Westmount Moving & Warehousing: 75 Years of Commercial and Residential Moving

In 2003 Joe Gagnon made a life-changing decision: to purchase Westmount Moving & Warehousing (WMW). At the age of 33, Gagnon had already spent nine years as a top producer in corporate sales at a national moving company, establishing his name in the industry. However, Gagnon had a strong entrepreneurial drive and wanted to create a company that reflected his own vision and values.

WMW had long been an established moving company in Montreal, Canada. With a history dating back over 75 years, WMW once ranked among the largest moving companies in North America. When Gagnon purchased the company from an individual deciding to retire from the business, the staff consisted of only seven employees.

The company’s growth has been exponential over the last 10 years. According to Gagnon, annual revenue has increased from approximately $600,000 in 2003 to over $12 million in 2012, including revenue from two acquisitions made in late 2009 and 2010 to expand the company into new markets in Ottawa, Ontario, as well as Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario.

WMW has always offered local moving and storage, but since the takeover in 2003 the company has grown to be one of Canada’s commercial and corporate relocation leaders. With key accounts, including Via Rail, Canadian Pacific and McGill University, WMW has become a familiar name on the corporate stage.

“We are also the official mover of the Montreal Canadiens and the Ottawa Senators,” Gagnon explains. “It is a great challenge and honor to be associated with such class organizations in the NHL. WMW has become North American Van Lines’ largest agent in Canada. While our local fleet keeps our offices busy, we are able to ship goods to and from anywhere in the world. We have over 100 shipments at sea as we speak; it is really exciting.”

Rebuilding a Brand

Along with the company’s revenue skyrocketing, WMW now employs more than 160 employees. “Our infrastructure is in place with key leaders in marketing, national accounts, quality and more,” Gagnon explains. “Still, we are always on the lookout for new opportunities, making acquisitions and amalgamating smaller operations with the possibility of franchising out. We have taken a very proactive approach to a traditional business.”

Gagnon and his wife, Sheri Doyle, who also plays a key role in the company’s corporate development, have constructed a unique workplace. “Our vision for the company was to create an environment where people enjoy coming to work and that provided a first class service to its customers,” says Gagnon. He and Doyle also believe very strongly in being active in the community, and the company truly reflects these values.

As an accomplished marathoner who recently qualified for the Boston Marathon, Gagnon strongly values physical activity, too. Together, he and Doyle play ice hockey, cycle and snowboard, among other sports. The husband and wife team carry-over a love of sports and fitness to the company, as the dedicated owners have participated in triathlons with the team and supported a weeklong bike ride for several employees to raise money for children of military families. Every year, the entire company is invited to participate in a charity hockey game against a local radio station to raise funds for a children's hospital.

Of course, Gagnon recognizes where his company stands within the industry. “There are bigger and smaller players out there and we fit somewhere in the middle of the pile in terms of size,” he notes. “However, we are becoming well-known nationally. I have 20 years’ experience in the business, mostly in business development and management.”
On top of WMW, Gagnon is also the chairman of the North American Van Lines Agency council, chair of the NAVL marketing committee and he sits on the NAVL hauling committee. “At 43 years old, I am young and I feel I have a lot to offer to the industry,” he continues. “Our innovative approach to a very traditional business sets us apart from other movers. There are not too many companies that measure quality the way we do. It is not just about sales. We want to improve the business and the overall experience of the end-user.”

Growing Pains

Overall, WMW has done quite well despite the economic hardships that have faced many industries across the globe in recent years. With over 1,500 percent growth since 2003, of which 205 percent has developed in the last five years, the business faces a unique set of challenges.

“There have been some really tough years since we took over,” states Gagnon. “It has been Baptism by fire. Between human resources, cash flow and attracting top talent, there never seems to be a dull moment. We now are able to attract the best people in the industry and keep them. We are doing a lot of marketing and have enjoyed a fair amount of success through the Internet and social media.”

As the company continually adapts to market changes, Gagnon has carried out some major improvements within the business. “Our commercial and international moving services have matured significantly,” he explains. “We have really gotten better at what we do. It is something we have always done, but setting up the infrastructure has created more opportunities for us. Our quality department has really changed how we see and deliver our service. We aren’t putting out fires anymore, we are preventing them.”

The business continues to evolve in the hands of its ownership team. As far as future growth goes, Gagnon expects things to be a little steadier. “We don't see our growth being as steep as it was over the last 10 years,” he explains. “We are looking for potential opportunities to franchise the business, but we will not work with people who don't share our values. Quality is our goal, not volume. We don't have a top-line revenue goal, but we know there is still a lot of growth in our future.”

With growth and quality always at the forefront, Gagnon and his team are setting WMW up for productive longevity. With strong infrastructure and a dedicated leadership team, Westmount Moving & Warehousing continues to offer award-winning service to a growing number of customers. •