Sean Lickver’s Global Mobility Career Journey to President
Danny Herskowitz leads Elliott Scott Mobility in New York. He recently chatted with Sean Lickver President at TRC Global Mobility a U.S based, 100% employee-owned and operated firm focused exclusively on U.S, international and government relocation services.
Tell us about your career trajectory and how you found yourself working in the Global Mobility industry?
I grew up in the real estate business. I found the process of buying and selling houses and the ability to create wealth through real estate intriguing. In the late 90s, I was just returning from film school in Florida and was looking for a job. A real estate agent who worked with my family was also a relocation consultant at one of the larger relocation companies. She passed my resume on to HR, and I started my career in relocation as a consultant.
Over the next decade, I worked as a Client Services Specialist, a Relocation Specialist, a Program Manager and a Client Services Manager. I then found an intriguing opportunity in the TRC Global Mobility marketing group. I had a great manager who allowed me to work independently and encouraged creativity and flexibility. He also looked for other areas where I could contribute to the organization, aiding my professional growth.
Another TRC manager asked if I had interest in moving to the operations side of the business full-time, and offered the role of Director of Account Management. I continued in operations management at TRC for several years.
In 2014, the company asked if I would relocate from TRC’s Eastern Region office in Connecticut to the company’s headquarters in Milwaukee. I accepted the opportunity and quickly became a Midwesterner! In early 2015, TRC’s founder was reorganizing the company’s leadership structure. He offered me the job of Executive Vice President, managing TRC’s day-to-day operations. I was named CEO of the organization in February 2020.
Can you tell us about TRC Global Mobility and what kind of services do they offer?
TRC Global Mobility is the only 100% employee-owned relocation company. We provide complete employee mobility services in the U.S. and 150 countries worldwide. Our clients represent a wide variety of industries, products and services, and range from smaller, start-up firms to Global 1000 companies and U.S. government agencies.
Our purpose is to help our clients to use talent mobility to achieve their strategic business objectives. As an independent, employee-owned company, we bring real flexibility and creativity to our client relationships. As owners, our employees go the extra mile for our clients and their relocating employees every day.
I’m exceptionally proud to say that TRC was recently named Company of the Year by the Wisconsin Chapter of the ESOP Association and one of Inc. magazine's 2020 Best Workplaces. This is a testament to every one of our employee owners. They are the hardest-working and most dedicated group of individuals I have ever had the privilege to work with.
What kind of employees do you look for when hiring for positions within TRC Global Mobility and what are the traits that make someone successful in your organization?
TRC Global Mobility is an employee-owned company, and by definition, our employees define us. When interviewing a prospective employee, we prioritize cultural fit even over job-related skills. Employees can learn and develop job skills but not cultural fit.
The impact of a poor hire extends beyond that individual role, potentially creating a toxic situation that compromises the whole. We look not only at experience and job skills but also at personal attributes that make someone successful in our organization. We firmly believe that our employees must feel valued and respected to be fully invested in our culture and to contribute to our company’s success, beginning with the interview process.
TRC people reflect our values: Intensity, Agility, Curiosity, Expectations Exceeded and Integrity. They are passionate, tenacious, flexible, empathetic, transparent, collaborative, creative and willing to go the extra mile to satisfy our clients and their relocating employees. I believe we have the most dynamic, vibrant culture among the relocation management companies.
What are some of the benefits of being an employee at TRC Global Mobility?
The best benefit of being a TRC employee is that you’re also an owner of the company! When I speak to a new employee, one of the first things I mention is that as co-owners, we want everyone to be able to share ideas and thoughts to help us move forward as a company.
In the past year, we took a number of actions to benefit our employee-owners:
- Allowing all employee-owners to work from home one day a week
- Implementing a company-wide bonus program
- Closing our offices for the week of Christmas (not counted against the employee’s PTO time)
- Hosting a 3-day, all-company retreat at our HQ location, with team-building, food, drinks and entertainment
- Implementing a relaxed dress code, with jeans year round and optional shorts in the summer
- Opening an office in Kentucky at the request of remote employees in the area
- Promoting numerous employees from within, rather than hiring outside
- Celebrating our owners and their contributions during ESOP month (October)
We are extremely proud to be recognized as one of Inc.’s 2020 Best Workplaces as well as the ESOP Association’s Wisconsin Company of the Year. These two awards speak to TRC’s culture and our dedicated employee-owners.
As the President of an organization what challenges are you finding have been coming up recently with employees due to the new COVID-19 paradigm and are there any initiatives that you have found are helping your employees better navigate this new way of working?
To safeguard our employees, we transitioned to 100% remote work relatively early in the pandemic. We were well prepared for this transition: all TRC employee-owners are permitted to work remotely one day per week, and many employee-owners work remotely full-time. So from a technical and workflow perspective, this was a seamless shift for TRC.
The biggest challenge we’ve seen is really the fear of the unknown: for our employee-owners, our clients and their relocating employees. Our employee-owners, of course, are concerned about what is happening in the world and how it is impacting us as an organization. We recognized that a free flow of information and communication has a way of neutralizing fear and anxiety, and we’re making use of technology to increase transparency.
We began using the Slack platform to facilitate communications among the leadership team, and then rolled out to the entire company as a social platform and a way to remain connected. Like many other organizations, we are using Zoom videoconferencing for both departmental and company-wide meetings. Interestingly, we’ve seen some unexpected benefits from this, including a greater sense of participation, more idea sharing and more collaboration, versus basic conference calls. The technology has helped to bring everyone together for business and more relaxed events, like virtual happy hours.
Like all companies, we are discussing how and when we will re-open our offices. While this is sure to bring some challenges, we will remain flexible and work through any issues. We are committed to ensuring that all of our employee-owners feel comfortable returning to work and that every precaution and safety measure is in place to protect them.
What current trends are you seeing in the Global Mobility space and where do you see the industry heading towards in the next year or so?
Pre-COVID-19, the industry was already seeing major changes. Relocation packages have become less generous and simpler to administer, often taking the form of a lump sum benefit. Clients are increasingly looking for more flexible, customized solutions, and COVID-19 is likely to accelerate this trend.
Relocation technology has become increasingly important, both for the client managing a relocation program and the relocating employee who now uses a smartphone to review information and submit expense reports. Relocation companies will need to balance technology and the traditional human touch to succeed in the post COVID-19 world. In this spirit, TRC’s upcoming lump sum move platform will streamline the process for clients while letting relocating employees decide how to use their money and giving them the tools and resources they need to get the most out of their relocation benefit.
If you can give any advice to someone that is starting out their career in the Global Mobility industry that has aspirations to be a President of a Relocation Management Company like yourself, what advice would you give them?
Mobility is an unusual industry in that most people don’t consciously plan for a career in the field. But the same talent shortages that our clients are experiencing exist in the mobility industry as well. The industry leadership skews to the older side and retirements continue to create tremendous opportunities for talented people.
Once you’re in the industry, you have to be resilient in times of adversity. You are going to be faced with new challenges and you are going to have to make difficult choices. Sometimes you are going to make the right choices; sometimes you are going to make the wrong choices. You are not going to succeed 100% of the time. Failure is a part of the secret to success.
Embrace adversity and look at it as an opportunity to learn something, make yourself better and grow from the experience. How you chose to handle those moments are going to define you. They say getting knocked down in life is a given; it happens to all of us. It’s how you get back up that counts. Getting back up is a choice. Continue to make that choice to reach your goals.
It was great to speak with Sean and learn more about his background as well as TRC Global Mobility. I really enjoyed learning more about Sean’s journey to becoming the President of a relocation management company, his thoughts on the current state of the Global Mobility industry as well as the services that TRC Global Mobility offers to their clients and what it’s like to work for the company. You can get in touch with myself on LinkedIn or at firstname.lastname@example.org