We're almost halfway through 2021, yet this year has been a tough one to navigate. One thing is for sure: the moving industry never stopped during the pandemic. We interviewed eight moving industry leaders and asked them to share their biggest challenges and how they resolve their struggles.
Maintaining High Quality
"For us, the challenge is maintaining a high quality of service while trying to grow. Our customers know us for our transparent and honest business standards. New customers call in and book with us without having too many questions because of our strong reputation. Ever since the first year, we’ve consistently doubled our moves, sales, revenue, and want to continue being a high quality moving company as we take on more customers.
The way we maintain the high quality is focusing on the people. As an owner, I sometimes train the movers, take part of interviews that happen weekly, and am constantly looking to add more qualified people to our warehouse, office, and people on the field."
-Mike Joudeh, CEO at Athens Moving Experts
Understanding Customer Needs
"As we continue to diversify as a company, the challenges I have are learning all the details of the new divisions, how to keep up with furniture and construction codes, and staying viable in the markets. As we adapt to a post-covid life, I’m constantly wondering what services we can offer to either help companies return to work. Each industry and company is different, everyone is responding to covid differently. Many schools are going back in-person, so we’re transporting necessary items in order for them to safely be back in the classroom. Some companies feel comfortable staying remote, so for them we help with decommissioning. It’s all over the board, you can’t generalize, and you have to connect with each client/customer individually in order to understand how to help."
-Mark Klenz, Director of Sales Development at Coakley Brothers
Adapting to a New Normal
"My challenge is adapting during this time. I’m trying to understand what life is going to be like post-covid. I know that if we aren’t changing and striving to do better each day, we'll get left behind. As a team, we’re always looking for new ways to do things and stay ahead of the tech. There are so many resources out there and I encourage others to network with each other and understand what your peers/competitors are doing.
Another challenge is having enough drivers to meet the demand of the business. It truly takes a special kind of person to leave their family and be on the road for months at a time. We see that older drivers are retiring at a fast pace, and it’s difficult to bring on new ones at the same pace."
-Mark Kennedy, VP of Sales/Marketing at Atlantic Relocation
Competing Against Unemployment Wages
"Employees. Especially in today’s time with the government giving free money hand over fist, the wages in which we pay our employees are being exceeded by the government’s check. So it makes it difficult to get a certain niche of people into work. So how are we combating that? We’ve had to up our wages in order to compete with the unemployment wages. We’ve had to raise our personal rates as a company, across all of our locations, to offset that which has gone well since everybody is doing significantly higher numbers. We’re doing every form of advertising that we can do to let people know we’re hiring- Ziprecruiter, Indeed, Facebook, radio ads, tv commercials, we have ‘we’re hiring’ banners at the front of all of our physical locations, all of our trucks have a ‘now hiring’ smiley face stickers across the trucks. It’s a never ending battle. When it comes to retaining movers, from my experience of managing corporate restaurants, out of every 4 hires, I hope to keep 1 longer than 90 days. We have a certain expectation and standard in which we adhere to and if we don’t, that person is just not meant to be with us. What we’ve seen in our history is that if they hit the 90 day mark, the chances are high that they will stick with us for years."
-Chris Wilhoit, President of Miracle Movers
Recruiting Drivers and Laborers
"Drivers have always been a challenge to recruit, and now laborers are getting harder to find each day. We do work with temp agencies, and their complaint is that during Covid-19, unemployment is the biggest competitor as well as government subsidies. In some cases laborers are making more with unemployment than working full time. Think I will have to agree. Even have had potential local drivers tell me the same. We do pay a decent wage, so that’s not the issue.
Covid-19 made it even tougher to recruit. Owner operators are becoming a thing of the past. Most operators average in their 50’s and you don’t see the younger drivers because they don’t want to go out and spend money on a truck. Refer to the younger generation as the push button generation, because they want instant gratification and not willing to put in the time and effort to work for it. Basically a long range plan. As a former household owner operator myself, it took about two used trucks before I bought my first new one (say about 8 years).
We have also hired driver recruiting agencies as well; the leads sent to us are not variable. Some recruiting tools I used were to go out to truck training schools and drop off flyers. The large ones used to have job fairs where I did pretty well at, but now they chase you away because they have large trucking sponsors who donate their trucks to the schools and don’t allow outsiders. I have called unemployment agencies and county services with not much luck. Place flyers in windows of local shop owners as well. The big name convenience store and trucks stops have policies against it. Any suggestions out there, I’m willing to listen!"
-Jeff Schiller, Operations Manager at Simonik Moving and Storage
Communicating Across the Team
"The biggest challenge in this business is getting the proper communication. So many things go wrong because someone didn't pass along a piece of information. If you ask 100 people in this business you'll probably get 100 different answers. But if you take those different answers and look for the common denominator it will most likely come down to poor or lack of communication. Capacity is always going to an issue during peak season regardless of how well you plan how much data you look it. Last minute changes are part of the business, but with proper communication between all parties make the whole move process go a lot smoother.
With last minute changes, you hope the customers are understanding and have a little patience and allow you the time to work out the details. Honesty always works. Having good communication is making sure you and your staff are all on the same page, training your staff in being detailed-oriented, and passing on those details. Having open lines of communication is important."
-Bob Murphy, Operations Manager at A1A Atlantic Moving & Storage Co.
“Finding manpower, and womanpower, has been a challenge. It used to be the easiest part of running the business, but now it's the hardest. Everyone is looking to move so moving companies need to hire more labor. I have been increasing wages and providing more benefits but it's tough because there are more moving companies now than ever before.”
-Guy Cohen, CEO of Green Van Lines
Educating the Customer
"The biggest challenge is finding coachable labor. Guys don't stay around long enough to train and it's a constant challenge to staff. Sure, the core is here but the labor component is the issue. Plus, they can go and work as '$200 a day labor' for drivers and get paid cash.
Some of it is the sales process too. Customers don't necessarily 'value' moving services. They see it as unskilled labor. Sometimes that's the case when you send new recruits. Helping the customer see the value of the service is important. The relationship is interconnected and affecting one aspect, effectively changes another. Training is at the heart of the issue and having the top level leadership 'buy in' is a crucial component!"
Every industry is trying to adapt to a post Covid-19 world, but the common theme found across all conversations was the difficulty of hiring and retaining labor. We recently connected with Kevin Ankenbauer, President of Ward North American, through a live Q&A to learn how he approaches the challenge. Our next "Ask the Experts" session is in the works, where we will get perspective from a new expert on a different topic.
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