Atlas teams develop a platform to Go New Places.®
In the previous issue of the Amplifier, we introduced Vision 2018, a strategic planning effort Atlas began in the fourth quarter last year. Its aim: to find a path for healthy growth at a time when the company and the industry face increasing challenges to capacity, compliance, and profitability.
Vision 2018 is a milestone in the history of Atlas, the first time it went outside the boardroom for help in developing a business strategy.
This summer, months of preparation culminated in a formal document. It spells out strategic directions, project priorities, measurable goals, and a system for accountability. It also updates the company’s mission and brand statements.
As Atlas executives shared their thoughts about Vision 2018 for this article, a crew was at work in the lobby below, installing displays of the new mission and brand statements.
It began last year with prompting by Board Agent Don Hill
, President of Alexander’s Mobility Services (0207). An advocate of long-range thinking, Don persuaded fellow board members and Atlas executives to take a fresh look at the process for strategic planning.
Today, the seed Don planted is showing its first fruit. In July, the Atlas board ratified Vision 2018, a document that specifies how the company will grow its productivity and profitability over the next five years. Essentially, it is the road map that will allow Atlas as a company to “Go New Places.”
“Our industry has been doing things the same way for so long, to make a big change is a very difficult decision,” says Don. “But our board and management are aligned on what areas we need to attack first. I think our alignment will allow us to be more successful with our plan.”
“The board got behind this initiative at the beginning, and they were unanimous in their approval of the plan document,” says Glen Dunkerson, Atlas Chairman and CEO. “That is significant, considering the diversity of views they hold. I think it speaks highly of our agents, of our process, and of the people who led us through it.”
Vision 2018 Executive Team (from left to right) Donald Breivogel Jr., Senior Vice President & CFO, Glen Dunkerson, Chairman & CEO, Jack Griffin, President & COO, Marian Weilert Sauvey, General Counsel, Senior Vice President & Secretary, Donald Hill, President, Alexander's Mobility Services, Gary Weleski, President, Weleski Transfer, Inc., Larry Lammers, CEO, Ace Relocation Systems, Inc., Chris Niesner, President, Specialty Moving, Inc.
“We first interviewed five different groups, all respected names in strategic consulting,” says Jack Griffin, Atlas President and COO. “Collaborative Strategies Inc. stood out. They had done their homework, and we sensed they were a good fit for Atlas. Our instincts were correct—they had the skills and temperament to push us in the right direction and bring out our best thinking.”
Consensus building played an important part in the process. A hundred Atlas agent bookers and haulers expressed their views early in the process. This provided a solid understanding of the attitudes among those whose futures are invested in the Atlas brand.
“Atlas was up to the task, and they came prepared,” says Jim Lang, Partner, Collaborative Strategies Inc. “With the help of the folks at Atlas, we started with very thorough baseline data that really set the stage for understanding the current situation, both internally and in the market.”
Jim says he was impressed by how well the strategy team grasped its role and the dedication it brought to work.
“There were several, day-long working sessions, and invariably the strategy team was able to surface the issues, reach an agreement, and then communicate with the board to get buy-in. In a member-driven organization like Atlas, it is imperative that the owner-members have input and buy-in to the plan. When that occurs, as it did in this process, success is much more likely.”
The Bottom Line: Quality Growth
“If all we wanted to do was grow, Atlas could grow quickly,” says Glen. “But growth alone can’t be a driver for the kind of future we want. We’re focused on quality growth, growth that is deliberate and strategic. We’re committed to long-term value for our owners and agents, and to solid career opportunities for our employees and associates.”
“When it came to inking final approvals, every one of our decision-makers was in agreement,” says Jack. “We all understand the success we envision doesn't guarantee big returns immediately. But that’s okay. We’ll have the company we want five years from now.”
“It’s too early to say what the plan will ultimately produce,” says Don. “But I’m optimistic by the entire engagement.”
“I believe that Atlas has a solid plan for what needs to be done,” says Jim. “And I have every reason to expect Atlas will succeed in achieving its strategic vision.”
Organic vs Acquired Growth: Which is better?
Atlas has set some bold metrics for growth. There are essentially two ways to achieve those objectives. One is organic: producing more from established structures and adding people and assets to tend the growth as it occurs. The other is acquired: the addition of agent entrepreneurs or the purchase and rebranding of other business entities. Both kinds of growth are viable and may serve the strategic interests of the company. However, Atlas will not leverage acquisitions that exceed a debt-to-equity ratio for financial strength.
“We’re committed to long-term value for our owners and agents, and to solid career opportunities for our employees and associates.”
- Glen Dunkerson, Atlas Chairman and CEO
Vision 2018 Strategic Initiatives
Working on Strategic Priorities
Vision 2018 spells out several strategic priorities with specific goals for revenue and profitability. The numbers are ambitious, but attainable. Each involves the work of an executive champion, a staff leader and team, and a board champion.
“We’re not simply hoping we live up to our expectations,” says Glen. “Everything we do has accountability built into it, with scorecards and reviews every 90 days. We have a system to accomplish what we say we will.”
“From my perspective as a team leader, the organization of people makes a lot of sense,” says Ryan McConnell, Vice President, Corporate Marketing. “Our team has the backing of a board champion and an executive champion. We’re not out there all alone—we have support to get
“Our process has flexibility built in,” says Jack. “The Strategy Team meets twice a year to review progress on all the priorities. If we see that a shift in direction is called for, we can make adjustments.”
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Avail Move Management
Become the recognized provider of move management services for the moving and storage industry, known for unsurpassed information systems.
Mary Beth Johnson
Assistant Vice President
“We’re building on a trusted reputation for move management as we work to strengthen the Avail brand and refine its value proposition.”
Atlas Van Lines
Reinvent the driver value proposition and develop alternative hauling models for large, medium, and small shipments.
Vice President, Transportation Services
“We’re beefing up programs to bring new van operators to Atlas and we’re looking at alternate hauling methods like spot trailers, rail, and new options for smaller shipments. Whatever we do needs to be practical and acceptable for our agency family.”
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Atlas Van Lines
Grow all market segments with new methods for pricing and distribution.
“We’re going to become more efficient and find more opportunities to go to market. We intend to grow all segments of our business.”
Develop needed systems to support the strategic priorities of the Atlas companies in partnership with them, making Atlas technology a competitive advantage.
J. J. Mohr
Director, IT Strategic Planning
“We’re moving Atlas onto a common platform with tools to enhance our efficiency and profitability across the enterprise. We’ll continue to wow clients and customers with innovative, high-quality technical solutions.”
Grow share in the expanding logistics industry with a single Atlas brand operating on a common platform.
Vice President & General Manager
“We’re building “Atlas Logistics” into a strong brand and using it to establish consistent growth in the logistics market over the next five years. Good internal communication and the full use of our strengths (STG, 3PL, Titan) are critical to our success.”
Achieve prominence as a worldwide relocation provider with global operations, on the short list of favored suppliers.
President & COO
“We’re focused on growing top line revenue and gaining economies to improve our margins. Success will involve not just our Atlas team, but partners throughout our entire supply chain.”
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Cornerstone Relocation Group
Significant growth across all service lines, especially in international services, with an expansion of the global footprint.
President and CEO
“Our team has identified the key initiatives for Cornerstone’s global growth, building from service centers we’ve established in North America, EMEA, and APAC. Clear, swift, and consistent communication with one another will be crucial to our success.”
Increase market shares for domestic, cross-border, and logistics business with a strategy for North America-wide transportation solutions.
Senior Vice President & COO
Senior Vice President & CFO
Vice President of Operations
“Our primary focus as we begin to work this plan is to develop a common platform of technology with Atlas. Training will be essential for us to succeed and to help our agents, PVOs, and sales people embrace the new technology.”