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Under Dan and Jerry Markow, the possibilities are endless for Sterling Corporation
In Sterling Corporation, Dan Markow owns the largest commercial mover in New England. For many, that would be enough. But that’s just one division of a portfolio of operating companies that Markow has poised for sustainable growth in several sectors, including sub-zero storage for life sciences, renewable energy storage, and real estate. He shared with BOSS his vision for moving forward and building an empire with a startup mentality.
With roughly 100 employees in the field, from supervisors to drivers, modular furniture installers and helpers, the commercial moving division handles roughly 30 jobs throughout New England daily. That’s where Markow got his start, as his father, Jerry, started the commercial division in 1994.
Since COVID, a lot of companies need less commercial space than they did before the pandemic because significant portions of their workforce are now remote.
“We help them liquidate their assets, either through furniture resale to other businesses who benefit from secondary market furniture, or we aim to recycle this material by taking it to metal yards and places where it's not going to become landfill,” Markow said.
The commercial movers are also instrumental in office installations and configurations.
The warehousing division has more than 400,000 square feet of commercial storage space throughout New England. A large portion of that is dedicated to the life sciences industry in the greater Boston area.
“A number of the largest pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and life science companies in the country (some involved in the recent COVID vaccine roll out) have approached us saying, ‘Hey, we need 20,000 square feet of space. What can you do to support us? And it's not just space, it's the trucking back and forth of their products & materials that go with the space. So we focus on tailoring programs that outfit their unique situations. For example, our Tyngsborough building is outfitted entirely for one specific large life science company.”
In the household moving space, Sterling is one of the larger agents on the East Coast for North American Van Lines. About half of that business is military moves, and Sterling boasts strong short- and long-haul fleets with about 25 drivers in each.
The fourth division is a booking agency and distribution center for CRST focused on final mile pickup and deliveries of high-value products.
“We have 10 salespeople with a 10-person customer service team. This sales entity sells throughout the country because they can support companies wherever they are in the United States via the network of agents for CRST,” he said. “That works off of a system of turn trucks that constantly go from one distribution center to another as well as fleets that focus on the final mile pickups and deliveries.”
Systems in Place
A decade ago, Markow was working as a dispatcher, on his way to becoming operations manager.
“I felt like I wouldn't be able to walk away from the dispatch office unless we had a lot stronger technology driven process in place,” he said. “At the time, the manual process consisted of a handwritten job sheet from a salesperson for an order of, let's say, a move crew of four people for next Tuesday that he would physically submit into an order bin.”
That piece of paper would then be the basis for scheduling, payroll, and billing.
So Markow started developing software that could handle those processes, starting with a module for live scheduling. Salespeople could now connect to Wi-Fi and book jobs from anywhere.
“We have the ability to create an order on our phone right in front of the customer and book the order right into our system. The dispatch office can look at the order, assure we have the resources to do the job with quality and then place that order into the calendar. Once the job is placed into the calendar, the salesman automatically gets an email notification saying this job is booked, and they can rest assured it will be carried out.”
It also allows their dispatchers to manage personnel resources in live time so they can make capacity decisions quickly. Even if there aren’t Class A drivers available on a certain day, supervisors, installers, and helpers can still go out and get as much done as possible. This is a tool that helps prevent overbooking in a significant way, while preserving the ability to maintain a high standard of quality amongst the crews Sterling provides.
The next software module created was automated payroll and billing.
“We’re tracking every penny,” Markow said. “There are no more holes in the system where we're losing money because we're not getting something billed out or we're not accounting for materials, or whatever it may be. The automated billing side has really helped our system strengthen from within.”
That strength has become the backbone of the Sterling culture.
“Because we started this in 2013, 10 years has molded (employees’) minds to think, ‘Just because it doesn't exist today, doesn't mean it can't exist tomorrow.’ Any idea in Sterling very realistically can become technology driven process and muscle memory relatively quickly. People like to contribute in a creative kind of way. It creates awesome collaboration within the team.”
With the right systems in place, the Markows – who acquired the Sterling Companies in 2019 and merged all the divisions – know anything is possible and they can maintain quality as they grow.
On the tech front, Sterling is now building out a Warehousing Module to maximize storage in all their buildings with high-bay racking plans. Markow expects that software to be ready by year’s end, drastically improving inventory efficiency for customers.
The timing works well, because Markow is now focused on building a real estate portfolio, owning every building Sterling has storage space in through the newly created Markow Capital, LLC.
“If you have control over the real estate you occupy, you have a real advantage on disastrous-type things that can happen in the economy, and you have a stronger ability to protect your people, because I don't want to get into layoffs or furloughs or things like that. I want to be in control in bad times. And so, security long term for me is majorly important,” he said.
It will also allow Sterling to add more climate-controlled storage so vital to life sciences companies who often need to keep materials at sub-zero temperatures as low as minus-80.
As one of the leading producers of renewable energy among U.S. states, Massachusetts has surplus power it needs to store. Sterling is exploring adding storage for battery cells, which could then return that energy to the grid when needed.
Whatever space Sterling moves into and however big the company gets, employees know they can always walk into Markow’s office or reach him on his cell phone.
“We went through the acquisition in 2019 and every day since then, I've been asking those that have been around since the early years to treat the company like it's a startup because we don't want to become complacent with what we have now,” he said. “Our opportunity in the marketplace is tremendous if we as a team take advantage of the resources around us to consistently strengthen our teams, our systems and our real estate footprint.”
Now those are some power moves.
Since 1952, Sterling has been providing our customers with world class moving services along with asset-based logistics and supply chain management, order fulfillment services, and flexible warehousing and distribution in the U.S. and Canada.
Our residential moving services, headquartered in Connecticut and Rhode Island, serve all New England and provide secure local and long distance moves as well as international relocations.
In 1994, the Office Services Division was created to focus on the diverse needs of the New England business community. These services include office and lab moving, furniture installation, computer relocation, and decommissioning amongst a host of others.
In 2019, the Office Services Division, as a subsidiary company, bought out it’s parent company, Sterling Corporation as well as its sister companies, Sterling Moving & Storage: A Rhode Island Company as well as Sterling Moving & Storage: A Connecticut Company. As a combined unit, we are excited to expand our service offering and grow the company to ensure we meet all our customers’ needs into the future while maintaining the high level of customer service we have prided ourselves on since the beginning. We are a single source provider for all your commercial relocation needs.
For more information visit us at: www.sterlingofficemoving.com or call us at: (978)-322-2518.
20 Industrial Ave, Chelmsford, MA
Phone Number: 978.322.2518 (commercial)
Homepage Link: https://sterlingmoving.com/