John Knight reports of his classmate Don Hindman – “Congrats to Don Hindman for his record of strengthening one of the few Denver companies still in business after 100 years!”
“Johnson Storage, A 3-legged stool keeps company moving. Don Hindman, executive vice president of Johnson Storage & Moving Co., holds up a small, multi-colored, three-legged stool says it symbolizes the company’s business plan. The 117-year-old company made it’s name in the households goods moving and storage business. It also came to specialize in military moves, which represents the second leg of the stool. But military personnel are not moving as often and neither are millennials who have more options for telecommuting instead of relocating, Hindman said.
“The need to diversify is even more important,” Hindman said. That third leg of the stool is the company’s newest venture of international freight forwarding. It does e-commerce fulfillment for such companies as Amazon, Best Buy, and Dick’s Sporting Goods. “We will be a $70 million [revenue] company this year,” Hindman said. “We will go to $100 million in the next five years.” Johnson Storage & Moving has had an ability to see the next move. It all started when Will Johnson and his wife ran a blacksmithing business on Broadway in downtown Denver in 1900. They walked out of the shop to commotion as people cheered a couple of automobiles roaring down the street. “Oh, no, no more blacksmithing; horses are out,” Will Johnson exclaimed (or so the story goes). So Johnson turned his business into a moving company. Some of his first moving trailers were pulled by horses.
The Centennial-based company is one of the oldest, privately-held, continuously-operating businesses in metro Denver, according to the secretary of state’s office data. And it’s still family owned. Hindman, together with one of the Johnson heirs, owns the company. Its longevity can be attributed its decades of conservative growth, Hindman said. The family never took out gobs of money or got too deep into debt, he said, adding that the business philosophy always was “leave some money in the till”.
It wasn’t until the 1990’s when Mark Johnson, fourth-generation family owner, started growing the company aggressively. Then, in the aftermath of the Great Recession, the company retracted and revenue was down 40 percent. Hindman came on board in 2010 and that’s when there was an opportunity to buy up smaller, distressed companies and the company made another series of aggressive moves.
“We made eight acquisitions in three years; we opened five locations and merged six warehouses into three locations,” Hindman said, “We acquired an international freight forwarding company and three new lines of business.”
The business grew from $19 million in revenue in 2010 to $50 million by 2013 and the company joined the ranks of the 10 fastest-growing companies in metro Denver. it now employs 500 people in 11 locations in 7 states. “It was difficult. It was rapid growth. But it needed to happen.” Hindman said.
Now, that freight line leg of the stool is growing 25 percent year over year. it’s got the Johnson family and Hindman thinking of the next move. There is no fifth generation interested in taking over the company. Plans are being discussed now for management buyout, or an employee stock-ownership plan, Hindman said. “We’ll figure that out”, he said. “The company will continue.”