Moving & Storage: A shift in focus grows business

Not too many companies, trucking or otherwise, would pick lime green as the identifying color of their business. In the case of Interstate Worldwide Relocation Services, that color proudly adorns every single one of its trucks, even those of its owner-operators, who handle long-haul shipments across the U.S. Yet the reason behind Interstate's adoption of this unusual color speaks volumes about its

Not too many companies, trucking or otherwise, would pick lime green as the identifying color of their business. In the case of Interstate Worldwide Relocation Services, that color proudly adorns every single one of its trucks, even those of its owner-operators, who handle long-haul shipments across the U.S. Yet the reason behind Interstate's adoption of this unusual color speaks volumes about its philosophy: exploring every possible angle for ways to win more business.

“That color was used by the Dept. of the Interior back in the 1940s, so my grandfather [company founder Arthur Morrissette] thought if he painted his trucks the same color, he might win more business from them,” says John “J.D.” Morrissette, president of Interstate Van Lines, the company's domestic moving division. “It didn't work out that way in the end, but the color stuck. And it's here to stay, too.”

Looking back at the company's beginnings in 1943, when it was originally named Ace Moving Vans and consisted of a $450 used truck, some old furniture pads, and a single dolly, Morrissette believes his grandfather's tight focus on developing quality moving skills, customer service, and physical presentation has helped the family succeed in the moving business for the past 67 years.

“That lime green has become our brand identification for us, with our customers associating it with quality service,” he explains. “We have won the Military Award for Quality Service nine times since 1995 and to meet continually rising quality expectations we became ISO certified in 2000.”

Diversification is also another critical part of Interstate's philosophy. While close to 70% of the company's core business is government-related, it has steadily branched out into other markets.

The company started an international forwarding operation in 1971 and received Interstate Commerce Commission authority to do business as a full-fledged interstate mover in 1980. Today, at its 130,000-sq.-ft. warehouse and headquarters facility in Springfield, VA, Interstate maintains two temperature-controlled storage areas — one for computer goods and other high-value electronics, and another for sensitive long-term storage of household goods — along with a general freight receiving area so it can diversify its transportation and storage service offerings.

The company also formed Interstate Relocation Service in 1997 as part of a strategy to meet the relocation needs of both corporations and individuals. The division provides services ranging from real estate sales to arranging temporary housing and expense tracking.

“We want to stay connected to the customer where we can and meet as many needs as we can for them during the move process, a one-stop shop as it were,” Morrissette explains. “We'll go to the customer, a corporation or individual, and look at all the services they need. And then we'll either provide [these services] directly or find a partner to provide them.”

That doesn't mean, however, skimping on the back-office requirements. Morrissette notes that all of Interstate's driver records and drug tests are still managed in-house, as is dispatching for its company drivers and owner-operator contractors alike.

Even most vehicle maintenance is handled internally via an on-site, three-bay facility staffed with six mechanics and housing a paint and body repair shop. The company also conducts pre-trip weighing with its own truck scale located right on the property.

“The more we control ourselves, the more we make sure it's up to our standards,” said Morrissette.

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