Movers Must Walk the Walk

Michael is the owner of Verity Van Lines, Inc. of Seaford, NY. He is a past president of the New York State Movers and Warehousemen’s Association as well as past president and past chairman of the Long Island Moving & Storage Association.

 

Movers Must Walk the Walk.

Movers’ associations around the country have worked hard to enhance our image. Unfortunately, downward pressure on revenue and wages is eroding quality at every turn. Many of us can “talk the talk,” but when it comes to “walking the walk” many fail.

If we want to hold our heads high as professionals we must recruit, train and retain quality workers at all levels. To be effective, workers at all levels need to earn higher wages than they do presently.

Changes in a few areas will help us move forward, increase earnings at all levels and provide quality service to consumers. For example:

  1. We need some help from regulators. Competition is good as stronger providers survive. However, there needs to be enforcement on fitness standards so legitimate firms are not forced to compete with illegitimate operators who cut corners to put a crew and truck on a job at the lowest cost. Firms like Uhaul, PODS, Craig‘s List, ABF and Home Depot do severe injustice to legitimate firms when they place pools of workers in consumers’ hands, providing service for a day’s pay. Some “licensed” movers also fall in this category. These people usually pay no tax and contribute to the downward pressure on revenue and wages of reliable tax paying service providers.
  2. Large franchise van lines certainly “talk the talk” with effective advertising and marketing programs. A consumer would certainly expect them to be the quality service provider on the block. Unfortunately, irresponsible pricing and inadequate compensation to agents and drivers make it difficult for many of them to “walk the walk”. Van line pricing seems to profit the van line. Local agents and drivers are often pushed to a level that forces them to operate in a substandard way.
  3. Sales representatives are quick to give away more revenue than they earn so they can receive a commission. The industry needs to take a fresh look at how they compensate sales people. Paying commission as a percentage of revenue is an archaic way of thinking. There is no direct incentive for sales people to price work responsibly. When sales people have an incentive to price work responsibly they will think like owners. Pricing with profit in mind will move pricing in a direction that considers the ultimate cost of service and increases earnings potential for all.
  4. Companies continually hire from the competition and avoid recruiting and training new personnel. There seems to be a pool of pick up help that bounce from mover to mover. To survive as an industry we must recruit, train and retain quality people. We must pay wages and benefits that support a family lifestyle.

I suggest the following solutions:

  1. Actively participate with professional trade associations that can help network to high ranking government officials. Identify agencies that are interested in controlling fitness standards for service providers. Meet with these people and explain our problems in a professional and respectful manner. Direction on how to proceed needs to come from a high level. Associations other than our own moving and storage associations have similar problems. Some have already taken steps towards rectifying similar situations that affect their respective industries.
  2. Say no to irresponsible pricing forced upon agents and drivers by van lines. Agents that book what they haul and haul what they book within a van line system should control their own pricing. This method of operating makes it difficult for non hauling agents to get work serviced unless they price work responsibly.
  3. Recruit professional salespeople from outside our industry. Compensate them on salary plus bonus based on profitability. If done properly, gross margins will improve.
  4. Avoid hiring from the competition. Recruit quality people into our industry and pay them what they are worth. Transient workers, including summer help, can be placed on a temporary agency payroll that covers workers compensation insurance and all other taxes and fees. This simple procedure will help grow a legitimate full-time work force.

I ask that members of our association interested in the long haul health of our livelihood consider implementing some of these simple procedures. Hopefully we will all “walk the walk” towards increased earnings and benefits for our workers, consistent quality service for our customers and profitability indicative of the time and money we have invested.