the moving industry as it is for anything else.

Professionalism in any service business is smart strategy – in unstandardized industries, it’s critical. With a lack of regulation, customers have no choice but to put their faith in a stranger’s hands. As service providers, we have a responsibility to follow through with professionalism and integrity.

Steer clear of rogue movers

Rogue movers give the entire industry a bad name, and it’s something we have to fight against. These so-called “professional” companies can’t even be reported or investigated because they aren’t real companies at all. The scam artists behind them have set themselves up to be untraceable.

You can avoid getting scammed if you know what to look for. Whenever you hire a mover, the onus is on you to do thorough research. Online reviews and word-of-mouth will give you a reliable, unbiased look at a company’s level of service in action. But you should dive deeper to find out just how reputable your mover really is.

Sometimes, companies will change names every few years to escape a bad reputation, so always check the company’s name with the Better Business Bureau; they list all past and current complaints. If the company isn’t a member (or it’s not in good standing), it’s a sign of an unqualified or unethical business. You can also check with the Canadian Association of Movers, Canada’s only movers association that regulates and records reputable and disreputable movers.

Before you sign on the dotted line, always get two or three written, on-site estimates that outline everything that’s included. To protect yourself, ask to see the company’s insurance policy, and get added coverage of your own if necessary.

I can’t stand it when people take advantage of others. It’s unfortunate that the moving industry has reached this point, but I believe it is changing. You can’t transform an industry overnight, but by building a truly professional moving company, we’re doing our part to move in a positive direction, one box at a time.

Executives, educators and human resources experts contribute to the ongoing Leadership Lab series.

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