A recent shift has strengthened the Atlas organization. The shift follows the announcement in October of 2010, when Atlas President and COO Jack Griffin announced a strategic realignment to meet the challenge of growth.
"When I stepped in last year to lead Atlas Van Lines, we had an interim structure in place," says Jack. "It was functional, but it needed strengthening." Jack saw the solution would require several key positions, and he faced a decision: recruit outside or promote from within. "Frankly," he says, "I didn't see anyone outside to compete with the caliber of talent we already have in the building."
As a result, five proven Atlas veterans have taken on new or expanded roles. "We now have a better fit, more closely matching the experience and skill of our leaders with their areas of responsibility," says Jack. "Each is perfectly clear on what they are to do, and empowered to make decisions in the best interest of Atlas and those we serve. The changes have flattened our organization structure too, making us more nimble and responsive."
On any given morning, weather permitting, you may see Mark Spiehler ease into the Atlas parking lot on his motorcycle, but when he pulls his chair up to his desk, he's fully engaged in helping Atlas produce a more efficient product for agents.
In a multi-faceted role as Senior Vice President of Account/Agent/Claims Services, Mark manages several areas that directly impact his recent addition of agency development. In this capacity, Mark provides direction to Vice President Steve Hermann and his staff for recruiting and developing successful Atlas agents.
"Everything we do in rating and distribution, as well as in claims, is a key component of agency well-being and van lines growth," says Mark. "We understand our customers want one invoice, quickly and accurately. We're seeing continual improvements in meeting their expectations – service delivery is good, and we're making it better."
Rather than losses, Mark views claims as opportunities for gains. "Every claim is a great chance for customer salvage," says Mark.
In 2008, he championed a web-based claims management system for agents. His team is now in the process of finishing up a web-based module for agents on AtlasNet that handles rating, invoicing and distribution.
"We want Atlas to be a facilitator of agent success," says Mark. "This naturally means bringing automation to the process, wherever it makes sense. In everything, we strive to be agent friendly, quality driven, and provide good service."
Vice President of Corporate Marketing Ryan McConnell is energized. Whether encouraging his children in sports and school, or conferring with his marketing team on tactical ideas for Atlas, Ryan brings an energy focused on helping others reach their potential.
"The role of marketing is to give our agents the power to become more successful selling Atlas," says Ryan. "I firmly believe in the three E's: energize, educate, enable. These are how we equip our agents to achieve their sales and marketing goals."
Ryan says a revitalized marketing effort is needed to open new opportunities; he sees synergy among people as crucial. "We recently brought Internet Sales and Marketing physically into the Marketing area for greater coherence in our total marketing effort," says Ryan. "We're making Internet marketing more accessible for agents, and making it easier for customers to find Atlas and interact."
Ryan's team is bringing a more proactive approach to RFPs. As well, they are building new connections via social media. "We're meeting clients where they are apt to interact, whether it be on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn," says Ryan. "We're also making events more focused on usefulness. At the Atlas Convention and Forum, for example, we're strengthening the emphasis on education."
When Senior Vice President of Transportation Services Administration Dennie Lynn is away from work, he enjoys time with the family, the gym, and golf. Members of the Atlas family appreciate the time Dennie has devoted to them; he has been on the job at Atlas since 1970. So, it's reassuring that a seasoned Atlas leader who knows Operations inside and out now assumes responsibilities for Smart Move.
In simplest terms, Dennie sees his newest task as integrating Smart Move into the fold of the Transportation Services Group.
"Smart Move Operations had been residing in Transportation Services, but working somewhat independently," says Dennie. "The goal is to bring them in as a natural extension of the successful operational reorganization that we accomplished a couple of years ago when we combined RSG and STG Operations. This way, we can utilize all of our Corporate Operations staff and resources to providethem significant service support, and further extend our commitment to service excellence for all customers, across all product lines, including Smart Move."
Dennie wants agents to think of Smart Move with the same level of confidence they have in Atlas Transportation Services Group Operations. "Our Operations team has developed many long-term working relationships with our agency family, having earned their confidence over many years of proven service excellence and support. In my view, our establishing that same level of agency family confidence in Smart Move will result in both expanded sales and stronger service capabilities."
David Coulter admits to a love for sports, especially golf (he regularly oversees the golf tournament at the Atlas Convention). No doubt his competitive nature suits his new role as Vice President of STG Sales. David brings fresh drive to increase shipment volume for electronics, exhibits, store fixtures, and fine art. He leads with an ambitious agenda: to double revenue in five years.
"The reorganization brings resources and focuses attention on the STG business to help it grow," says David. "This is critical since the economy has made the market extremely competitive. We're seeing a host of new names, including third-party providers, enter the market."
David says Atlas will use all the tactical advantages at its disposal to pursue competitive gains. As well as pricing methodologies, these include leveraging the strengths of the Atlas brand–especially its extensive agency network.
"We're looking to create more opportunities for existing agents and to get more agents involved in the sales effort," says David. "This includes helping our agents acquire and cultivate sales people."
Creative thinking is key; new approaches are needed to counter rising fuel costs and the industry's ebb of Professional Van Operators. One such idea: the potential of regional distribution. David is starting the discussion on this and other ideas as he gathers forces.
"We have to be open to new ideas if we are to succeed in today's market," says David. "STG has a lot of potential to grow. I believe if we are determined to succeed, we will."
As Avail Vice President, Phil Wahl gains responsibility for Atlas' government business, including military moves. He sees this as good for business.
"Bringing government business under Avail makes sense," says Phil. "We're all involved with the military's new DP3 procurement system, and this will strengthen our collaboration. Improving efficiency for DP3 moves continues to be one of our highest priorities."
Another big priority: marketing move management services. Phil says that plans call for adding a dedicated sales professional to work with agents and national accounts. Work continues on new ways to add value for clients, such as a post-move survey now in development to assess the entire relocation process. "When we give clients a tool that is a benefit, they tell others," says Phil. "The best marketing edge we can have is a satisfied customer."
When Phil is away from his professional duties, you are likely to find him on the ball field or in the gym. "Over the last dozen years, as my kids have grown, I've been a coach – baseball, basketball, soccer, and football."
Phil brings his passion for teamwork to Avail, too. "We have a great group here
forward thinkers who are always looking to improve the process and add value for customers. We're going to take our clients, and Avail, to a new level of success."