There’s More to Longevity Than a Long Life
News | Maureen Beal
By Maureen Beal
CEO & Chairman
Happy birthday to us.
National Van Lines celebrates 90 years in business this year. Nine decades. 1929–2019. The Great Depression all the way up to our current online lifestyle. Now that’s a long life (and a lot of candles).
However, I’m not sure longevity is the goal. Don’t misunderstand me. We at National Van Lines are glad to be celebrating our 90th anniversary. For me, personally, to witness the company my grandfather started so many years ago still thriving gives me enormous pride.
But the more I think about it, the more I’ve come to believe longevity in and of itself isn’t the most important thing. It’s simply evidence of something greater: vitality. Longevity proves you’re leading a vital existence—on a personal or corporate level.
What’s our secret?
Many companies more famous than National Van Lines led long lives—only to fade away. Montgomery Ward. TWA. Circuit City. Blockbuster. Borders Books. It’s even happened more than a few times in our own cross-country-moving industry.
What was missing in their corporate make-up? Did they fail to keep up with the times? After all, we still have department stores, airlines, electronics retailers and even video renters (Redbox) and booksellers (Barnes & Noble). Rather than dwelling on what those defunct companies did wrong, perhaps it’s best exploring the things National Van Lines has done (and continues doing) right.
We’ve always approached our corporate culture as a family that extends beyond the employees located in our Broadview, IL headquarters to include our nationwide network of moving agents and our perpetually on-the-road drivers. Of course, we’ve changed our methods along the way. We now maintain steady contact through phone, email and social-media posts. One “metric” of the success of that practice is many of our employees have been with National Van Lines for several decades even as we welcome newer generations to the family.
We put a red circle and diagonal line across red tape by keeping lines of communication open to our top executives. Our President & COO Tim Helenthal is fond of saying, “I know our drivers on a first-name basis. If folks want to get in touch with me, they can. My door’s open.” That goes for the entire NVL family.
When our drivers visit our HQ, we greet them with applause and photograph them with their rigs and post those images online. Check our Facebook page for the evidence. These images are some of our most popular posts.
Just as balance is important for individuals, so it is with companies. I believe we achieve that by reaching out to the community and supporting several charities, including: Move For Hunger, Aspire, Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital and the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
While we certainly could simply provide annual corporate donations to these great causes, we involve our family of employees and agents through various entertaining fundraisers throughout the year. This offers everyone a sense of investment in the good work we support—and makes contributing a lot more fun. Plus, we’re constantly sharing these charitable groups’ social-media posts and promoting events to help widen their reach. Our corporate volunteer time off policy encourages employees to engage in volunteer activities that require time and physical effort (not just monetary donations).
Perhaps you’ve seen our red, white & blue National Van Lines trucks on the road. Besides showing our logo, many of them display the oceanic art of marine artist Wyland, whose environmental efforts we wholeheartedly support. Stop by our HQ and you’ll see his artwork decorates much of our interior.
Back to this idea of longevity.
Yes, we appreciate National Van Lines has evolved from a local pony-and-wagon operation to today’s globe-spanning long-distance relocation experts. No doubt about it, we’re historically aware while constantly—pardon the pun—moving forward.
Occasionally glancing in the side and rearview mirrors can be fun and reaffirming, but focusing on the road ahead is how we remain vital.