“The most important aspect of internal business is the constant training, value instilling, and trust in our employees.” Larry O’Toole, founder of Gentle Giant Moving Company, discusses the company and its people-centric operations in the United States
Writer: Marcus Kääpä | Project Manager: Tom Cullum
For Larry O’Toole, founder of Gentle Giant Moving Company, entering the moving industry was a welcome accident.
Having previously studied engineering in college, O’Toole left his job in 1980 with plans to start up a manufacturing company. Looking to save money in order to do so, cheap accommodation was on his mind, and when a friend asked if a van was good enough, he initially laughed it off.
However, O’Toole took the opportunity to work with his friend as a side income when the van was used to help people move house, a service that received a very positive response.
“The reason that they were so appreciative of the service was because they had bad experiences with other companies in the past,” he reflects. “There were a couple of reasons I kept working the job: I really enjoyed it, and I was curious to see where business in the space would lead.
“So, I connected with many other moving companies in the area and talked to them about the challenges, pros and cons of the business, and just about everybody had the same primary frustration - finding good help. When I looked at other companies, there would be a lack of professionalism in their workforces; some workers would be working, and others would be clowning around.”
According to O’Toole, those employees who lacked work ethic drove others to leave, and so when going into the business himself, O’Toole’s first and primary focus was ensuring that his workforce were dedicated and professional individuals.
“This notion led me to hire and work alongside hard-working and dedicated people; to compete in the market using quality,” O’Toole elaborates. “If people didn’t want to pay the price, that was that. But in the first five years we were ranked as one of the best moving businesses in the area, with our success attributed to word-to-mouth referrals.
“I had committed to the business and registered it, we didn’t even have branded t-shirts or vans, and my biggest problem back then was if one of my staff was wearing inappropriate footwear for the job. But what I had at the time were hard-working people, who knew how to connect with customers and gave 100 percent.”
Today, Gentle Giant Moving Company stands as a substantial player offering a full range of packing and moving services for residential and commercial moving, locally and across the US.
Leading the company forward are the notions of professionalism and quality. Through a mixture of trust and training, Gentle Giant Moving Company ensures that each of its employees provides its various customers the best possible service from start to finish. Stemming from his earliest business experience, this is an aspect of the company that O’Toole strives to reinforce.
“The most important aspect of internal business is the constant training, value instilling and trust in our employees,” he explains. It is the acknowledgement of responsibility that keeps our staff reminded of their own value to the company, their own sense of leadership, and the critical importance of the training they go through.
“Anyone can drive a truck, until an emergency occurs. Not being able to judge the conditions such as the weather, and underestimating elements of driving such as stopping distance, an inexperienced driver could cause more damage in a panic situation than they know how to deal with. Having properly trained staff who are able to inspect their trucks, ensure that everything is in good order, and make sure that everything is safe while stationary or on the road in various conditions, is absolutely critical to our company.”
For O’Toole and the company, this notion of responsibility continues outside of work, into the many hours that are vital to a truck driver’s performance in the hours or day that follows. Laws across the US reinforce the rule that drivers must have certain set hours of both sleep and breaks from driving, and this strict adherence runs deep at Gentle Giant Moving Company.
“These are rules that are all-important to delivering customers a positive experience and keeping your workforce and other drivers on the road safe,” O’Toole affirms. “But internally within the business, it is also important.
“If you have one or two people acting against the rules, it can spread and contaminate your work culture. But when everybody working for you is responsible and takes pride in their work, and each other, then that kind of behaviour doesn’t occur, because those individuals will be called out. And this is paramount to the operation of trucking across all industries; all it takes is one bad mistake or terrible judgement to ruin a life or reputation. It is great to be swift and efficient at the job, but you would always rather take more time if it means that you have provided a safe service.”
Due to the importance of safety and professionalism, Gentle Giant Moving Company has a complete training and compliance department to prepare its drivers as much as it can. When any issues occur, even those that are minor such as vehicle scuffing - an unavoidable problem in the entire span of a truck driver’s career - Gentle Giant Moving Company makes sure that it has professional employees who can deal with these issues in a proper manner and move forward from the experience to become better drivers.
Building and Leading
With people at the core of everything it does, Gentle Giant Moving Company also aims to build the skills and experiences of its employees so that they each can develop as individuals.
“We want to show our staff that they have a way forward, so we ensure that we have a lot of leadership training opportunities,” O’Toole tells us proudly. “We have 23 offices across the US, each of which are led by great people who started from the ground up at the company.
“The most important thing to us is our staff, and we want to be a people development company. We want people to come to work, not to just be a cog in the machine, but a person who develops and moves forward. We teach people how to build themselves, lead, and manage conflict. We listen, ask questions and understand other people’s perspectives. And we are aware that people each lead very different lives, so we are flexible with our employees, and because of this there is a mutual trust and respect between staff and the company.”
Freight of the Future
For O’Toole, freight has changed since the company’s establishment.
“The shortage of drivers has accelerated containerized moving and freight,” he tells us. “There are more companies that are loading stuff in a container to ship out to locations. This could be driven or delivered by rail, and then it’s delivered at people at the other end.
“10 or 20 years ago this system didn’t exist, and work was inconsistent, but now there are even digital applications that companies are using for moving and deliveries, where you open an app, film your house or apartment, and the artificial intelligence (AI) then transfers this into square footage that generates an automated quoted price.
“In light of this, we are going to incorporate as much containerized moving as we can in order to keep up while maintaining our high level of quality.”
Speeding through 2021, Gentle Giant Moving Company is making sure to adapt in order to maintain and expand within the moving services space, and with its people-focused attitude and provision of professionalism, the company is one to watch for the years ahead.