How many times have you thought to yourself, “that would be a great business idea!” Cosmo Kramer (on Seinfeld) had an abundance of ideas including, my favorite, a tie dispenser: if you spill something on your tie while at dinner, you go to the bathroom and purchase a new one from a tie dispenser. These ideas involve creating a product or service to solve a problem. So how come we’re not all entrepreneurs?
In addition to having a great idea, the other key element is the courage to see it through…to go for it. This can mean leaving the safety and security of your current job to take the risk. This is a bridge too far for most people and where many great ideas come to rest.
We take for granted today many of the expat support services that help assignees settle quickly and efficiently in their new locations, work effectively across cultures and learn new languages. But in 1979, most expats were required to figure it out on their own. This often led to significant challenges and many failed assignments. It was a good thing for us that this happened to Noel Kreicker, IOR’s founder.
Inspired by a “failed” expatriate assignment to Bogota, Colombia, due to a lack of relocation support services, Noel conceived of a business which would provide personal relocation assistance to foreign families coming to Chicago to work for multinational corporations. From her kitchen, Noel sent out letters to the “Personnel” departments of Chicago area corporations asking if she could conduct market research about their international assignees coming into the USA. Several companies responded to her request and began using her services the following year. The first customer Noel assisted was a family coming from Australia for a service fee of $25. Who says that prices never go up in the relocation business?
The first customer IOR assisted was a family coming from Australia for a service fee of $25.
At the time, not many companies even recognized that this type of service was needed. In the early 1980’s, most US companies had ethnocentric attitudes and did not understand why anyone should have trouble adjusting to living and working in the U.S. Selling relocation support services required persistence and continued client education.
Noel had more than just an idea, she had the courage to form a start-up and the determination to stick with it. Like many entrepreneurs, Noel put all the company’s profits back into the business and did not draw a salary for many years. At one point, to make payroll, Noel took her car title to the bank for the needed funds. She said that this was one of her greatest risks and that it gave her courage for many bigger future risks.
At one point, to make payroll, Noel took her car title to the bank for the needed funds.
Our business and industry have evolved significantly since 1979. But IOR’s focus on innovation and maintaining a strong corporate culture goes back four decades. IOR today is making significant investments in technology to improve the customer experience with the development of assignee apps. In 1987, IOR was one of the first small businesses to purchase a Novell Network system consisting of six computers. It was mandated that all employees develop computer skills.
To our employees, IOR has always been known for balancing high performance with a fun (and always entertaining) work culture. As we enter the busy summer season, we try to provide some relief for our employees through various stress relievers, bringing in massage therapists, enjoying ice cream and taking hikes. In the 1980’s and early 1990’s, IOR’s office space included six training rooms (companies would fly their employees to IOR’s office for ONE WEEK of cultural training), a large Resource Center, a library and a “meditation room” with a vibrating relaxation mat where employees could go to relax or take a catnap. It was called the “DC-10 Room” because the HVAC system was next to it and was so loud.
As IOR celebrates its 40th year in business, we have enjoyed looking back and learning from our history. But we are even more excited about what’s ahead. We are inspired by Noel’s vision and determination as we invest for the next 40 years.