Moving On; The Gentle Giant Alumni Bios – Olympian Dan Walsh

Walsh on the river, demonstrating the perfect form that made him an Olympic Champion

This month on the “Moving On” Gentle Giant Alumni Bio Blog, we are featuring 2008 Olympic Bronze Medalist and Master Mover Dan Walsh. Dan’s accomplishments make everyone at Gentle Giant so proud, and we are privileged to have worked with him during his world class rowing career.

When did you start your career at Gentle Giant Moving Company?

I started with Gentle Giant the summer of 2000 while I was in summer classes at Northeastern University. Dave Lister and Rob Leaver came to the Northeastern Boathouse when I was a freshman to talk about the opportunity to work at Gentle Giant.  It was instant connection to the NU Rowers since NU rowers started GG.

What brought you to Gentle Giant?

It was a really simple decision:  I was able to make good money on my schedule, the work was compliment to my training, and to me hard work is fun.

Dan on the water in his spiffy Gentle Giant rowing uni-suit.

What GG location did you work out of mostly? And with who?

I have only worked out of [Gentle Giant HQ in] Somerville, the GG original.  My training was with Rooty and back then that meant going to homes where the furniture had to be problem solved.  I remember getting into a box truck with the big dude who is a living GG legend.  The only thing bigger than Rooty was his smile to the guys in the truck and the homeowners. 

There was a dresser that was 4 times as wide as a normal dresser that NEEDED to go into the master bedroom.  The crew on the job was at a stalemate with the staircase and a sharp turn along with freshly painted walls.  Rooty takes out the measuring tape, checks the dresser, ceiling, stairs, doorway, hallway, looks at me as says “Think you can lift that end?”  Not like I really had a choice, so I listened to his instructions, straight pick here, coffin carry there, lift a bit higher, and lower your end. BOOM dresser is in the bedroom, no scratches, breaks, or tears. 

What was your favorite part of working at Gentle Giant?

That’s easy, the people!  It’s a great group of smart people who really enjoy life.  Giants have big hearts and great stories, there is never a boring day on the trucks with the right group, never a bad day with a good crew, and there is always a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.

Dan with his crew members pose with Oprah Winfrey

What in your past prepared you to become a successful Gentle Giant?

I was a Division I rower for Northeastern University so I had the fitness, but that was always tested when I had 4th floor walk-up to another 4th floor walkup with Tommy Travers.

Who did you look up to at Gentle Giant and why?

Rooty Leonard because of the way he treated his fellow Giants and interacted with the customer. The guy is a Zen master with so much strength.  To be that strong and gentle is truly an art.  Also, Tom Travers because of how much he drives his crew and makes you earn your stripes to be a “stair guy”. 

What was the toughest piece you ever moved? How did you do it?

The toughest piece was one of those wooden playground sets in a back yard.  It was a house to house and they were on the same street with two houses in between them.  The job was going over time and we didn’t have the tools to take it apart so we decided to just carry it across the back yards.  We got permission from the neighbors, walked to the playground set and of course it was settled about 8 inches into the ground.  The 5 of us each got under a support beam and squatted, dead lifted, or pressed this thing out of the ground.  Well now it was out of the ground so we start carrying it across the yards not realizing there was a 3-foot retaining wall between the last two yards.  So one more time we got grips, used some muscle, and pressed the playground up over the wall.  The Giants got it in the back yard. 

Was there something you learned at Gentle Giant that helped you achieve success at the 2008 Beijing Olympics?

Pushing through the work will have a positive outcome if you are all in it together. 

What advice could you give current Giants about pursuing their own career goals?

Nothing in life worth doing is easy. If it was everyone would be successful.  You need to be the main driver in your life and cannot wait for something to fall into your lap.  You need people to help you along the way but they are more willing to help if they see you pushing yourself.  

Describe your career now, and what your goals for the future look like.

I am now a Division I rowing coach for my Alma Mater, Northeastern University.  I believe I want to stay in the coaching field and be a head coach one day. 

Dan and Tyrone

Have you/would you recommend Gentle Giant as a good place to work, and why?

I would never hesitate recommending GG to someone I believed had the ability to follow in the footsteps of Giants.  I would not recommend it to everyone; it takes special people who have strength physically, mentally, and emotionally.  The customer needs to see all three of those on every job.  Not everyone is cut out for that.

What are your hobbies, interests, or passions outside of Gentle Giant?

I like to be outdoors, making ice cream, and helping others achieve their goals. 

Tell us a little about your family and where you live:

I grew up in Norwalk, CT the youngest of 4.  I now live in Watertown with my beautiful wife Keri and our dog Tyrone.  

The Washington Business Journal Names Gentle Giant Moving Company One of DC’s Healthiest Employers

Washington DC Moving Company Gentle Giant is pleased to announce their selection by the Washington Business Journal as one of DC’s Healthiest Employers of 2012. In its second year, the Greater Washington’s Healthiest Employers Awards will shine a light on local businesses of all sizes that have made great effort to create extraordinary Health & Wellness Programs for their employees.

The Healthiest Employer Awards Program recognizes employee focused organizations striving to create the healthiest workplace and work force. Organizations apply for this acknowledgment by completing a detailed assessment tool that measures wellness programming in several categories, including culture and leadership commitment, communication and marketing, as well as the various programs and interventions available within the organization’s Health and Wellness Plan.

While Gentle Giant is a Massachusetts-based moving company with 19 strategically located offices across the country, the Health & Wellness Program for each branch office is tailored to provide the best experience possible for employees. The company’s DC branch has taken full advantage of Gentle Giant’s Health and Wellness initiatives, to the point where it is ingrained in their work culture. In addition to running boxes and furniture all day as a team on the job, the Giants in DC train for athletic events together and recently completed the construction of a cross fit gym inside the warehouse. This fun YouTube clip shows Gentle Giant Regional Manager Matt Packebusch discussing this gym and the healthy culture at the company.

“All the Giants across the country are enjoying getting fitter and feeling healthier,” Packebusch explains. “Especially in our DC office, everyone wants to be a part of this healthy environment that Gentle Giant supports and encourages.”

Since opening in 1980, Gentle Giant has advocated active and healthy lifestyles for its employees, most famously demonstrated by founder and CEO Larry O’Toole taking new hires and longtime employees alike out to the Harvard Stadium every week to run all 37 flights of stairs. In the Regional Offices across the country, Gentle Giant managers have developed their own fitness challenges for new hires, including interviews being conducted during a 3 mile run.

Gentle Giant Moving Company Earns Coveted Angie’s List Super Service Award

This is from a terrific press release we posted today. The Angie’s List Super Service Award represents a wonderful accomplishment for all of our branches, given our dedication to customer service.

Gentle Giant Moving Company, the premier residential moving and storage company in Massachusetts with locations in New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New YorkWashington DCNorth Carolina, Virginia, Washington State, and California has been awarded the prestigious and difficult-to-attain 2011 Angie’s List Super Service Award.

This exclusive recognition is awarded at the beginning of each year to companies who have achieved and maintained a superior service rating on Angie’s List throughout the past year. Fewer than 5% of the companies on Angie’s List meet the eligibility requirements to be considered for the award.

“Our Super Service Award winners are the cream of the crop when it comes to customer service, said Angie Hicks, founder of Angie’s List. “To help our members easily find these exceptional service companies, we’ve added Super Service Award logos to each of the winning company names on Our members tell us they love that additional bit of information.”

This is the twelfth time that Gentle Giant Moving Company has been recognized by Angie’s List for providing superior customer experience. The company states that its operations and customer service functions are geared toward making each customer a “customer for life,” with 80% of its business generated through referrals and repeat customers. The company reports that this high rate of customer retention has allowed it to continuously increase revenue over its 31 years of business to more than $28 million in 2011.

“The Super Service Award from Angie’s List is very meaningful to Gentle Giant,” said President and CEO of Gentle Giant Moving Company Larry O’Toole. “This award helps support our belief that if you invest in your employees, set high expectations, and reward them for treating people well, your customers will receive the best care and share their experience with others.” While Gentle Giant has been honored with numerous awards from the local and national business communities, O’Toole notes that, “our most valued achievement is the feedback of the many satisfied customers.” The company has made comments from several of its customers available on its web site (

Angie’s List Super Service Award winners have maintained an “A” rating overall; have received a minimum number of reports; are NOT in the Angie’s List “Penalty Box,” and do NOT have an unsatisfactory rating with the Better Business Bureau.

To further help consumers easily identify Super Service Award winners, Angie’s List encourages winners to post (free-of-charge) their hard-won Super Service Award logo on company business cards, invoices, vehicles, awnings, windows, signs and employee shirts/uniforms.

Innovation Sets Lorton, VA Moving Company Gentle Giant Apart From the Rest

Picking things up and putting them down. Picking things up and putting them down. For those unfamiliar with the intricate details of the relocation arts, this may be what is thought of a mover on the job. Alas, a lot more than this goes in to a smooth running, damage free move.

For Gentle Giant Moving Company in Lorton, VA, finding ways to make their moves go quickly and safely has been a key factor for them as they rise to the top of the local moving industry. Now, some of the ideas that have been implemented are more revolutionary than others, but all are ways to separate themselves from their competition.

One innovation that Gentle Giant brings to Lorton is the idea of running boxes. People familiar with the Gentle Giant brand know that we have been running boxes since we opened up shop in Boston 30 years ago, but in VA, this is new and exciting.

Continue checking back on Mondays for some highlighted innovations across Gentle Giant’s regional offices. We’ll even be sure to sprinkle in some half-baked ideas that never quite came to fruition.

What Makes Gentle Giant an Admired Company

30 year-old award winning small business Gentle Giant Moving Company is an Admired Company. Within the professional service industry, Gentle Giant has stood out from their peers by positively influencing what is expected from a local moving company and has been recognized by the Boston Business Journal and the Wall Street Journal for being Innovation Partner of the Year in 2008 and a Top Small Workplace in 2007, respectively.

Gentle Giant has garnered admiration in the industry by implementing small but significant practices like hiring educated, athletic professionals to focus on customer service while on the trucks and continuously supporting Boston-community events like the Boston Marathon, Head of the Charles Regatta, and most recently, the Race Up Boston Place (which they won, gaining admiration from the American Lung Association). On top of this, Gentle Giant is always working on the next innovation to make moving greener and more efficient. Just a few months ago, they introduced their innovative Bike Moves program, which uses custom built bicycles to execute local Boston moves instead of diesel consuming trucks.

Gentle Giant is a small company with a solid reputation making a large impact in an industry not known for making an impact. This admiration has introduced Gentle Giant to an extended customer base, enabling the company to grow and hire in a down housing market. This growth allows them to continue innovating and becoming more involved in the communities they service.

I would encourage you to look at some of their customer reviews to understand first hand the reputation they have. Or, to book your move, call 1-800-442-6863 or Request an Estimate Online.

3 Steps Gentle Giant Takes to Earn Repeat Customers

Across our 18 locations in 9 states, the Gentle Giant customer experience stays consistent. Whether a customer hires us to execute a Load and Deliver within our New England Region, or put some belongings into storage in Charlotte, NC, or do in-house moving in Seattle, they can count on a well trained, professional, and athletic crew showing up on time and ready to work hard, until you say the job is done. Having this consistency and reliability for over 30 years has earned us repeat business from customers that wouldn’t think of hiring any other company to do Gentle Giant’s job.

 Another reason our customers continue counting on Gentle Giant move after move is having the security of our 100% Money Back GuaranteeIn the unlikely event that you are dissatisfied with the performance of one of our moving crew members, Gentle Giant customers are entitled to a 100% money back satisfaction guarantee for each member of their moving crew: packer, driver, local mover, or long distance mover.

We also value every customer that has ever trusted us to move their most precious possessions. Earning and keeping customers takes dedication before, during, and after the move, which is why from the time you call to get an estimate from Gentle Giant to the customer follow up we conduct after the move, you will be treated like a VIP.

All Gentle Giant asks for from you is the opportunity to show you why we have been an industry leader for over three decades. Our hope is that after we move you once, you’ll be jumping for the Giants!

Who Told Gentle Giant: “Mind Your Own Business”?

When folks at Gentle Giant Moving Company hear the phrase “Mind Your Own Business” the only thing that comes to mind are the numerous appearances our Founder & CEO Larry O’Toole has had on the “Mind Your Own Business” Radio Show with Rick Brutti & Jeffrey Davis.

Most recently Larry and his sister Jackie, who handles sales and customer service for the company, were guests on the program to discuss Gentle Giant being honored at the Family Business Awards in the First Generation Business category.

Have a look at a video clip below from the segment or listen to the entire interview here, courtesy of the


Just How Green is Massachusetts Moving Company Gentle Giant?

Turns out Gentle Giant is like the Incredible Hulk: an incredibly strong giant who is greener than the $5 bill we spent getting permission to reference the Incredible Hulk. Below is the press release Gentle Giant released on the PRWeb about our Sustainable Business Leader Certification:

Moving and Storage Company Gentle Giant Moving Company, an award winning local and long distance mover based in Mass., has received Sustainable Business Leader certification from the Sustainable Business Leader Program. The SBLP certified Gentle Giant after the successful completion and implementation of the of green business practices within the program’s Six-Step Process. The SBLP officially recognized Gentle Giant as a green moving company at its SBLP Graduation Ceremony on Tuesday, October 25th.

Previously Gentle Giant was thrice recognized for its environmentally friendly practices. The company received a “Bike Friendly Business” award from the mayor of the city of Boston in 2009. Gentle Giant was also recognized by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative for responsible sourcing of materials, as well as receiving the Green Business Award from the Newton-Needham Chamber for Sustainability Initiatives. Combined with this latest certification, these four examples of public recognition reflect broad efforts within the company to reduce its overall environmental impact and consumption of resources.

“We recognized a long time ago that our business and overall industry has an impact on the environment that we share with our neighbors and customers,” said Gentle Giant CEO Larry O’Toole. “The fact that several employees here at Gentle Giant initiated many of our efforts to reduce our environmental impact is a great source of pride for me.”

On the company’s website the company lists various green initiatives focused on reducing waste, reusing materials whenever possible, and recycling, including:

  •     Offering complimentary retrieval of used moving boxes and packing supplies and reselling used Gentle Giant Moving boxes at discounted prices
  •     Collecting all non reusable moving boxes and recycling between 60,000 – 80,000 pounds of materials each year
  •     Providing moving boxes that are manufactured from 90% post-consumer recycled materials and sourcing the production of moving boxes and packing materials from companies that participate in Sustainable Forestry Initiative programs
  •     Use of only biodegradable foam peanuts
  •     Use of only bubble wrap that is made from 35% post-consumer recycled materials
  •     Use FSC certified products for external marketing materials
  •     Locating branch locations near public transportation to reduce dependence on automobiles by employees


In line with this recent certification, Gentle Giant offers a Green Bike Moves Program, which will allow customers to complete local moves without the use of diesel moving trucks. This industry changing innovation is available now from Gentle Giant.

How Blue Cross Blue Shield Chose Gentle Giant for their Commercials

If you are in New England and love Wheel Of Furtune, you’ve probably seen one of three Blue Cross Blue Shield commercials featuring Gentle Giant Moving Company.

For the past several years, Blue Cross Blue Shield has run a campaign featuring companies and people that truly benefit from having a BC/BS card in their wallet. Gentle Giant caught their attention by demonstrating the attributes BC/BS looks for in a company they want to be associated with.

Because moving can be a dangerous activity, and injuries can happen, our Giants really feel a sense of comfort knowing they have BC/BS and Gentle Giant on their side in case of an emergency. Even outside of work, our Giants are active people that participate in physical sports and activities.

BC/BS also picked Gentle Giant because it is not too often you find moving companies that provide their employees with the best health insurance around. In fact, most moving companies don’t even offer health insurance.

So if you haven’t seen these great commercials, they are appearing on most network stations. Let us know what you think!

Gentle Giant: A Brief History

I am very proud to report that Gentle Giant is a Finalist for the Family Business Awards. While we won’t know the results for a few more weeks, this whole process has reflecting on Gentle Giant’s history, and how I, along with the tireless support of my family and friends, created a family business worthy of such recognition.

Our little moving company comes from a humble beginning that focused on hustle and customer service. Before Gentle Giant was ever conceived, I was a rising executive at Eaton Corporation when I quit my job to escape corporate slavery and pursue my writing interests while investigating the possibilities of starting a light manufacturing company.

On my quest for start up cash, I was urged by my closest friends to add moving to the long list of odd jobs I was doing at the time. At 6′ 6″ (the original Gentle Giant!), moving was a natural fit for my physical strength and commitment to a job well done.

In 1980, I founded Gentle Giant Moving Company with a friend’s borrowed truck and a $17 investment: a one-time ad in the Boston Phoenix newspaper. I felt strongly that Boston sorely needed an infusion of quality into the moving industry and, in 1984, committed myself fully to that mission. 

Gentle Giant’s first truck was purchased with a loan I received from my mother, and with lots of hard work, my supportive family, and an eye for talent, that fleet has grown to almost 100 trucks operating every day across Gentle Giant’s 18 offices in 9 states. 

Currently at Gentle Giant, I am supported by several family members. Jacquie O’Toole, my sister, is one of the most confident, successful on-site sales people in the company. Ayanna McKinnon, who is my niece formerly in charge of the Quality Control department, is currently back in school but still contributes to the office staff during breaks. Paul and Dylan Brodeur are my nephews who crew chief moving jobs and work as an IT specialist, respectively. 

Myself and JP

My friend and co-owner of Gentle Giant, John Pacocha, saw how supportive my family was and encouraged his family to contribute to the multiple family business. John’s son Ben has been working on the trucks during breaks from college, where he is studying digital filmmaking.

I am so proud of the family we have at Gentle Giant because even though we are a business, the atmosphere and culture here is more of a family than a board of directors. We listen and support each other, get emotionally involved in our work, and look forward to coming in every day.

I will keep you posted on the status of the Family Business Award, as we are very excited to hear the results.