Excerpted from Mobility May 2015

12211759866Professional athletes are a not-so-obvious audience for relocation services. Interestingly, enough, the players themselves are often responsible for their own relocation arrangements and expenses.

Chris Dingman, President of The Dingman Group, the leading sports relocation company, said: “According to the Collective Bargaining Agreements, across all 5 major sports, if it’s a trade then the team that receives the player is responsible for relocation expenses. Outside of a trade, like free agency, it’s almost always the responsibility of the athlete to pay relocation costs.”

Who Exactly is My Customer?

Some athletes get involved in the relocation process, but that might be more the exception than the rule. In fact, a preliminary question in relocating athletes is who your client (and decision-maker) really is. It might be the athlete, a spouse or another family member. For some twenty-somethings, the decision-maker might be Mom. For celebrity athletes, the decision-maker is more likely to be an agent or personal assistant, who will serve as intermediary for the real estate, household goods and other decisions. At other times it could be an advisor, team or a contact at one of the players’ associations. To ensure a good service experience, it is critical to identify the various decision-makers and influencers, involve them in the process as appropriate and be sure to speak to their needs.

I Feel the Need for Speed

Regardless of who is making the decisions, the timing can be far more abrupt than any corporate transfer. A player can be traded while in the middle of a game and be expected to report to another city and team the next day. According to Dingman, “The player flies (on the new team’s dime) to meet his new team, whether they are on a road trip or at home. Either way, we typically will work with a family member, spouse or advisor to execute the relocation plan.

In some cases we have to find a temporary home, schedule their moving crew and address their vehicle transportation needs in just a few days so things are ready when they get back from the road trip or shortly after. Simultaneously, we’re working with the same people to navigate the future home purchase in their new city or home sale process in their previous city.”

To the Rich Go the Spoils

Anyone who follows sports knows that professional athletes are quite well compensated. While some have surprisingly simple lifestyles, sometimes as renters, others earn tens of millions of dollars per year and live large. Homes tend to be massive and sometimes multiple, and the collections this wealth affords, from vintage wine to sports cars, from antiques to llamas, abound.

With wealth and fame come the need for discretion and confidentiality. How do companies’ protect the athletes’ privacy? Dingman said, “We use aliases. It’s extremely difficult for a moving crew, real estate agent or vehicle transporter not to gain intimate knowledge of who they are helping. Let’s face it, they are packing their most trusted personal items and potentially listing a home that has public tax records associated with the address. In our experience, using an alias when contracting with our service providers, and recommending home purchases be done through a trust or LLC, has greatly protected our clients’ identities during the relocation process.”

We’re Here….Now What?

At the destination end, the RMC’s real estate alliances become invaluable. In our corporate relocation business, most of us do not trade much in the ultra-luxury market. Local agents who do can assemble a portfolio of candidate properties, and with their experience in this market, they can deliver a truly VIP destination service experience with the professionalism and discretion that is required. As with many high net worth individuals, it is not unheard of for a multi-million dollar home to be purchased sight unseen, by third party holding companies or LLCs. Experienced luxury agents can finesse this requirement as well, using virtual tours and other technology.

What Can We Learn From Relocating Athletes?

It is interesting to note that while the home values are high and the services comprehensive, athletes and their families face the same disruption as any corporate transferee, and perhaps more.

Said Dingman, “The fact is it’s not any easier for an athlete and his family to relocate than the average person. I’d argue it’s more stressful and difficult. We’ve had two retired ballplayers’ wives tell us that after it was all said and done they moved 52 and 83 times! As a general rule, athletes have little if any notice when they will be traded. Even worse, they rarely know where their destination city is going to be until the very last minute. This is true for trades, free agency and even drafts. Our group is able to set their mind at ease by putting a plan in place very quickly and even offering up case studies of players who we serviced recently that match their exact situation.“ Counselors who work with athletes are attuned to this and can help to ease the transition to an entirely different home and lifestyle.

It turns out that the careful needs assessments, custom program development, supplier selection and management and budgeting process we apply to corporate moves are equally valuable for athletes and other different potential customers. And meeting the very specific requirements of these groups and gaining their unique insights will surely make us even more creative, empathetic and effective in our delivery of corporate relocation services.

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