Three men, one truck and true grit.
With those basic ingredients in 1987, father Bill Singleton and sons Joe and Jim have built Able Moving and Storage into one of the area’s top moving companies.
“Right now, we have 50 trucks, 200 employees, and five warehouses, in two different locations,” company president Joe Singleton said.
“We do about 300 moves a week,” chief operating officer Steve Kuhn said. “We are the second largest commercial mover in Washington. We have been growing over 30 percent a year over the last six years in gross revenue.”
While the company is headquartered in Manassas, Loudoun County is a key part of their market and they do moves throughout the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area.
“This is our main hub,” Singleton said. “This facility is 11 acres with four buildings on it, and we have one warehouse in Gainesville.”
We can’t be outsourced. Until they invent a computer that can haul a freezer out of a basement, we’re good
The reason for Able’s growth and success? They hang their hats – literally and figuratively – on customer service.
“Anybody can sell a move; what really matters is who shows up in the driveway and how they handle the customer,” Singleton said. “We started 30 years ago with one truck and now we have fifty. This didn’t happen by accident. It happened because of our customer focus.
“Our whole concept is that when we hand a crew to a customer and put that customer in their hands, it is the crew’s job to leave that customer with the impression that we are a good company and we stand behind the services that we sell. I think that is the missing element in this industry. This industry is built around street-corner help and all the other bad stuff you hear. We have taken just the opposite approach.
“This is an industry full of laborers who go from job to job. What we’ve tried to do is give them a home and a career. We treat our people a little bit different and pay them a little more – but then we expect a little bit more out of them.
“When our crews pull up in a brand-new truck and three guys in uniforms and hats get out … perception is reality.”
Employee retention is a key to Able’s customer service philosophy and the overall success of the business.
“You don’t want to train a continually rotating work force,” Kuhn said. “You will never be able to recapture that expense. You need to make sure you have a stable workforce – which we do. The average tenure for our employees is well over five years.”
Jim Singleton added, “We also provide excellent health care for our employees. We match 50 percent, no matter if they are a single person or a whole family. We have a pension and profit sharing program, and every Friday, we have food trucks come in for everybody and they can have all they want, free of charge.”
Bill was semiretired when the Singletons started the firm, but his sons said their father’s expertise was crucial from the beginning.
“He never really saw any of the good time here,” Joe Singleton said. “The whole time he was here, it was three owners trying to pull a couple hundred bucks a week out of the company. It took 10 solid years just to get a bank to look at us.
“He was great for us. He was semiretired and he had a financial background. We said you handle the books and we’ll go do the sales and the moves, and it really worked out well for us.”
Able’s household moving business keeps its trucks and crews rolling, with most of the business falling between Memorial Day and Labor Day. But the firm is also one of the largest office and commercial movers in the area.
“Our commercial division will be 300 to 400 percent higher than last year,” Kuhn said, pointing out that the firm recently landed the contract to move Amtrak. “Amtrak is one of the biggest accounts we’ve landed, as well as the Martin Luther King Library relocation, which was the largest move of the year in all of Washington, D.C.” Security is a big issue in and around Washington, and being trustworthy is another of Able’s leading assets.
“We are in and out of government offices and defense contractors like Northrup Grumman every day,” Joe Singleton said. “Our people have to be vetted and cleared. They all have to pass background checks.”
“We do checks pre-employment,” Jim said. “But then if we go to Northrup Grumman we have to give them a name and a Social Security number (for each mover) and they have to say ‘OK, they’re cleared.’”
It’s natural for successful companies like Able to be generous in return, but philanthropy has always been part of the firm’s approach. While floodwaters were still receding from Hurricane Harvey, Able was already loading trucks with relief supplies for the victims in the Houston area. The company also contributes money and services to groups like Wounded Warriors House in Haymarket, Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore and House of Mercy. Sometimes, their outreach is much more personal.
“If a lady’s husband dies and she needs to move and doesn’t know what to do, she’s not going to get a bill from us,” Joe said. “We were raised that way. Mom and Dad are still alive, thank God, and they raised us a certain way. They taught us that if we do well in life, we owe it to give back here and there.”
With a boost in commercial moving keeping the company rolling even when the household market slows in fall and winter, the future looks bright for Able Moving and Storage.
“This local economy is not recession-proof, but it is very resilient,” Joe said. “We’re living a dream of fortunate events. We try to do the right thing every day, and it’s amazing what a great team we have.”
He said there is one key factor that makes him confident of his industry’s future. “We can’t be outsourced. Until they invent a computer that can haul a freezer out of a basement, we’re good.”