Sunday, August 17, 2008

Expert Area Tour Impacts Relocation Decision

by Derse A. Smith, Relocation Specialist

As a relocation specialist, ongoing referrals are my bread and butter. So, when personal recommendations of my skills flow from one VIP to another, it's not only extremely flattering, it's a networking score!

Such an instance took place for me several weeks ago. It's a good example of how the process frequently unfolds. Here is a recap of what transpired ...

On a recent Wednesday, I received a voicemail message from the vice president of our local development corporation. He was in need of a short-notice area orientation tour... very short-notice... two days later!

I had been referred to him by a mutual friend, the president of another prominent Milwaukee organization. My friend had been told that a highly-sought-after managerial candidate was being recruited to Milwaukee by a major corporation. Both local groups had been instrumental in this corporation's decision to locate its manufacturing facility in Milwaukee and therefore, had a vested interest in making a great impression.

That afternoon, I received an e-mail from my friend which read," When I heard that they were looking for someone to really show Milwaukee, in addition to seeing homes, I knew that you were the one." It didn't take long for me to accept the referral and to receive the requisite information about the candidate.

During the initial contact phone conversation with him that evening, we made plans for his wife to spend Friday morning with me while he was in meetings. He would join us in the afternoon for the duration of my tour.

We spoke again on Thursday night to confirm our plans for the next day. During the call, he almost apologetically informed me that they had spent that day with an agent from a competing company. It caught me completely off-guard, but I tactfully kept the surprise out of my voice. I quickly learned from him that the arrangements had been made by the recruiter prior to the CEO referring me to her. No harm, no foul. It wasn't unusual and I was just happy to have this referral, no matter when or how I entered the equation.

When I finally met them at the hotel Friday morning, there was an instant connection. I just had a sense that they felt comfortable with me right from time we shook hands. Within minutes, Mrs. Candidate was recapping the events of the previous day and her thoughts about the few homes and areas they visited. She confided in me that she was already tired and very skeptical. With six children and a seventh on the way, she really wasn't thrilled at the prospect of uprooting their sizeable family to move here.

Her husband was standing just within earshot when she leaned into me and whispered, "You're going to have a very tough sell. I have to tell you, I was not impressed yesterday. I did not like what I saw." Ouch! I was shocked to find out that, while they were staying right in the heart of Downtown, they hadn't seen anything in the city other than the restaurant where they had a business dinner the previous evening. With that in mind and with complete confidence, I took her hand, looked her right in the eye and responded,"Well, I just love a challenge. And, you haven't spent any time with me yet. I guarantee you'll change your mind."

Note: Touring the city's downtown, its attractions and surrounding communities prior to actually looking at homes, is a critcial step in the process. Providing a relocation packet to my clients is also helpful, as it contains customizable materials including a relocation handbook, area maps, attractions, school, housing & tax information, etc.

So, off Mrs. Candidate and I went to tour our western communities and to view two homes they had selected off the Internet. (With thunderstorms looming in the distance, I quietly prayed for sunshine for our afternoon jaunt up Lake Michigan's shoreline) Along the way, we laughed as we shared details about our lives and the many things we had in common. I happily watched as she perked up and began making calls to her husband, children and mother expressing her excitement about what she was seeing.

At noon, we picked up Mr. Candidate to continue our community tour. Thankfully, the weather indeed cooperated for a my favorite part of the tour – showing off Downtown Milwaukee and our Lake Michigan shoreline. As expected (and is so often the case), they were stunned at what they saw... the fantastic building and residential architecture, our world-renowned landmarks, the amazing beach and the incredible hues of the lake!

Over lunch at a favorite East Side cafe, they shared their new-found appreciation of the beauty and cleanliness of our city and our glorious lakefront. In just a few hours, her attitude had completely changed about the possibility of moving. I was so grateful that they had the opportunity to really see Milwaukee and as many areas as I could fit in, given the short notice and time constraints.

"While we felt very good about the professional opportunity we could offer (candidate) in our Milwaukee operation, addressing his family needs was paramount in attracting him to our company. I am indebted to you for your hard work and wonderful attitude."

- CEO, Client Corporation

Ultimately, we covered 170 miles that day and were together right up to their departure. After the second visit a few days later (with the three oldest kids and mother-in-law in tow), Mr. Candidate accepted the position. On their third visit the following week (and after another 500 miles), they found the perfect home which is set to close in mid-September.

Personally, I find great satisfaction about this mutually successful transaction. The added bonus to me of course, is the lasting friendship I now have with this wonderful family. I am so very fond of them and I have been told that I have become their "family" in Milwaukee.

On the business side, I have received extremely complimentary feedback from all the "VIPs" involved. While Metro Milwaukee sells itself on appearance and reputation, that alone won't always sway the emotions involved in a move. Having an experienced specialist conduct an orientation tour -- one who knows the housing market, who is capable of highlighting the features of each community and who emotes trust and friendship -- is a key element of the recruitment process.

I feel confident that my representation of the many Metro Milwaukee communities we visited -- along with respecting the needs of both the client company and the candidate -- will be remembered when the next request for a "relocation expert" comes into my personal referral network.

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