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The Many Faces of Disruption in the Mobility Industry

Tony Wolak - Nov 16 2018
Published in: Mobility

What’s the best way to take the pulse of an industry? Talk to some of its thought leaders and tap into their industry expertise, insight and experience! Worldwide ERC® President and CEO Peggy Smith did just that in her Leadership Unplugged series at the 2018 Global Workforce Symposium.

Disruption is in the eye of the beholder: What will it mean for you?

Like every other industry, the global mobility and talent mobility ecosystem is subject to disruption. It can come at any time and from any entity. But disruption doesn’t have to be a scary thing.

As Joleen Lauffer, Executive Vice President of Aires, shared during an interview for the Worldwide ERC® Leadership Unplugged series, “…disruption really leads to a lot of innovation and it makes us all raise our game a heck of a lot faster.”

Is disruption a threat that causes companies to falter, or an opportunity that drives businesses forward? It can be both! There are a few lenses in the mobility industry through which we see disruption emerging:

  • As the innovator launching a disruptive initiative
  • As an organization reacting to a competitor’s innovation
  • As an industry reacting to outside forces

Your organization may fall into one these three scenarios. No matter what, as Worldwide ERC® President & CEO Peggy Smith noted in her conversation with Lauffer, businesses must be prepared to “disrupt or be disrupted.”

You’re the Disruptor

Often in the mobility industry, disruption comes from personal experience. That was certainly the case for Klaus Siegmann, who founded Relocity, Inc. after relocating from Germany to Los Angeles and seeing firsthand how fragmented elements of a move—and the subsequent settling-in process—could benefit from integration.

The same could be said for Anupam Singhal, who founded Monaeo, Inc. after years of global business travel, living as an expat, and experiencing immigration and tax issues as a result of his travels. In answer to Peggy Smith’s question about his career change, “How did you go from investment banking to mobility?,” Singal noted that in a six-month period, he had flown 400,000 miles, and faced a range of challenges during his travel. Singhal noted in Leadership Unplugged discussion:

“As I was having these troubles, the simple thing that was missing was…visibility into my whereabouts and the implications of those whereabouts.”

That realization—plus his background in data—led to the creation of Monaeo, Inc., which offers solutions for business travel compliance.  

Disruption by Competition

Sometimes, success breeds complacency. Then, boom – your direct competitor’s innovation catches you—and the industry—by surprise. Now what? Smith asked Terry Head, president of the International Association of Movers, to talk about leadership in mobility and the world at large in the context of disruption. Head noted that the first thing to do in response to competitive disruption is to practice patience and develop strategy.

“You need to listen before you act,” Head shared during his Leadership Unplugged conversation. Having a well-thought-out, forward-thinking plan to address competitive disruption typically yields the best results.

Like Thomas Bailey of ReloTrans Auto Relocation states, “Disruption doesn’t have to be chaos.” In fact, according to Bailey, competitive disruption is an important reminder to keep the customer top of mind.

“Always focus on continually improving your customer service and satisfaction levels. That is how you turn disruption into opportunity.”

Outside Influences Disrupting an Industry

Finally, elements outside of the mobility industry can be disruptive. One example, as EuRa’s Tad Zurlinden noted, is Brexit and the anxiety of the unknown. Surely, once Brexit takes effect next year, the mobility industry will be find creative ways to adapt to the new normal. Smith also prompted American Moving and Storage Association president Scott Michael for his views on the impact of elections on mobility. Michael noted that changes in government have their own disruptive components, particularly turnover in Washington, D.C. – so he and his organization work to educate lawmakers on the moving industry.

Technology is an outside influence that often disrupts when it should be leveraged. Barry Morris of CapRelo shared during his conversation with Smith, “Every company needs to be a technology-first company.”

In addition, workforce trends can play a role in disruption. Suddath’s Michael Brannigan observed that global assignments are changing – they’re shorter, and the industry is seeing more international relocations than ever before. As a result, mobility service providers may need to re-evaluate how to support these moves.

But regardless of where the disruption is coming from, it’s something that “we have to live with every day,” said Paul Boomsma, President & CEO of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World.

Like every other industry, how a company reacts to disruption can be the defining factor in whether or not it succeeds. For more perspectives from thought leaders across the mobility industry watch the entire Leadership Unplugged series.