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“Up close and Personal – Moving Fine Things with White-Glove Delivery”

By Gail Bennison, Photos by Glen E. Ellman

No matter how much you plan, moving to a new home or office can be a nerve-racking event – or not.

There’s moving, and then there’s moving “outside the box,” says Fort Worth businessman Scott Kleberg.

Kleberg is chairman of Delivery Limited, Inc., a company that specializes in luxury-home relocation and “white-glove” delivery, installation, and storage of fine art, antiques and furnishings.

After more than a quarter of a century in business, Delivery Limited has become a global specialist in moving, delivery and storage services for discerning clients who expect, demand and receive the highest standards of professionalism, Kleberg says.

This is certainly not your everyday moving company.

“Discretion” is the company byword.

Dallas-based Delivery Limited manages projects from single-room renovations to massive, 70,000-square-foot estate relocations spanning multiple years.

The company utilizes 145,000 square feet of climate-controlled showroom-style warehouse and storage, where a client’s entire inventory can be stored until their new home is ready.  Fine art and furnishings from across the world are available for clients and designers to view, in determining what will go into a home.

Kleberg bought the company two years ago from its founder, Steve Erspamer.

In 1978, Erspamer was a schoolteacher looking for a way to fill up his summers.

“He bought a used Hostess Twinkie truck and began hanging out at the designer district in Dallas, moving things for the designers,” Kleberg says.  “Essentially, it was a designer-centric business, founded in Steve’s garage.”

Kleberg says Erspamer was interested in a buyer who would take the company to the next level.  As an investor, Kleberg says he is attracted to service businesses that are dominant in their niche.

Kleberg, 48, is a graduate of Texas A&M University, where he studied range science.  After graduation, he worked for six years in his family’s ranching business before receiving a master’s degree at Stanford University.  Shortly after graduation, Kleberg moved to Fort Worth and made a career change.

“I went to work for Luther King Capital Management where I stayed for six years.  I consider Luther my mentor in the investment business,” Kleberg says.

In 1996, Kleberg founded Private Equity Partners in Fort Worth, primarily, he says, to invest in smaller, middle-market operating businesses, mostly service businesses with leading positions in their respective niches.

He lives in Fort Worth with his wife, Julie, and their four children.  Active in the community, Kleberg has served as board chair of the Fort Worth Country Day School for the past two years.  He serves on numerous corporate boards and is a member of the board of directors of the Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show.

Kleberg says it’s difficult to get the message across about Delivery Limited.

“People ask:  ‘Why can’t we just go get Billy Bob and his brother to do this?’  There are two reasons people would want to hire us,” Kleberg says.  “One is that they have valuable, sometimes priceless, things they want us to take care of.  The other is the quality of people we have working for us.  We provide a stress-free move.  Many of our clients aren’t in the home when we move them.  They just show up in Colorado or wherever and their beds are already made.”

“This is a high-touch business,” he says.  “It’s the kind of business in which you have to do things better than any of your competitors.  That’s what we do, and staff is the key.  From the top to the bottom, we’ve got the best people in this business.”

After buying Delivery Limited in 2004, Kleberg hired Elizabeth “Beth” Barrett as president and chief executive officer.  Barrett, 47, a single mom who lives in Dallas with her four children, is a 1981 graduate of Hobart and William Smith Colleges in upstate New York.  Barrett was one of The Container Store’s first employees.  She worked for the corporation for 21 years, 16 as vice-president of operations.

Barrett was credited with leading The Container Store to become the “Best Company to Work For In America,” as recognized by Fortune magazine – more than once, Kleberg says.

Barrett moved to Delivery Limited because it reminded her of the early years at The Container Store – “employees with extreme passion for customer service, a customer-focused culture and people willing to do almost anything to please the customer.”

“I left ready to take my culture and employee philosophies and to accomplish the same success in creating a strong internal culture that resonates with discerning clients through exceptional service,” she says.

Delivery Limited has a unique product in a niche business, she says.

“The challenge comes in making the logistics work on some of our larger moves that span from one to two months in locations on opposite ends of the country.”

Barrett says there is a false perception that Delivery Limited is much more expensive than the competition.

“We really are not.  However, what can make our projects a little more expensive is the time and care that we believe is necessary to make the move successful.  We pay tremendous attention to detail.  Whether you are moving a Picasso or a sofa, the project is thoughtfully carried out to achieve positive results for the client.”

Barrett says the company recently moved a family in the Dallas/Fort Worth area from one home, to two separate residences in Hilton Head, S.C., and Jamestown, Va.

“In that case, we had a crew of six to eight staff members at different locations for over three weeks at a time,” says Barrett.

Delivery Limited’s standard labor rate is $90 per hour for the services of two men and a truck.

Company staff members work closely with interior designers, some of whom have partnered with the company for more than a decade.  As one of the very few relocation companies in the United States that is a member of both the Industry Foundation (IF) and the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), the company offers a variety of services of special interest to the design community.

Ann Harwood, owner of Ann Harwood Interior Design in Fort Worth, says she often is charged with moving expensive, breakable and sentimental things.  Delivery Limited alleviates the risks, Harwood says.

“In the moving and storage business, you sometimes have the equivalent of the state of American labor,” she says.  “Not the case with Delivery Limited.  I really believe they try hard to train and keep good employees.”

Harwood notes that the white gloves worn by staff members are practical as well as professional.

“When packers and movers are touching fine fabrics and valuable art, you don’t want dirt and sweat.  This is especially important during Texas summers.”

Interior designer Kim Johnson, principal of Johnson-Seitz in Fort Worth, says Delivery Limited provides flawless service.

“Our client was relocating to Fort Worth, and needed temporary storage until she purchased a new home.  Delivery Limited’s facility was inventoried perfectly, and easily accessible.  If the client wanted only one chair removed, it was done with no hassle or complaining by the staff,” she adds.  “When it came time to move the client to her new home, Delivery Limited had photos of her possessions, and had dimensioned everything for the space…fabulous, incredible service.”

So, how to handle a client who built a house with no closets?

Not a problem at all, says Cindy Bourne, manager of Personal Spaces, a new division of Delivery Limited.

“Our client preferred to use antique chests, armoires and cupboards for all of her storage, Bourne says.  “We spent two days just cleaning out 150 years of dirt, and then lined all of them with scented liners – quite an improvement over their previous scent.  We also took care to use moth protection where needed, as well as stored many antique keepsakes archivally to keep them safe for the next generation.”

The Personal Spaces staff can design spaces, organize and create functionality out of chaos, says Bourne.

Bourne joined Delivery Limited in January this year, after working for The Container Store for 15 years.  She has a degree in graphic design.  Problem-solving is her forte and her passion, she says.

Bourne recalls a memorable solution involving a client with more than 1,000 collectible dolls.  Each doll was to be placed in its original box with particular accessories.  Bourne’s team created specific boxing for a safe move.

“These dolls are her children, and need to be treated as such,” Bourne says.  “Some people are visual, some logical and some don’t want anything in sight.  Sometimes we have to encourage people to purge some of their possessions.  Clients have told us we are like psychologists.”

Personal Spaces offers feng shui, the ancient art of organizing a space or home so that it has good energy, says Bourne.

“Obviously this isn’t for everyone, but we have a client who told us her new home had a ‘negative feeling’ after several problems with her contractor.  We are providing information for her to have a specialist clear the negative energy.”

Personal Spaces’ resource shopping service is an advantage to clients who don’t have time to find specific items for their home or space.

“We can locate those things for them and do the installation as well,” Bourne says.  “That leads to specialty projects such as gift-wrapping.”

Personal Spaces provides individual, as well as corporate gift organization and presentation.

Bourne says that her team works in concert, not in competition, with a client’s designer or builder.

“Designers are doing many of the things we do, but they usually are happy to turn over the behind-the-scenes organization such as garages, cabinets and closets.”

Clients can expect to pay $80 per hour for one Personal Spaces consultant.

Delivery Limited employs 60 people, 35 of whom are installation specialists.

“In the service industry you have two choices,” Barrett says.  “You can offer mediocre results, or really stand apart and exceed the client’s expectations.  We very carefully select our employees.  We offer a career opportunity.  This is not a stop-gap job.”

The company provides specific and ongoing training, including 80 hours of instruction within the first year of employment.  Training reaches from etiquette and fine-arts-handling to packing and learning how to load and unload a truck, Barrett says.

“How to pack a lamp would seem common sense.  But when you consider the antiques and fine arts we deal with on a daily basis, it’s important that we take the time and care necessary for a successful and stress-free move for the client.  Training is a huge piece to that puzzle,” Barrett says.

On paper, Delivery Limited is just another relocation, receiving, storage, delivery and installation firm, but that is not reality, says Joseph Toliver, director of client services and relations.

Toliver has worked for the company for 12 years.

“To our clients, we are lifesavers for one of the top five most stressful life events – moving.  Our client list is of the most discerning clients and interior designers around the world,” he says.  “As far as the service we offer to those clients, there are no limits.  If we can’t do it, we have or will find a resource to get it done.”

Delivery Limited’s revenues are up 33 percent over last year, though Barrett and Kleberg declined to divulge specific financial information.

“We don’t talk so much about bottom line,”  Barrett says.  “The fact that the business is growing and has shown positive results is wonderful and indicative of our service.”

For more information about Delivery Limited, visit www.deliverylimited.com.

Contact Bennison at journalgirl@sbcglobal.net.