A recent relocation from Tampa, Fla., to San Diego by this humbled columnist proved to be a daunting task and an eye-opening lesson in the complexities of moving. While moving a financial advisor's office is different in some respects, there are probably more similarities than differences with a personal move. And while moving across country is not common for a financial advisor, it is not without precedent.

Any move has its challenges, but moving a significant amount of furniture, equipment and stuff some 2,500+ miles in a U-Haul, pulling a transport with a car and leading a caravan of other vehicles approaches Herculean proportions (imagine, if you will, driving that rig over the Rocky Mountains) and in some ways is reminiscent of a military campaign. (OK, that may be overstating things a bit.)

Planning, though, is the key to a successful move, and it falls into three stages: 1) Advance strategizing, 2) pre-move planning and 3) move logistics.

Advance strategizing means thoroughly investigating and thinking through the issues of the move such as the ultimate goal. It also means creating a time line, mapping out the steps of the move, assigning roles and responsibilities and lining up resources. What is the goal of the move? Is it to position the office for better exposure, capitalize on better lease terms, downsize or upsize, merge with another practice, open an additional office or simply move to a new area? Once you know the reason, have you investigated all of the costs and benefits of the move? Is moving more advantageous than renegotiating/reconfiguring your current location? Do the costs outweigh the potential financial gains? Have you looked at the benefits of leasing and compared them with those of purchasing? Many advisors have purchased a tandem office location (two or more offices in one building), renting out one to cover the costs of ownership and thus creating an essentially free office location. While not always available or even appropriate, it should at least be a part of the advance strategizing.

Your signage is another aspect of strategizing. Depending on where you move, there may be opportunities for public exposure through outdoor signs, building directories, etc. It is important to line these up well in advance. You do not want your clients searching in vain for your office in a new building with no sign in place.

The move time line is another critical part of strategizing. Coordinating staff activities with packers, movers, etc. is essential if you want to accomplish a smooth transition to the new location with a minimum of office downtime. This means you must establish your utilities in the new office and make time for vendors to install such things as high-speed Internet, phone lines, cable TV (if used) and tech services to move and re-establish network connections.
If the new location is not wired yet for your network, you may want to add some additional time for vendors to run Cat 5/6 cable or look at wireless networking as an alternative. Many offices are turning to Bluetooth connections for printers and other peripherals. Such options could save you thousands in the costs of "wire runs" and other installation expenses. Yet they may not be feasible if your new office is the wrong size or otherwise can't accommodate the equipment being installed.

Another important aspect of moving your office is lining up your resources in advance. During my own move, an extremely gracious friend helped load the truck. But it quickly became apparent that the task was too overwhelming to face again at the final destination. So two movers were hired at the last minute to unload, and the benefit of pre-move pricing was lost.

Even worse, when the truck arrived, the movers arrived late to help. The building was a condo, and because its loading dock was scheduled to close down after two and a half hours, two more movers had to be brought in to get the truck unloaded in a hurry, and there were cost overruns. Proper advance planning may have helped avoid these unnecessary expenses (and aggravations).

Pre-move planning activities: In this step, you prep the office for the move and haul in boxes to pack up files, supplies and stuff. Financial advisors are very fond of stuff. They will stack and file magazines and other reading material, even if they never read them. They will warehouse awards, plaques, photos, binders and other dated material without regard to their utility or relevance. So moving the office represents an opportunity to do some significant housecleaning. Not that you have to trash all of your stuff. Just consider what is really important.

At this point, you also want to hire a mover, and it is critical you find someone with experience moving offices.

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