Keeping Strong in Washington State

Bekins Northwest
Written by Nate Hendley

Washington State-based Bekins Northwest offers residential, commercial, and international moving, as well as supplemental services. The company, founded in 1903, is the official mover of the Seattle Seahawks and continues to offer superior service for all its clients.
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Although much remains the same, quite a lot has changed at Bekins Northwest since Business in Focus profiled the firm in September 2016. Perhaps the biggest change is the firm’s size. It now has locations in almost a dozen cities – up from eight in 2016 – and a new corporate headquarters and main distribution warehouse in Tacoma.

“We have two new locations since we spoke last time. We acquired an agency that gave us a presence in the south Seattle market, and it also gave us another location which we absorbed,” says Bekins Northwest Vice President of Sales and Marketing Robert Schmidt.

The company also has branches in Seattle, Olympia and Spokane, and other cities. “We operate solely in Washington State,” he says. By concentrating on its home state, the company has consolidated operations and raised its profile which has helped it grow.

In 2016, Bekins Northwest anticipated that annual revenues would come in around $20 million. The firm has since passed this target, earning some $22 million in revenue last year. The workforce has expanded from 252 employees in 2016 to more than three hundred today, according to Schmidt.

Asked what is behind the company’s growth spurt, he says, “Our expansion through acquisition has resulted in an increased market share locally. Interstate service demands continue to rise. There seem to be fewer capable domestic providers… I’m sure that’s had an impact.”

Given such fast-paced expansion, the company is selective about whom it brings on board as a new hire. “As we grow and grow quickly, we try to identify talent. We’re looking for industry experience, talent across the board, and the best fit within our organization,” explains Schmidt.

Employees are also expected to be hard-working and courteous. The company operates a drug-free environment for safety and puts new hires through intensive training. If someone is brought in as a mover, they are taught the proper way to load and unload vehicles and how to pad items, so they do not get damaged during transportation.

On the residential front, it offers short and long-term storage, written estimates, custom crating, expert packing and the ability to transport large objects such as pianos. For commercial clients, Bekins Northwest provides pre-move onsite planning, free consultations, and protective materials to guard goods during moves. Moving jobs are supervised by a move coordinator who makes sure all work is done properly, coordinates with the client, and looks after unexpected problems.

The company offers supplemental services such as logistics, warehousing, and storage and it recently introduced records storage as a new service. For all the talk about digitization and electronic files, many companies still save old paper files in boxes. When a company moves, these files need to be preserved, which is where Bekins Northwest comes in.

“It was a need that was prompted through the commercial relocation segment of the business. We found a lot of businesses that we were relocating had archives that needed to go with them. They were looking for alternative service providers. We pursued that and rolled out a division that takes care of [records storage],” he states. Each branch can store records. Paper records are preserved in climate-controlled warehouses complete with twenty-four-hour surveillance, sprinkler systems, and security.

Company trucks are fitted out with electronic logging devices (ELDs) for safety and efficiency and to meet regulatory requirements. ELDs record vehicle and driver status, idle time, hours of service, and more. This information is transmitted to computers in the head office, making it easier to track vehicles and detect problems. The company also uses office software to streamline administrative tasks such as sales, accounting and billing, among other things.

Digital Marketing Coordinator Sommer Sheridan helped the company enhance its online assets, and the company’s online activity has become much more consistent and engaging once Sheridan took charge, according to Schmidt. In addition to a website and blog, the company now has a thriving social media presence, featuring regular “updates with images and video,” he adds.

Bekins Northwest continues to act as an agent for Bekins Van Lines, founded in 1891 and currently based in Indianapolis, Indiana. Bekins Van Lines is one of the biggest moving firms in the U.S. with a network of hundreds of agents nationwide. Thanks to this relationship, the company can ship goods across the United States and around the globe.

“We have an OTR division – over-the-road division. OTR oversees 14 interstate drivers. These operators facilitate shipments nationally, whether they originate from WA or somewhere off-point.” he explains.

Of course, moving jobs within Washington State boundaries can also be fairly complex. “Say someone is moving from Seattle to Spokane. That’s about three hundred miles. These types of shipments often take multiple days to service,” says Schmidt.

Loading and preparation for such a move might require one or two days. Transporting everything could take another day, with actual delivery maybe occurring a day after that. While speed is of the essence, the company has a comprehensive approach to moving jobs, and that can entail quite a bit of preparation. The point is to get all the items from one location to another with a minimum of hassle, not to do everything at breakneck speed and possibly make mistakes.

This approach is key to its excellent customer service and professional image. Movers wear uniforms; vehicles are top-of-the-line, and drivers have all the necessary licensing, insurance, and safety paperwork. Vehicles in the company fleet bear the Bekins name.

Bekins Northwest is still the official mover of the Seattle Seahawks and is happy to accommodate all manner of moves, no matter how offbeat. “We move everything for the Seahawks. When the equipment needs to go out for a game, we handle it. When they went to the Super Bowl, we transported all the equipment. If they hire a new coach or staff member, we move them. Anything moving-related we handle,” states Schmidt.

The Seahawks are not the only sports group for which the company has worked. The company partnered with Special Olympics Washington for the 2017 Spring Games, which featured sporting competitions for athletes with intellectual disabilities. Bekins Northwest provided storage and logistics support for the games.

The company recently undertook a specialized assignment involving delicate – but very heavy – equipment. “We moved a laboratory. This required us to relocate several optical tables that were about six thousand pounds apiece. They had to be craned through a high-rise window in downtown Seattle,” he notes. All went well, and nothing was damaged in this unusual moving job, he adds.

As to the biggest challenge facing the company, Schmidt says, “I don’t think it’s any secret. It’s resources. Truck drivers are highly sought after. With the Pacific NW economy booming, truck drivers have many options available to them.”

While serving clients across the U.S., Bekins Northwest is eyeing a potential opportunity in neighboring Oregon and over the next few years, hopes to “expand service locations to outlying areas,” says Schmidt. “Our focus right now continues to be servicing WA State. We don’t have any plans for a national expansion right now.”

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