Atlas Amplifier — Winter 2003
When you see an older home in an established neighborhood, what do you notice? You may admire the charming details of its design...hardwood floors and plaster walls...or beautifully mature landscaping with stately shade trees and vibrant flowers.
But look more closely and you are likely to notice other things, features that weren't there when the house was first built. There may be a three-car garage...modern kitchen with island counter...great room with skylights and big-screen TV.
"Like that idealized American home, the house that Atlas built is steeped in a classic tradition," says Mike Shaffer, Chairman & CEO of Atlas World Group. "And, just as that home has been upgraded over the years to accommodate the changing lifestyle of the American family, Atlas has made improvements to accommodate the needs of our own family — our agents, clients and customers. Since 1948, we've been building our house with the kinds of services that make people's lives better."
Jim Stamm, President & COO of Atlas Van Lines, points out that Atlas has been successful in building its house for several reasons. The company has recruited and developed quality agents and people at every level in the organization. It has furthered a culture of quality based on continuous improvement in service to customers. And, not content with the status quo, Atlas has been willing to adapt to change, to advance new ideas that satiate the thirst of dynamic markets in a fast-moving world.
"Throughout our company's evolution and growth, disciplined leadership and prudent investment have kept the Atlas house stable and strong," says Jim. "Today that house is as strong as ever, responsible to its agent-owners and entrepreneurs... and thoroughly responsive to the needs of the customers it serves."
In the fourth quarter of 2002, Atlas culminated a year of research and planning with a bold move to redefine its identity beyond the traditional designation of "van line." Over the past twelve months, Atlas has sent a new message to its constituencies. In broadest terms, the Atlas house now comprises a worldwide network distinguished by a core commitment to integrity, quality and solutions.
"This commitment made Atlas a world leader in moving and logistics," says Jim. "Now, it is the foundation for a full range of business solutions that include global relocation, benefits, recruiting, logistics and travel services. In other words, the house that Atlas built is anchored securely. And its bedrock is integrity, quality and solutions."
Jim adds that there are several objective measures that reinforce the brand's position. For one, Atlas is a perennial frontrunner in industry rankings of quality based on the evaluations of those who purchase transportation services. Again this year, Atlas received high accolades in Logistics Management's "Quest for Quality" survey. Add to that the fact that, this year, the ranks of those in the Atlas network who provide unsurpassed customer service have swollen by 44% over the previous year. At its annual convention, Atlas awarded the coveted Milt Hill Quality Award, the company's highest honor, to an unprecedented 46 agents.
"The house that Atlas built, that we continue to build, is actually a natural response to the needs of our clients and customers whose satisfaction remains the fundamental driver of our business," says Greg Hoover, Senior Vice President, Sales Development. "At our beginning in 1948, the founding agents came together under a common purpose of interstate transportation to serve the needs of customers. If today we enjoy the benefits of having built a solid business, it's only because we have been successful in helping our customers build their own houses."
The House That Atlas Built: Major Additions
1959: International Sea Van, Inc. of California is acquired. The firm's primary business is the international relocation of U.S. military personnel. Over the next decade, the division grows to deliver international solutions for commercial and nonmilitary customers. In 1970 it becomes Atlas Van Lines International Corp.
1963: Atlas Van Lines Canada Ltd. begins operations. General Manager Jim Connell said it would enable U.S. Atlas agents to "offer a more complete service package to the shipping public and national accounts and to enjoy a fair portion of the ever-increasing moving market between the two countries."
1970: Specialized Transportation is conceived. In 1984 the Special Products Division becomes an independent transportation entity. Today, the STG group comprises drivers, advanced equipment and systems to provide logistical solutions for exhibits, trade shows and high-value equipment.
1990: Atlas World Class Travel receives Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) approval as a full-service travel agency for headquarters personnel, agencies and their customers, and the general public.
2000: Cornerstone Relocation Group joins the Atlas family as a single-source provider of corporate relocation services. Atlas CEO Mike Shaffer noted: "Cornerstone offers Atlas agents another, very valuable tool to secure and solidify relationships with their corporate customers."
2002: Atlas becomes the primary marketing identity for the Atlas World Group brand. Defined by the characteristics of "integrity, quality, solutions," Atlas undertakes an aggressive marketing effort to promote its core competence in global relocation, benefits, recruiting, logistics and travel.
2003: Avail Resource Management begins operation as a business subsidiary, providing a range of move management services to help agents and their customers better manage their transportation resources and improve business performance.
What kind of houses does Atlas help its customers build? The worldwide Atlas network serves virtually every kind of enterprise — from aerospace to zoology — in some way or another. Whether it be providing relocation programs for transferring employees, designing travel arrangements for around-the-world corporate summits, or overseeing logistical programs to meet the just-in-time needs of retail supply chains, Atlas, through its agents and service allies, brings the proven expertise to craft the solutions that help customers build their businesses. With the addition this year of Avail Resource Management, the Atlas house brings yet another service to market, a process-driven company that helps companies manage their transit resources for improved efficiency and greater customer satisfaction.
"Just as when a family engages proven craftsmen to build a home, business people who endeavor to create a transportation or relocation program seek those who have the skills to bring a vision to life," says Greg. "In this regard, Atlas is widely known for its expertise."
Atlas has carefully cultivated a reputation for understanding the pulse of corporate relocation. In 1968, Atlas introduced the first comprehensive survey of corporate relocation policies and practices. Today, Atlas is synonymous with this institutionalized annual study, which is consulted and quoted throughout the industry's trade publications as well as national business news organizations, including The Wall Street Journal and U.S. Business News.
After 55 years, it seems the stability and strength of the Atlas house gave the company a long-term business advantage. According to an empirical study of business survival rates conducted in 1991 under a grant by the U.S. Small Business Association, "the older a business is at a given point in time, the more likely it is to survive over some finite time interval." Likewise, "the larger a business is at a given point in time, the more likely it is to survive over some finite time interval." The study also found that "multi-establishment firms — that is, businesses that operate out of more than one location — had higher survival rates than single-establishment firms." (www.sba.gov).
"Every addition we've made to our house over the years has been considered from the perspective of the contribution to customer well-being and for the sound contribution it makes to our agents' business," says Greg. "Just as important, we evaluate each business opportunity for its likely sustainability. It may make sense today, but will it have legs five, ten, twenty years from now?"
Although no business person has an infallible crystal ball, there is every reason to believe that the quality of decisions Atlas makes will only continue to improve as the company adds the talent and tools to make its research better targeted and more reliable.
"Ultimately, we would like to see all Atlas agents realize the fullest potential of our common house to grow their businesses in whatever direction suits their markets and their individual entrepreneurial interests," says Mike. "Just as our network's strength is a reflection of our individual strengths, the more we can enable the success of one another, the stronger and more prosperous our house will become for all of us."