Aaltonen International Moving & Storage is the longest serving family run moving company in Cork with over 40 years’ experience dealing with projects of all sizes. Founded by the exuberant Andy McEvoy, the company is now run by Andy’s son and daughter, Brian and Kim. We caught up with Brian to hear about the business, his job and his day.
What’s it like to take over a family business and work on a daily basis with family members?
Working with family certainly has its ups and downs as any family business member will tell you (honestly). The changing of the guard can lead to disagreements but being a family it always gets ironed out quite quickly. We all bring very different attributes to the table so we work well together.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned about running your own business?
The most valuable lesson I have learned in business is probably a little cliche but – always make sure the customer is happy. We book a large portion of our moves through referrals. Anytime we face any kind of change, it is inherently stressful. Moving house is one of the most stressful situations in your life so we really take the personal approach when looking after our customers every need. We know how fragile they can be during their move so we are right there with them every step of the way.
Can you tell us a little bit about the unique name of the business and where it derived from?
Our company name derived from Finland actually. A lot of people are surprised when they find out that we are in fact ‘McEvoy’s’ from Cork and are 100% Irish. The name was inspired by the famous rally driver ‘Rauno Aaltonen’ as my father is an avid motorsport fan. We often tell people the little anecdote the name being intentionally used as it then listed us as first in the golden pages for Moving and Storage because of the double ‘A’. A piece of inspired branding and marketing by my father way back in 1978.
Does the company have an ethos and if so, what is it?
The company ethos is simple – Moving Made Easy. We aim to make moving as easy as possible for our clients. Moving house, office or even to a new country brings numerous complications. From the moment we receive the first enquiry we make it our mission to minimise and eventually eliminate these complications and completely simplify the entire process.
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Could you describe a typical working day for you?
I recently had a surgery which sees me spending the majority of my time in the office while I recover. I do miss being out on the road and the physical aspect of the job but my typical working day is still pretty hectic. I arrive at the office before shortly before 9 am every day and deal with any customer enquires from the previous night. I attend any jobs that need overseeing throughout the day to make sure everything is running smoothly. We also sell packing materials and packing kits so I will usually prepare one or two of them for our customers before I head out. Our warehouse where we store our customers’ goods needs to be maintained and organised regularly for ingoing and outgoing storage customers.
The vehicles also need to be checked and prepped for the crew each morning. Throughout the day I am replying to emails whilst I also look after our branding and marketing along with business development. We are highly aware that potential customers visit social media pages of business more often these days so I keep all of our platforms up to date showcasing our daily activities and any offers or ad campaigns we may have running. Finally, before heading home I prepare any relevant paperwork for the following day for our crews and deal with any unanswered enquiries through our website. I try to fit everything in from 9 am to 5-5.30pm but as any business owner will tell you it is never that straightforward!
What are the best and worst aspects of your job?
I suppose the best aspect of my job is dealing with customers on a personal level. Every day we get to meet and speak to new people. Moving and storage is a very personal business. We really get to know the people we move. They trust us with their possessions that they have worked hard for and invite us into their personal space. I thoroughly enjoy chatting to them and putting their minds at ease from the first phone call, to signing the paperwork upon completion. We have some amazing repeat customers, some of which we have moved 5 or more times! We get to travel all over and work in some absolutely amazing homes, what’s not to love! And needless to say, it keeps us fit and healthy.
It is also hugely satisfying when someone calls the office saying that we came highly recommended. It makes it all worth it. Considering some people may only move once or twice in their lifetime we really have to impress them when they choose us.
The worst aspect of the job is refusing work. So often over the years, people will call us in a panic asking us to move them that same day or on very short notice, because they have been let down by someone else. Of course we go above and beyond to help anyone out of a tight situation but unfortunately, there are times where our hands are tied. It is soul-destroying to see people in these stressful situations. Unfortunately, cheaper is not always better!
What are your top tips to help alleviate stress during a house move?
Plan as early as possible. Once you have decided that you are 100% going to move then start planning. Even if it is just something as simple as getting some boxes and tape. The more organised you are, the less stressed you will be closer to your move date. I cannot stress this enough, DO NOT leave everything to the last minute!
If you are hiring a professional moving company then research them thoroughly (check reviews, photos, social media activity, ask around, make sure they are reputable). It might be more expensive to hire a professional mover, but its a lot more expensive to hire an unprofessional mover!
Separate all important documents such as passports, airline tickets, visa’s, drivers licences, car keys etc. Keep all important documents and items in a separate bag. If these get lost or packed they can cause major panic!
Don’t do it alone! If you do decide to move DIY style always draft in some help. No matter how much you need to move it is always handy to have a helping hand even if it’s just to make a cup of tea! Keeping your anxiety at bay is key!
Download our Moving Day Checklist from our website at www.aaltonen.ie
For people looking to avail of Aaltonen’s services, how far in advance should they make contact with you?
Before you contact Aaltonen to book your move you should have some rough idea of when your move will take place. Even if you only know the month you are moving that’s okay. Some people get lucky and call us the week before their move and luckily we just had a cancellation. My advice though is to contact us about 5-6 weeks before your move to avoid disappointment. It gives us notice to pencil you in and give you first refusal on your desired dates.
We then typically send a surveyor to your home or premises free of charge, to conduct a survey. Based on this survey we then provide you with an accurate quotation.
Once the contracts are signed and the ball starts to roll quite quickly then so we advise our clients to stay in contact with us and let us know of any updates. Constant communication is the key to pleasing everyone. Our weekly schedule fills up very quickly so once you have your definite dates then you should give us as much notice as possible.
Similarly, if it is a commercial move, we can send a move coordinator to your premises and they can begin to develop a move strategy that is convenient to you and your staff. Even if you have not decided where you are moving to, at least we can advise you and prepare you for your upcoming relocation.
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How do you begin and end your day?
I begin my day by going to the gym for a swim and a bit of cardio before breakfast. I feel as though I need to get all the pistons firing before I go to work so I am in the right mind frame to deal with the busy day ahead. I remember when I was a younger my father would insist on a big hearty breakfast before embarking on a full day of removals. So that tradition has been ingrained into me from a very young age. You definitely need your Weetabix when you are tackling antique wardrobes and pianos for a living! At the end of the day, I make a note on what I need to address the following day. It can get so busy, and the mind can only juggle so much. Getting sidetracked happens so easily so I refer to my reminder notes so everything gets done and nothing is left on the long finger.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?
The best piece of advice I ever got was to learn something new every day. As the old saying goes, once you stop learning, you start dying. I fondly remember going out on moves on my summer holidays from school and watching and learning every aspect from our crews and my father. And just when I got cocky and thought I knew it all, I was shown another way of doing something or handling a certain situation. I went off to college and completed a Bachelors in Design Communication and I am currently learning Digital Marketing. I will be taking my transport management course in December so it is non-stop really. Keeping the mind occupied with new information keeps me on my toes.
How do you stay motivated when it comes to work?
Being apart of a family business is about as self-motivating as it gets in my opinion. Not only is the Aaltonen brand and reputation on the line, but the family name is attached to it also. Ireland is a small place and Cork is even smaller so we depend on our community to continue to put their trust in us. When I wake up in the morning it is my job to represent our business but also my family. Therefore I take every job personally which in turn drives me to make sure we have such a tremendous list of satisfied clients.
Finally, any funny stories you can share with us about a move?
Over the past 41 years, there have been some tears of laughter shed. We are very careful with our client’s information but I can share one story. My father recalls a funny story of when he was starting out in the moving and storage business. They travelled up to Clonmel to move a farmer down to Clonakilty. My father and Pat finished loading all his goods but the farmer had a unique request. He asked my father if he could bring his calf down in the truck to Clonakilty as he could not fit him into his car. Not wanting to disappoint the man, my Dad agreed but they would have put the calf in the front cab of the truck in a large mailbag.
Of course, this was the 80’s where this type of thing would have been more ‘acceptable’. So my father was driving the truck back with Pat in the passenger seat with a calf in a mailbag between his legs. During the journey down the calf became a bit restless so my dad suggested to Pat to put his finger in the calves mouth to calm him down. And unbelievably it actually worked. The calf completely relaxed and sucked Pat’s finger all the way to Cork!
When they arrived in Clonakilty Pat removed his finger from the calves mouth and he was horrified to find his finger had gone completely snow white and shrivelled! He started screaming that he had gangrene and needed to go hospital immediately! Pat being a city boy he believed the farmer and my dad that his finger would need to be amputated. It took a while but his finger eventually returned back to normal.