If you know about Ridgewood Moving Services (Ridgewood Moving), then you know the amazing backstory behind our CEO, Cindy Myer. When her husband, Rob Myer, passed away, Cindy stepped up as a new leader for Ridgewood Moving Services despite knowing nothing about managing a moving company initially. Now, she continues to bring the company to new heights and does a fantastic job of carrying the Ridgewood Moving Services’ legacy.
Cindy recently opened up to The Record about her experiences as a CEO after this sudden turn of events. We posted the full interview below, which gives an in-depth look at Cindy’s powerful story as a woman leader in a male-dominated industry.
Q. When you and your husband originally bought Ridgewood Moving Services, what was the plan with respect to how the work would be divided between you?
Rob worked for Ridgewood Moving when he had gotten out of the military in the ’80s. We were married in 1985, when I was still in the fashion industry. In 1987, we bought the business. He ran it, and I was a vice president, just by title only.
And then in 1988 when I got pregnant and had my first daughter, I retired to raise a family. He ran the company from 1987 to 2005, when he passed away. He died of a heart attack. He was 47.
I don’t mean to be saying this in any light fashion, but it couldn’t have been a worse time because June, July and August is the busiest, busiest time in the moving industry. So it was a very crazy summer to say the least.
Q. After your husband died, you could have sold the company or hired someone to run it. Why did you decide to take it over yourself?
There were a lot of factors. There’s a sense of pride with this company that has been nestled in the community for so long. I had a feeling of responsibility for the employees who had been working for the company.
I had a responsibility to my own children to show them that we’ll be OK and that I can do it. That was our livelihood, so I really wanted to try to make a go of it. …. You’re a little bit in shock when it all happens, and you feel that you can do it, and then reality hits you.
Q. What was the reality that hit you?
Reality hits you like: I am thrust in a business that I know nothing about in an industry I know nothing about. And I didn’t know anything about running a business. I had to learn not only how to run a company and deal with employees and bills and all the stuff that goes along with owning a business.
Q. How did you learn?
I called on some neighboring moving companies. I called on the New Jersey Warehousemen and Movers Association to get support from them. It was really day-to-day absorbing processes and seeing how things flowed within the company.
Q. It’s surprising that neighboring moving companies were willing to help you. Weren’t they your competition?
Actually, anybody I ever called within the industry was very supportive. Many knew Rob and respected him and the business.
There were a lot of naysayers about women, especially about the wife running a company, but I don’t think it was the competition. It might have been some of my own employees and people looking in. But for the most part, I found overall great support from anybody I reached out to within my own industry.
Q. So at the beginning, you felt that you didn’t have the support of some of your employees?
You’ve got people who do things a certain way, they’re always used to doing that. Not only was I coming in as a new manager, I was a woman, and I was also the wife of the owner who never ran a moving company before. So I think there was a lot of dissension within the troops. I had, at that time, difficulty reeling them in.
Q. How did you overcome that?
I started joining different networking groups. I joined a women’s presidents organization. I started getting involved with the association in my state. I started developing more confidence by aligning myself outside of my work environment with professionals — women and men. I allied myself with a van line offering us the opportunity to move people out of state. I joined CEO round tables of commerce and industry to align myself with other business leaders.
I had to surround myself with like-minded individuals who supported my vision and direction for the company.
When I took over the business, I realized I had to find something in this moving company that I could connect to. What I found was what we’re doing is we’re moving lives, and that’s a really important job.
It’s the third-most stressful event that occurs in someone’s life: death, divorce, moving. We can be a resource to these clients — if they need a plumber or painter or a tag-sale person or whatever, I can recommend them. And we can do a lot of philanthropic things.
Q. What philanthropic work do you do?
When people have too much furniture, we can donate it. Instead of having people throw out food when they’re moving, I have them put the food in a box, and we’ll bring it up to the Center for Food Action. When Superstorm Sandy happened, I used some of my trucks to bring supplies to a shelter. We also used my warehouse as a hub for collecting goods to bring to Little Ferry and Moonachie and areas like that.
Combining what I do in moving people’s lives and helping be a part of a community, I’ve been able to really enjoy what I do. My people know our core values. They know that we’re more than just a moving company; that we want to be a total resource when people are moving.
Q. You mentioned earlier that you had to surround yourself with like-minded individuals, not people stuck in the past. Did you have to fire people?
After I started feeling that I was on solid ground and I felt more confident, I started letting people go. I started firing people who didn’t support me. I had guys taking trucks and doing side jobs and doing all sorts of things, and I did a big timeout. I pulled a meeting with all the guys, and I said, “If you don’t like the way I’m running things, then there’s the front door.”
I had to do a real overhaul of what type of people I was bringing into this company, and it all paid off. I have a staff meeting every week. I have a sales meeting every week. We have a daily huddle with the movers, and I have monthly meetings with the movers. And we bring people in for presentations. I’ve brought in chiropractors, financial advisers, insurance people, all into to talk to my staff and my moving professionals.
Q. It sounds like you’re offering a lot of innovative things to your staff as well as to your customers. Because of what you’re spending on such initiatives, does that make you less competitive on the prices you’re charging your customers?
I’m a firm believer in you get what you pay for and that in order to bring in the right professionals you have to pay them handsomely. You can still be competitive, but people need to be leery of the lowest-priced mover or any type of professional. You wonder what are they paying their labor in order to make their price that low.
I have full-time moving professionals who have benefits, health care, vacations, incentives that make them veterans in their industry. That’s who you want with your trusted belongings.
Q. There was a time when your business was in rough shape. How did you turn it around?
When I took over the business, the company was bleeding. What the company was paying out was more than what the company was making. After about a year, I started having to look at every vendor, every expense that we had and compare prices, whether it was insurance, phone, pretty much everything, line by line, by looking at every single thing and working with a strong accountant.
Take insurance, for example. When I took over the company, my husband had been working with the same insurance agent for like, 20 years. You get complacent. And if you don’t shop around, you don’t know if you’re overpaying or not. So when I started comparing insurance companies, I cut that in half by just shopping around and finding a company that was used to insuring moving companies.
Improving safety and training was also important. If you are moving and you’re breaking a lot of things and you’re paying out claims, that’s not a good thing. If you train and get the right people onboard who know how to pack and protect the items and your claims go down, your revenues go up.
Q. How does your being a woman affect your business today?
Moving is a male-dominated industry. People think of movers and owners of moving companies as these big, burly guys. So when I took over the company, it surprised some people that I even wanted to make a go of it. I used being a woman as an advantage.
In a lot of the residential moves, you’re meeting with the wife. So having women deal with other women, we understand the needs, and we have the attention to detail.
Q. Any negatives?
I think women in many industries have to prove themselves even harder than a man because it’s assumed that a man can do it — and with a woman, it’s: “Well, I don’t know … we’ll see about it.” We just have to work a little bit harder.
Q. Ridgewood Moving Services was certified as a woman-owned business. What does that do for you?
Fortune 500 companies have money set aside for woman- or minority-owned businesses. Being certified as a woman-owned business allows me to go after that. I have been a certified woman-owned business for about seven years. I like the title more, as I’m proud to be a woman-owned business. I think I get more of a pride factor than I get business out of it.
Q. You’ve said that you want to be a comfort to your clients during what’s typically a stressful time in their lives. Besides offering contractor recommendations and donation suggestions, how does a moving company offer comfort?
I go to senior centers and talk about the moving process and try to guide people who are starting to think about it. I do a Moving Magic class with colleague of mine at the Ridgewood Community School, so that people can go who are thinking of moving. We give them guidelines and organizational tips on the process of moving. We try to educate our customers, so we talk to them about how to choose the right mover and what the steps are in the moving process. On my website, I try to add all different types of informational guidelines — from packing tips to storage solutions.
On a lot of senior moves, I like to go personally. And we know we’re going to need to allocate about two hours with a senior. They might want to tell us stories. They have a lot of questions. I actually bring a binder that I give them. And I have them store all their important papers about moving or anything else they need in there, so they have one place to put all their stuff. I also will write to-do lists for them.
Q. What goals do you have?
One day I’d like to have my own building. I’ve been leasing a 15,000-square-foot facility in Mahwah for 10 years, and I just renewed my lease. I love where I am, and I love this area, but I would love to own my own building one day.
I’d like to eventually be a spokeswoman for the industry. I’d like to get involved on a national level. I like to support other women, so I would go into helping young women entrepreneurs grow their business on a consulting level at some point.
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