People Services: promotion by merit leads to success
How Peoples Services’ experienced leadership and loyal employees have tripled the company’s size
By Anthony Castrovince | Insights: Akron-Canton | Business Spotlight | Fall 2017
Doug Sibila has come a long way from his grade school days, when he mowed the lawn at Peoples Services Inc.’s headquarters. As a teen, he worked in the company’s warehouse, then drove a truck and moved furniture for two summers while attending Notre Dame.
That is how Sibila – now president and CEO of the multistate logistics services company – learned the family business, from the inside out, he says. Today the company operates over 6 million square feet of public and contract warehouse space specializing in the handling of foods, chemicals, polymers and specialized fulfillment services.
Sibila gained valuable experience in logistics through his roles of increasing responsibility at Peoples Services but says outside experience was equally important in gaining the skills to be a successful leader. However, that outside experience wasn’t necessarily a choice; Sibila family policy requires that all family members must first obtain work experience outside of the company. Once they do, they must then start at either an entry-level position or one that suits their current level of experience after competing with other candidates during an interview process.
“The reason is twofold,” Sibila says. “One, you gain outside experience that you can bring back to the company. And two, it ensures that you come back because you want to come back, and because you have something to offer.”
Developing well-rounded, experienced leaders enables Peoples Services to anticipate the changing needs of a diverse customer base.
Before being named president and COO in 2001, and CEO in 2004, Sibila worked in logistics for Anderson Consulting, which today operates as Accenture. When he rejoined Peoples Services in 1990, he brought back new ideas and best practices he had accumulated. He also transitioned through different roles within the company for the better part of a decade, from running the moving operations to working in sales to troubleshooting customer issues.
All these experiences have given him a deeper understanding of the operations.
“When we sell something, we know we can service it,” Sibila says. “That operational knowledge brings solutions that are a good, long-term fit for our customers.”
Roadmap for expansion
Sibila is the third generation to lead Peoples Services, which today includes 36 facilities across six states. Ronald R. Sibila, Doug Sibila’s father, and three of his siblings are also involved with company operations.Although the Sibila family remains at the helm, Peoples Services has changed significantly over its more than 100 years in business.
When Joseph Schrader established the Peoples Cartage and Storage Company in 1914, it was the first commercial trucking business in Massillon, Ohio, and hauled materials by horse and wagon. In 1946, Schrader sold the business to Ray L. Sibila, Doug Sibila’s grandfather and proprietor of the Sibila Trucking Co., who added warehousing services such as storage and repackaging services in the 1960s. That decision launched People Services’ transformation from a trucking company into a warehousing company that offers transportation services.
“It started with one dump truck handling sand and gravel in the summer and coal in the winter,” Sibila says. “Now we don’t have any dump trucks. We saw much more growth opportunity in warehousing and warehouse-related types of business.”
Today, over 80 percent of Peoples Services’ revenue comes from its warehouse business, and the proximity of the company’s facilities makes it a convenient regional solution for businesses that need materials handled properly and transported efficiently. The company owns its own fleet of trucks, and nine of its 36 sites have rail access, allowing workers to load liquid or dry bulk cargo from railcars directly on to tanker trucks or packages in the warehouse.
“We’re small enough to be agile and adaptive and large enough to bring the resources to bear,” Sibila says.
Sharing in success
Company leaders recognize that engaged employees are the key to creating satisfied customers. To create that engagement, they have allotted approximately 20 percent of the company stock to employees, making them personally invested in the company’s success.
“Anyone who works for us can qualify for the profit-sharing plan after one year, as long as they work 1,000 hours and are still employed at the end of that year,” Sibila says. “That’s for all our non-bargaining agreement employees. Union employees have their own plan.”
Promoting a safe work environment is also a priority for leadership. Some employees handle hazardous or sensitive items, so the company ensures they are trained on and certified in how to do it safely. Peoples Services is one of only three warehouse companies in the country to achieve the American Chemistry Council’s Responsible Care Management System® certification.
“We always make sure our people have the industry knowledge and the product knowledge to properly handle and store materials on behalf of our customers,” Sibila says.
With the buy-in of its more than 500 full-time employees, Peoples Services has successfully executed a series of strategic acquisitions to triple its size over the last seven years.
In 2010, the company acquired Terminal Warehouse Inc. and gained approximately 2 million square feet of facilities in Akron, Columbus and Hebron, Ohio; Memphis, Tennessee; and Simpsonville, South Carolina. In 2012, it purchased Crown Warehousing & Logistics Co. in Cleveland, which came with 230,000 square feet of facility space. The next year, the company absorbed Central Warehouse Operations, with more than 650,000 total square feet of space in Saginaw and Midland, Michigan; and Vandalia, Ohio; and in 2015, it bought Style Crest Logistics in Fremont, Ohio, to add more than 850,000 square feet across seven warehouses.
“Part of our strategic plan is that we own a good portion of our facilities,” Sibila says. “As lease rates start to reset, that gives us a competitive advantage regarding the rate of the reset. So far, that strategy is proving out.”
As a result of that growth, the Weatherhead 100 recognized Peoples Services as one of the top 100 fastest-growing companies in Northeast Ohio from 2012 to 2015. And with more than 100 years in business, it was the oldest company to make the list.
That growth would not have been possible without the backing of the company’s bank, Sibila says.
The company’s relationship with Huntington was especially important in 2010, when Peoples Services was in the process of acquiring Terminal Warehouse, a single transaction that nearly doubled the company’s size at a time when many banks were leery of making major commercial loans to the warehousing industry.
“Huntington stepped up and was able to do it when other people were not willing to,” Sibila says. “That was the impetus of a more strategic relationship. It allowed us to do an acquisition that was very timely and that helped set the stage for significant growth.”
Huntington has also assisted Peoples Services with real estate loans and other strategic acquisitions.
“Through the years, Huntington has kept in touch with us through their relationship manager, not only to get to know the company but to learn about the industry and our approach within the industry,” Sibila says. “That’s helped build a lasting relationship.”