Jim Henderson believes firmly in the power of the sun.
His faith in sunlight’s viability as an energy source is so great that he installed a rooftop solar system at his business, the William C. Huff Companies, substantial enough to handle all the electrical needs of the 44,000-square-foot building it occupies.
“I think sustainability doesn’t have to be expensive,” says Mr. Henderson, the company’s president and CEO. “My phrase is, ‘sustainable and attainable.’”
In use since November 2015, the solar array provides heating and cooling for the company’s 34,000-square-foot, climate controlled warehouse and 10,000 square feet of administrative space.
Mr. Henderson says the system is Collier County’s largest, single-facility solar project. It produces more electricity than the facility requires, enabling the company to have a negative carbon footprint. A 30 percent Federal tax credit reduces the system’s installation cost to $245,000, which he expects to recoup within seven years of use.
Based in east Naples, the William C. Huff Companies is a provider of worldwide, concierge moving and storage services for the highest of high-end clients.
“We’re a logistics specialist,” Mr. Henderson says. “Private families are what we work toward pleasing. We specialize in ultra-high net-worth clients — people with a liquid net-worth of $50 million or more.” The majority of the company’s clients are worth “in the hundreds of millions or in the billions,” he adds.
Mr. Henderson’s solar power advocacy has led him to speak before groups locally and nationally to convince residents and other business owners to turn to the sun for their power needs.
Because clients sometimes store no longer needed items in the business’ warehouse, the William C. Huff Companies also helps interested clients find new homes for their belongings by donating them. For example, the company works with Renovation Angel, a national nonprofit that recycles luxury pre-owned kitchens and renovation items for sale, with the proceeds benefitting programs that deal with at-risk youth, addiction recovery, job creation and social entrepreneurship.
Promoting and participating in environmental stewardship is a key element of the company’s business philosophy.
“We can leave a great business behind, we can leave a great community behind, but none of that’s going to matter if we don’t protect the environment,” he says.
Mr. Henderson purchased William C. Huff Moving and Storage 28 years ago from its namesake when it was a two-man operation located in Dover, N.H., that focused on small, local moves and was known, primarily, for low prices. Mr. Henderson grew the business in both size and coverage area and began emphasizing quality service, while stepping up to handle large moves throughout New England.
“It took a solid two years to get to a point where people hired me for quality, not price,” he says. “We became the company of choice in the Seacoast New Hampshire area. It was accomplished by my philosophy of ‘Always exceed the client’s expectations.’”
The company expanded to include the Naples location in 1995.
“When I visited down here, I was impressed the statistics of 7 percent growth each year at the time — and quite frankly, Naples is a great place to hang out in the winter as opposed to New Hampshire.
“The older I get, I can look back and say that was a really great decision.”
As the business continued to grow in after opening in Naples, Mr. Henderson decided to shift its focus to serving the high net-worth and ultra-high net-worth markets. The name was changed to reflect the new specialty and the fact that William C. Huff is more than a moving and storage business.
Mr. Henderson says serving such high-end clientele calls for having a professionally trained, well-vetted and highly skilled staff that is experienced in dealing with such customers and their valued possessions, family heirlooms “and things that money can’t buy.”
The Maine native is a product of that state’s foster care system, and Friends of Foster Children Forever is one of the many local nonprofits organizations he is actively involved with.
Mr. Henderson said he enjoys his work, primarily because he doesn’t regard it as work.
“We provide a needed service in a very unique way, and people notice the difference,” he says. “When you know that you’re unique and different, you have a different set of standards and that makes every day interesting. We’re always looking at things a little differently. We’re always advancing every day, trying to go the next level. We challenge staff members to be focused on more than just getting through the day.”
Mr. Henderson and his wife, Nanette, reside in Naples and Wolfeboro, N.H. Their son, Joel, manages the company’s warehouse and daughter Jacquelin is a visual artist who resides in New Hampshire.
Interview with Jim Henderson
• Business mentor: To be honest, most conventional business owners have not impressed me. They seem to have values that oppose my ethics and moral compass. I read the Bible a lot and get most of my inspiration from what I read.
• First job: I walked up to a neighbor’s home when I was 12 years old and told him his house needed painting. He looked at me and, most likely, was intrigued with my self-confidence. He asked if I had any older brothers who could help me, and when I said “two” he hired me and we spent the next few weeks painting just the trim on his enormous summer home.
I also had a 30-hour/week job mowing a summer resident’s lawn with, believe it or not, a “Forest Gump” Toro mower. It was mind-numbingly boring, so I sold the job to a lazy neighborhood friend for the $40/week pay that I got. I have … never been without some form of sustaining income, going back to 12 years old.
• Business words of wisdom: Nothing is more important than attitude. I always have told my children, “Do not ever let someone else’s attitude change yours, but always, always strive to let your attitude affect other people’s attitudes.” That is always the challenge: No matter what the circumstances, never have a negative attitude. It is the one thing we wear that everyone can see and pass judgment on.
• Favorite business book: Hands down, “Freakonomics” by Steven Levitt, probably one of the most brilliant minds of our time.
• Two things you look for when hiring: You guessed it: Attitude and … attitude. Anything can be learned; attitude is something people just “have.”
• Any job openings now: Always have job openings for anyone who has the right attitude — and who can lift heavy objects, of course.
• Last time you had to fire someone and the reason: It doesn’t occur very often these days. I believe the last firing was six or seven years ago. And the reason? You guessed it: a really, really bad attitude. ¦