What I’ve Learned: Jay Vandroff, Yarnall Moving and Storage
JAY VANDROFF, 52, is the third generation in his family to run Yarnall Moving and Storage, a firm started by another family more than a century ago and purchased by his grandfather in the late 1940s. No longer just brawny men and trucks, the Sarasota-based company, affiliated with United Van Lines and Mayflower, also operates a massive records storage division where employees move, scan, store and shred millions of documents in an 80,000-square-foot facility. On top of moving possessions to all 50 states, Yarnall provides white-glove moving services for designers and builders. It recently added a senior citizen relocation division, where a small team works closely with retirees, some with dementia, handling all the details of boxing, selling or moving furniture and heirlooms. Yarnall is truly a family affair. Gina, his mother, is CFO; Anita, his sister, is vice president; and his wife, Beth, handles the marketing.
I pretty much always knew that Yarnall was an opportunity for me. My parents brought me in as a little boy, and they’d put me on the floor with a toy moving truck to play with. When I was older, they handed me a broom.
I got first-hand schooling in the business in 1986 after college when I bought into a moving company in Syracuse with other family members. I was far enough away from my dad but close enough to get guidance. The first lesson I learned was in crisis management. Coming from small-town, no-union Florida, I was thrown in with a company that had a bad reputation dealing with unions, major accounts and staff. I was fairly new and some employees thought they were more in line for my position. I learned how to take advice from a lot of people and develop relationships.
Keep quality high. Our biggest concern in New York was dealing with vendors who had been burnt. We overcame that by being personal and assuring them that we’re not going anywhere. We picked up a couple of big accounts; our quality scores went through the roof. We sold the company in 1991 and it continued to grow and I moved back here to get out of the snow.
Pick your battles. That was my dad’s philosophy and one of the hardest things I had to learn. I used to spend too much time on small issues and not see the big picture. You have a customer who is adamant they were promised one thing, for example, and you know that they weren’t. Instead of charging them, you just take care of it. It’s something that is so simple, but you don’t see it at the time. Those are the things that come with age and time.