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7 golden rules for a trouble-free office move

There is no room for error in any office move. For every day the attorneys can’t get into the new location or can’t see their clients, the practice is out of business. The keys to success are a reputable mover and good planning.

1 Look for a qualified moving company

The place to start is with a search for a moving company and the most important thing to look for is responsibility. Ask the landlord for recommendations. Ask other firms what companies they have used.

Then insist on references from all the candidates and check them out. Many people don’t bother with that last step.

Ask what experience each company has with office moves, because only a company with office experience can give an accurate estimate of time and cost.

Ask what liability insurance the company has and if it carries workers compensation. If nothing else, that says it is a real business. What is more, most landlords require movers to show proof of coverage.

It is also a good idea to use a company that has been in business several years. Don’t try to get a better deal from Joe Six-Pack with a truck. That is when the nightmares start to happen and when the move takes too long or the final cost far exceeds the original estimate.

2 Get written and realistic estimates

Get written estimates from at least three companies. Knowing the competition is putting its bids in writing suddenly makes every company sharper.

Also insist that each company come to the office to see what needs to be moved. Surprisingly, many companies give estimates over the phone. Yet the mover has to determine the number of hours, the number of workers, and the number of trucks required and the only way to do that is to see what’s to be moved.

Compare the prices and be suspicious of the outliers. Any company that’s way out of line with the other two has likely under- or over- estimated the job.

3 Designate a planner

Perhaps the most important element of organizing the move is making it clear who is in charge — and that person should be the administrator.

The move planner has to know the ins and outs of the office’s operations and needs to have the authority to make decisions. Many times this job is passed off to a staffer who does not understand the importance of the work.

Planning tells the tale. One client office said it was selling some of its furniture and therefore wanted an estimate only for what was not going to be sold. The mover gave an estimate based on that information. But then the office decided not to sell anything. Since the move planner wasn’t informed of this change, neither was the moving company. As a result, the extra furniture increased the volume by almost 40% and the time by 25%. Not only did the job exceed the estimate, but it took longer than planned. Had the moving company known about the change, it would have brought in more workers.

4 Plan to move in phases

The overriding concern for the planner should be getting the move completed on time, because delays hold up restarting the business.

There is no way to eliminate every delay. Some are unavoidable and the only protection is on the front end.

The most efficient way to plan the move is in phases. An office move works like an escalator, with trucks making continuous trips back and forth. Put the most important things on the escalator first.

The first phase should be the items critical for business resumption. Those are the technology items, the phones and computers.

The second phase should be the files.

The last phase should be the furniture. With the technology up and running, even if a storm occurs and holds up the rest of the move, the attorneys will still be able to work and stay in contact with their clients.

Most delays occur because something happens at the new location. And more than half the time, it is that the phones don’t work. The phone company says it will it install the equipment on a particular date and then changes the date without telling the customer.

Another common cause is lack of paperwork. Many an office gets to the new location only to find the certificate of occupancy has not been approved.

Sometimes the elevator breaks a down. To guard against that, check that the landlords in both locations have the elevator companies on standby.

5 Factor in delays

Delays cost money. In preparing an estimate, a mover assumes it will have exclusive use of the elevators and that the customer will follow the packing instructions. It also assumes good weather.

But those assumptions don’t always pan out. Weather can slow down the work or a traffic accident can close the interstate, and whatever the cause, the firm is charged for the extra time, because delays are considered the customer’s risk.

Usually the hourly delay charge is the same fee cited in the contract. However, ask for a discount. If the delay was unavoidable, some companies allow a reduced charge for the extra hours.

If a delay is serious enough for an office to have to cancel and reschedule, most movers charge a fee depending on how far in advance the office cancels.

6 Set up a labeling system

Another planning element of a successful move is a good labeling scheme. That tells the movers to put this box in Room A, that item in Room B, and so on.

Even better is to add an additional label to each item that tells the movers which way to turn once they leave the elevator at the new location.

Don’t expect to give verbal directions on where to put things. Nothing prolongs a move more than having to stop with each box while somebody tells the movers where to put it.

7 Protect your assets

As for damage protection, the basic coverage comes with a contract of so much a pound. So if the coverage is 60 cents a pound, and a desk weighs 100 pounds, the maximum the office will collect is $60.

The firm can buy various levels of insurance after that up to full replacement value. However, assuming the moving company is reputable, basic protection is usually enough because not much gets broken.

Speaking of damage, be sure to bubble wrap any computers that are being moved. Also, arrange for someone in the office to carry laptops, because they can grow legs and walk off.

Items that require special handling fall outside of the basic insurance category. If the firm has valuable art work or antiques, for example, it should have those crated and transported by a packing company that handles such items.

That is part of the planning. If there are antique items, ask the mover what special handling it can and cannot provide. Otherwise, a valuable piece of art could wind up in a truck with no more protection than a furniture blanket thrown over the top.

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