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Business Observer Friday, Aug. 15, 2014 7 years ago

'When I Croak'

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The brother-sister dynamic is on full display at a Gulf Coast family-run moving business. The siblings have navigated the pitfalls well, so far.
by: Mark Gordon Managing Editor

Business: Yarnall Moving and Storage Solutions

Generations: Two. Gina Vandroff has worked there since 1971. Her son, Jay Vandroff, president, has been there since 1990. Gina Vandroff's daughter Anita Vandroff joined the business in 2011.

Family Ties: The treat-employees-like-family cliche paid off in the middle of the recession for the family that runs Yarnall Moving and Storage.

Work and new projects slowed considerably for the Sarasota-based firm, a United Van Lines agent. Then, in a surprise move, six senior managers at the 55-employee firm told Yarnall President Jay Vandroff and his mom, CFO Gina Vandroff, they would each take 15% pay cuts. The supervisors told the Vandroffs they wanted to make sure line employees could keep their jobs, and the family business could survive the downturn.

“I really respected that from those guys,” says Jay Vandroff. “That meant a lot.”

Founded by Lakeland businessman R.L. Yarnall in 1913 under the name Yarnall Transfer and Storage, the firm has since rebounded from the recession and reinstated full salaries. The company, which operates moving, senior citizen relocation and a records storage division out of an 80,000-square-foot facility north of downtown Sarasota, had $4.82 million in 2013 revenues. That's up 7.1% from $4.5 million in 2012.

With the recession — they hope — behind them, the Vandroffs have turned their attention to a succession plan for the family business. It's a topic Leonard and Gina Vandroff, husband and wife who bought the firm in 1971, started to consider many years ago. “He never wanted to sell the business to anyone,” Gina Vandroff says of her late husband, who died in 2010.

But succession has taken on a greater sense of urgency since early 2011. That's when Gina Vandroff's daughter, Anita Vandroff, took a job at the business after a 30-year career with United Airlines, where she was an Orlando-based flight attendant. Anita Vandroff, a vice president at Yarnall, runs the senior citizen and elderly relocation division, a fast-growing niche for the company.

Gina Vandroff says her daughter coming to work for the family business “has worked out beautifully.” But like many family business leaders, Gina Vandroff hasn't lined up at the succession station just yet. Even at 75 she looks forward every day to work, where she oversees billing, collection and financial statements. Proof of her passion comes from an Alaskan cruise she went on last summer, when she had email withdrawal from not being around the action.

“I would love to be able to retire so they could feel like it's theirs,” says Gina Vandroff. “But I can't do that.”

Gina Vandroff will only leave the business, she quips, “when I croak.”

The Vandroff family runs the business mostly in unison. No leader is too big for a task. Gina Vandroff, for one, says she's done everything but “drive the trucks.”

The sibling dynamic between Jay Vandroff, 53, and Anita Vandroff, 54, is another side to the succession plan. They get along well, each sibling says. They also strive to recognize they come from universally different business perspectives.

With three decades at a behemoth airline, for example, Anita Vandroff says she wants to “change a lot of things from a corporate perspective” inside the company. She's pushed her brother and mother in that direction, especially to get more systems and processes in place for all the departments. It's not bad now, she says, but there is room for improvement.

“In a big corporation, you have a lot of checks and balances in place,” Anita Vandroff says. “There could be more of that here.”

Jay Vandroff, having worked for the company since 1990, admits his sister has some valid points. But he also knows the company culture, and what could work and what might not work. “We see it every day,” he says. “Now we need to make the changes.”

Follow Mark Gordon on Twitter @markigordon

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