By Sadie Fowler
Whether it’s loving his family or carrying out his passion for helping people while on the call of duty, Neal Clayton shows up with his game face on for every facet of his life.
A devoted husband, father, second generation firefighter and business owner, Clayton is a busy man with no time for down time — and he’s perfectly fine with that.
Clayton, owner and CEO of Firemen Moving Company, is a father to three and husband to his high school sweetheart, Kara Clayton. They are expecting their fourth child in July.
“I don’t have much down time,” said Neal, who places a strong value on working hard. “I am committed to my family and my work. Our kids are only young once and we try to enjoy every moment of being a parent as possible. Kids grow up fast and we want to enjoy our time with them while we have it.”
In describing his family, Clayton calls his wife beautiful and his kids awesome. Gabe, his “Jedi, Leggo-building six-year-old,” is the oldest. Kennedy, 4, is his little dancing princess, and Emmalyn, 2, is their youngest. She’s the sassy, sweet and red-headed baby of the bunch.
Clayton is a Bowling Green native and on top of being a devoted family man he’s a full-time fireman who doubles as CEO of a moving company that’s comprised of … 100 percent off duty firemen!
Though he only purchased the business in 2016, Clayton has been helping out there since he was 15 years old.
“I purchased the business from founder John Scott,” he explained. “My father was a fireman and my father and John would help move clients locally and I would pop in after school and help carry boxes and things like that. I learned the business. When I purchased it, because of my respect for the heritage of this business, I wanted to build a brand we could all hang our hats on.”
The Firemen Moving Company is comprised of off duty firemen from in and around the Bowling Green area. They have firemen movers in the Bowling Green, Russellville, Lexington, Louisville, Covington and Hopkinsville areas and are always expanding their reach. They are licensed not only in state, but as a nation-wide federal motor carrier as well.
Clayton, a long-time attendant of Living Hope Baptist Church, is a graduate of Western Kentucky University. He and Kara remain proud supporters of WKU and its athletic department; they’re season ticket holders for both basketball and football.
“We have a great life in Bowling Green and I’m proud to be a part of this community,” said Clayton. “It’s a special place. I always tell my clients from out of town that Bowling Green is a small town that wants to be a big city.”
In the last 23 years, the business has grown exclusively by word of mouth, and Clayton prides himself most in showing up for every job with quality, trained and professional movers.
“When people in and around Bowling Green ask for recommendations about movers, the answer is always, ‘get those firemen,’” he laughed. “Those firemen are us. We are often copied, but we just take that as a compliment.
“We pride ourselves in being fully insured, licensed and legal professionals in what we do … We always provide a certificate of insurance or proof of our license to anyone who asks. We encourage our customers to do so, regardless of who they choose. We are licensed through the Kentucky Household Good Carrier Association.”
Whether service through work as a fireman or while on the job moving new residents into their dream home, Clayton is driven most by one thing: People. He grew up waiting tables, moving furniture, working in church, running laps in the firehouse while his dad was on duty — and he developed a love for people.
“Customer service is a part of the business that we love,” he said. “And moving furniture is a science, an art, and we have mastered it. We try to always go above and beyond … to exceed in all expectations.”
Clayton is quick to credit his crew. Some have more than 30 years in the business. They use a systematic approach to everything they do — they have even created a cheat sheet that outlines everything a client should do prior to a move.
“Our guys are what makes moving easy,” he said. “Hands down the best part of this business is our guys. We are a brotherhood at the firehouse and we stick together off duty as well.”
Clayton credits a long list of business mentors for shaping him and he continues to call upon some of them for advice when he feels it’s needed. Among those are Doug Gorman (Booth Fire Safety), Tony Lindsey (Son Rhea Foundation), Thad Lucas (Landmark Engineering), John Ballance (Saylors Golf Carts), Lori Hare (WG/WC Humane Society) and many more.
“They are all among some of the network of business professionals who motivate me daily to continue to grow and exceed our goals,” he said, adding that he, too, enjoys mentoring others.
“These people have always encouraged not only my business attitude, but my personal development as well,” he said.
“My advice to young entrepreneurs is to put in the time. No one can be more dedicated to your cause than yourself. Make bridges, don’t burn them. Focus on bringing value to others, not yourself.”
While there’s rarely a down moment, Clayton takes great pleasure in the day-to-day craze of family life that he gets to enjoy when off duty and at home.
In the year to come, Clayton’s goals are clear and defined. He wants to continue being a dedicated father and husband for his beautiful family. And, he wants to continue growing his business’ brand nationwide without sacrificing the quality and service of which they’ve been known for 25 years.