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K2 - taking away the burden

Sep 08, 2019
It was back in 2002 when K2’s new Chief Operating Officer Rob McFarland first met its founders - Nick Plummer and Richard Rutledge - and became one of their early clients. Rob was working as a global mobility manager for an international law firm which demanded the highest standards of service.

Rob McFarlaine and Jose Bose of K2

“My focus as an in-house global mobility practitioner was always to make sure my teams delivered the best service possible to the employees we looked after,” said Rob. “But although I was dealing with around 30 companies around the world, I was finding that I wasn’t able to find a global mobility provider willing to commit to the level of service and attention to detail I desired, purely because our employee volumes weren’t considered important enough. K2 refreshingly offered to go beyond the average formula and took on the work, reassuring me we’d get the same, consistent, distraction-free service treatment that other bigger clients received because that was their aim to set them apart in the market. They managed the whole process, which helpfully took the burden away from my in-house team so we could concentrate on our business and talent priorities. And it’s that consistently applied distraction-free service commitment which attracted me to the ethos and work of K2, and lead to my desire to work here.”

Rob McFarland joined K2 in April 2018 and Nick Plummer and Richard Rutledge - who both formerly worked for Interdean - remain sole owners of the business.   

K2 began as a move management company handling just the shipping part of the operation, mainly because of Nick and Richard’s previous experience at Interdean. Since those early days K2’s services have organically expanded following client demand to include every aspect of the relocation process. They now have over 800 partners around the world and offices in the UK, USA, Sweden, France, South Africa, Singapore, Japan, Australia and the United Arab Emirates.

In May 2018 K2 made its first company acquisition, Harbour HR, a City of London HR consultancy specialising in UK immigration and shadow payroll services. The purchase means K2 can now support clients with all areas of outsourced assignment management other than processing tax returns. K2 now aims to expand this side of the business with particular focus on start-ups and medium-sized clients that don’t have, or need, their own in-house mobility teams. Since the Harbour acquisition, K2’s UK immigration business has doubled and the company is also now focussing on further expansion globally with more high-quality immigration partners.

Delivering distraction-free service has always been at the core of K2’s business model and its ability to attract and retain internal talent, as well as build strong and trusting relationships with its client’s and partners, has been key to the company’s success.

“We do have some contract models where, due to our reputation for exceptional service and attention to detail, some of the major corporates will use one of the larger RMCs for their middle-management assignees and use us for their executive and VIP service via our K2 Bespoke service,” said Rob. “Many of these employees have huge responsibilities and busy, complicated lives, with high-value effects, often in multiple locations, or with multi-nationality family considerations. Our partners need to be flexible, able to handle that level of complexity, and because we’re so clear on accountability and expectations, they need to be fully dedicated and committed to get things done. They also need to be exceptionally well presented and able to build relationships, both with us, and the people they meet during the transaction. How do we select our partners? Extremely carefully, using our Global Accredited Partner Programme vetting and accreditation process.”

As a breed, RMCs don’t exactly have a reputation for generosity when negotiating with their vendor partners, and although K2 certainly doesn’t throw its money around, fairness and a desire to make sure everyone involved benefits from the transaction is considered essential.

Rob explained, “We work hard to develop good and fair relationships with our partners. So much so that we build it in to the SLAs we have with them. We want to make sure working with K2 is well regarded which means we get the very best service and outcomes possible. In all that we do, we want people to have their heads held high, knowing they’ve done a really good job.”

Having a good working relationship is one thing, but how does K2 find its partners in the first place?

Jose Pose, K2’s Group Commercial Manager explained, “I’ve worked in the business for over 20 years, so I’ve developed business relationships with a lot of the better companies during that time. We tend to deal with the smaller companies rather than the larger players, because from experience we find this kind of a more personalised relationship has a more positive impact on the services they undertake on our behalf - we’re important to them, as they are to us. We take references from customers and corporate clients. We’re also open to requests by a client to use a particular DSP who has used them successfully in the past. That can be gold dust, but we don’t just ‘hand them the keys’, we always make sure they’re fully vetted to meet our standards through our rigourous process before we bring them on board.”

Rob McFarland concluded, “K2 isn’t an RMC and it isn’t a moving company, it’s a professional relocation services organisation and the offering is broad, but always tailored to the client’s needs, and committed to go the extra mile – that’s the key part of our original DNA. Many of us have been on the client side, and we get it, we care about doing a great job.”

Photo: L/R Rob McFarland and Jose Pose

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