Peggy Coakley becomes fourth-generation owner of Coakley Bros. Inc.
By Elizabeth Geldermann, of SBT
Coakley Bros Co. is now in the hands of a fourth generation, as Peggy Coakley is the venerable Milwaukee’s firm’s first female owner. Coakley Bros. Co. has been a growing, innovative moving and storage company since it was established in 1888. The family-owned business has evolved from a horse-and-buggy messenger service, to a delivery service, to the No. 1 local service provider for moving and storage five years in a row.
As of Sept.1, Neil Coakley stepped down from the position of chief executive officer and went into semi-retirement, handing the company over to his successor and daughter.
Peggy was the first woman to run the business when she became president in 1999 and is now the first woman to own the business.
"I am very proud to be in this position and to have the ability to continue to do as a professional and visionary job as my predecessors have done before me," said Peggy, whose goals are aimed toward her employees, as much as an increase in clients.
"There are 132 livelihoods that are dependent on the growth and stability of this organization. I think there is a tremendous amount of potential (for the company), and I am looking forward to seeing it materialize."
Coakley Bros. is the largest commercial office mover in southeastern Wisconsin and an agent for Allied Van Lines, moving corporate and residential clients to locations worldwide.
The company, which is located at 400 S. Fifth St. on Milwaukee’s near south side, has also specialized in record retention for 30 years and modular furniture installation, including in-house facilities management, for five years.
Peggy officially accepted the position of CEO when she purchased controlling interest in the private company from her father, becoming the sole majority stockowner for Coakley Bros. and obtaining full control over the organization.
Coakley also owns Coakley Tech., an 18-year-old high-tech production company that became its own entity in 1999.
For Peggy, it has been a challenging, yet mapped out journey. She has worked in or headed every division of the Coakley Bros. since she joined the company in 1986.
"This is not a decision as much as it is something I have worked toward. I had to prove myself, first and foremost. There was a lot of grooming involved to understand the intricacies of the industry," Peggy said.
As president, Peggy introduced modular furniture installation to the company’s repertoire, a service that has taken off and continues to grow. Coakley Bros. has the capability to move a company and reinstall freestanding furniture, such as cubicles, creating a one-step process where competitors leave furniture for dealers to reinstall.
The company’s average annual sales have grown 35% since Peggy took over as president. She declined to disclose the company’s annual revenue, but Coakley Bros.’ corporate client roster includes Journal Communications, GE Medical Systems, Rockwell Automation, Aurora Healthcare, Covenant Healthcare, Modine Manufacturing and Harley Davidson.
"The moving industry has tight competition," Peggy said. "We compete with other prices, yet we feel we add a higher level of service for what we have to offer. It really is about the people we have. The pride we take in our work, the training and skill required, and the prophecies that we have are what set us apart."
Only one month into her new job, Peggy is already processing ideas with a strategic planning committee.
"I now have a permanent shift in the controlling interest of the business. As the owner of the business, I can make full decisions to move the business forward," she said.
Oct. 3, 2003 Small Business Times, Milwaukeee