Follow the Rules for a Stress-Free Move

Murphy’s law decrees that if anything can go wrong, it will. O’Brien’s corollary adds that Murphy was an optimist. Any time an organization — business, professional practice, nonprofit, government agency — plans to relocate, Murphy and O’Brien are close by, waiting to prove themselves right.

These two doom-and-gloomers can be defeated, however, if you follow a list of well-tested guidelines. In that case, on Day One, your company won’t miss a step; everything will be in place, and all systems will be up and running. What counts is what you do beforehand.

Put Someone in Charge

Experts remind us that organizations don’t move often. Thus, most don't know what to expect. So unless you have a staff member experienced in the ins and outs (rare in all but the largest organizations), you’ll be wise to hire an outside manager and to take advantage of the professional handholding top moving companies offer. If you play it by ear, you’re risking a mess, with exasperated clients, frustrated employees and runaway costs.

In any case, moving isn't something you can do in your spare time. For most firms, planning, organizing and supervising a relocation is a full-time job. So if you decide to manage the process in house, the first step is to put someone in charge, give that person the authority to assign others as needed and, most important, free him or her from other responsibilities. Over the years, we’ve seen the negative outcomes when people were expected to do their own jobs and orchestrate moves at the same time. One or the other always suffered.

Customers' Needs Come First

Costs are always important, but the first priority for most organizations is not to inconvenience customers. That often means moving in the evening or on a weekend. Many companies pack on Friday, move on Saturday and spend Sunday resettling. These times also satisfy the requirements of most major office buildings, which prohibit moving during regular business hours, and minimize employee downtime on both ends.

Typical Requirements

Many things are necessary for all moves; among them are:

  • A written moving plan
  • Regular meetings between a moving company representative and key employees
  • Memos confirming who does what
  • Checklists, reviewed and updated regularly
  • Color-coding furniture and equipment
  • Numbering file cabinets
  • Arranging well in advance for data equipment and internet access to be in place
  • Notifying customers and suppliers
  • Updating permits, licenses, certifications, insurance
  • Notifying employees and resolving move-related problems
  • On-site supervision
  • A realistic budget

While most moves have some flexibility, a few have none. For these, snowstorms, traffic jams, elevator breakdowns and other contingencies must be addressed in advance. When one moving company moved a bank’s data center, for example, they were dealing with computers that control ATM machines, making speed and security critical. Since tunnels with heavy traffic were on the route, they mapped out alternate itineraries in case the tunnels were backed up or closed.

When a hospital moved, it was a matter of "life or death." In fact, ambulances were borrowed from nearby communities to transport patients from the intensive care unit.

Moving Day and the Day After

Careful planning pays off even if your move is uncomplicated. The right number of employees — neither too many nor too few — are at the old and new locations. Trucks are loading at one building while others are unloading at the other. Freight elevators are available on demand. The next day, mail is delivered; phones, email and computers are operating; customers and suppliers know where to find you; and your stationery has the new address and phone number.


Moving companies are typically regulated by the state. You'll save time and money and grief if you review these regulations early on. To check California’s rules, (including maximum costs), go to

The process of choosing a moving company should begin early — to avoid last-minute hassles when time is critical. Six months in advance isn't too soon to ask friends and associates for recommendations and then to contact two or three that best fit your needs. Make a final decision as soon as possible, no later than eight weeks beforehand. Estimates should describe each segment of the project in detail and price each separately; i.e., moving, packing, color coding, third-party services such as extra insurance, etc. Be sure to contact your insurance company. Although moving companies will secure the extra insurance, their costs will inevitably be higher than buying directly.

Don't Forget

The more items you move, the more time it takes, and the more it costs. Save time and money by discarding obsolete furniture and equipment and arranging with vendors to have replacements delivered to the new location. That’s one important suggestion; here are a few more:

  • Establish command posts at both locations.
  • Arrange cell phone or other continuous communications between them.
  • Set up a portal within you intranet for easy access to critical information.
  • Confirm requirements and availabilities of docks and elevators.
  • Notify security staffs.
  • Get after-hour phone numbers of key people.
  • Order "more than enough" packing material.
  • Assign packing and unpacking duties.
  • Check color coding and tagging.
  • Store old files off site or electronically.
  • Place identification and direction signs at the new site.
  • Keep both the old and new locations clean and free of debris to avoid delays and possible injuries.


Our thanks to Larry McLaughin, of Elite Transitions, for his immeasurable help in preparing this article.

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