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The decision to renovate your home can be a costly one but, as with other financial decisions, should be based on the careful answers to several key questions.

What is your motivation? Perhaps your family has outgrown your present home, you plan on staying for years to come, or there is excessive wear and tear on floors, walls or carpeting. Any of these might be good reasons favoring renovations.

What is the cost? Brainstorm with your family what your ideal renovations would be, then get estimates from several reputable contractors. Do you have the cash in hand or will you need to secure a home improvement loan? The cost might be too much for your budget or you could selectively choose one or two specific areas for renovation. Also consider the type of renovations you do — some have a higher return on investment (kitchens and bathrooms) than others (sunrooms and pools).

What will be the effect on the marketability or asking price on a future home sale? Updating is a common way to boost a seller’s asking price, but you must consider what the average value in the neighborhood is and whether renovations could potentially price you out of the market.

Will renovating cost less than moving? Moving can be a substantial expense so it’s worth factoring into your decision.

The answers to these questions should help you make a more informed decision on whether to take the renovation plunge or stick with the status quo.

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My Move

My wife and I recently moved from a Dallas townhouse we had been leasing for 2 years to our first house, also in Dallas. Between the two of us, we had amassed a sizable collection of “stuff,” which I had estimated to be around 7,000 lbs. (pretty standard amount for a moderately furnished, two-bedroom apartment). When it came time to move, I decided of course to use my company’s local moving department — Armstrong Local Movers.

In our effort to keep costs for the move low, my wife and I decided to do all of our own packing and carry highly delicate or breakable items in our cars. These included a 40″ LCD TV, our small wine collection and a large piece of coffee table glass. Our movers can easily transport those things, too, but I wanted to make it as simple as possible for them.

Moving day came one Saturday in late January and the crew arrived right within the window they were supposed to. These friendly guys were dressed in their uniforms and displayed a courteous and hard-working attitude. They put down floor protection next to the front entrance and wrapped furniture in protective pads. Then they set about stacking boxes on dollies, disassembling our bed and bookshelf and generally clearing the place out. The mattress was packed in a protective box. In about two hours, we were loaded and ready to go.

At our moving destination, the floor protection went down again. These are sheets of heavy cardboard that keep floors from being scratched, dented or soiled. The truck as unloaded and everything was put in the correct room in about an hour. The bed and bookshelf were re-assembled and the trash was cleared out. In a little under an hour and a half, we were moved in. Nothing was scratched, dinged or broken. From start to finish, this was a smooth move.

Yes, I do work for the company, but I can tell you from an insider’s point of view that this is the type of service we train our crews to provide on each and every move.

Great job, guys!

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Wow! Do preschoolers LOVE moving trucks or what?  Armstrong Relocation’s van operator Tony Behrig recently volunteered his time to go out to a Carrollton Early Childhood PTA meeting and show all the preschool kids his United Van Lines truck.  Tony talked to the kids about his truck, what he does for Armstrong/United, and about moving.  The kids had a blast checking out the trailer (well….really running the length of the trailer over…and over…and over again), but the cab was definitely everyone’s favorite area.  Tony let the kids get up into the cab to check out the sleeping quarters and pretend they were driving his truck! 

Everyone had a great time and Tony was such a great sport about it all!  Thanks Tony for everything you do here at Armstrong and especially for spending the day with these kids to give them a taste of what Armstrong’s van operators do on a daily basis!

Here are a couple of shots from the day….hope you enjoy them!

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Armstrong Relocation Dallas customer service coordinator Barbara Ripley recently was awarded Honorable Mention for the Heart of Quality Award. The Heart of Quality is awarded annually to United Van Lines employees who demonstrate outstanding customer service. Congrats, Barbara!

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Armstrong Relocation Dallas President Michael Gonzales was honored today along with other minority business leaders by the Dallas Business Journal, which presented them with a glass plaque and a biographical article in the publication’s online and special print editions. The group was honored for their hard work, business acumen, vision and entrepreneurship. We’ve included the entire write-up, as well as a video, about our fearless leader. Congrats, Mike!

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Michael Gonzales – Minority Business Leader Awards

Premium content from Dallas Business Journal

Date: Thursday, February 16, 2012, 9:15am CST

Mike Gonzales grew up in a household in Little Mexico — where English was the only language spoken. His war-bride mother only spoke German, so for her to learn the language, Gonzales and his four siblings never spoke Spanish. He never did learn the language. Now 55 and president of Armstrong Relocation Dallas, Gonzales credits his success to working hard and helping others.

Where were you born? Dallas

Describe your family: I married my high school sweetheart, had three wonderful children and have more recently been blessed with two grandchildren.

Tell us about growing up: Growing up with four siblings and being the smallest does not make for an easy childhood. We lived quite modestly in a small house and our father, who worked in the restaurant business, had to work very long hours to keep our family fed. My mother was a war bride from Germany and came to live in America, but she always did a lot of funny things because of the cultural differences. I also remember spending a lot of time at our grandparents’, who lived in Little Mexico before it was eaten up by Uptown. We would travel all over Dallas riding the Dallas bus system because my grandfather had retired as a mechanic and was given a lifetime bus pass. They never did own a car. Although we didn’t have a lot of money, I don’t ever remember feeling like we wanted for anything. It seemed like a week never went by where one of us was not in some kind of trouble, but with four boys what would you expect? And through it all, we turned out alright.

Describe an experience that shaped your future: A few years before I purchased part of this company, I was questioning where I was and what I was doing. I happened to listen to a motivational tape that told a sto

ry called the “River of Diamonds” which briefly explains that you don’t have to go looking everywhere to find happiness/fortune because many times they are right there in your own backyard.

Education: BBA, University of North Texas    University of North Texas

Describe your first “real” job: My first real job was as bus boy for a small restaurant in Irving, and I immediately got promoted to cook.

How did you get into your industry? Believe it or not, as a sophomore in college I was looking for a summer job and just opened the Yellow Pages. I started at ‘A’ and cold-called companies, asking if anyone needed summer help. I reached this company and they said come on down and we’ll put you to work on the moving trucks. The rest is history.

How did you become an owner? After 12 years of working at Armstrong, one of the partners was considering leaving the business and we met one evening. We passed a napkin back and forth with each of us writing our price and in five minutes we had a deal. I got the best end of the deal.

Describe the greatest challenge you’ve faced: I have been truly blessed most of my life so I haven’t had too many things to test me, but one thing that sticks with me happened during high school after I had been dating a particular girl in my class for a few weeks. Our home phone rang one day, my oldest brother answered it and the woman on the other end was the mother of the girl I was dating. She proceeded to yell at my brother that I was not going to date her daughter because I was not good enough. She thought she was talking to my father but she never asked, and we both decided it was best not to tell our dad as he had a healthy temper. That stuck with me for a long time, and I still don’t know whether she didn’t like me, my family, our last name or what. I then decided that I would never let that bother me again and that I would work hard to make sure no one ever had reason to question whether I was good enough for anything or anyone. I also hoped that my kids would never be subject to anything like that in their lives. That seems so long ago.

How have you overcome it? By working harder and helping others, I hope I have earned the respect to prevent me from being judged by anyone or anybody.

What is the secret to your success? Treat others with respect and always give more than what people expect. And never quit smiling.

What community service are you involved in? Catholic Charities, Holy Family Catholic School,United Way, Toastmasters, Knights of Columbus, Small World Charity, Turtle Creek Recovery Center and Carter Blood Bank.

What drives you to give back? We are only on this earth for a very short time, some more and some less, but I feel we are all here to help others in some kind of way. By giving back I think it’s my small way of using the time I’m here to make it a better place for others.

How do you mentor others? I have never considered myself a good teacher because, in some ways, I don’t always have the patience. My mentoring style is to put that person in the seat and allow them to just do it while pointing out and discussing how to handle particular situations.

What are your goals for 2012? To become a better public speaker, make a difference for a cause, and grow my business 10 percent.

Where do you see yourself in five years? In 10 years? I don’t see too much changing in five years as I love where I am and what I am doing. In 10 years, I hope I am able to spend a little less time working and more time helping other organizations that help people.

What are you most known for? I believe I am most known for my dependability and loyalty to my friends, family, coworkers and customers.

Describe something others would be surprised to find out about you: Others might be surprised to find I am an avid motivational tape enthusiast; I used to own hot dog stands in downtown Dallas and sold hot chocolate up and down the aisles in the old Texas Stadium — anything for a buck!

Armstrong Relocation – Dallas

  • Industry: Relocation
  • Headquarters: Memphis, Tenn.
  • Local address: 1405 Crescent Drive, Carrollton 75006
  • Top executive: Jeff Watson, CEO
  • Annual revenue: $22,500,000
  • Number of employees: 200
  • Phone: 972-242-0511
  • Website: http://www.armstrongrelocationdallas.com

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Many people load up on high-end electronics around this time of year — LED HD TVs, Blu Ray DVD Players, Home Theater Surround Sound Systems etc. All of those electronics are very well packed, padded and protected by the manufacturers. After all, it’s in their best interest to ensure that this delicate web of microchips, optical readers and digital circuitry makes it from the plant to the retailer and, ultimately, under your Christmas tree in good working order.

It’s also in our best interest to make sure that these self-same electronics are packed and protected as well as possible so that they reach their new home in as good a shape as the day they were unwrapped. Of course, we’re happy to provide our own sturdy boxes, bubble wrap etc. to accomplish this, but what if you had saved those original boxes? Especially in the case of a flat-screen TV, it could save you upwards of $100. The flat screen boxes we buy to properly protect these lovely TVs cost about that much or more.

So, if you’ve got the space in the attic or garage, sock away those boxes so that when it comes time to pull up stakes and move, you’ll save those hard-earned dollars!

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Our owner, Jeff Watson, attended the 2011 Unigroup Convention and Awards in Orlando, Fla., earlier this month and was called onstage to collect several awards given to our Dallas office, as well as company-wide (there are 22 offices nationwide). Armstrong Relocation is an agent for United Van Lines, which is part of the Unigroup family.

We already mentioned here that we were the winner of the 2011 Customer Choice Award, the most prestigious award given to any agent based largely on customer feedback scores, among other criteria. We also won:

  • Performance Excellence Award, which is based on customer feedback and claims reporting
  • Top Hauler Award – All Lines, which is based on the overall amount of revenue from household goods and logistics
  • President’s Club Award for $68 million in combined revenue throughout the Armstrong Relocation group
These awards are the result of hard work, determination and dedication to our customers. They also are a testament to the hard work of dozens of Armstrong Relocation employees across all job descriptions — customer service, operations, sales and leadership. To all of them, we say a hearty “Thank you.”
Here are a few photos from the awards ceremony in Orlando.

Armstrong Relocation Dallas owner Jeff Watson stands with the other owners throughout United Van Lines who won the prestigious Customer Choice Award in their respective size categories.

Armstrong Relocation Dallas owner, Jeff Watson, accepts the Overall Top Hauler award from Pat Larch, President and COO of United Van Lines (left), and Jim Powers, President of Unigroup Worldwide Logistics.

Armstrong Relocation Dallas owner Jeff Watson poses with the 2011 Overall Hauling Award.

Armstrong Relocation Dallas owner Jeff Watson stands onstage with Armstrong Relocation agency owners to accept the 2011 President's Club Award for combined company-wide revenue of $68 million.

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