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Stories of Success After Service
At This Marine-Led Moving Company, Customer Service Comes With A Salute
The U.S. Marine Corps taught Nick Baucom how to move.
It was a skill he’d need to survive as an infantry rifleman patrolling the dusty streets of Al Kut, Iraq in 2003. And, years later, he’d apply the many lessons he learned as an infantry squad leader to launch a business called Two Marines Moving, a fast-growing enterprise in Virginia.
“Early on, I learned from my commanders that experience, trust and expertise matters,” said Baucom, 35. “It’s a lesson I used in the Marines as a sergeant and in business afterward.”
But to fully understand why Baucom decided to steep his moving company in Marine culture, it’s also important to know the history of military service and patriotism that runs through his family.
Baucom grew up in the suburbs of Memphis with military service in his genes. A great-great-grandfather was a corporal in the Union Army cavalry during the Civil War. And his grandfather fought heroically during the invasion of Pearl Harbor. That’s why Baucom signed up for the Marine Corps Reserve as soon as he turned 18, the earliest possible age one can enlist without parental consent. It was seven months after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
“I chose to serve because 9/11 was my generation’s Pearl Harbor,” he said. “I grew up with plenty and felt very fortunate to live in the country I do. I desired to serve.”
Baucom had no sooner checked into his reserve unit than it was activated to support planned combat operations in Iraq. College, which he had just begun, would have to wait. His unit arrived in Iraq in April 2003 and was soon conducting patrols.
During one such patrol through city streets, he acquired one of the first great lessons he’d get from military service. Insurgents had cut the power, and it was dark. Baucom was at the front of the patrol wearing his night-vision goggles (NVGs). He heard what sounded like a round being loaded into a rifle on a rooftop and halted the squad behind him. His full attention turned upward.
The problem is that wearing NVGs isn’t what it’s made out to be in the movies. They dramatically diminish a wearer’s depth perception and field of vision. So, even though Baucom was careful to glance down as he kept moving forward, he couldn’t make out the changing texture of the ground where he was about to step. The next thing he knew, he was nearly waist-deep in an open sewage trench. The possible threat above never materialized, and he had to keep moving with his patrol.
The experience stuck with Baucom, and it comes to mind whenever he gets into a bad situation and needs to keep going to get himself out of it—even when continuing is difficult.
“There are no timeouts when you have a mission to accomplish,” he said. “I realized if I could get through those kinds of experiences, anything life threw at me after that would be pretty easy,” he said.
Baucom figured he would open a business when he left the Marines. The entrepreneurial spirit he had displayed as a child—running a lawn-mowing business with employees at the age of 16, trying to sell his class notes to other students—had stayed with him.
So when Baucom separated from the Service in July 2008, he finished his undergraduate studies in political science at the University of Memphis and moved to the Washington, D.C. area because he wanted to live in a bigger city close to the beach. He then focused on finding what he’d do next.
“I saw an opportunity in the moving industry because it is not known for having high standards—of moving with a purpose, respect, integrity, people fulfilling their obligations,” Baucom said. “People hate having to hire movers because there are so many rip-off artists out there. Everything the Marines stand for is the opposite of that.”
On Nov. 10, 2008—coincidentally also the date of the Marine Corps’ founding—he formed the company that would become Two Marines Moving. He made the website in three days and threw an ad up on Craigslist. His office was the one-bedroom apartment where he lived.
He had no credit and didn’t even own a moving truck.
Lucky enough, his first customer just needed hands to help load a rental truck. Revenues for that first work: $140.
The business grew quickly. Customers liked the Marine Corps polish, reporters took notice and Two Marines landed a customer who spent $40,000 on a few moves. That gave Baucom the capital to expand. By the end of the first year, Two Marines Moving had earned more than $660,000 in revenue.
Baucom bought trucks and moved into a 10,000-square-foot office and storage facility in an industrial section of Alexandria, Virginia. He hired veterans and put them to work in the desert-camouflaged trousers typically worn by deployed Marines. He put duty-affirming posters on the wall, which would be familiar to anyone who has walked through a military base, and he developed a Marines-style organizational hierarchy to make the company feel like an extension of the Service.
By the end of 2014, Two Marines had seen revenues grow to $4.1 million, a number that remains steady today. The company has completed up to 400 moves a month for the last six years and has earned four stars or higher on major customer review sites.
About two-thirds of the 80 people employed by Two Marines are veterans from several branches of the Armed Forces. He says it’s a personal mark of success to help transition men and women out of service into successful civilian lives. But it’s not just to make himself feel good; veterans bring grit and determination, qualities that aren’t always easy to find in those who haven’t served.
Good personnel, he said, is key to the business’s long-term prospects.
This article was created under contract between the Forbes content studio and the Department of Defense Joint Advertising Marketing Research & Studies office. It originally ran on Forbes under the title “Military Made.” This collaboration does not constitute or imply endorsement, recommendation, or favoring of Forbes or any companies mentioned in these articles, including their services, products, clients or partners by the Department of Defense.