Promoting the growth and success of movers, shippers, and logistics personnel around the world
Terry Head is the President of the International Association of Movers, the moving industry’s nonprofit trade association. Located in Washington, DC, IAM has over 2,000 members, representing more than 170 moving, shipping, forwarding, logistics, and cargo auditing companies around the world. The organization provides its members with exclusive education and professional development programs, political advocacy, and global networking opportunities. Since 1962, IAM has hosted an annual meeting and trade show—the largest in the industry.
How did you get started with IAM back in the day?
TERRY HEAD: I’ll tell you about my background, but I’ll start from a point where it really hit home with me. I was testifying in front of Congress and I thought: “How did I get here?” I started in the industry literally pretty much right out of high school as a driver’s helper—that’s the lowest rung within our industry. I humped furniture for a living. I got into it by accident. I had been working in a factory, got laid off, and my roommate was working for a local mover. He said, “we need people come to work with me,” and I did and fell in love with it right away.
I grew up here in the northern Virginia area—never lived anyplace else—but I was going into people’s homes who had lived all over the world—China, Japan, German. I was seeing furniture and art and rugs and so forth, from all over the world. It was very intriguing to me. I stayed in the business, and went from a driver’s helper to a packer. The logical progression is to become a warehouseman. Then, I got into estimating and then I got into sales. From sales, I got into management. From management, I got into ownership. By the time I was probably in my mid-40s, I was a shareholder in several local Northern Virginia companies, and actually was on the board of the association. Back then it was called the Household Goods Forwarders Association of America, Inc. Being on the board, I got exposed to the staff and the members and so forth.
Then, along came a period of time in my personal development where I was looking for a change. My partners and I had different philosophies on where we wanted to take the business. They were older. Their father had started the company. I was a minority shareholder. They were more focused on pulling money out. I wanted to develop the company even more and more—actually, there were multiple companies. It was just a good point where I said, “I need to go do something different,” and I knew the association was looking for a new president. I thought, “Wow, here’s an opportunity go work someplace for a couple of years and get past my non-compete, and then I’ll go back into business.” And, lo and behold, I’m still here at the association after 20 years. As matter of fact, I’m celebrating my 20-year this month.
So you happened into this industry by accident?
You know, it’s interesting. When I look back over my career, and I’m coming up on 50 years—maybe a little bit more than 50 years—I do have a date to retire in a couple of years. I’m going to actually retire. But when you get to that point in your career you look back: Where did I come from? How did I get here? For me, I figured that unless you’re born into a company, nobody grows up wanting to be in the moving business. Nobody goes to college thinking they’re going to go into the moving business. It’s really by accident that you get into this business and it’s certainly what happened to me. I could have gone a variety of different directions.
What was your experience of becoming IAM president? What were your first priorities?
The first choice was to focus on the international side of our business. I could have gone and run van line—focused just on local moving. I could have done a number of things. But being involved in the international side of our business was certainly my best choice, and something I don’t regret at all, because it’s just opened up—no pun intended—a world of opportunities for me.
Staying in sales, I could have done that. When I was selling, I had a few issues with the people I was working for because I made more money than they did. I really enjoyed it. I got to go out and see different people every day, go and talk to national accounts and government agencies and embassies and everything else—something that I really enjoyed. But again, I looked for what’s the next progression in my career? And obviously that was management.
I had never basically run a company at all, so I learned from the ground up. A lot of people are amazed to know that I didn’t go to college. I mean, I went into the moving business right out of high school, so what knowledge I have I learned literally on the job and, luckily, through a lot of great mentors I had around me as I was going through my career. And then I got into ownership, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
It has its pluses and minuses. The buck stops with the owner. Now that I’m out of owning companies and assisting other people to run companies, I don’t miss trucks not starting in the morning, I don’t miss men not showing up, I don’t miss warehouses leaking when it snows or rains. I don’t miss that part of the business at all.
I do miss, I’ll tell you, when I had my company, I had close to probably 250 people working for me, so I had a huge interaction with a lot of people on a daily basis. When I took the job at the association, I had two staff members, so that was a big change for me, but it’s been fun. I’ve enjoyed seeing the organization grow. I’ve enjoyed seeing the brand develop and become a recognized thing around the world. What I’ll do next, I’m not sure, but I am sure I will stay involved with the industry in some form or fashion. But I’m looking forward to whatever it is I do next.
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