Finding a new home

When the prospective employee expressed an interest in falconry, Margaret Russell wasn’t fazed.

As director of recruitment and relocation for Executive Arrangements, handling strange requests is part of her business. The man was from Bath, England, and wanted to make sure his children could participate in the sport. After a bit of quick research, she learned where the nearest training centers were and passed along the information.

Executive Arrangements works with area businesses interested in luring employees to their management team. It wines, dines and even creates social engagements for potential hires.

One client it couldn’t accommodate was the company looking to hire a 38-year-old former hockey player. The prospect had an MBA and the company thought he would be a great addition to its team. Even with all its wonderful qualities, however, Cleveland just wasn’t able to offer him the life he was used to, Russell explains. The man lived on the beach and was dating a former Baywatch actress.

But while Executive Arrangements helps recruit and ease the transition, the most difficult move the company ever handled was its own.

Executive Arrangements spent the first 21 years of its life on Shaker Square. That ended last November when the historic shopping district’s management team explained its new plans.

“We were told, ‘You’re the new CD section of the new book store,'” Russell says. “‘It’s time for you to look elsewhere.'”

Executive Arrangements had to be out by May, which gave the company six months to find a new home. While that normally would be enough time to orchestrate a smooth move, a last minute glitch threw the company into turmoil.

The first item on Russell’s agenda was to call Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year finalist Armand Aghajanian, owner of Cresco Real Estate, to help the company find a new site.

“When you’re looking for 1,500 square feet, you don’t make people jump up and down to get your business,” Russell says.

But Aghajanian took on the task. He took Russell and Florence Pollock, the company’s president and owner, to see nearly 50 locations that fit the company’s needs.

One linchpin to any successful move is that business owners must take a realistic look at what they are willing to give up compared with what they want to get. For Executive Arrangements, free parking was a necessity. With a significant portion of the staff on part-time status, it was too much to ask them to pay to park for work, Russell explains.

But even with all those sites, nothing quite seemed to fit. That was when they discovered a house for sale on Larchmere Road in Shaker Heights. They were all set to move in when, at the last minute, the seller learned from the city that the house would need to be updated to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The seller balked at the expense, leaving Executive Arrangements with only 15 days to vacate its home of more than two decades.

Russell once again turned to Aghajanian, who found them the new Chagrin Boulevard home in Beachwood.

Even then, things were complicated. The company was without phone service for nearly a week. Russell had calls transferred to the employees’ personal cell phones.

“You could put a small company out of business if you keep away the phones for a week,” she says.

The cost of moving

Executive Arrangement’s experience is not that unusual. Nearly all company moves have some sort of problem.

“I think a lot of employers might be surprised at how many (employees) they lose in that situation, even if they want to take them,” says Cheryl Lottig, vice president of Corporate Relocation Management Inc., a division of Insignia Financial Services. “We’ve seen lots of plans for group moves. They start out thinking, ‘I’m going to have to move 350 people’ and end up with 100 of them moving.”

The emotional ties to a place are very strong. Two memorable moves involved professional football teams.

“We moved (Art Modell’s) Cleveland Browns, the employees, the staff, the trainers — all those core people who were with the Browns,” Lottig recalls. “They did ultimately move, but it was not easy for them. It was very, very painful for each and every one of those people. There were a lot of tears through a lot of the meetings.

“They really didn’t want to go, but that isn’t a job you can replace.”

CRM also moved the former Houston Oilers to their new home in Tennessee. The people there were not as planted and the community certainly didn’t bemoan the loss to the same degree as Browns’ fans, she says.

To make any transition easier, business owners planning a move should prepare well ahead of time. But even that is no guarantee. Lottig recalls helping one small manufacturing company plan for its move from Chicago to Tennessee. It wanted to take 20 employees and offered “a very highly compensated package — extra dollars, extra money to buy their (new homes). I think they thought they’d get the ones they wanted,” she says.

In the end, of the 20 they wanted, only two agreed to relocate.
That taught Lottig one final lesson: “There are better ways of handling relocation if they take time to get educated about it and know the consequences of what they’re offering,” she says. “And, have a plan so that they don’t have to be afraid that relocation will prevent someone from taking the job.” How to reach: Executive Arrangement, (216) 595-2950; Corporate Relocation Management Inc., (216) 642-8400

Daniel G. Jacobs ([email protected]) is senior editor of SBN.

Why won’t they move

In a tight labor market, employers are finding the need to look just about everywhere to find quality employees. But so-called transplant workers can be just as hard, if not more so, to bring into the fold.

According to a survey published in the Runzheimer Reports on Relocation, half of the 42 relocation administrators surveyed said that married employees and those with children are more difficult to convince to relocate.

But that is not the only reason employees decline to move. According to Runzheimer, here are the reasons employees cite most often as their reason for refusing a position:

*Impact on children: 62 percent

*Disinterest in proposed new location: 63 percent

*Spouse/partner employment concerns: 63 percent

* Quality of life concerns: 63 percent

*Disinterest in relocating: 25 percent

*Impact on elderly parents/extended family: 25 percent

*Offer/package not substantial enough: 25 percent

*Impact on career potential: 13 percent

*Other: 13 percent

Daniel G. Jacobs