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Helping Employees on the Move

UrbanBound functions as a concierge for the unconnected by providing discounted services, moving tips and checklists, and localized advice on neighborhood quirks in Chicago and 19 other U.S. metropolitan areas.

June 25, 2012
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Related Topics: Relocation Services, Relocation Management, Policies and Procedures, Latest News
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Pulling up stakes for a job in a new city can be vexing. While companies lavish relocation subsidies on senior executives, low-level employees are usually out of luck.

Jeff Ellman and Michael Krasman are trying to steer these new hires right regardless of rank. Their web-based Chicago company, UrbanBound LLC, functions as a concierge for the unconnected by providing discounted services, moving tips and checklists, and localized advice on neighborhood quirks in Chicago and 19 other U.S. metropolitan areas.

For employers and employees—65 and 6,000 have signed up, respectively—the service is free. UrbanBound takes its unspecified revenue from 40 corporate vendors, which pay for customer leads or pass along commissions on sales they make to job getters.

The 18-month-old firm is the brainchild of two suburban Detroit natives, both 35, who started forming companies in the dot-com era and two years ago launched Hireology, an algorithm-based tool for screening job seekers.

"We've been in the 'life transition' business for 15 years," says Ellman, who handles business development, while Krasman oversees technology. They also operate a local real estate brokerage.

Funded with $1 million from angel investors, UrbanBound is up to six employees but, says Ellman, isn't yet profitable. He says the firm will seek venture-capital funding in about six months.

Naturally, UrbanBound targets labor-intensive industries. Eight of the country's 10 biggest accounting firms, including Grant Thornton LLP, are customers, along with corporate giants Aon Corp. and PepsiCo Inc., consultant Navigant Consulting Inc. and nonprofit Teach for America, he says. Two-thirds of UrbanBound's users are starting their careers.

Among its corporate clientele is C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc., an Eden Prairie, Minn.-based logistics company whose Chicago office has hired 51 UrbanBound-aided workers since the start of 2011, says Carmen Baas, learning and organizational development manager: "It was really a no-brainer for us. There's little to no administration on our part."

On the other side of the business model, Penske Truck Leasing Co. in Reading, Pennsylvania, gets about 100 leads a month through UrbanBound and turns 20 percent of them into customers, says Dave Baptisti, director of national consumer sales and programs.

UrbanBound keeps in touch with individuals after their moves, pinging them with follow-up reminders about local customs like residential parking permits and hoping to connect when they move again.

John Klisch, a Blackman Kallick LLP audit partner, says he saved about $3,000 with UrbanBound discounts when he and family members moved from Atlanta to Wheaton six months ago.

UrbanBound contemplates adding customized features, such as dedicated phone numbers, for corporate clients willing to pay.

"It's not going to replace completely high-touch relocation services," says Krasman, with Ellman chiming in, "They've turned a blind eye on what we're doing because they're focused on more senior management."

Filed by Crain's Chicago Business, a sister publication of Workforce Management. Comment below or email editors@workforce.com.

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