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By Will Kohudic, Editor, Portal

 

The 59th Annual Meeting & Expo marked IAM’s return to Orlando Florida, but more importantly, it served as the first major in-person gathering of moving and forwarding professionals since February 2020. After 20 months of cancelled events, social isolation, video calls, and disrupted moves, it was fantastic to gather in the same space again. Our thanks go out to all of our members who accepted the challenge to join us, in-person and virtually, to break our long fast from industry events.

 

Fittingly, this year’s Annual Meeting theme was The Challenge of Change, A Community Transformed. We have certainly seen our share of transformation and change since the start of the pandemic, but the moving and forwarding industry remains a cohesive community of professionals who rise to the challenges and keep doing business regardless of the obstacles.

 

Unfortunately, government-mandated travel restrictions did limit the number of people who were able to attend the Annual Meeting in person. Among those present, however, spirits were high and everyone I spoke with was glad to be there and thankful that the meeting was held on schedule. As one attendee told me—"Well, it’s a lot easier to find the people I’m meeting with this year, but I’m really looking forward to more folks being able to come next year, too.” As are we all!

 

For the most part, this Annual Meeting was structured just like meetings held before COVID-19. There was an Expo Hall full of exhibitors and attendees, we had many learning labs and discussion panels with industry leaders, and individual business meetings took over every corner of the convention hall and the bars. There were a few important differences, too, which deserve a mention here.

 

Among the IAM headquarters staff, we agree that the single most successful aspect of the Annual Meeting was the safety protocols we put into practice. Not one attendee, as far as we are aware, contracted Coronavirus during the event or while traveling to or from it. A staffed medical room was available during conference hours which, the attendant told me, was occasionally consulted for minor scrapes and “boo-boos.” Rooms were sanitized between sessions, the layout of the Expo Hall was subtly altered to promote social distancing, and food was made available throughout the day instead of being constrained to a single lunchtime. Hand sanitizer and face masks were freely available, and registration was more highly automated than ever to minimize queues.

 

All of these measures allowed IAM to meet safely and productively, and set the stage for the industry to get back to business as usual—or close to it—as future events and gatherings are planned.

 

OPENING DAY

 

The first day of the Annual Meeting started with a Joint Leadership Breakfast for members of the Executive Committee, Core Members Management Board, IAM-YP Management Board, and the IAM staff. The assembled leadership was addressed by IAM Chair Mike Richardson, President Chuck White, and Vice President Brian Limperopulos, and members of headquarters staff presented progress updates about the Association’s finances, programs and services.

 

Following the precedent set in 2019, leadership meetings were conducted on the day before the Annual Meeting, allowing Executive Committee board members the opportunity to spend more time in business meetings, breakout sessions, and the expo hall.

Registration was conducted entirely at automated kiosks, stationed at intervals that kept lines short. The registration desk was available throughout the event, but the great majority of attendees were able to complete the process quickly at the kiosks and get their day started even before the expo hall opened at 10:00 am.

Though reduced travel meant fewer booths, the expo hall remained the heart of the meeting and was well-attended over all four days of the meeting. Primary differences from previous expo hall layouts included three distributed lounge areas instead of a single Network Central lounge, and food markets that made food and beverages freely available to attendees throughout the day. These innovations were designed primarily to promote event safety, but proved popular with attendees and may be implemented again in future expo halls.

Building on the success of last year’s Virtual Annual Meeting, an intensive slate of learning labs and speaker panels began early on day one, even before the expo hall opened. Six learning labs were held throughout the day, the first of which was the APAC RMC and Corporate Decision Makers Panel at 9:30 am. This panel was an interactive discussion with mobility and relocation leaders in the Asia-Pacific region. Attendees learned about the latest trends and developments from these regional power players, and how services and programs are evolving in the region due to COVID-19. 

At 11:00 am, the Military Service & Personal Property Shipping Office Insights session got under way. The panel consisted of DoD Personal Property leaders and representatives from Personal Property Shipping Offices. They were present to share their insights on the Defense Personal Property Program (DP3) in terms of what they saw this past peak season and what they are looking for next year, and answer questions from the audience.

Concurrently, IAM Learning Lab Professionalize Your Staff: Learn the Latest on IAM Learning showed attendees how IAM Learning is leading the way forward. We have created new courses in collaboration with EuRA, (The European Relocation Association), the professional body for relocation providers and affiliated services. We also talked about the new Financial Disciplines for Movers course, developed in collaboration with David Duryee, renowned author of The 60 Minute CFO.

A networking lunch kicked off the IAM-YP activities during the annual meeting, giving young professionals a chance to make new business contacts and network in a fun and interactive setting. Sheena Kiser’s opening remarks highlighted the accomplishments the YP community in 2021, which ranged from hosting a conversation with Chuck Kuhn (JK Moving Services) on Love & Relo addressing the importance of investing in sustainability. The YPs hosted several happy hours during the year to stay connected during travel restrictions, contributed to the YP Focus of the Portal magazine with 22 YP member contributions, and launched the Rising Star Award. 

Next, YPs heard from Luis Holst (Gridiron Forwarding Co., Inc.) representing his company as the YP sponsor. Luis spoke about the power of networking and the value behind personal business connections. During what was called the most challenging peak seasons in the industry, having the ability to pick up the phone and communicate with a friend who you are doing business with, was invaluable in finding a solution to the problem.

To wrap up the networking lunch, YPs shared insights into providing future networking opportunities, global green initiatives, annual meeting activities for the YPs, training and development and much more. The IAM staff looks forward to working with the YP Management Board to implement the ideas shared during the networking lunch.

Afterwards, YP Management Board Members Lennert DeJong of Gosselin Group N.V. (Vice Chair) and Matthieu Odijk of MF Interlogistics lead the virtual social mixer with an interactive game of Kahoot. Much laughter and great camaraderie was had by all. Congratulations to Nicola Collett (Manager of Membership Services for IAM) as the Kahoot trivia winner!

The afternoon slate of IAM Learning Labs kicked off with RMC Leaders Discuss Adapting Global Supply Chains at 2:00 pm. In the corporate relocation sector, Relocation Management Companies (RMCs) increasingly control decisions about moving and relocation for corporations. This panel of RMC leaders, who perform relocations across the globe, presented a thorough discussion on the topics of RMC expectations and how they source service providers in their supply chains, and took questions from the audience.

A session focused on government and DoD shipments began at 2:30: Industry 101: A presentation for Government Shippers. IAM president Chuck White led this “white-board” session designed for government and DoD shippers that broke down how the industry operates in layman’s terms, and allowed guests from that sector to get their moving industry questions answered.

At 4:00 pm, the U.S. Domestic Asset-Based (DAB) Mover Group met. The DAB Management Board shared what they have built with IAM over the past year to create a home and provide a voice for asset-based movers in the U.S. All asset-based U.S. movers were invited to join this informative meeting to learn about these new opportunities and become part of this special new initiative in IAM. The DAB Mover Group also announced the results of the online elections for its new Chair, Chris Lantz, and Vice-Chair, Lakelan Fennell. A networking reception followed immediately after the meeting.

Also at 4:00, the LATAM RMC and Corporate Decision Makers Panel convened. It featured a discussion with RMC and corporate leaders performing relocations in the Latin American region. Participants were provided an opportunity to chat directly with thought leaders who control relocation decisions. The discussion covered all the latest trends and issues affecting the movement of corporate transferees in Latin America, and provided insights for everyone interested in learning how to win this business.

 

The New Members, First-time Attendees and Special Guests Reception began promptly at 6:00 pm in the Hyatt’s Orchid Room, overlooking the terrace pool. New attendees were afforded the opportunity to meet and mingle with IAM’s leadership and distinguished guests. Immediately afterward, the Opening Reception was held in the outdoor terrace pool area. Delicious food was plentiful, drinks flowed, ice cream treats cooled the warm evening, and members were able to relax and socialize together in an informal atmosphere.

DAY TWO

Day two of the Annual Meeting began at 9:00 am with a buffet breakfast and the IAM President’s Address in the Plaza Ballroom. It began with IAM Chair Mike Richardson (Senate Forwarding, Inc.), who gave special recognition to our Gold Sponsors—JK Moving Services, Supermove, and Yembo—and all of our valued sponsors and exhibitors.

Mike introduced Maria Andrea Rodriguez (ABC Cargo Logistics), president of the Alan F. Wohlstetter Scholarship Fund, and welcomed her to the stage. She spoke about the new initiative that will soon allow scholarship funds to be applied toward industry training programs, including IAM Learning, the FIDI Academy, and many more. She then introduced this year’s scholarship recipients, thanked those who donated generously to the fund over the past year, and accepted grand “big check” ($5,000+) donations from DeWitt Move Worldwide; National Van Lines; Alan F. Wohlstetter’s daughter, Ann; and Gridiron Forwarding Co. with Don Goldberg’s Memorial Day Match.

IAM President Chuck White took the podium next, and presented the Move for Hunger Mover of the Year award to Mid-West Moving & Storage of Elk Grove Village, Illinois. So far this year, Mid-West has collected and delivered more than 9,500 pounds of food, providing 7,900 meals for those in need—all in the midst of a global pandemic. Move for Hunger is a nonprofit organization that works to fight food insecurity by collecting nonperishable food from customers when they move and taking it to local food banks, where it is distributed to those in need.

Following the Move for Hunger award, White announced a new award for the IAM-YP group: the Rising Star award. The Rising Star honors a YP member who exemplifies the YP mission and vision and has made an impact on the YP community and the industry through mentorship, positive role modeling, committee work, and involvement with IAM charitable activities. Catherina Stier of Harsch, The Art of Moving Forward, was selected as the first recipient of this new award; read more about her achievements and the new Rising Star award in the IAM-YP column on page 39.

The next group to be honored was the IAM Hall of Honor recipients. We had initially planned to honor last year’s awardees (Georgia Angell, Jeff Coleman, and Marc Smet) at this meeting, due to last year’s Annual Meeting being fully virtual. With so many members unable to attend this year, however, we made the difficult decision to honor them on stage next year, in front of a larger audience.

White proceeded to recognize the 2021 Hall of Honor inductees. Video tributes for this year’s class were presented for Joëlle Castro, Wladimir Alvares de Mello, and Michael Fergus. Castro and Fergus were unable to attend this year’s event, and it will be our pleasure to bring them to the 2022 Annual Meeting where we will honor them appropriately. De Mello’s award was a posthumous honor, but his family made the difficult journey to the U.S. to represent him. His son Pedro Mello came to the stage to accept the award on his behalf. He spoke of de Mello as a fearless and generous person; an entrepreneur and a risk-taker who founded LARM and worked to merge Eurovan with SETI. He believed and fought for this industry, and most of all, he fought on behalf of the people who are a part of it. Metropolitan and his family will continue to honor his legacy and his memory in the years to come.

Each honoree received a crystal award, a Hall of Honor lapel pin, and a certificate of induction. Their full Hall of Honor biographies can be found in the September/October issue of the Portal magazine, as well as on the IAM website. The Hall of honor was established in 2008 to pay tribute to industry leaders whose careers reflect exceptional and distinguished service to their companies or the Association, or who have worked to elevate the industry as a whole.

Next, Chuck White began his address on the state of the Association. He began with a focus on last year’s Virtual Annual Meeting—an overwhelmingly positive event that allowed over 800 people to connect in the middle of the pandemic, both with old friends and with new business partners. However, we were also aware that it wasn’t the same as meeting face-to-face, looking each other across the table, and exchanging a handshake or a hug. We knew the next Annual Meeting had to be held in person, no matter what challenges we faced.

Holding this meeting was a challenge, both for the planners and the attendees. The entire moving and forwarding community has been transformed, and we came together to figure out the way forward. We applaud our attendees’ courage to come to Orlando and make this meeting possible, and we applaud the association and the industry on how quickly and how well our member companies adapted to the restrictions and disruptions of the pandemic.

White stressed that one of the things IAM realized early in the pandemic is that as the industry and our organizations transform, we need to update our strategic plan to guide the association over the next three to five years. We need to define the ways we engage with our members and provide you with opportunities for networking and business growth. We use our member needs surveys to guide our efforts, and will perform a new one very soon. Are we heading in the right direction? Are we meeting your needs? Are we providing the tools that you and your organization need to be successful?

More changes were due to be voted up on by the Governing members on the last day of the Annual Meeting; the first of which were for our association By-laws. Originally written in 1962, they didn’t provide enough direction on how to guide the organization in today’s climate. Committee members held many planning sessions over the past year to carefully craft amendments to bring the By-laws up to date. Also up for a vote were two new Executive Committee positions. Our members outside the U.S. are underrepresented on the Executive Committee, so we wanted to add a new non-U.S.-based member to that committee. With 75% of our membership currently based outside the U.S., we also want to promote growth in the association among U.S.-based members. To that end, we are also adding a new Executive Committee member from our U.S. DAB (Domestic Asset-Based) Mover Group. Governing members voted on those changes at the Governing Members’ Meeting; more about the results later in this article.

Moving on to IAM’s programs, White touched on the subject of IAM Mobility Exchange (IAMX). Based on feedback from members and monitoring activity, it’s easy to see that it has become a ubiquitous industry tool, with half a million visitors to the platform annually. Members are using it every single day to find partners and get an objective assessment of what capabilities those potential partners have. It is a critical element for business throughout the industry, and we are continuing to develop advancements to build and improve on this tool.

IAM Learning is another critical member benefit that grew out of needs indicated in our member survey. We are working to build more training and more modules, including financial literacy and how to make your business financially successful no matter what size it is. We need your ideas and your feedback on future courses that you need—please reach out to IAM staff with ideas and requests for new materials.

Through IAM Learning, we are looking for a way to provide a designation, IAM Trusted, and make it known to the whole community of buyers, including individuals who are moving. We are building it now and defining exactly what it means to be an IAM Trusted mover, and are working to make it not just a B2B, but also a C2B (consumer-to-business) tool, helping buyers to find organizations that meet their standards and needs.

IAM has promoted the growth of two new membership groups over the past year. One of those is the U.S. Domestic Asset-Based (DAB) Mover Group; an organization designed to connect IAM members with people around the world looking for a trusted partner in the U.S. The DAB Group is growing rapidly, and has the potential to develop into asset-based groups in other regions around the world who have trucks, warehouses, and people on the ground, giving them a voice and an opportunity to bond together.

The other new member group is the IAM Leadership Alliance, developed to focus on underrepresented groups in our industry to bring them specialized training and engagements. To date, the group’s primary focus has been on developing women leaders, but it has an overall mission to bring out the intrinsic strengths of diverse groups, make them more valued in the industry and organizations, and give members of these groups a clear pathway to leadership positions. This group, White said, is at the forefront of facing ongoing growth and change in our industry.

As White’s address came to a close, he touched on the transformational impact that widespread remote work has had, and how it has accelerated the development of new and different ways of doing business. We at IAM want you to know that we are there with you, working to assist you in becoming comfortable with the challenges of change. The future is bright, and IAM has many ideas, innovations, and goals to provide you with what you need to be successful.

The next big step will be to take the Annual Meeting & Expo to a whole new level of attendance and exhibitors in the coming year. We are hoping to make it the biggest, best, most-attended, most exciting Annual Meeting yet, because our entire industry is going to be back together for the very first time. We very much look forward to seeing you all next year. Following the President’s Address, attendees dispersed to their own meetings and to the expo hall.  

The day’s first IAM Learning Lab began at 11:00 am, and was designed to introduce members to the newly-formed IAM Leadership Alliance. The session featured members of the Leadership Alliance Council. They discussed how the program demonstrates that successful organizations in the industry can be made up of professionals with diverse backgrounds and experiences, which in turn bring varied viewpoints to the table through collaboration, training, and education. They talked about how the Leadership Alliance Council has worked to bring this vision to life, unveiled new initiatives, and solicited input and advice from the audience.

The IAM Core Members Meeting opened at 12:30, and featured a session called Global Mobility Leaders Discuss the Future of Relocation. The panel brought together some of the biggest names in global mobility provide insights and predictions on the future of our industry. It covered a wide range of topics including how the future of work and business travel will shape relocation requirements, guide the development of industry standards, the rise of technology in the moving business, what strategies we need to implement to win in the future, and much more.

At 1:30 pm, the International Shippers Association (ISA) held its board and membership meetings. ISA no longer holds board elections every year, so the meeting consisted primarily of membership reports, financial reports, this year’s dividend payout, and a discussion about the current state of international shipping.

Another IAM Learning Lab began at 2:30 pm: The Power of Gender Collaboration, Part 2. This Learning Lab was the continuation of a discussion begun during an online web event in August. Joining us remotely were gender-in-the-workplace experts David G. Smith, PhD, and W. Brad Johnson, PhD, who took a deep dive into the tactics of demonstrating why and how men have a crucial role to play in promoting gender equality at work. They shared their passion to help men become more effective allies, accomplices, mentors, and collaborators with women in the workplace to create a more inclusive workplace.

The day’s final IAM Learning Lab was Federal Agency Household Goods Expert Panel: CHAMP, Audits, Department of State and MARAD. It began at 4:00 pm and served to answer members’ urgent federal agency household goods questions all in one place. It featured program updates from the General Services Administration (GSA) Centralized Household Goods Traffic Management Program (CHAMP); GSA Audits; Department of State’s ITGBL program; and updates from the Maritime Administration on U.S. Flag policy.

No events were scheduled after the expo hall closed at 5 pm, and many attendees took advantage of the evening to explore Orlando and attend receptions held by some of our members.

DAY THREE

Day three began early with the Risk Management and Claims Panel. The panel consisted of individuals from the DoD Military Claims Offices, who discussed the latest military claims trends, issues and concerns. It also included a commercial risk management expert who spoke about growing cybersecurity risks to the logistics industry, how cyber threats can impact your company, and how best to mitigate those risks. The panel had much to offer, and the discussion was lively as always.

At 9:00 am, another IAM Learning Lab began: IAM Mobility Exchange (IAMX)—Infinite Connections, presented by Ray daSilva (Mobility Exchange LLC). DaSilva stressed that establishing trust with industry colleagues has never been more important and relevant, and demonstrated how IAMX promotes trust and meaningful connections between members and in the industry as a whole. He also explained how the IAM Trusted Mover program can differentiate your company and bring it into an elite group of movers who are truly Trusted Worldwide.

The next session, Military Spouse Perspectives on the DoD Moving Process, began at 10:30 am.  This special, first-ever session featured a panel of military spouses to discuss the DoD moving process. Participants heard what the moving process is like from their perspective, and how it might be different from what a non-DoD family experiences in their move. What makes for a successful move? What increases their stress during an already stressful time? These questions and many more were answered in the pursuit of understanding a military move from the customer side of the process.

The afternoon sessions began at 2:00 pm with the United States Transportation Command Personal Property Policy Update. A panel of USTRANSCOM Personal Property Directorate leaders provided program updates on their areas of responsibility. The room was filled to capacity, and the panelists had a great deal to say about DP3 current operations, non-temporary storage initiatives, Personal Identifiable Information (PII) program changes for international shipments; 2022 business rule changes and more.

An IAM Learning Lab focused on commercial moving, the U.S. Corporate Mobility Client Panel, started at 2:30 pm. Here, U.S.-based global mobility managers engaged in an interactive discussion about moving and relocation. Attendees at this session heard from corporate leaders whose companies move thousands of employees each year. It was a great opportunity to understand what their programs need, what opportunities they see in the market, how they qualify service partners, and how Covid-19 is changing their policies and benefits.

The day’s final IAM Learning Lab was at 4:00 pm: Protect your investment: Navigating Safety and Regulatory Compliance. At this session, leaders from federal enforcement and compliance, fleet safety, and industry insurance discussed critical aspects of what you should know as an asset-based mover to keep your business compliant and protected, to protect the investment you’ve made in your operations, and to grow your business.

Later that evening, the YP Social Mixer swung into action at the nearby TopGolf venue. YP members and some IAM staff flocked to the sports bays and were immediately hooked. Food and drinks were plentifully available at the tees and in the bar area, and a chipper mood dominated the evening. 

Each bay at TopGolf tallies scores amongst its own players, but there’s no fair way to determine who might have been the “winner” that evening. Fun and camaraderie were the real drivers of the evening, and if I had to hazard a guess, it would be that similar venues will be considered for future events. 

DAY FOUR

The final day of the Annual Meeting began when the expo hall opened at 8:00 am, featuring breakfast and lunch food and refreshments which remained available until the expo hall officially closed at noon.

At 9:00 am, the Governing Members Meeting was called to order. Committee reports were presented, along with topics of particular interest to Governing members. In his opening remarks, Chair Mike Richardson introduced a special presentation by past Chair Tim Helenthal. IAM President Chuck White talked about IAM’s performance as an organization over the course of the pandemic, the success of last year’s Virtual Annual Meeting, and the status of IAM’s programs and affiliate groups. Each of the committee chairs presented updates about their program areas. Other current challenges, such as the status of U.S. government shipping and other advocacy issues, were also covered at length.

The Governing Members Election proceeded by slate with no nominations from the floor, and votes were cast. Positions elected this year were:

 

Chair: Mike Richardson, Senate Forwarding, Inc.

 

Vice Chair: John Burrows, DeWitt Moving & Storage

 

Members-At-Large:

  • Stephan Geurts, Jr., GovLog, N.V.

  • Adam Hall, Coleman Worldwide Moving

  • Jake Pieroni, Central Van Lines

  • Susan Staszewski, National Van Lines

 

The final session of the Annual Meeting, Military and Government Affairs: A Live Q and A, convened at 2:00 pm, and brought back the U.S. government and DoD panel members from the previous day’s session to take additional questions from the audience. All of the panelists returned to answer questions on a wide range of issues. The topics included proposed rulemaking by FMCSA to streamline processes, shipment management for the USMC, updates about the MilMove system, the DOS use of electronic inventories, what’s in store for move management companies who work with the GHC contract winner, transit times and inconvenience claims, cargo preference, recent increase in issues with unscrupulous brokers and freight forwarders, new transit times for government agencies, and more. Everyone present in person and online, and who accessed the recorded session after the fact, got a great deal of important information here.

At the end of the final day, the Closing Reception, Dinner and Entertainment began with members and guests mingling in ballroom foyer during the reception. IAM President Chuck White welcomed everyone to the ballroom, which was set up as a studio; the entertainment featured a live artist who created scenes projected as a giant mural. As guests dined and conversed, the artist brought to life themes of movement and transportation in vivid color, which then served as a dancer’s dramatic background.

Dinner was followed by dancing and a final evening face-to-face with friends and colleagues, and many fond farewells. Thank you for joining us as we navigate the challenges facing our industry and set a course for the future. We very much look forward to seeing all of our members next year at our 60th Annual Meeting & Expo!