Malachia Brantley, president of Newark, New Jersey-based Brantley Brothers Moving & Storage Co., made the phrase “hit the road, Jack” a company proverb. He purchased his first Dodge truck in 1967 for $1. Since then, he has expanded operations to include a company fleet of 25 trucks, including passenger vans and 18-wheel big rigs.
Brantley has built a profitable company with a strong national and global presence. With 65 employees and agents in Japan, Australia, Germany, France, Canada, and Mexico, the company services corporate, industrial, and residential clients. The climb to success, however, was no crystal stair.
A shaky economy in the early 1970s sent Brantley Brothers Moving & Storage on a 10-year financial roller-coaster ride that temporarily derailed the company. Customers–including residents, storefront businesses, and welfare agencies–weren’t moving as often, and some fell behind on payments for services already rendered. To offset the damage, Brantley applied for a $60,000 loan. Three banks denied him.
Limited funds led to mechanical breakdowns of half of his fleet and to disgruntled employees. Even members of his family laughed at his misfortune. “We were living day by day,” says Brantley, 66, of himself and Kathryn, his wife, both of whom juggled side jobs while working full time for Brantley Brothers. “There were many days when we would come to work [and there would be] no work on the schedule.”
The stress complicated Brantley’s chronic asthma, and his physician advised him to give up the business for his health’s sake. Others encouraged him to apply for welfare to support himself, his wife, and their six children. But Brantley’s unwavering determination to succeed would not allow him to accept defeat. “We never thought about closing the company despite the hardships,” he maintains. “I didn’t think about giving up because I was determined to make do with the little I had and resurrect the company.”
To help raise Brantley Brothers from the dead, he sought professional counsel from Rutgers University Minority Business Investment Corp., which loaned him $60,000 in 1972. It also advised him to drop the customers who were lagging behind with their payments. In essence, Brantley set out to grow his business by improving customer service and increasing his marketing efforts to corporations. “We wanted to grow and felt that if we got work with these companies, we’d progress. If other moving companies could do it, why couldn’t we?”
The advice eventually paid off. By the end of the 1970s, Brantley Brothers was grossing between $500,000 and $600,000 a year, thanks to increased business from clients such as Merck, Warner Lambert, Bell Labs, and AT&T. The economic boom of the 1980s and 1990s helped push revenues into the $2.5 million range.
Today, Brantley Brothers pulls in close to $3.5 million in sales a year, making it among the largest black-owned moving companies in the country. “If you give up, you’re finished,” Brantley says. “You’ll get knocked down, but you have to keep going. That’s real life.”
B.E.’s SUCCESSPERT SPEAKS:
“Brantley possessed what I call an ‘inner-knowing.’ He knew his dream was attainable