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Meet Chris Coates, Our Expert on Commercial Relocation

April 18, 2018

When Chris Coates settled in Columbia in 1994, he didn't think he'd still be here almost 25 years later. With a dad in the army, he had lived all over the world. So, when they finally settled in Columbia, SC, Chris wasn't convinced that it was going to be the place he would stay long-term.

"Columbia has grown a lot in the years I've lived here," said Chris. "The initial reaction for people who have moved around like us is after four or five years we're thinking about finding somewhere else to live. But Columbia grew on me and I love it."

For Chris, living in Columbia wasn't just about growing with the city. He also found a career at McWaters that he could grow with. He's now in his 20th year with the company and has recently added the role of Network Accounts Coordinator to his role of Director of Operations. 

Working in the network

Chris' previous experience as Director of Operations made him an expert in everything from keeping safety regulations and equipment up to making sure installations and commercial relocations go smoothly. 

"Chris has always had a client-first attitude," said William Gresham, Owner and President of McWaters, "He works hard to ensure every project is stress-free and pleasant as possible."

That attitude made Chris an easy choice for the Network Accounts Coordinator role. 

The Steelcase Dealer Network spans across the nation and each of those dealers might be working with customers who have locations that are spread out in different states. So, if there's a dealer in New York who's working with a company that has an office in Columbia, the Steelcase dealer is going to need a local partner who can receive the order, manage the project, and ensure the installation goes smoothly. 

That's when they would call McWaters and Chris would serve as a contact point in Columbia and would manage the local side of the installation process. Having the local point of contact saves the dealer in the Steelcase Network the time and money it would take to fly to Columbia and manage the project. 

Being local isn't just an advantage for the Steelcase Network, it affects just about every job the McWaters team does—and relocation projects are no exception. 

When it comes to commercial relocation, local has the advantage 

While McWaters is well known as a furniture company, a good deal of their work also revolves around relocation. Each of those projects means navigating the local rules and regulations and that can have a serious impact on the relocation timeline. But for McWaters, it's a breeze.

For example, a lot of buildings in city centers will restrict the hours that a relocation team can do their work. That helps minimize disruption to other companies who are working in the building and helps keep the elevators free for passengers. The catch is, not every relocation company knows this when they're setting up their plan. So, they might show up at 9:00 a.m. ready to start work, only to be turned away by the property manager. Then the customer would have to deal with a change order, which would cost them time and money. 

"We already know these buildings because we've installed furniture in them, so our plan is structured around their rules before we even walk in," Chris said. 

Nothing is Impossible

Beyond being familiar with the buildings, McWaters' experience as an installer means they approach relocation projects differently. 

Since they are used to installing new furniture, they tend to approach problems differently than companies who just do relocation. And they aren't afraid to take on a challenge. 

A few years ago, an insurance company approached McWaters about helping them relocate. They had talked to a few other relocation companies but no one was willing to help them move a large, expensive chandelier they had in their office—and they weren't willing to move without it. 

The McWaters team was determined to come up with a solution that would work for the customer. In the end, the solution was to build a custom crate where the chandelier was essentially hanging from the lid. That allowed them to move it without any issues. 

"At the end of the day, we want a happy customer," Chris said. "If we can go above and beyond then let's go ahead and do it."

Keeping Sensitive Files Safe

There's no limit to what the company considers going above and beyond. They've even gotten a Department of Defense security clearance for a project they were working on for Fort Gordon, Ga. 

And getting it was not easy. It was months of background checks, credit checks, and lie detector tests for everyone from the company's owners down to the employees who would be working on the installation. 

"They even talk to your neighbors," Chris said. "I had to go knock on my neighbors' doors and let them know that the FBI might ask to talk to them." 

Although McWaters hasn't worked on projects that require the clearance since the Fort Gordon project, the fact that they have it is a big reassurance for companies like hospitals and law offices that are moving files with a lot of sensitive information. Although the team is proud of their DOD clearance, they don't rest on their laurels when it comes to taking security seriously. 

Any time they deal with items like medical records or sensitive business files, the relocation team asks the customer to watch them load the files into a truck and lock the truck. The customer then follows the locked truck to the new location and watches the McWaters employees unlock it and move it into the appropriate place in the new space.

At the end of the day, everything McWaters does—from being a local partner for other Steelcase dealers to commercial relocation—comes down to trust.

"I've moved a lot in my life, so I know how stressful relocations can be. We want to make everything as low-stress as possible," Chris said. "We show up on time and we do what we said we were going to do." 

Want to see McWaters' relocation capabilities in action? Check out our latest case study

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