FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Kevin Phone
January 28, 2014
Why the ambition? His answer, “An aunt told me I wouldn’t struggle in life because I like nice things and I work hard.”
I sat down recently with Kevin Phone from Premiere Van Lines – in part because as a new sponsor for FACILITYCalgary, I wanted to give them some exposure on these pages, but because everything I’d heard suggested this company is a pretty interesting success story – and because I was curious about this young fellow leading the business.
Just who is Kevin Phone?
I think he is certainly his own man – but it becomes clear that there is a family connection, influence and set of traits that make it all come together in this very engaging young leader. His parents are accountants. His older and younger brothers are accountants. Kevin won’t admit to being a rebellious 2nd born, but he hasn’t fit the family mold of accountancy.
The family name was not my first question – but I was curious. His grandfather and immigration officials – some sort of bungle translating the family name ‘FUNG’ ended up being ‘Phone’ on all documents. So, as Kevin explains, if you meet anyone named Phone, they are descendants of his grandfather!
In the beginning when his father Paul founded the business as Classic Moving in 1978, it was in the office and household moving business. A multi-city expansion, then consolidation in the 90’s, focus on household moving (Atlas Van Lines affiliation) – then a branding and name change to Premiere in 2005 - they joined with a national firm named Premiere as their Calgary affiliate. A re-launch of the office moving business occurred in 2006. That re-birth has been headed by Kevin Phone who leads the Office Moving Division today, is Vice-President at Premiere Van Lines, and heir-apparent to take the helm at the family owned firm.
I asked him how their company compares to others? Kevin answered, “I’ve never worked anywhere else, so I don’t know what it is like anywhere else”.
2nd of 4 kids – older and younger brothers are accountants like mom and dad, younger sister is still in school. Kevin is a St. Francis High grad, SAIT to study computer engineering, then moving from part-time and summer employee at dad’s company to full time. “I didn’t have the patience to study. I wanted to work.”
“My dad wants to slow down a bit. I’ve been focused on the office moving division since we re-launched it, and now I’m more involved in all aspects of the company.”
A succession plan at Premiere Van Lines is in place.
… hands on. I encourage creative ideas. I don’t take short-cuts. Well organized. Personal touch. Common sense.
I asked Kevin how he sees his business, and his industry, faring over the next 90 days?
… we see lots of clients restructuring, re-organizing – and that churn is good for our office moving business. We are still feeling the ripple effect of new towers being occupied as tenants back-fill spaces in older buildings.
And over the next 5 years?
…. very active, filling new buildings, and in a softer rental rate market many tenants will migrate to downtown and beltline areas in a flight to quality – and that fluidity is good for us in the moving business. 75% of our office moving business is oil & gas related – a lot of it project related, so accommodating changes within premises is a growing segment for us.
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… for suppliers, honesty, sincerity, consistency. For our staff of 70, the same things and we reward them with profit sharing, bonuses, recognition of achievements, service awards – a career path.
What distinguishes you that causes people to choose Kevin Phone and Premiere Moving – why have you been chosen over your competitors?
… track record, quality staff, best equipment, we aren’t focused on ‘one-time’ transaction relationships, because we become an extension of our client’s facilities team. About 50% of our business if repeat business and referrals, so we feel we are getting it very right a lot of the time. The labour market is one of our industry’s largest challenges. Our clients have high expectations – as they should – but labour has traditionally been people with low skill levels, not much education and a strong back. They learn on the job. We do a lot of in-house training and hands-on supervision on every job. I think our culture – the culture my dad built in this company – serves us well. Our sales people service the job. This is a large city, but a ‘small community’ in terms of the marketplace. If you don’t deliver, it will be known soon. I've never worked at another moving company, but based on feedback I'd say we have more of a personal touch and consistent commitment to our clients.
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
…serving customers. Living up to the expectations of my family. How can I learn something new every day.
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… my dad, Paul, in business and as a person. Even though he was very busy with business and travel when I was growing up, he was always there for me, a good role model.
Do you have a hero?
… LeBron James – I’m a basketball fanatic!
Work life balance?
… I grew up being nuts about video games and sports. I gave up the video games 8 years ago. I love cars. Spending time with my wife and step-son. Personal life balance involves dealing with lots of stress – to be stronger, accountable. I have a passion for cars, basketball and golf.
What do you read?
… newspapers, business publications, car magazines, basketball magazines.
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