I’ve made a few international moves in my career, but the ones where I learnt the most were to the USA in 2005, to take my MBA and then a subsequent move back to the UK, in 2015.
This was a move with my wife, Catherine, who works, my daughter, Charlotte, age 9, and my son, Jack, who has disabilities, who was 6 at the time.
1. Ensure as early as possible that your paperwork is in order
It required a mountain of paperwork to get my US Visa, including difficult tasks like demonstrating that I had a certain, rather large amount of money, in my bank account.
Further down the road, when I finally got my US Permanent resident card (‘Green Card‘), it was even harder. I’m a lawyer by training but because there were so many hoops to jump through, I had to hire an Immigration lawyer to help navigate this process, at considerable expense!
Right now my American wife, Catherine, is having to go through this same process, the other way around; this includes showing HM Revenue and Customs documents, Department for Work and Pensions documents, DVLA, TV Licensing; Utility bills, Bank account going back one year, and so on. Of course, we need an expensive lawyer again to work through this.
2. Watch out for the weather
My second shock was rather more prosaic; I was just not prepared for the weather in Boston.
In the winter, it gets down to -10 C and that’s -20 C or more with windchill. You also have big snowstorms. For example, during the last winter, I was in Boston, in 2015, over 14 feet of snow fell in the city. In the summer, you NEED air conditioning in your apartment. It gets up to 40 degrees C and it’s also humid in the city. Try not to move during a snowstorm or a heatwave. Make sure you have the right clothes prepared.
3. Do whatever you have to, to save time
Corporate employee relocations have experienced a paradigm shift in the last 50 years.
In the 20th century, the husband usually was working and wife, who did not work, would manage a lot of the challenges of moving.
Today, more often than not, you are dealing with 2 parents, who both have to manage demanding jobs, throughout this corporate relocation.
Therefore, anything that will save them time (above all time) and money (less important ), is an absolute necessity.
Make sure you employ all the help you can get.
For this, we used a corporate relocation company to manage our move for us. We also used a veritable army of staff. It ensured that this mammoth task went relatively smoothly.
4. Make sure you employ technology to your advantage
We live in a digital world for a reason. It’s fast and efficient. We used every type of technology available to us; from DocuSign to sign all our documents (including the sale of our house in Boston) to Skype for all those foreign calls, to using a video survey tool to track where all our furniture was; particularly useful when you are moving from a standard 2,200 square foot house in the USA to a standard large garage sized house in London and you have to put half your furniture in storage!
To watch a video on the introduction to video survey click here
5. Be as flexible as possible
Some people think working from home is for slackers.
But when you’re moving home, you’re trying to pack, get the removals guys round to survey your house, organising real estate agent, renovating the house so it will be sold quickly, getting the passports and visas for the kids… the list really does go on!
So imagine on top of this having a commute that will waste precious hours and by the time you get home after a long days work, you’re just exhausted and don’t even want to think about organising the move.
That’s why it’s so important to have a flexible working environment.
There is no way we would have managed this move so effectively without remote working.
On top of organising the move, I had 2 weeks training Austen, Texas and I travelled back to Europe a number of times to run conferences there. There was a Sales kick-off in Las Vegas and numerous trips back and forth to London to orchestrate the move.
Throughout this, my company allowed me to work remotely, running demand generation for EMEA, from Boston, USA, for almost 4 months.
If I didn’t work remotely, I would have never been able to handle this move successfully. Let me spell this out to sceptics; I successfully managed demand generation in Europe for a medium-sized (1000 employees) cybersecurity software company, for 4 months, 3,300 miles from the office, in another country, and with a 5 hour time difference!
6. Be prepared for setbacks
When moving, we first had trouble selling our house in Boston.
We had to change real estate agents mid-move which was a major hassle.
On top of this all, Catherine and I were both managing demanding jobs.
To make matters worse, I also had my passport stolen in the UK and had to get a replacement in the USA. That was tricky and required outside help (again!).
What does this tell you?
When you’re moving an entire family, with 2 working parents, it’s a lot of work and not everything will go to plan.
Want to avoid the drama?
Make sure you are prepared, be flexible and get as much help as possible to cut your crazy workload.