Our Guests: Wendy Way and Isabel Garcia Schmitt of LOGSA Mil Moves
Wendy: I’m a military spouse and former Army Logistics officer. I’ve been doing this military gig for almost 20 years now. I have 5 daughters, and I have 2 great partners–my husband and Isabel here. We are in the middle of a PCS move ourselves, in a hotel right now on our way to Italy. It has been a fantastic year since we started this business.
Isabel: I’m a military spouse, and former military officer. I’m currently in South Korea. We launched our business last year during the pandemic, and we’re excited to share what we are doing for the military community.
DoD Updates: Please secure your pets when you have packers and movers in your home. You can send them to a daycare, or keep them crated in another room. Reminder that the SPCA is offering grants for families to help with the cost of shipping pets overseas. The military branch relief societies also have grants and loans to help with PCS pet expenses, since these are not covered in DLA expenses.
This is a difficult year to move, with driver and packaging delays or limited resources. Everyone is trying to work through this, so please log onto Move.mil as soon as you get orders to help things go more smoothly.
What is LOGSA Mil Moves, and why did you want to create this company?
What we do is take excess capacity from the moving companies, because they cannot support peak moving season alone in the summer. Instead of them having to scramble and find someone last-minute, they coordinate with us. We connect the excess capacity with companies that have trained professionals. We focus on quality and customer service. Having people come into our house who empathize with us makes all the difference. Between Isabel and myself we have over 20 moves. It is always stressful and frustrating, but having a trusted face makes a difference. We hire military spouses, veterans, and milkids and reservists who have been in that place and understand. Our mission was to hire military spouses and to build a flexible beast that caters to their lifestyle, so people can pick up jobs wherever they need to work. We have built a bridge between the military community and the moving industry. Having a foot on each side helps you communicate better and differently.
“It’s Not Stuff, It’s a Story” is our motto.
How has it been a benefit to you to hire military spouses?
We do have civilian and veteran partners, but military spouses and the training of our team members are absolutely our secret sauce. We know because of the way that we work that military spouses are creative, flexible, and willing to help you expand on an idea. And they are driven! Finding team members who really sink their teeth into our vision is really exciting. We launched during the pandemic, and everything suddenly came to a screeching halt. We had to be creative about moving around restraints and hanging on through the pandemic. The season is cyclical, because they can’t move at all times of the year. At strategic points in the calendar year, you see a peak season where we could jump in and exploit the need of the TSPs. We knew we were looking at a workforce that could meet that need with communication and empathy. Putting things in a box is not that difficult. Using paper is much cheaper than a damage claim, but all that comes second to communication and understanding where a military family is coming from. Then we can establish communication right out of the gate. Arriving on time and communicating about the arrival time is so important.
How has your view changed from being a service member to being a moving business owner?
Wendy: We learned a lot over the past year. Like any business start up, it isn’t all sunshine and roses. You have your own world view, then when you see things from the other side, you understand it better. I remember complaining about things like them using too much paper, or packing my trash. I now understand why the paper is necessary, and how preparation is important. We had to prepare effectively. Megan does a great job on these webinars because they are evidence and fact-based. I’ve gone on her site PCS Like a Pro and found so much in there! I learned that they aren’t going to pack dirty dishes, so I should have been using a certain set or paper plates before the packers arrive. Taking down wall art and anything mounted on the walls makes things more efficient.
When my movers did a walk-through, they explained nothing to me and didn’t give me any guidelines or rules to prepare for the packers. So I made sure to contact our team members and make that part of their training. If you have an issue, stop your movers right away, because it will probably save you time in the long run.
This is your PCS, and you have to do what you can to control it. Communicate, listen, and prepare.
What advice would you give military families going through a move?
Isabel: Now that we are on the other side, not just relying on user experience, we have a broader view of the complete picture. Take charge of your move, and take advantage of the resources that are already out there. Not everyone has the bandwidth to do the research and prepare everything. But PCSgrades and PCS Like a Pro have done the work and have tools you can download to make the move less stressful for you. This does some of the work for you and gives you peace of mind. Every move is a sandwich during peak season–they always have a move before you and after you. They don’t want to be in your home for three days. We can’t mitigate everything before we arrive. So it’s important not to waste time, and to prepare your own things as best as you can.
Now that you have seen this process from the industry side, what would you like to tell the moving industry?
Isabel: The partners we have worked with already have decided to focus on communication. We know after working with IAM that they are grateful and have been planning to take on more of the customer service and communication piece for a while. During peak season, it’s easy for things to devolve or fall through the cracks. Folks are really eager to follow through with communication and surveys so they can keep working to get better. LOGSA Mil Moves helps companies be more efficient and improve customer service. People don’t want to talk to a robot on the phone. Those positive communication stories are so important, and the shift is happening faster than expected because the DoD is shining a light on this particular issue. The industry is working to push out bad actors. TSP companies rely on vetting workers and outside contractors. They want to make sure they partner strategically with companies like ours that make sure there is a focus on customer service. We have to keep filling out moving surveys to help improve the industry.
This year has been crazy with labor shortages and lumber shortages. How are these issues impacting you?
We capture excess capacity, so this is keeping us very busy. The labor shortage is very different this year than last year. We could probably expand to multiple military bases tomorrow if we wanted to. But we are staying true to our values. It is easy to pick up someone off the street to pick up the work, but that doesn’t serve the customer. In my HR days, I always told managers, “Never desperate hire.” It always leads to issues down the road. But I think there are military spouses we haven’t tapped into yet. If you are on Fort Bragg right now and want to grow with a startup and be supported along the way, then right now we are just doing packouts, but eventually we will have more pieces of the pie. You can apply to work with us here.
Right now, the industry is tough to manage. Even on the operations side, they are managing the schedule, but they also have to get out of the office to jump in and help with moves. But then they aren’t there to help answer the phone. There are lumber shortages all around the country, and that does impact the industry. But we believe the right people will come to us and want to stick with us.
Right now, not everyone can have us. We are like the Chanel or the Four Seasons of moving companies! Our first season, we had zero damage claims and zero losses.
What do you want to do with LOGSA Mil Moves moving forward?
We want to create more business owners, where ultimately there would be franchise opportunities for military spouses to manage at each military base. We want to be able to support them with HR and finances, and by staying true to our values. If it doesn’t make sense 100% and we can’t still provide the quality, then we don’t do it. We want to keep the damage claims close to zero. Then TSP knows that if LOGSA Mil Moves is scheduled for a move, they are going to do a good job. We want to feed our workers in the right way.
We are exploring other locations now, but we don’t quite have the whole team built in those areas, so we can present a fully-trained and prepared team to a TSP. This helps our mission of employing military spouses and giving them a job they can take with them when they move. It isn’t cost-effective for a TSP to keep employees on a W-2 all year, so they have to continue to contract out that work. It’s always about empowering people and helping folks.
How can we help get LOGSA into other installations?
We need to grow our teams and have more bandwidth to be able to support this. If other TSPs said come train with us, and use our packing facility to train, that helps us get off the ground. Paying us well helps us keep our military spouse team and make it worth their while, since many have to pay for childcare. We want to give back to the military community. We are a for-profit company, but we want to give it back through hiring and so many other things we want to do to make our community and our world a better place.
We want our teams to know that we are focused on communicating between TSPs and packers. Pay for packers has stagnated in the past 10 years. If you pay a fair price for the packing job, they are going to do a good job, and that will save you from claims on the other end. If our packers aren’t’ as quick as another team, it’s because we have zero claims, and allows us to discuss things with military families going through a PCS. There is a cost to quality. When you don’t have to spend all those hours dealing with the claim, on the way up and back down, then it is definitely better to invest in the teams on the ground.
Can we request LOGSA Mil Moves directly through DPS?
They aren’t a TSP, so it won’t process directly, but when you are assigned to the TSP and get your Move Coordinator, then you can request LOGSA as your local agent. Currently, you can make this request at Fort Bragg.
What is the most surprising thing you have learned about the moving process?
Isabel: Many people don’t realize how much your stuff changes hands, and how many times it gets re-wrapped or re-packaged during a single move. The initial moving company takes it to a warehouse, but then they have to take back their moving blankets and other materials. Things are supposed to get re-wrapped by the moving company that picks it up to deliver, but that doesn’t always happen smoothly. Often, people yell at the delivering company for damage that they may not have caused. Things can get broken at multiple points along the journey.
Wendy: Walking into this, I thought everyone had been in the military as long as me. But I have learned I have blind spots. I once came home from the hospital with a newborn baby to having packers in my home! So you never know what people’s situation will be, and what situation you are walking into. Some families will need more support and hand-holding. New spouses don’t know what they need to know.
Isabel: Color coding boxes was the most useful thing for me during this last PCS! We were moving to Korea, with movers who don’t speak English. But all the boxes were color-coded, and I put a matching colored label on each room, so they could see exactly where to put the pink boxes and blue boxes, etc. Then they didn’t have to ask me at every turn, so I could focus on things like counting boxes, checking my inventory, etc. It was our smoothest, easiest move yet!