Category Archives: Senior Move Management Training

Coming Back from Way, Way Back

Good morning!
I’ve not been very consistent with blog-writing this year, but I’m bound and determined to get back on track. The good news is Senior Move Management (and NASMM) are exploding ~ just as expected. Several years ago, a New York Times reporter interviewed me for a feature article about SMM…and he scolded me a bit for my thrill at reaching 300 members throughout the US and Canada. He asked me if I realized these 300 folks would need to serve 76M Baby Boomers in the coming years! I want to email and let him know NASMM is now the professional home to approximately 850 (& counting) Senior Move Management companies just three short years after that conversation.

What else is going on in Senior Move Management? In the world of aging services? You are welcome to check out NASMM’s most recent newsletter, Moving Matters - published just yesterday.

In 2013, we’ve launched a professional Accreditation program and a peer-to-peer mentorship program (for NASMM members only)! Plus, we are deeply embedded in NASMM 2014 Conference planning. We’re hosting 400+ Senior Move Managers and exhibiting vendors in paradise, eh, I mean San Diego, CA February 22-25. The full Conference brochure and schedule will be released mid-September.  The hotel property is fantastic…we can’t wait for everyone to see it.




One Friday Morning 09.30.11

Don’t take our word for it!
Listen to what past NASMM Conference attendees
have said about the

NASMM Annual Conference,
the only face-to-face event (anywhere!)
that supports and promotes the

Senior Move Management profession.

A Blog is Born

Hi everyone,
As I write this 88th blog post (wow – yikes – amazing!), my heart swells with pride that we have finally persuaded NASMM’s Founding Board President, Margit Novack of Moving Solutions in Philadelphia, to launch her own blog. Margit has been a Senior Move Manager for almost two decades – long before anyone knew what it was or what to call it. She has, I know, thousands of wonderful stories about each of the older adult moves she has managed. We’ve been asking her to share just a few of these stories with everyone else via a blog. (Loyal readers of this blog will recall my post from last January 26th, celebrating the NASMM Board’s decision to establish an award in Margit’s honor – to recognize her many and various contributions to the senior move manager profession.)

But Margit’s a busy gal – in addition to Moving Solutions, her senior move management company, she also leads eSMMART, her senior move manager training company. Additionally, she is heavily involved with fundraising for breast cancer research, etc.

Though Margit’s time is limited, her enthusiasm for senior move management is legendary.

Well, she’s finally done it: Margit is blogging! She’s written two posts thus far, and they can be found here. I encourage you to subscribe to her blog however you usually subscribe to these things – Google Reader or via email, etc. You will not be disappointed.

I always learn something after talking with Margit, and it’s usually something I didn’t even know I didn’t know.


Then and Now Part V

(Please read Parts One, Two, Three, and Four before reading this last installment.)

Well, we know what happens. Bill’s not a quitter, but it takes less than two hours on Florida soil to seek outside help. His Mom’s confused inertia nearly knocks him off his feet. Layers of guilt, sadness, and impatience hang on him like a heavy coat throughout that entire first day. He loves his Mom dearly, and he beats himself up for not visiting more and not being more clued into what is happening with her. “But heck,” he thinks, “I’ve been trying to find a job and then there’s so much going on with the kids.” His thoughts trail off . . . Twice, he sneaks into the bathroom, locks the door, sits on the edge of the sea-foam tub, and just cries. He hardly can believe it himself. Twice? He knows he needs to pull himself together.

When Bill calls Louise later that evening, she can hear the frustration in his voice. She doesn’t want to say “I told you so,” but she can think it, can’t she? Older brother, Jim, is all about closing this deal down . . . and fast. He quickly texts Bill: “NOW can we call the senior move manager Louise found?” Bill doesn’t own a smartphone, so he slowly keys in “y-e-s.”

Not the next day, but the day after, the senior move manager arrives for a consultation visit. Bill spends the intervening day tidying up to make a nice impression. His Mom, Patricia, doesn’t resist getting dressed the morning of the appointment. She chooses the purple floral top Louise sent last Christmas. She is more than a bit excited. Bill smiles and gives his Mom’s bony shoulder a tight squeeze as she sits in her favorite chair in front of the TV.

Once inside the home, the senior move manager sits down with Patricia at the kitchen table. They talk about where she is moving to, and how they will work together to make it a good move. Patricia listens closely, as she smooths out the wrinkles in the vinyl tablecloth. Bill stands by the kitchen sink, looking down on the entire scene with a sense of peace – for the first time in three days. The senior move manager brings out a thick, white plastic binder from her tote bag, and in it are photos of past senior move clients and many “before” and “after” snapshots of recent move projects. Patricia recognizes one of the snapshots as someone she knows from church. Bill thinks this familiarity will help his Mom accept the senior move manager, and gives a hearty “thumbs up” to no one in particular.

The senior move manager flips through the binder to show other items of interest as well: her Certificate of Liability Insurance, her membership certificate from the National Association of Senior Move Managers (NASMM), her Circle of Service Award from NASMM, and more.

After some preliminary conversation, the senior move manager asks for permission to look around. “Absolutely!” says Bill, as he follows closely at her heels. Throughout the tour, the senior move manager addresses many of her own questions and concerns directly to Patricia rather than to Bill. Bill notices this touching detail, and he almost breaks down again. Bill only interrupts when his Mom seems uncertain or anxious. The senior move manager seamlessly glides from one room to another, always respectful of Patricia’s possessions and sensitive to the fact she is a guest. She asks Patricia if she is getting tired yet. “Should we take a break for a few minutes?”

In the end, Patricia moves north to be with Louise and her family in Missouri. The move, six weeks later, is executed without a hitch or a glitch. Much to her surprise, Louise does not even fly down to FL to manage (or micro-manage, thinks Bill) the senior move manager’s progress. The senior move manager’s frequent updates via telephone and email put Louise (and Jim, Bill and Kate) completely at ease. They can’t believe the senior move manager sorted and distributed everything just as directed – a few special things to each of them around the country, some other usable items to the Salvation Army and AmVets, and still more to 1-800-Got-Junk. During one particular phone call, Louise, Bill and Kate try to calculate how many hours it would have taken to do all the work themselves. Jim urges them to stop. “Let’s just say WAY too many,” he says with obvious exasperation.

The best part is always the last part, isn’t it? The Florida senior move manager connects with a Missouri senior move manager to handle the unpacking and re-settling of Patricia in her new assisted living apartment. Pictures are hung, drawers and closets are filled, and the fridge is stocked with Patricia’s favorite snacks (Neapolitan ice cream) and beverages (Snapple Peach Iced Tea). Patricia’s bedroom looks just as she left it hundreds of miles away in FL.

The evening of move-in day, Louise emails photos to everyone of Mom sitting in her favorite chair. Patricia is smiling for Louise’s cell phone camera. “She looks great in that purple blouse,” Louise notes. “That’s definitely her color.”

When discussing the day’s events with Louise, Bill asks in utter amazement, “Who knew? Who the heck knew this thing called senior move management even existed?”

Louise laughs on the other end of the phone, “I knew, I knew.”

One Friday Morning 08.19.11

A picture is worth a thousand words, or so the saying goes . . . but what about a picture OF words? Here’s our story . . . and have a great weekend.

The Speed of Trust

It’s been four years and I haven’t forgotten it. In fact, I think about it frequently – at least every few days.

In August 2007, Jennifer and I attended the 2007 Annual Conference of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), the professional trade association of people who lead the 150,000 other trade associations in the US. Located at Chicago’s McCormick Place that year, it’s a huge, sprawling event – thousands of attendees, a massive exhibitor area, and hundreds of education sessions. Traditionally, this conference will feature several keynote speakers (or Thought Leaders, as they are often called).

This particular scorching August afternoon featured Stephen M. R. Covey, and his topic was the title of his then-recently-released book, The Speed of Trust. Make no mistake: Covey is a compelling speaker. He winds his way through 60 minutes of content in a seamless, seemingly effortless way. He is a terrific storyteller!

Jennifer and I had been working with NASMM for a year at this point, and we had big plans for this small, but mighty group of senior move management professionals. Covey’s words about the “speed of trust” never left me because we’ve basically adopted it as our business model. He believes, “Nothing better accelerates a transaction, a task, or project, than trust.” Trust is the “hidden variable” in the formula for organizational success. The challenge of establishing trust has never been greater, however, as we connect less face-to-face and more in cyberspace.

Trust is woven throughout everything we do each day. Jennifer and I must trust each other. As a small staff association of just two individuals, we must trust that the other person will not let us down. There is no Plan B, back-up person, or safety net. We are each other’s parachutes.

The NASMM Board of Directors must trust us to lead this 600-member association of small business professionals, and we must trust them in return – to honor our contract and empower us to do our best work on their behalf.

The NASMM membership must trust both us and the Board. They need to trust what we say is true. Our members must truly believe us when we say “Your success is OUR business.” They must trust that we “have their backs” in the highly competitive, profoundly challenging world of small business.

NASMM members must trust each other. One key benefit to participating in your profession’s trade association is the opportunity to network and seek referrals. So many older adults move from one region of the country to another that NASMM members often rely on their NASMM colleagues to conduct the beginning or end part of the move.

The deeply intimate relationship between the older adult and the senior move manager requires all kinds of trust at every turn in the downsizing and relocation process. (Who else will you allow into your medicine cabinet, underwear drawer, and photo albums?)

  • Older adult clients need to trust the senior move manager will handle their lifelong possessions with care and confidentiality.
  • They must trust the SMM is charging them fairly ~ for the time and expertise involved in planning and executing a successful move.
  • They must also trust their senior move manager’s recommendation of a moving company.
  • They must trust the SMM to advise them well, and with good intentions, regarding the distribution of unwanted possessions – such as donating to identified charities, conducting an estate or garage sale on the client’s behalf, etc.

The list goes on . . . and one thing I know for sure: trust is the centerpiece of senior move management. Everything else is secondary – marketing brochures, website domain name, etc. Peel it all away, and it’s simply trust that will lead clients, referral sources, colleagues and others to your business. Stephen M. R. Covey may have spoken of it that summer day four years ago, but it’s a feeling I will never forget.

Trust is everything.

Do You Believe in Magic?

I blog here, and I also read about blogging. A lot. Recently, I’ve read numerous articles offering tips for more effective blogging on a business blog. Like most non-profit trade associations, NASMM’s mission is two-fold: we must reach the consumer audience searching for senior move managers in their cities and towns, and we must also serve our 600+ dues-paying members who are senior move managers. So we’re different than straightforward B2C or B2B organizations. Trade associations are a hybrid of these two business models, and it’s a battle (oops, I mean challenge) Jennifer and I (along with our nine elected Board Directors) fight/tackle daily.

Several social media gurus suggest answering your most frequently asked questions (FAQs) on your business blog – just for a change of pace. Sounds like a good idea. Each day, the NASMM toll-free line and the website “Contact Us” page are filled with inquiries from consumers and individuals considering senior move management as a next career move. Current NASMM members simply call or email us directly (a perk of membership!).

One question – from individuals who are thinking of opening their own senior move management business – always bubbles up at some point: “How much money can I make doing this?”

Our answer: “It depends.”

Usually a few seconds of awkward silence follows.  Then we say, “It depends on your previous experience starting and owning your own small business. Will you need to acquire basic small business start-up skills at the same time you are learning the nuances of running a senior move management business? No worries if you need to do both, but this info helps us help you.

It depends on your experience working with older adults. Hearing loss, vision impairment, limited mobility, and decision-making stressors are all components of working with an aging population every day. Add to the mix a few adult children weighing in on every decision and you’ve got the picture. Working with older adults and families is hard work.

It depends on how willing you are to market, market and market some more. Relentless, targeted marketing is critical to success for any (and every) small business.  Additionally, marketing a service is trickier than marketing a product. If you don’t enjoy public speaking, shameless self-promotion and marketing to the max, you may want to reconsider the entrepreneur’s path.

It depends on how much you value SMM-specific training, ongoing education and peer networking by joining a trade association like NASMM. It depends on whether you choose to invest in all the association offers.

It depends, too, on your target market: do you live in a somewhat densely populated area, with many potential clients or do you live in a rural setting with few prospects?  Do the math.

It depends on how many senior move managers are already actively serving your area. Sometimes less is more, and sometimes more is more. The answer isn’t always the same.

It depends on the quantity of cash that will define success for you. Some SMMs gross $50K a year, and are thrilled with their bottom line. Others make $500K annually, employ 6 staff members, and are not content with their results.  What’s your goal?

It depends on the thickness of your skin when you are rejected (by potential clients) or challenged (by confused clients and apprehensive family members). Can you hear “No?”

It depends on your flexibility . . . and creativity. Mrs. Charles wants to take her massive armoire AND china cabinet with her to the new assisted living apartment. Only problem? The space is only 400 square feet. Can you say “No?”

So many aspects to consider beyond the few listed here, but it still depends. A single, all-important query remains:

                                                 Do you believe in MAGIC?

Senior move managers perform magic every day. Just ask someone (or their family members), debilitated by the mere thought of downsizing or moving a home of 40 or 50 years. The happy smiles and heart-felt hugs of more than 50,000 senior move clients (last year alone) have only one explanation: it’s magic!
Do you have a question for NASMM?

Announcing NASMM’s FrontDoor training: 3 lbs. 6 oz.; 11 inches

It’s been a journey like many, I suppose – full of giddy anticipation at the outset, many challenging twists and turns, and extreme exhaustion (as well as relief) upon arrival. No, we didn’t cycle through Greece or have a baby. We are, however, poised to ship the completed inaugural copies of the National Association of Senior Move Managers’ (NASMM) own comprehensive senior move management training program, FrontDoor, to the first individuals who pre-ordered it.

As the mother of four children, I must admit the entire birthing process of this program was a little too déjà vu for my taste. Ups, downs, profound anxiety and lots of wistful imagining. Yep, that was us for the last year or longer. (Apparently, the gestation period for a truly robust training program is more than nine months.) Like any new parent, we are enormously proud. Instead of counting fingers and toes, we checked (and triple-checked) terminology references, chapter sequences, form titles, and more. Everyone says their own training is turn-key (like everyone says their own dog is “friendly”), but this program is the real deal.

FrontDoor is the result of several visionary NASMM Boards of Directors, and countless other experienced members. The FrontDoor program blends senior move management skills, marketing expertise, and aging services knowledge in a uniquely effective way. It’s by senior move managers (and marketers and geronotolgy specialists) for senior move managers.

We live in an extraordinary time. The world’s population is aging at a rapidly increasing rate and in unprecedented numbers. Senior move management, with its relatively low “barrier to entry,” will likely capture the hearts and minds of many individuals seeking their entrepreneurial niche in this Age Wave. NASMM welcomes anyone exploring senior move management for a first or encore career. We find, however, individuals who are properly trained in SMM-specific best practices and industry trends/information, have the best, greatest chance for success.

NASMM’s FrontDoor training will change and grow organically. That is, as new industry-specific information becomes available, the FrontDoor training manual and allied audio seminars will reflect it accordingly. Our guiding goal for FrontDoor’s rich content is for it to remain fresh, relevant and informative – with no expiration date.

Honestly, there’s nothing else quite like it . . . just as the parent of any chubby-cheeked newborn will tell you: “It’s all worth it” or “No pain, no gain.”


NASMM Grows Up . . . With a Little Help From a Friend

For the first time ever, NASMM has created a legacy award – to honor an individual for his or her outstanding contributions to the field of senior move management. The award is named for NASMM’s Founding Board President, Margit Novack of Moving Solutions and eSMMart in Philadelphia, PA. NASMM’s current Board President, Kim McMahon of Let’s Move LLC in Clarksville, MD, introduced the award to an attentive crowd at the 2011 NASMM Conference in FL last week:

In 2010, the Board of Directors of the National Association of Senior Move Managers (NASMM) chose to establish an award to honor a Senior Move Manager who has made significant contributions to NASMM, in particular, and to the profession of senior move management in general. The award is named for NASMM’s Founding Board President, Margit Novack of Moving Solutions in Philadelphia, PA, for we can think of no one who has contributed more to NASMM’s growth and success than Margit.

The Margit Novack Award for Outstanding Contributions to Senior Move Management recognizes an individual for outstanding professional leadership and exemplary service to NASMM, and actively supporting and facilitating the NASMM mission. Additionally, the Margit Novack Award recognizes an individual who has shown exceptional commitment to NASMM by building professional partnerships and mentoring others in the field of senior move management.  In making this award, the Board is recognizing services performed by an individual that are above and beyond those traditionally offered by a volunteer member.

Margit Novack is a pioneer in the Senior Move Management industry. Since 1996, Margit has operated Moving Solutions, one of the largest Senior Move Management businesses in the United States. In 1999, Margit helped build national awareness of Senior Move Management when her company, Moving Solutions, was awarded the American Society on Aging’s (ASA) Business and Aging Award. In 2001, Margit initiated the first formal training program in the industry for new business owners. In 2002, Margit became the Founding President of the National Association of Senior Move Managers (NASMM). In 2007, Margit launched eSMMART, the first web-based industry training program and the only program designed for both senior move management business owners and employees. Margit continues to operate an on-site business development program to help new business owners create successful businesses through best practices, proven sales techniques and state-of-the-art operational systems.

Recognized as an industry expert, Margit has been quoted in numerous national publications including Time Magazine, The New York Times, the Washington PostAARP and National Public Radio, among others. Margit speaks frequently at national conferences on topics related to senior relocation, entrepreneurism, hoarding, and marketing strategies for individuals working with the 50+ market.

What you may not know is Margit displays exceptional “behind-the-scenes” leadership in a variety of areas on behalf of NASMM.  In short, Margit is an ambassador for NASMM. Margit is always connecting the NASMM Board and staff with other leaders in aging services and entrepreneurship. In fact, more than a few conference speakers at the last several NASMM conferences are the direct result of Margit’s introductions and encouragement.

Speaking of conference speakers, Margit has long served as a role model to the senior move management community. Each June, Margit is always one of the first NASMM members to step up and submit an education proposal for the next NASMM Conference. For her conference education sessions, Margit almost always brings together a panel of other experienced NASMM members, because Margit really lives the adage of “There’s no ‘I’ in team.”

In these sessions, Margit and her colleagues provide conference attendees with tips, tools and “lessons learned” that would take new senior move managers several years to discover. Why does she so generously share her experience and expertise? She does so because she cares deeply about the future of the senior move management profession.

Margit seeks out opportunities to serve NASMM, and actively participates as a passionate, articulate and trustworthy spokesperson on behalf of NASMM.  For example, when NASMM needed to develop a Welcome to Senior Move Management webinar to more effectively respond to the many requests for information about senior move management, Margit voluntarily created and recorded the module – for no compensation and with no questions asked. Today, NASMM has distributed well over 100 of these webinars in the last year. Many of you who purchased it are sitting here today as full general NASMM members.

When we approached Margit a second time, regarding NASMM’s new membership requirement in Ethics and Safety (the Cornerstone Courses), Margit came through yet again, for no compensation and for the ultimate good of the association.

We do not overstate it when we say that NASMM may well not exist today if not for Margit Novack.  It was Margit who first brought together the founding members at her home in Philadelphia. And, as NASMM’s founding Board President, Margit – along with her Board colleagues – launched this association with equal parts passion, integrity and purpose. It is a legacy we all enjoy today.

Margit’s cumulative, ongoing achievements and positive impact on the field are notable and worthy of national recognition. Thus, today, we establish the Margit Novack Award for Outstanding Contributions to Senior Move Management to recognize, in a permanent and enduring way, Margit’s imaginative leadership, exceptional service and continued commitment to advancing both NASMM and the entire field of senior move management.

We hope to name the inaugural recipient of the Margit Novack Award for Outstanding Contributions to Senior Move Management at the 2012 NASMM Conference next January in Austin, TX.

Please join me in congratulating Margit on this high honor. Congratulations, Margit!

Following Up

One of the most valued breakout sessions of the entire 2011 NASMM Conference was a session called “The Power of Follow-up.” Our lively, animated speaker, Judy Garmaise, was almost “in your face” about how businesses – both large and small – leave money on the table every day because we just don’t follow up. NASMM Conference attendees loved it: New senior move managers wanted to hear it and veteran SMMs needed to hear it again. I guess this is my way of saying I am following up with you. My last blog post pleaded for patience while we tied up post-conference loose ends, and I promised a re-cap of the Annual Conference.

Here goes:

The 2011 Conference was unquestionably the biggest NASMM Conference to date, with 340 attendees and 27 exhibitors. But was it the best?

This year marks the first time we have truly gone to an almost paperless association because we moved our speaker and session evaluations to a web-based platform. Since they have returned from the conference in FL early last week, over 150 attendees have logged on and evaluated each of the sessions (anonymously, of course) and the entire conference overall. (Great follow-up, I must say!)

The evals are pouring in with such positive feedback that Jennifer and I alternate between joy that we really hit the mark this year, and sheer terror as we try to achieve this same level of satisfaction again next year. Fortunately, we both enjoy a good challenge . . .

Why was this conference the best NASMM Conference ever? I wish I could say it was the locale – Florida in January is a sure bet, right?  Though we were blanketed by gorgeous Florida sunshine throughout the entire four days, it was a wee bit chilly at 58-63 degrees most days. Chicago, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Detroit, Boston, Philly and New York were battling single digit temps, so no one minded the sweaters and light jackets during their walks on the beach.

Perhaps it was the outstanding customer service exhibited by the entire staff at the TradeWinds Island Grand Resort in St. Pete Beach. Talk about follow-up! This crew could teach an entire course on it! We called only once for more chairs in the Long Key room, requested more water just once during the General Session, asked for help one time with our audio/visual equipment, and our requests were filled, fixed or served. Here’s a big shout out to Margarita, Rob, Joyelle, Dave, and Karleen for providing us with a five-star customer service experience at the TradeWinds.

The 30+ speakers were compelling, insightful, and informative; the food was plentiful and delicious; and the hotel staff was beyond gracious and accommodating. What really made this conference worth the effort and expense, however, was something we actually brought to Florida: NASMM itself. Our members are truly some of the most engaging and welcoming people you will find anywhere. Our Buddy Program, which pairs past conference attendees with first timers, is just one example of how our members reach out to each other.

Senior move management is a new and evolving profession, and the only real experts are our own experienced members. Sure, they could bottle up their expertise and save it for themselves, or . . . they could nurture NASMM’s newest members and become leaders in the field. We are a better organization because our members have chosen to do what you might expect of those in a “helping profession.”

NASMM members were conference speakers, session moderators, Buddies, and more. It was the many conversations in the buffet line, at the bar, and on the plump sofas outside the session rooms where the conference really cranked into high-gear. The energy and excitement were palpable. The connectivity was truly electric. In fact, many Buddies have already “followed up” with each other since they left Florida, and will keep in contact throughout the year. Some individuals chose not be a formal Buddy and connected with people in their own way. It’s all good. It’s an association in action.

This conference was the best conference yet because NASMM came together in a fresh and inspiring way. Let the silver tsunami begin (2011 is the year the oldest Boomers turn 65) because NASMM’s 570+ members are ready!

Please mark your calendars now for the 2012 NASMM Conference: January 12-15, 2012 in awesome Austin, TX at the Hyatt Austin. But don’t worry, we’ll be sure to follow up with you over the next year as the conference details unfold.