‘Diamond class’

Peggy Coakley worked at Coakley Bros. Co. in Milwaukee for 20 years before she stepped up to fill her father’s shoes as president of the company. Unsure at first, Coakley has since managed to earn the respect of her colleagues and nearly doubled the size of the company over the past 10 years.

“It wasn’t something that I set out to aspire to at first,” Coakley said. “But when the opportunity came about, I feel I rose to the occasion and have truly enjoyed leading this company.”

Coakley Bros. is a commercial and residential moving company that also provides office furniture installation, warehouse and distribution and record storage services. In 1999, when she first took over the company, Coakley was faced with the pressure of succeeding her father, who had created a reputable, well-known quality brand, while also facing the challenge of garnering respect from the existing employees. 

Coakley enlisted the help of Vernal Management Consultants to work with the senior level and second-tier leadership team of the company to help build the firm’s strategic plan.

“Bringing everyone in on that meeting allowed us to analyze the market together, analyze our strengths together and look at where we wanted to go, and where we needed to go, but the key word was together,” Coakley said. “That process put everyone on the same page, and I find it is much easier to lead up the hill if everyone that is following is going the same way, and it is much easier for them to follow when they know where they are going.

“The final outcome of that process is execution. A leader must make sure the company is executing the strategic plan by monitoring the process to ensure progress is being made, or else all of the time and energy spent around the planning is for naught,” she said.

Coakley has conducted similar strategic planning meetings on three different occasions over the past 10 years, and the company has succeeded in accomplishing long-term goals and accomplishments, such as breaking into the Madison and Green Bay markets.

Coakley Brothers has a very team-oriented atmosphere, she said.

“How everyone functions together within our organization really exemplifies what we call ‘diamond class’ customer service,” Coakley said. “Even internally, we function to provide that service to our co-workers. We conduct our day-to-day work with the intention of making our co-workers’ jobs easier.”

If all employees are making decisions to help make their co-workers’ jobs easier, meeting deadlines, responding to phone calls and answering questions, a boomerang effect takes hold within the company, Coakley said.

“That is the essence of teamwork, and that is how we function here,” she said.

According to Coakley, she was given the advice early on in her leadership role to hire people who would complement her weaknesses.

“I was advised to find the best people, and not worry about how much they cost, but focus on how the company could afford them. I have lived by that ever since,” Coakley said. “When you have smart, talented and driven individuals on your staff, it allows you to delegate without having to even think about micromanaging.”

Coakley says she has had to learn over the years to accept that even if her employees do not handle tasks the same way she would have, all that matters is they get the job done successfully. Coakley has learned to trust her employees’ judgment.

“Integrity and truthfulness are key in making good hires, because integrity and truthfulness equate to respect,” Coakley said. “If I feel that I can trust this person, it allows me to let go. It allows me to empower that person. Without that integrity and trust it doesn’t matter how smart or how qualified they are.”  

Peggy Coakley
Chief executive officer
Coakley Bros Co.

Industry: Moving and other services

Location: 400 S. Fifth St., Milwaukee

Founded: 1888

Leadership Moment

“I’m very proud of the decision to grow our record retention side of the business. It was something that my father had started in the 1970s,” said Peggy Coakley. “When I came in, I began to study all of the different aspects of the company. The record retention side was definitely the most dormant but had a tremendous amount of potential. We weren’t a player in it, and I knew if we wanted to be, we had to change course and do it quickly. And we did. We studied the industry. We traveled to other record centers and incorporated all of the best practices. We built a state-of-the-art facility in Cudahy, and we are now the leading record retention company in southeastern Wisconsin.”

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