- Larry O’Toole, Gentle Giant Founder and CEO
From Larry to You:
We are all very proud of our culture here at Gentle Giant Moving Company, but sometimes as we brag about it we worry “does it really live up to what we’re saying?” We have to be humble and remember that our culture is something that is fragile and could easily be broken or lost.
Eric Jones is a good friend of mine from Andover, MA who has started a wonderful moving company, Adamantine Moving, in Iowa City, Iowa. We have worked with him on a number of interstate moves and he has always loved working with the Giants. Recently he spent two weeks working on the trucks with our movers in Somerville, MA and observing our office staff at work. After his time here he sent a wonderful letter which is heartening to read because it validates that we are succeeding in our quest to build and protect our company culture. Please enjoy Eric’s note below:
Just wanted to write and thank you again for letting me join Gentle Giant for a week and work alongside your guys. I can’t tell you how valuable and fulfilling the experience was for me – I came out of the week tired and sore (next time I need to train for those Harvard stadium runs), but absolutely recharged and excited for the busy season.
I’ve been struggling for the last few years, in typical mid-life crisis fashion, about whether I should stick with moving or try to do something else. There’s lots I like about my job – the teamwork, the pleasure of working hard physically and getting a lot done in a single day, the excitement of adapting to challenges as they come at you, the feeling of self-sufficiency you get from laughing in the face of grimly long days and (occasionally) even longer nights.
The Giants enjoying a nice day of moving in Weston, MA
But it’s also easy for me to feel less than enthusiastic about yet another day on the trucks, moving another two bedroom house across town. ‘Is this what I was meant to do with my life?’ I sometimes think in my darker moments. ‘Moving couches through doorways and getting covered in cat hair?’ At times it feels as though I’ve traveled a long way down a railroad siding that I wasn’t even supposed to be on in the first place; the switch got flipped the wrong way back at some junction eleven years ago, and now here I am, a household mover. Not a bad thing, necessarily, just surprising and strange.
At any rate, that’s where my head’s been the last few years. I mention this just to give you a sense of what it meant for me to come and visit Gentle Giant. I told a number of people at GG, maybe you included, that our little moving business here in Iowa is like a fort in the woods, while Gentle Giant is like a mansion or a 27-story apartment building. Wouldn’t anyone who’s lived for years in a fort love to have a chance to check out a mansion?
The metaphor is apt not just because GG is so much bigger and more sophisticated than we are. We’ve built our little fort almost entirely on our own. We had no prior experience with the moving industry (I’d never even wrapped a chair when I was hired to do my first job!) and to this day we still have almost no real knowledge about how other moving companies work. So coming to spend time at Gentle Giant was a lot like coming out of the woods, out of the wilderness. It was a chance for me to learn a lot, to see what great solutions a whole bunch of smart and dedicated people can come up with to some of the same problems we’ve been trying to solve all on our own for a decade, and, most important, it was an opportunity for me to connect with a company in the industry I admire a ton. I feel a whole lot less isolated in the work I do here in Iowa because of my visit, and I wanted to tell you how grateful I am for that gift.
Gentle Giant works hard and always has a great attitude!
There was lots that impressed me about Gentle Giant. Your people are really, really smart. The systems you have are super slick – I watched Shane Thompson do five long distance estimates in the time it would have taken me to do one, and with far more accuracy and skill than I could ever hope to achieve. Your crew leaders care as much about doing a great job as any highly paid lawyer or doctor I’ve met. Your movers run, really do run, from the start of a job to the end, even when the job goes to thirteen hours. Not only that, but they actually seem to enjoy it! (Needless to say, I felt humbled in their presence).
But the thing that impressed me most about my visit was the fact that every single person I met at Gentle Giant, every crew leader, every mover, every manager, every salesperson, received me with warmth, openness, and generosity. Most of them had no idea who I was, or simply assumed I was a new hire they hadn’t yet met. Maybe more than anything else, I think that should make you proud of the community you’ve helped create. Good for you; and good for all the people who’ve worked to build a place where kindness and openness is the norm. Especially now, especially in Boston, that kind of kindness really matters.
In my opinion, Gentle Giant is a great company not just because your people are great at what they do. It’s a great company because your people are good, and I mean that in the old-fashioned moral sense. Good in the sense of being great without acting better than. Good in the sense of looking out for each other. And good in the sense of really welcoming some guy from Iowa who’s crazy enough to take a vacation from moving by doing some more moving . What a gift to be welcomed like that. Hope I can someday return the favor. Thanks again Larry.
All the best,