Justin Waltz of The Junkluggers: Five Things I Wish I Knew Before Opening a Franchise

An Interview With Cynthia Corsetti

Reflect Inwards and Do Your Research — Evaluating your skills, interests and goals can help determine the best franchise for you. I even recommend doing a self-assessment test to see what business suggestions come up. Additionally, assess your comfort level with following established systems versus running your own business. While franchising is a great business model, it’s not for everyone. Lastly, research the history of the franchisor. This can include how long they’ve been in business, their reputation, commitment to innovation, competition and local market demand.

The world of franchising offers a unique blend of entrepreneurship and established business models. However, navigating the franchise landscape can be daunting, especially for those embarking on this journey for the first time. There are lessons to be learned, pitfalls to avoid, and success stories to be inspired by. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Justin Waltz.

Justin Waltz has been Brand President of The Junkluggers since January 2024. With over a decade of experience in junk removal and franchise operations, he has held significant roles at 1–800-GOT-JUNK and College HUNKS Hauling Junk & Moving®, where he showcased his skills in business growth and sustainability. At The Junkluggers, he is dedicated to strengthening relationships with franchise owners, expanding the brand’s national footprint, driving technological innovation, and upholding the brand’s commitment to environmental responsibility and community impact.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive into our discussion about succession, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit, but my career in the junk removal industry certainly had humble beginnings. In 2005, I joined 1–800-GOT-JUNK as a truck driver and proudly helped my franchise reach $1.7 million in revenue that year. I eventually transitioned to the corporate side of the industry and became a franchise business consultant. I played a key role in growing another up-and-coming junk removal brand — College HUNKS Hauling Junk & Moving. There, I helped grow the brand’s portfolio to 120 owners and boost the average unit volume (AUV) from $200,000 to $1 million. After that, I became the managing director of franchise operations for Big Blue Swim School where I oversaw franchise owner engagement and training, profitability and strategic planning. I eventually saw an opportunity to lead The Junkluggers and knew what my industry experience and ideas could bring to the table. Reflecting on my career journey, I never imagined I’d one day become the brand president of a junk removal company. I’m grateful for every experience that has shaped me into the leader I am today.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

Some of the most interesting stories from my career come from my days on a junk removal truck. In this line of work, nearly every job involves a family in transition, whether they are upsizing, downsizing, or facing a positive or crisis situation. The most fascinating aspect of my career was meeting new people and having the chance to positively influence their lives and futures, including my colleagues on the truck. I’ve met professional athletes, scientists, teachers, firefighters, and many others who have gone on to have remarkable careers, and I remain friends with many of them today. Rather than having one singular story, I find every day in junk removal is uniquely different and interesting.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

My favorite life lesson is: “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” This quote has always resonated with me deeply, and I strive to exemplify it every day. Growing up, I learned the best people to be around, both professionally and personally, are those with strong work ethics and positive outlooks. Coming from a family of hard workers in the automotive and hospitality industries, I saw how long hours and a positive attitude were prioritized over formal education. Over time, I’ve realized life is full of challenges and unexpected turns, and business is no exception. Small business ownership is often glorified, glossing over the difficulties and hard truths. That’s why I believe it’s crucial to maintain a positive attitude for yourself, your family, friends, employees, and customers.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I believe The Junkluggers stands out to customers because of its commitment to environmental responsibility and exceptional customer service. We pride ourselves on being an eco-conscious alternative to competitors, emphasizing donation and recycling efforts. We don’t just “talk the talk” — we deliver top-notch junk removal services nationwide while positively impacting the planet through responsible disposal, recycling initiatives, and local charity partnerships. Uniquely, we’re also the only junk removal brand to launch Remix Markets, another service line offered by The Junkluggers that allows franchise owners to rehome and recycle secondhand items. Remix Markets aims to give items a second chance, aligning with our mission to enhance lives, communities, and the environment. Items that can’t be accepted by donation centers or recycling partners are evaluated at Remix Market, with a portion of sales supporting local charities. Furniture that may be slightly damaged, too worn, or even items that donation centers are overstocked with often get turned away. This initiative helps repurpose furniture and goods that might otherwise be discarded, making a meaningful difference in our communities.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. What factors did you consider when selecting your franchise, and how did you determine it was the right fit for you?

While I am not a franchise owner myself, ensuring the success of our franchise owners is our top priority at The Junkluggers. Our mission is to simplify the process of starting a business and provide unwavering support throughout the franchise ownership journey. We offer comprehensive training programs that include online learning, classroom instruction, and hands-on field practice to fully equip franchise owners to run their businesses. While we’re open to prospective franchise owners from all walks of life, we’re always seeking those who are passionate about running an eco-conscious business. An ideal franchisee has the desire to grow and manage a multi-truck operation and may even have sales, marketing and operations experience. However, these skills nor a background in junk removal are required to become a successful owner. We will provide established systems and necessary training to help franchisees open a Junkluggers franchise, hire staff, and develop strong customer relationships.

Can you share a significant challenge you faced while establishing your franchise? How did you overcome this obstacle, and what did this experience teach you about running a successful franchise?

I think one of the hardest parts of owning your own franchise is successfully marketing your services. This is a common challenge we’ve heard from both new and established franchise owners. Franchise owners have a lot to worry about as it is — profits, operations, staffing, and competition, to name a few, which leaves little time to handle customer outreach. That’s why The Junkluggers, under our parent company Authority Brands, recognizes these challenges and provides robust marketing support to alleviate this burden. We’ll find the customers so that they can handle the junk. Our top-of-the-line marketing system includes a digital website and a centralized call center to handle inquiries, allowing franchise owners to focus on their business. We assist in developing initial marketing strategies, generating public relations buzz, and partnering with local advertising platforms to enhance visibility and attract potential customers.

Looking back to when you first started your franchise, what was one aspect that completely took you by surprise? This could be related to the franchising process, customer interactions, or day-to-day management that you hadn’t anticipated.

While I did not start The Junkluggers franchise, I was surprised by the company culture and franchisee morale when I joined the team as Brand President. I knew we had an incredible team of successful franchise owners in our system, but joining an already established brand can present unique challenges and surprises. From my perspective, effective and transparent communication is crucial in my position. Building trust with our franchisees takes time and effort, which is why I’m keen on developing strong relationships with our owners nationwide. I’m getting to know them personally, collecting feedback, and understanding ways to improve our business. To support our franchisees and help grow our business, I’ve created four pillars of success, all focused on franchisee needs: Franchisee Growth, Franchisee Profitability, Franchisee Fulfillment, and Franchisee Engagement. I recognize each franchise owner has a unique journey with The Junkluggers, and it’s incredibly important to me that we exceed their expectations and continually improve the business for them. I’m committed to understanding what changes need to be made, and when those changes are implemented, I want our franchisees to understand the rationale behind my decisions and how they will benefit from them.

In hindsight, what advice would you give to potential franchisees about selecting a franchise that aligns with their personal and professional goals?

There are a lot of factors to consider when investing in a franchise such as financial commitments, relevant skills, availability, and franchisor support. However, I strongly believe potential franchisees should choose to invest in an industry they are passionate about. Since running a franchise involves daily commitment, choosing a business you love can provide motivation, especially during challenging times. I also think it’s important to consider how the franchise fits with your lifestyle. Some franchises demand more hands-on involvement and longer hours, which can impact work-life balance and time spent with family and friends. For example, a restaurant franchise may require longer hours, whereas a home service or retail franchise may offer more flexibility to accommodate personal schedules. Finding a balance that suits your lifestyle ensures you can effectively manage your franchise while maintaining personal well-being.

How do you balance adhering to the established systems of your franchise with the need to innovate and adapt to your local market? Can you provide an example of a successful adaptation or innovation you implemented in your franchise?

I’m a firm believer that technological innovation is the way of the future. While franchises are tried-and-true business models, it’s essential to remain open to new ideas and adapt to meet evolving client needs. Flexibility and readiness to adjust your products, services, or messaging are crucial in staying relevant. That’s why under my leadership, we’ve recently implemented proprietary AI advancements into The Junkluggers’ appointment center and marketing strategies. This integration aims to optimize customer data use, enabling us to track, manage and analyze every aspect of our business remotely. This technology not only streamlines daily operations, but positions us uniquely against our competitors.

What are your “Five Things I Wish I Knew Before Opening a Franchise”?

Opening a franchise is incredibly rewarding, but it’s important to go in with your eyes wide open. My five pieces of advice are:

1. Reflect Inwards and Do Your Research — Evaluating your skills, interests and goals can help determine the best franchise for you. I even recommend doing a self-assessment test to see what business suggestions come up. Additionally, assess your comfort level with following established systems versus running your own business. While franchising is a great business model, it’s not for everyone. Lastly, research the history of the franchisor. This can include how long they’ve been in business, their reputation, commitment to innovation, competition and local market demand.

2. Understand the Costs Involved — Beyond the upfront franchising fee, prospective franchisees should be aware of the additional financial commitments involved in franchising. This includes ongoing royalties, equipment purchases, inventory stocking, marketing expenditures, company vehicles, payroll, and potential renewal fees should you want to stay on. For those investing in brick-and-mortar locations, additional costs like construction and safety compliance may apply. To avoid surprises, prospective franchisees should thoroughly review the Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD). This document provides detailed insights into the financial health of the brand and outlines all financial obligations and expectations. By understanding these financial implications upfront, potential franchisees can make informed decisions and better plan for their investment.

3. Evaluate the Level of Franchisor Support — While franchisors offer owners an established business model and some level of support, the extent and quality of this support can vary. This should include not only operational training but also guidance on marketing strategies, customer service standards, and technological tools. For instance, it’s important to keep in mind the comprehensiveness of initial training and the availability of support for marketing, operations, and troubleshooting. As part of Authority Brands, a leading home services franchisor, The Junkluggers is well-equipped to provide franchise owners with ongoing support to aid their business’s growth and prosperity. From day one, we set franchisees up with elevated training sessions, networking opportunities, established marketing tactics, advanced technology and ongoing support to enable them to succeed.

4. Confirm the Commitment Required — Running a franchise is a significant commitment! It’s essential for franchisees to fully grasp the level of involvement required to successfully manage their business. Many franchises require hands-on, active management to keep operations running smoothly. While running a mobile franchise like The Junkluggers offers more flexibility compared to a franchise with a fixed location, we do not permit absentee or part-time ownership. This is to ensure our franchise owners are completely immersed in their business. Additionally, prospective franchisees should understand the typical tenure of franchise agreements, which often span multiple years. For instance, should you be granted a Junkluggers franchise, you’ll be locked into a ten-year commitment.

5. Network, Network, Network — Before committing to a franchise investment, potential franchisees should leverage the opportunity to meet with experienced franchisees. They can provide you with advice on what to look for in a franchise and may have knowledge of the success or reliability of the franchise you’re considering. They may even have some other franchises in mind for you. Their firsthand experiences and insights can provide invaluable guidance on what to expect and how to navigate potential challenges. Asking about their daily operations, the support they receive from the franchisor, profitability, and any challenges they face is worth knowing before investing. And once you do sign on as a franchise owner somewhere, you’ll be introduced to a large network of like-minded individuals within your franchise community. This network can serve as a valuable resource for ongoing mentorship, collaboration and professional growth as you embark on your franchise journey.

As your franchise has grown, what have been the key drivers of its success? Looking forward, what strategies do you plan to implement to ensure continued growth and sustainability in an ever-evolving market?

For the past 20 years, The Junkluggers has been one of the leading eco-conscious junk removal companies in the nation. Since our inception, we’ve experienced tremendous growth and since being acquired by Authority Brands in 2022, we’ve expanded to operate 117 units across 300 territories and show no signs of slowing down! I truly believe our success is rooted in our unwavering commitment to our franchise owners and our prioritization of environmental responsibility. We are committed to providing an elevated customer experience while making a positive impact on the environment and communities we serve. Looking ahead to the next 20 years, our mission remains steadfast: to continue making a positive impact on the planet while providing top-notch junk removal services nationwide. As we celebrate our milestone 20th year, we are excited to announce franchising opportunities available nationwide, focusing on expanding in major cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Boston, Washington DC and San Francisco. These cities, many of which have ambitious zero-waste goals by 2030, present significant opportunities for us to meet essential community needs in sustainable waste management.

Off-topic, but I’m curious. As someone steering the ship, what thoughts or concerns often keep you awake at night? How do those thoughts influence your daily decision-making process?

As a leader in the waste management sector, I frequently reflect on the industry, its entrepreneurs, and the success of our franchise owners. My primary concern is the safety of all our stakeholders, including drivers and the families we impact. While we prioritize environmental sustainability and waste diversion, ensuring the safety of our employees and clients is paramount. Additionally, I focus on the profitability of our franchise owners, striving to build sustainable businesses that create jobs, generate profits, and give back to the community.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

At The Junkluggers, our mission, values, and goals around re-homing, landfill diversion, and zero waste are essential to our impact on the communities we serve and the junk removal industry. The movements I most strongly advocate for are zero waste and zero landfill. While I’m not the first brand president to champion this cause, I strive to advance these movements with our franchise owners nationwide, significantly influencing our industry’s approach to diversion, rehoming, and environmental sustainability.

How can our readers further follow you online?

For additional information and to learn about our franchising opportunities, readers can visit Junkluggers.com or follow us on social media:

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

About the Interviewer: Cynthia Corsetti is an esteemed executive coach with over two decades in corporate leadership and 11 years in executive coaching. Author of the upcoming book, “Dark Drivers,” she guides high-performing professionals and Fortune 500 firms to recognize and manage underlying influences affecting their leadership. Beyond individual coaching, Cynthia offers a 6-month executive transition program and partners with organizations to nurture the next wave of leadership excellence.