The pandemic and the Moving Industry: Insights from the market

2020 started as a year filled with expectations. A new decade, new opportunities, the world economy growing, more and more expats working and living in adopted countries, fuelling the moving business. All our expectations and business plans got thrown out in the wind when COVID-19 became the main protagonist of this long, difficult year. Now that 2021 is just some weeks away, we wanted to reach out to some industry colleagues, to help understanding better how this strange year actually unfolded. What was the most direct impact of COVID-19? Are we ready for another full lockdown? What positive changes has this pandemic forced on our companies?

To get as diverse testimonies as possible we reached out to 7 different companies, one in each continent. Their answers and valuable insights are summarized below. Let’s all learn from our peers, and start 2021 stronger than we have been before.

North America

Interview

South America

Interview

Europe

Interview

Asia

Interview

Middle East

Interview

Oceania

Interview

J.P. Specht 

CEO

North America

LASER Moving 

1. What has been the most direct/or strongest impact of Covid-19 on your company?

We are only as effective as our weakest link.  The need for multiple partners has never been more evident.  It is not just the financial strength and entrepreneurial spirit of our company, but also the strength and spirit of our partners companies as well that allows us to continue to offer our customers a top notch service!  

2. If we were to go into another lockdown, what would you do differently to better prepare yourself and guarantee that you are able to survive? 

Insure that we had financial reserves in place and that all our technology was current.  During COVID 19, our financial reserves were good.  But we were lucky to have just two months earlier completed a technology plan that made “work from home” a breeze.  If COVID 19 had occurred 4 months earlier, we would have struggled because we had neglected technology upgrades!  We got lucky!

3. Have you implemented any technological solutions or cost cutting methods since the start of Covid-19, that you will continue to use after the pandemic? 

Yes.  The rapidly increasing use of video surveys (as opposed to in-home surveys) has increased our sales efficiencies and are now more widely accepted by customers and salespeople.

4. Do you have any recommendations for your peers in the industry? 

Yes.  Cash is KING!  Make sure you have the ability to quickly and efficiently impact your company’s positive cash flow through such things as payment cycles, deferred owners compensation, deferred rent/mortgage, interest only type payments, etc.  The inability to positively impact cash flow will likely result in lay offs for employees.  And those laid off employees will be required should a recovery be possible

5. Are there any positive learnings or developments you will take out of this pandemic?

During any trial or turmoil within a company, employees naturally ask themselves this question […]“How will this situation personally affect me and my family?”  But also the spouse, significant other, children and relatives of the employee that are also impacted  Laser International tackled this question head on.  We were in a position where we were able to assure all employees that no one would be laid off and that no one would feel financial hardship.  Then we needed to prove that statement.  We developed a plan (together) on how to first protect and then grow our business during a worldwide pandemic.  Within 30 days, we were protecting our turf….and within 60 days, we were growing our business in the middle of a lockdown pandemic while working from home and communicating over ZOOM conference calls.  That growth curve has continued.

Lars P. Lemche 

CEO

South America

Teamwork

What has been the most direct/or strongest impact of Covid-19 on your company?

Luckily, we had started a downsizing project in January with cost reductions in several areas of the company. Warehouse changes in Rio and São Paulo and smaller offices helped us reduce a lot costs. When the Pandemic arrived we had the Government support in salary / work hour reductions and labour contract suspensions. But we also had to let a few people go. I believe we let go 5 people in total. Not much. Since we work with very specialized labour we cannot allow to loose good people, since training is time demanding and cost effective.

2. If we were to go into another lockdown, what would you do differently to better prepare yourself and guarantee that you are able to survive? 

I hope we don’t need another lockdown. It is not effective. Precautions, such as masks, alcohol gel and social distancing are effective. And no agglomerations at stadiums, concerts, beaches and night clubs.  These are dangerous.

3. Have you implemented any technological solutions or cost cutting methods since the start of Covid-19, that you will continue to use after the pandemic? 

We have used several meeting platforms for meeting with our corporate accounts and also to perform virtual surveys, and they will be used in the future, without any doubts. But a physical survey in the future will still guarantee our high booking ratio

4. Do you have any recommendations for your peers in the industry? 

I would highly recommend my peers and business partners to exchange business with those who owe you money in order to make life easier for everybody. I have seen people yelling and screaming for payments around the world while giving business to others just to satisfy egos and global systems.

5. Are there any positive learnings or developments you will take out of this pandemic?

Positive in a pandemic era is surviving and staying in business. But also, a great opportunity to see new developments in the technologic areas. IT is here to stay. Our business model is already in a new era!!! I look forward to 2021.

Martin Löhnert

CEO

Europe

ITO Movers Group

1. What has been the most direct/or strongest impact of Covid-19 on your company?

The global restrictions in travel. Without the possibility to travel, international relocations came to a stillstand for nearly three months, requiring additional warehouse capacity for intermediate storage. This also led to a huge congestion of shipments, which we are currently dealing with to deliver or ship as soon as restrictions are lifted or eased.

2. If we were to go into another lockdown, what would you do differently to better prepare yourself and guarantee that you are able to survive? 

We have meanwhile set up every possible instrument involving working from home, flexible working hours for commercial and administrative staff and additional storage capacity. 

3. Have you implemented any technological solutions or cost cutting methods since the start of Covid-19, that you will continue to use after the pandemic? 

We had already introduced video-surveys before the pandemic. This technical solution has developed from an additional option to our main instrument of establishing transport volumes and required services. We will continue on this road in the future, as customers prefer this option increasingly. 

4. Do you have any recommendations for your peers in the industry? 

Trust your staff, keep focused on the customer and hang on in there. There is NO way through this alone, teamwork is the sole option for solving the problems at hand. We'll all hopefully be back to normal next summer. 

5. Are there any positive learnings or developments you will take out of this pandemic?

We now know that we are able to rely on every technical solution we had previously only considered as back-ups to our conventional methods. These back-ups where our virtual life savers and have become a driving force in changing the way we work.

Vicky M.

CEO

Asia

Royal Relocation Global Solutions  

1. What has been the most direct/or strongest impact of Covid-19 on your company?

With the implementation of movement control order (MCO) in Malaysia, the company couldn’t operate as usual since we had restricted movement of people, closure of business, the prohibition of certain activities, and restrictions of certain rights. As a business reliant on relocations, human contact is vital in almost 90% of the operation flow. [...]The bigger repercussion was the loss of 50% of our business due travel restriction globally which has hugely impacted and dampen the business.

2. If we were to go into another lockdown, what would you do differently to better prepare yourself and guarantee that you are able to survive? 

I came to realize the need to have a more balanced approach in terms of reliance on technology and human. We are investing in technology and upgrading digital infrastructure to build a system within my organization which will allow me to monitor operations virtually. Having a more flexible working operating hours for logistics and be efficient from anywhere would be another resort. Digital skills would be highly sought after, cascading an explicit COVID-19 guideline, risk assessments, and certificates are also essential to maintain the business.  With this new adjustment, I am confident we will be able to operate as usual if there is recurrent of such a scenario.

3. Have you implemented any technological solutions or cost cutting methods since the start of Covid-19, that you will continue to use after the pandemic? 

The use of online platforms and virtual meetings with clients has helped much in terms of ensuring meeting the SOP as well as reducing cost. We have made control access with reduced touchpoints and moving to contactless payment which results in time and cost-saving overall.

4. Do you have any recommendations for your peers in the industry? 

To stay close to practical needs and listen to the opinions of people and businesses. The need to further integrate technology and the migration of traditional service models to e-commerce.

5. Are there any positive learnings or developments you will take out of this pandemic?

Planning right, and early preparation is of utmost importance which is worth investing in. Constant communication about hygiene and safety first with good teamwork spirit keeps gloomy dark days move off even faster to recovery the business.

Abhilash Nair 

CEO

Middle East

ISS International Relocation

1. What has been the most direct/or strongest impact of Covid-19 on your company?

With the precautions we have to take and limited flexibility, now the cost of operation has increased; and whereas the customers are trying to pay even less due to the social situation and low spend capacity.

2. If we were to go into another lockdown, what would you do differently to better prepare yourself and guarantee that you are able to survive? 

We are more use to the so called lockdown now as we speak, where we have learned how to keep yourself safe and operate with minimum.

3. Have you implemented any technological solutions or cost cutting methods since the start of Covid-19, that you will continue to use after the pandemic? 

Yes lot of meeting in office and customers has reduced by far and which will continue more in virtual way rather than actual execution of job.

4. Do you have any recommendations for your peers in the industry? 

Yes, surely that it is not as bad as seen by many – our business will survive, as I said many times already. 

5. Are there any positive learnings or developments you will take out of this pandemic?

Yes surely, we have to do extra, and the concentration must be on doing more volume of business and don't depend on one type of move – you need to have more of a mix of private / corporate and RMC etc, depending on one will kill you!!

Cameron Van Cuylenberg 

CEO

Oceania

Oceania – Chess Moving Australia

1. What has been the most direct/or strongest impact of Covid-19 on your company?

[…] Since the spread commenced in March, like many business leaders Chess Moving has had to face a number of difficult decisions and have reorganised our day to day operations. Thankfully, through targeted efforts and our diversified revenue streams, we are gratified that we have been able to continue operations and keep all of our valued staff in work with minimal disruption to our day to day functions. We all anxiously await an effective vaccine however until that time, our priority is to reinvigorate our operations, and to ensure we remain proactive rather than reactive. Whilst the future holds a significant amount of ambiguity, we are fully focused on our primary goal, which is to maintain service levels to our valued customers and prepare for the longer term.

2. If we were to go into another lockdown, what would you do differently to better prepare yourself and guarantee that you are able to survive? 

As I’m sure many would agree, the current crisis and subsequent economic effect has been unprecedented. As such we must stay open minded, proactive and remain up to date on industry and economic patterns. This will allow us to remain as fluid as possible, giving us the ability to adapt and change our operations and methodologies to any market changes as they arise.

3. Have you implemented any technological solutions or cost cutting methods since the start of Covid-19, that you will continue to use after the pandemic? 

We have found that a number of smaller operational efficiencies often provide a greater total positive impact as opposed to singular drastic and significant changes. Through this approach we have been able to tweak areas which need adjusting however keep service levels in areas that have marginal room for operational change […] Service continuity has been a key strength in sustaining confidence and long-term loyalty from our customers.

4. Do you have any recommendations for your peers in the industry? 

As an industry which is often reactive rather than proactive, especially in relation to technological solutions, relocation companies must become more agile and resilient to curb disruption and focus on keeping momentum. 

5. Are there any positive learnings or developments you will take out of this pandemic?

There are no mistakes, only lessons. I strongly believe that whilst 2020 has been a difficult year, we take solace in that fact that 2021 represents an opportunity for us and our industry peers to turn hard-earned lessons into positive and profitable action. Whilst the year ahead remains uncertain, the Chess Moving family are eager and driven to move forward and tackle any obstacles together!

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