Ready for Takeoff Tips for New Professionals 

Mobility magazine, February 2008 

Getting off the ground when entering a new industry can be a turbulent experience; however, many resources are available to educate those launching into the skies of corporate relocation. Victor dissects the services Worldwide ERC® offers for new professionals and the strategies involved in entering the relocation industry.

By Toula Victor, GMS 

Still having trouble distinguishing between incoming and outgoing referrals? Not sure what a third-party is? You definitely are not alone. Starting a career as a relocation professional can be overwhelming, to say the least.

As relocation director for a boutique real estate company, I initially found that my resources were limited as far as education and training were concerned. In an industry dominated by third-party companies (definition to follow), it is difficult to start a private relocation business, and more so when you are completely new to the industry. There are many steps involved in the development of a relocation business, including education, organization, networking, and marketing.

The chances are that if you are reading this article, you are a member of Worldwide ERC®. The Worldwide ERC® website is a great place to begin educating yourself. The site offers valuable infor­mation for new relocation profes­sionals such as the New Profes­sionals program, which can be found under the membership tab. The New Profession­als Package includes publications such as the “Guide for Managing the Mobile Workforce,” “Fundamentals of U.S. Domestic Relocation,” and a Coal­ition Corner Training Modules CD. There are also several links on the New Professionals page that will get you better acquainted with the industry. These links include:

  • Workforce mobility facts page. This page offers background on both domestic and international relocation, as well as valuable statistical information.
  • Webinars. This page allows you to register for online programs and tutorials that will help familiarize you with the relocation industry.
  • Glossary of commonly used relocation terms. Tip: print this out and keep it handy. Getting acquainted with these terms definitely will provide you with some clarity. Still wondering what a third-party company is? From the Glossary: a service company supplier retained by an employer to provide homesale services to its relocated employees. In some instances, the third-party company may administer a corporation’s homesale program and policies. Synonymous with “purchaser,” relocation management company, and home purchase company.
  • Career advice. This page provides a database of domestic and international career opportunities, and allows you to access a database of articles regarding global careers.
  • Volunteer to serve on a committee. This page allows you to volunteer for a variety of committees and activities, from speaking at a conference to writing an article for MOBILITY.
  • Mentors. Applying for a mentor through the Worldwide ERC® website gives new professionals the opportunity to be paired with more experienced relocation professionals all over country. Being able to contact someone for advice and to share ideas is invaluable.

In addition to the mentor program, contacting real estate or relocation service companies in your area and making arrangements to spend a day in their relocation departments is a great way to gain insight on how others organize and conduct business.

Getting Started in the Relocation Industry

Education

  • Visit the ERC website at www.erc.org. You will find that the New Professionals page (under the membership tab) provides a wealth of information.
  • Make arrangements to spend a day with another relocation professional in your area.
Organization
  • Write a business plan that includes your short- and long-term goals and strategies for networking and marketing.
  • Compile a database of relocation directors, preferred real estate agents, and corporate company contacts.
Networking
  • Register for seminars hosted by local or national organizations. Even if seminars are not directly related to relocation, they are great opportunities to network.
  • Offer to speak at local company meetings.

Marketing

  • Send brochures, postcards, or newsletters to the people and companies in your database on a regular basis via mail or e-mail.
  • Develop a content rich website or, if your company has an existing site, add a relocation link.
  • Remember that your ultimate goal is making this transition as easy as possible for the client.

Meeting with other relocation professionals in person and observing their physical offices can help you gain a better understanding of the daily operations and workflow involved in running a relocation business. You may realize there is much more to relocation than you initially thought.

Getting Organized

After getting acquainted with the relocation industry, getting organized is of utmost importance. Begin by writing a business plan and include your short- and long-term goals, as well as strategies for effective networking and marketing. There are several steps involved in organizing a relocation department that may seem insignificant but actually are imperative to the image and success of your company or department. Something as miniscule as a fax cover sheet or a referral agreement that is streamlined and easy for others to complete reflect on you and your company.

Drafting a list of services such as van lines, pet movers, and corporate housing companies can be especially useful for you and clients. Developing a content-rich website is a great means of exposure, especially now that so many people prefer to conduct business via the Internet. For real estate companies that have company websites, adding a relocation link or forwarding all property inquiries to the relocation department can generate a considerable amount of business.

Networking and Marketing

Once educated and organized, networking and marketing are essential to the development of a successful relocation business. Conferences hosted by Worldwide ERC®, the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), and other international, national, or local organizations offer valuable learning opportunities. Although conferences often may seem irrelevant to the development of your company or department, they always are an excellent chance to network with real estate agents and relocation professionals. Establishing relationships and creating a network of reliable professionals is extremely important for building a strong business and for providing quality service to clients. Starting a regional or local affiliation with real estate companies and relocation professionals in your area benefits all parties involved and establishes loyalty and exclusivity between companies.

Most Active Metropolitan Areas in the U.S*

TOTAL INBOUND AND OUTBOUND MOVES

Washington, DC 45,983
Phoenix/Mesa, AZ 35,170
Atlanta, GA 30,364
Chicago, IL 29,879
Los Angeles/Long Beach, CA 26,723
Seattle/Bellvue/Everett, WA 23,638
San Diego, CA 23,462
Dallas, TX 23,001
New York City, NY 20,168
Boston, and Surrounding Areas MA 20,005

Contacting local companies and offering to introduce yourself at an office meeting is a great way to get noticed and make contact with other professionals. Once you begin establishing relationships, start a database of the professionals you have met and use this as a marketing tool and reference when making recommendations to clients. A database of agents, relocation directors, and companies that regularly relocate their employees to and from your area can be a powerful marketing tool and make a marketing campaign incredibly effective. Sending brochures, postcards, or newsletters to your contacts on a regular basis via mail or e-mail reminds them that you are available.

Targeting certain geographic areas also is a powerful marketing strategy. The Worldwide ERC® website provides useful statistics that can be valuable tools for a marketing campaign. For example, the chart on page 27 indicates the most active metropolitan areas in the United States, including all inbound and outbound moves.

For smaller companies, establishing a target market or finding a niche in the relocation industry is essential for survival in a business dominated by third-parties.

Need Training?

As someone new to the industry, do you not wish there was a class that would give you a solid knowledge base to begin your career? There is! In fact, there are several courses you can take. The Worldwide ERC® Training Institute (www.erctraininginstitute.com) provides a number of convenient, online, and affordable courses with relocation professionals’ specific needs in mind, such as:

  • “Relocation: Assisting Corporate Transferees.” A three-hour course that provides a foundation for employee relocation knowledge via a brief historical overview and illustrations concerning how relocation transactions differ from other types of moves. It defines relocation, explains the roles of various professionals involved, and addresses such concerns as disclosure, agency, and tax law. The course serves as an excellent and comprehensive introduction to relocation or as a refresher course for those who periodically handle relocation accounts.
  • Broker’s Market Analysis (BMA) training. A four-hour program with in-depth, line-by-line instruction and tools for analyzing multiple listing service (MLS) data and a sample completed BMA form, as well as tips for ensuring consistency. In addition, the course qualifies for Certified Relocation Professional® (CRP®) credit.
  • “Fair Housing and Diversity: Focus on Relocation.” A three-hour program to help real estate professionals ensure that their efforts to ease the relocation process for transferring families are in compliance with Fair Housing statutes. It explores risk management techniques, uses case studies to illustrate real-world scenarios, and examines the affect that differing cultures and customs can have on the real estate process. Also approved for CRP® credit.
  • Relocation 101. Being new to an industry or building a business from the bottom up are both challenging, but the Worldwide ERC® Training Institute offers helpful, timely, and affordable resources. It is imperative to ensure that all individuals entering the relocation arena fully understand the unique aspects of a relocation transaction, and are operating with a consistent knowledge base. You don’t have to “reinvent the wheel” by preparing a training program or writing the curriculum on your own. The Training Institute now offers its signature class, Relocation 101, as a comprehensive training program with all the necessary student and instructor materials available on the website.
  • Policy Statement on the Collection of Referral Fees. The Worldwide ERC® Coalition’s website (www.erc.org/coalition) offers referral fee communication for both licensees and transferees. All are valuable tools for helping you develop and communicate your firm’s guidelines and procedures.

Quality First

In recent years, the relocation industry has been unfairly pigeonholed as providing low-quality service at a high referral fee. To address this concern, it is of the utmost importance that relocation professionals concentrate on providing quality service. A tainted reputation for the relocation industry affects all relocation professionals. Whether clients are relocating to a different city, state, or to another country, maintaining the highest standard of care and ensuring a smooth transition always should be the ultimate goal of a successful relocation professional.

Keep in mind that education, organization, networking, and marketing are important steps in making a seemingly overwhelming start in the relocation industry much more manageable.

Toula Victor, GMS, is relocation director for The GRUBB Co., Inc., Oakland, CA, and a member of the MOBILITY Editorial Advisory Committee. She can be reached at +1 510 339 0400 or e-mail tvictor@grubbco.com.