“We go there together.”
A transition in leadership is underway at Atlas.® With the retirement of Glen Dunkerson at the first of the new year, the Board of Directors has named Jack Griffin Vice Chairman & CEO and hired Joe Stackhouse as President & COO of Atlas Van Lines. Amplifier® editors sat down with Jack to learn what this means for the Atlas organization. We share his high-level view here.
A change in senior leadership is an important moment for Atlas.® What should our readers know about how you see yourself in this new position?
First and foremost, I approach my role with an awareness that Atlas exists to serve the agents. The company’s history makes this clear, in particular the 1980s when Atlas went through a period of outside control. The agents fought fiercely to regain ownership. The depth of their commitment was and is amazing. Atlas Agents truly “bleed blue.”
I am also aware the board has put faith in me and the leadership reorganization I announced in August. Ryan McConnell, who has helped lead planning for household goods over the last three years, is now Vice President, Strategic Planning. This new position recognizes the increasing importance of strategic thinking for us. Mary Beth Johnson, who leads the Avail subsidiary, now heads the corporate marketing team as well. And Joe Stackhouse takes the reins as President & COO of Atlas Van Lines.
We’ve covered the Vision strategy in prior issues of the Amplifier, and we’re looking at it again through the eyes of leaders in this issue. In a nutshell, what is the strategic direction of Atlas?
We’re doubling down on the strategic plan. We have to. Being conservative has served Atlas well in the past, but one to two percent growth is no longer sufficient. The world is changing and the market is shrinking. We have to think and act strategically in every facet of our business.
Granted, we’ve had shortcomings. But we’ve also had some major wins over the last few years, wins that sent sonic booms through the industry. We sealed key agreements with relocation management companies for corporate moves and with TMM for managing military moves. We’ve also seen solid results in agency conversions. All told, we’ve managed to grow share in an industry that has contracted 15 percent over the last five years. Had we not acted strategically, our revenue would likely be 100 million dollars less than what it is today.
I sometimes hear from friendly competitors remarks to the effect, ‘Atlas is taking over the world.’ It’s gratifying, if not entirely true. It indicates a perception in the market that the Atlas brand represents the best in value. There’s no doubt we are seen as an industry leader.
Where does Atlas go from here to keep growing?
The time is right for us to be more aggressive. For organic growth, we need to keep doing what we are doing, only better. As for acquired growth, we’re interested in companies that make money and are adjacent or complementary to the Atlas Agent network. A good example is Atlas Canada’s recent acquisition of Connect Logistics. It’s a solid company with revenue opportunities agents can tap into. Remember, Atlas is in business to serve our agent family, to help them prosper. And we’re in position to make good things happen: financially strong with an executive team versed in due diligence and acquisition.
We hear a lot in the media about businesses facing a talent shortage. How does this affect leadership at Atlas?
It’s never been more important for us to recruit and retain the best talent we can. We remain committed to cultivating leaders within Atlas, but we are also open to bringing talent from outside, as we did with our new President & COO. This represents a cultural shift for Atlas, and it’s a healthy one. It encourages us to “think bigger” in terms of who we are and who we are becoming. And it is necessary if we are to be the very best we can in the transportation and relocation space.
Our leadership in people goes hand in hand with our leadership in technology. We hear time and again, from agents who come to us from other van lines, that Atlas technology is way ahead of competitors.
So, while our systems are already a differentiator, we intend to make them even better. The key is to invest for the best return, so we pay the agents as much as we can. I think we are well served by our collaborative model for development. Joe Stackhouse brings a valuable perspective from a successful career in telecommunications. I see our technology edge getting sharper.
What’s your primary focus as CEO of Atlas World Group?
I want to be a good steward for the owners. If I am to succeed in taking Atlas to its full potential, I need their trust. That means leading with full transparency, no secrets. As I’ve said, Atlas Agents bleed blue.
Their discussions around the table sometimes get heated, but that’s because of how much passion they have for their company. They deserve the best from their investment, and I want to see that they get it.