The online news magazine of Atlas® World Group.
April 14, 2017

Strategy: You win by thinking 3 to 4 moves ahead.

  • Atlas Canada
  • Atlas International
  • Atlas Van Lines
  • Avail
  • Cornerstone
  • Featured

Brexit shatters the status quo of the European Union. A self-funded political outsider rides a surge of populism into the White House. Formerly axiomatic policy positions around the globe are challenged, rejected, replaced. Yet, Wall Street sees asset values surge, new confidence among investors. But what about the business of relocation? What can movers and shippers expect?

Earlier this year, Jack Griffin, Vice Chairman & CEO of Atlas® World Group initiated a doubling down on the strategic process, revisiting the company’s goals with a sharper focus. An evolution of the 2018 plan, Vision 2020, responds to changing conditions to envision the company Atlas will become.
“I believe we, in largest measure, create our own success by flexing to answer customers.”
Jack Griffin
Vice Chairman & CEO, Atlas World Group
“With Vision 2020, we are sharply focused on strategic thinking and superior leadership,” says Jack. “We’re challenging our industry’s traditional approaches to business.”

For this report, the Amplifier® interviewed key team members across AWG. What follows offers a sense of the issues they face—and how they are working through them to improve service and efficiency. 


Every customer’s experience is important

A demographic shift is unfolding with profound implications for the moving industry. Smaller households reflect a fundamental societal change: smaller families, more single-person households, and growing popularity of smaller-scale, urban dwelling. Atlas is answering boldly.

“We are putting a new focus on our business model,” says Ryan McConnell, Vice President, Corporate Marketing, Atlas Van Lines. “We’re dedicated to excellence for household moves of every size.”

With shipping weights trending lower, Atlas has re-conceptualized service delivery to ensure a superior experience on every move, whether the customer lives in a mansion or a studio apartment.

“Fortunately for us, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel to stay in step with our customers,” says Ryan. “The Atlas infrastructure is well-established: a strong agent network; dedicated logistics experts on staff; and an owner-operator fleet bolstered by additional transportation resources.”

At the same time, Atlas is dealing with the kindred issue of value. Given the changing variables of weight and costs on a smaller scale, how can the van line answer the market with a value that guarantees Atlas quality service?

“Over the last several years, key cost drivers have gone up steadily—equipment, materials, insurance, regulations, you name it,” says Jeff Schimmel, Vice President, Transportation Services at Atlas. “When we sign a contract to provide service, we lock down a price to the client for the duration. However, our suppliers are not bound by the same constraints.”

For example, says Jeff, a recent increase in the cost of corrugated product comes right off the bottom line. Ryan adds that service valuation isn’t simply an Atlas issue; it concerns every van line.

“Those who fail to get it right may well find themselves being sold for pennies on  the dollar.”

Answering the World, Any Time of Day

The world comprises 24 time zones. For Atlas® World Group International, three are essential.
“We’re a global company growing to a tri-regional presence,” says Jim Gaw, President & COO, Atlas World Group International. “We are positioning to communicate live with customers any time of day, no matter where they are on the globe.”

Tri-regional operation gives Atlas International the ability to better manage service delivery with vendors and stay on top of supply chain functions. It also provides an important link to new business, an emphasis that has taken on added strength with the hiring of Tim Hall, Vice President, Business Development. Under Tim’s direction, a reorganized selling force, including two additional inside sales professionals, is working smarter to answer customers.

“With a new focus on data management, we are gaining deeper insights into the marketplace and buyers,” says Tim. “We’re using what we learn to pinpoint decision-influencers and to engage them when the time is right.”

Tim says smaller and midsize companies are key in the new wave of global expansion, different from the large firms typically associated with international moves. His team is working to identify these new buyers, to understand and answer their expectations.

“Increasingly, companies are blurring the lines between products, seeking solutions in broader contexts, such as global mobility management and talent acquisition,” says Tim. “We know that products don’t sell solutions—it takes an understanding of the problem. We devote our time to what’s on the client’s desk—not to what’s on ours.”

In 2017, Atlas International will migrate to a more intuitive information system, one that all users can understand with little training.

“Making it easy to do business is a big part of solving problems,” says Jim. “We’re working on systems that are simple to use for our team and clients alike—and make the business of international relocation better for everyone.” 

New Growth Among the Maple Trees

Canada has the world’s third-largest reserves of oil and is a net exporter. Over the last few years, a weakened global demand for oil has put a drag on the nation’s economy. Employers have tightened their belts.
“We’ve seen a cutback in discretionary spending, with corporations making fewer moves,” says Barry Schellenberg, President & COO, Atlas® Canada. “Last year, the corporate relocation market shrank by 13 percent.” 

Despite the contraction, Atlas Canada managed to grow its share of corporate moves by 2.5 percent. How? With new efficiency in the supply chain, enabled largely by Avail Move Management’s® Canada operations.

“By taking all our accounts together to produce move management data, we are getting tremendous results,” says Barry. “We’re creating savings with economy of scale.”

Avail aggregates and analyzes data for the geography of moves, claims experience, and spending. The information enables agents and accounts to make better-informed decisions. In turn, they enhance network efficiency and operate more competitively. 

New Network Capacity, New Operations Strength

A recent conversion of a major competitor brings eight additional locations to the Atlas® Canada network, which now totals 138 agencies across the provinces.

“The addition of Mackie Moving Systems (8450) gives us important new capacity,” says Barry. “This is a big advantage for our customers, especially in times of peak demand.”

During this year and next, the Canadian operations team is collaborating with Atlas IT to transition to the Atlas corporate intranet.

“Our transition to the Windows-based AtlasNet® is the biggest strategic decision we’ve made in the last two years,” says Barry. “It allows us to become more nimble and responsive to our customers.” 

Above all, says Barry, the path to greater success is a matter of focus.

“Vision 2020 has allowed us to pare and realign our goals—so we can concentrate on the things that will really move our business forward.”


A Logical Path for Logistics

“The market for logistics today is a much different space than in prior decades,” says Phil Wahl, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Atlas Logistics

“Similar to the trend in household goods, commercial shipments are smaller and lighter. We see diversification as the doorway to growth.”

Atlas Logistics’ roots extend to several market segments, including hospitality, healthcare, restaurant, and specialized transportation for electronics, store fixtures, trade shows, and fine art.

“While we have a strong core business, we aim to level out our revenue streams with diversification into additional vertical markets,” says Matt Van der Linde, Vice President, Business Development. “We see great potential in corollary markets that complement our current core markets and services.”
“Atlas® Agents are our main sales channel,” says Phil. “We work closely with those who have the desire to grow their business, providing them with resources to help identify opportunities in their markets.”

Beyond organic growth with the current Atlas network, Phil says “an appetite for acquisition” is weighing potential additions of complementary providers to the Atlas Logistics network.

“As our network grows, we become more effective not just in North America, but globally as well,” says Matt. “At the same time, we are finding and expanding synergies with Atlas Canada and Atlas World Group International.”

To make those advantages a reality, the Logistics team is now upgrading its operating system for brokerage while planning system advances for Titan Global Distribution, an Atlas Logistics company based in St. Louis, Missouri.

“Technology is fundamental to our diversification and growth,” says Phil. “It brings speed and competitive advantages to make our service network stronger and more efficient.”


Move Management’s Big Role 

After a dozen years as a co-pilot, Avail Move Management® is now flying solo. A refreshed brand tells the market: Here’s your direct line to global move management expertise.

“From the beginning, we have served the Atlas® Agent family in a supportive role,” says Mary Beth Johnson, Vice President. “Now, strategy leads us to face the market with our strengths in advanced technology, reporting, and all that Avail Move Management has to offer.” 

The recent promotion of Lindsay Collins, GMS, to account executive, gives corporate professionals access to an experienced mobility specialist for move management assistance with any household goods carrier. Lindsay knows the Avail value proposition inside and out.

“Our goal is to grow with new clients,” says Lindsay. “We do this by helping them step confidently and comfortably into the benefits Avail offers.”

The benefits derive from Avail’s technology and expertise in supply chain management, compliance auditing, reporting, policy consulting, and services for transferees with a lump-sum benefit. At the same time, says Lindsay, the Avail team is working with Atlas Agents to accredit them as Avail Move Management resellers.

“The Avail value proposition must always be clear in the market,” says Lindsay. “We have introduced reseller accreditation for consistency that supports the strength of the Avail brand.”

“Agency sales people qualify as resellers with a passing grade to assure they know how to offer our services to their corporate clients,” says Jessica Nichols, Manager of Business Development & Client Retention. “They can then advertise themselves as an Avail Move Management representative on their business cards, websites, and marketing materials.”
“More than a dozen Atlas Agent sales representatives have already earned the Avail reseller credential, validating the corporate community’s need for move management services.”
Mary Beth Johnson
Vice President, Avail Move Management
“We’re seeing a lot of enthusiasm for the refreshed Avail brand and accreditation,” says Mary Beth. “More than a dozen Atlas Agent sales representatives have already earned the reseller credential, validating the corporate community’s need for move management services." 


Success on a Solid Cornerstone

For Cornerstone Relocation Group,® the big picture is to leverage global growth over the last few years to expand exponentially. With seven full-service offices across the globe, combined with deep domestic and global mobility expertise, Cornerstone is well-positioned to achieve its growth goals.

“We are a global relocation company with true global capabilities,” says Janelle Piatkowski, President & CEO of Cornerstone Relocation Group. “We provide a full breadth of relocation services in each region of the world. Our offices outside of North America are providing services within their region and across regions. They are not functioning as satellites of our North American company, nor are they functioning as regional call centers.”

Staffing with subject matter experts is deepening the company’s capacity for service, consulting, and problem-solving. At the same time, the company is strengthening strategic partnerships for superior service delivery. 

“We’re seeing more short-term assignments,” says Jane Malecki, Senior Director, Global Development. “In some cases, it’s for reasons of cost, to save the expense of a traditional move. Or, assignees do not want to disrupt the family or the career path of another person in the household. Our service delivery model and supporting technologies allows us to flex to industry trends.” 

Service Enhancement with Technology

In 2016, the company invested in a major upgrade to its proprietary information system. Earlier this year, Cathy Ronayne, CRP, CIPP, came on board as Senior Director, Global Information Systems. She is overseeing the transition to Trackstar 2. She is also leading further advances for flexible, customized service—more important than ever, given the growing popularity of non- traditional moves. She says Cornerstone views technology as a means to enhance customer service—not replace it—on every relocation.

“Our systems allow us greater flexibility,” says Cathy. “Ultimately, we want to create the best customer experience on every relocation.”


With bricks and mortar in the U.S., Canada, and overseas, not to mention rolling assets and partners across every link in the world’s transportation grid, Atlas® World Group knows communications technology is of prime importance. From headquarters in Evansville, Indiana, Atlas IT provides support to Atlas subsidiaries at home and abroad.

In addition, says Joab Schultheis, Vice President & CIO, IT is focused on four main areas:
  • Customer Portal. This web-based service will launch in 2017, providing a single location for shipment tracking, document library, credit card payments, and online claims. 
  • Data Integration. Work continues to reduce the friction costs of integrating with other systems, making it easier to pass and receive data with Atlas Agents and business partners outside the Atlas network.
  • AtlasNet® Development. Among prioritized strategic projects are local/intrastate estimating and a new planning capability to enhance efficiency for handling loads.
  • Enterprise Standardization. The IT team works toward a standardized infrastructure across all subsidiaries with common telephone and email systems, plus Canada’s integration with AtlasNet, a proprietary intranet platform with powerful tools that provide a business advantage.
“We’re making progress every day to help all our businesses, agents, and partners communicate more easily and efficiently."
Joab Schultheis
Vice Presidnet & CIO, Atlas World Group

Becoming the Vision

As Atlas celebrates its magnificent milestone, 50 years of thought leadership with the Atlas Forum® and Corporate Relocation Survey, it is focused on the future. Company leaders are acutely aware of the challenges ahead in a world where change rivals the speed of thought. Vision 2020 is a bold and necessary blueprint for creating that future.

“Our technology, the value of our brand, and the strength of our network all position us well,” says Jack. “If we remain focused on our strategy, the company we envision is the one we will become.”