by Deborah Stadtler
Professional organizing services have begun to find a place in the corporate relocation policy of some companies. Stadtler explains what the service entails and gives reasons why some companies have used the service as a perk for their high-level employees.
The movers were late. When they did arrive, two hours behind schedule, the truck was partially full with another person’s belongings. But, because the transferee had hired a professional organizing service, the relocation was complete successfully.
Sally Allen, owner, A Place for Everything, LLC, Golden, CO, was there to help the Clayson family in their move from Denver, CO, to Santa Fe, NM. Allen directed the movers, sent the Clayson’s to the hotel for a good night’s sleep, and got the boxes packed on the truck. After midnight, Allen tipped the workers and watched the truck drive away. For Allen, it was all in a day’s work for a professional organizer.
Professional organizing services are becoming a popular way for companies to make the relocation process easier for their employees. Companies also are commissioning organizers to help them when conducting their own office’s group move.
Organizing services also are being offered as a perk when recruiting high-level executives. But in some cases, because of the cost, some companies with tiered relocation policies cannot afford to offer the service to all of its transferees.
Some companies find the services to be overpriced and are waiting for the daily or hourly rates to decrease before considering them for their policy. But this budding relocation service provider has created a successful niche market.
Marilyn Spittler, CRP, manager, relocation, Rhythms, Englewood, CO, has contracted Allen for services for their newly hired and relocated CIO and CFO.
“We use professional organizers on an exception basis for our highest level senior management. We do not have a policy regarding organizing services and we don’t anticipate adding the services to our formal policy,” said Spittler.
“We need our senior officers to immediately be able to focus on their new job responsibilities and this service alleviates the stress of a household in disarray. It allows them to feel cared for by the company. [Having the help of an organizer] is a good employee relations benefit for the employee and spouse.”
Rhythms pays for two days of unpacking and organizing services.
Marriott International, Washington, DC, has added professional organizing services such as Allen’s as part of a resource list in the executive relocation policy, which applies only to top-level management.
May Caffi, SCRP, director, relocation services, said Marriott gives an incidental allowance that associates could choose to use toward organizing services.
Caffi said Marriott is not considering adding organizing services as a paid benefit, “not because it isn’t valuable or worth it, but because you only have so much money [you can give to a transferee for their relocation expenses].”
Allen, one of more than 1,300 members of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO), specializes in residential relocations and organizing. She handles all aspects of organizing during relocation, from pre-sale preparation, sorting and purging, and selecting a moving service, orchestrating the packing and loading, and settling-in.
Allen said that her most popular service is the settling-in service, which includes unpacking, organizing rooms, hanging art, and being the conduit between the moving company and the transferee.
“Our home in California is 3,200 square feet. And with the help of [Allen] we completed the entire process of unpacking, placing items in cabinets, hanging pictures, and arranging artifacts in four days,” said transferee Doug Watson, general manager, Marriott, Anaheim, CA. “In just a few days it looked as if we had been living here for years.
Linda Rothschild, president, Cross It Off Your List, New York, NY, estimates that 60 percent of her business comes from relocations. Her company provides relocation coordinating services from pre-move organizing to unpacking and settling-in services. In addition, her company also performs value and photographic inventories.
“Relocations are stressful, especially if you are going overseas. The pressure is enormous, the last thing people want to deal with is their stuff,” said Rothschild.
Usually, when a family is transferred overseas, they do not take everything with them. Rothschild helps create a detailed photographic inventory of the items places in storage. A photographic inventory matches a picture of important belongings with a log of all items going into storage, all referenced by the item’s box number in storage. To locate an item, someone looks up the photo and the item listing in the log and opens the corresponding box. With a photo inventory, Rothschild is able to locate an item after checking no more than two boxes.
Rothschild’s corporate clients typically are high-level executives with a large home, more than one child, and a frantic spouse. Rothschild has dealt with female transferees, but the majority of her work is done with male transferees.
In those cases, “the wives are thinking, ‘They’ve taken care of my husband but they’ve done nothing for me’ because they are left with a house in shambles as the husband goes off to work,” said Rothschild. “Most are high-level executives and would pay for the full range of my services if they knew about them and knew how they could help.”
Allie Williamson, CRP, managing director, Halstead Property Company Relocation, New York, NY, has used Cross It Off Your List to “set up house” for senior executive transferees.
Rothschild’s team conducts a pre-move meeting with the transferee to monitor packing of household goods and to set a packing strategy. After the movers arrive at the new home, Rothschild’s team assists in setting up the house, for example, putting chine in the hutch for the dining room, organizing closets, and arranging the items that go into the kitchen cabinets.
“As we know, the movers usually do unpack,” said Williamson. “But not extensively enough for many of my senior-level transferees. They require additional help with this service. And, nannies are there to watch the children, not so organizational tasks.”
Rothschild, president of NAPO, said educating companies about the services they offer and how to use them effectively are some of the biggest problems faced by organizer service providers.
“The organizing industry is evolving and the visibility of organizers is improving. We’re now getting to the stage to formalize our offerings across the industry and get our services into corporate policies for relocations,” said Rothschild.
Rothschild said information about her company is included in the relocations packets of companies (One example is Goldman Sachs, New York, NY.). These packets are given to transferees so even if the company does not pay for the service the employee knows the service exists.
According to one corporate HR representative, organizing services are overpriced and could use some healthy competition. If the prices became more reasonable, the services would be considered for inclusion in more relocation packages.
Rothschild admits that the services are expensive, “but the benefits on a lot of levels are incredible. Everyone is prepared when movers come, nobody is standing around waiting for decisions to be made, the stress level is lower, the employee gets to work faster, and the family’s new life is started more smoothly.”
Prices for organizing services run from $50 to $100 per hour, depending on the organizer’s experience and the complexity of the job. Allen and Rothschild each said that companies typically hire them to perform unpacking and settling-in services with two organizers for two, eight-hour shifts.
According to Allen, when she works directly with an individual, the number of hours and the schedule can be more flexible to fit into a budget. Rothschild said that the valued and photographic inventories that her company performs can run anywhere from a few hours to several days.
K.J. McCorry, president, Officiency, Boulder, CO, specializes in office relocations, but encounters the same situations as Allen and Rothschild. Eighty percent of McCorry’s work is after-move services and she struggles with educating companies on her services and offerings.
McCorry offers before-move, moving day, after-move, service provider interaction, computer organization, time management, and common area set-up services.
Before-move services include McCorry helping employees sort and purge documents and other items that are not needed, saving money and time.
McCorry helps set up filing systems and encourages employees to pack a “survival kit” that includes a backup of the employee’s computer on a disk, pens, paper, stapler; whatever an employee needs to start working immediately from home, on a laptop, or in the new office. This assistance takes about two to four hours per employee.
“For after-move services, my team first starts setting up common areas and supply rooms. We work on the copy rooms, kitchen, storage areas, and help the company think through the storage space as they are unpacking,” said McCorry. “How many archive boxes do you create? Where should those go? If you want to hire 50 more employees, do you need a bigger supply closet? The office should be set up for convenience and future space allocation.”
McCorry also works with each individual employee, setting up the office furniture in the right place, unpacking, and creating a paper flow system. And more purging. Most employees get two to four hours again; an employee challenged by paper may take more time.
“Doing it together takes little time. Being there is the catalyst because of we were not there, the employee wouldn’t do anything for two or three weeks and would not be efficient.”
McCorry works with companies that have staffs between five and 150 people. Making larger companies aware of her services is difficult because organizing is not a standard package, so McCorry forges relationships with movers and external move coordinators to help get her name out.
“Most companies don’t know of organizing services for office moves. I pick up where movers leave off, get companies up and running in one to two days. Companies want the staff they have to be running efficiently as soon as possible, but during the move everyone is maxed out, everyone is busy.”
“According to Melissa Marrone, office manager, Wolverine Trading L.P., New York, NY, McCorry “was amazing.” McCorry relocated Marrone from one space to another, eliminating unnecessary procedures and setting up a new filing system in the process.
“McCorry understood what I needed, did everything, and made life so much easier,” said Marrone. “The system is amazingly simple and organized and McCorry was a pleasure to work with. She doesn’t try to come in and tell you that your way doesn’t work, she just tries to develop something to work for you.”
McCorry worked 70 percent with Marrone but by organizing the office manager, she helped the entire office. McCorry spent four to five days with Wolverine Trading and Marrone says it “was absolutely worth the money.”