Photo of football team with quote, Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can't lose.Ten years ago, my wife and I moved from her hometown of Houston to southern California, where I had lived most of my life. Houston was her community; she knew everyone and had a strong support network. Still, I thought it would be an easy transition since her buy-in was strong and she had lived in different places in the world. We both believed it would be an exciting opportunity and the change would be good for us and our young family. [Insert folly of man.]

Fast forward to four months after our move. The kids are sleeping and we’re on the couch watching our favorite show Friday Night Lights. I look over during the opening part and witness the tears streaming down my wife’s face.  Sure, the classic Texas music and scenery didn’t help. And who knows, maybe she was thinking about Coach or Riggins sweeping her off her feet, right?

In reality, even with our enthusiastic, bilateral agreement for the move, those first years were a tough transition for my family. Fortunately, I had just sold my business and I no longer had to travel. It would have been significantly more challenging for my family and our home life if moving had involved a new role with a demanding travel schedule.

As an executive recruiter, I frequently help my clients think through the pros and cons of sourcing executive talent requiring relocation, how to mitigate the risk that comes with the benefits, and ultimately deciding if the upside outweighs the risk. Having lived it, I can identify with the issues and know how important it is to address them upfront.

Recently, a client of mine was interested in relocating a candidate and his family from Texas to Illinois. I actually shared the Friday Night Lights story with the CEO and the PE board member. I pointed out that my wife had lived around the world and was far more accustomed to moving than most native Texans. My client did ultimately hire the executive, however, we spent a lot of time and effort projecting the relocation risk and understanding the “quality of life” drivers for the candidate. We discussed how a relocation could be potentially hard on his family and why in the end, the challenge was not a concern for them.

Relocation risk can be managed, however, it requires a well thought out plan. These are examples of questions we flush out to understand the risk side of the cost/benefit equation:

  • If in a relationship, does the candidate’s partner have a compelling reason for wanting to relocate themselves?
  • What will the family’s support network be like in the new city?
  • What area of the city are they considering renting or buying in? Does the area seem compatible from a commute perspective to work and family activities?
  • If the family has young children, what areas have the best schools in the new location? Are there private schools that would meet the family’s needs? Is the area they would live in a similar distance to kids’ activities as their current home?
  • Culturally, will the relocation cause a struggle to fit into the new community?
  • How does the cost of living compare in the new location? [Lower cost of living in a new location can help a lot with transitions.]

Executive relocations should be pursued with an understanding of the risks involved. In a scenario where relocating an executive hire is a very attractive option, you should introduce an open dialogue that includes serious assessment of risks to make the best placement decision possible for the candidate and the company.

 

Kit Cooper has spent much of his career founding and running two successful business services companies, both of which relied on highly adaptive sales organizations selling multi-million deals to Fortune 1000 companies. As Managing Director for Taylor Winfield, Kit works with private-equity and high growth companies to build enterprise value through world-class management teams.