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OMNI – The international network for the Premier League

Jan 11, 2019
It’s now thirty years since the Overseas Moving Network International (OMNI) was formed. Deputy editor David Jordan visited General Manager Ian Waters at the network’s head office in Guildford to learn more about what many regard as the Premier League of moving networks.

OMNI - the international network for the Premier LeagueOMNI has moved head office several times during its thirty-year history, although it’s always been in or close to London.  In recent years advances in technology, including the advent of the Internet and mobile communications has enabled OMNI to streamline its operations and whilst remaining at the pinnacle of the international moving industry, its present HQ in a smart area of Guildford is surprisingly modest.

I met Chris Ace, OMNI’s Risk and Compliance Officer, in reception and was introduced to Ian Waters, OMNI’s long-standing general manager.  Ian joined the organisation in 1988 shortly after its formation and I asked him how the network came into being.

“There were two organisations in Europe back in the 80’s, one in Switzerland called CETI and another in Holland called Eurovan,” said Ian. “Both organisations enabled members to do reciprocal business with the moving companies in the US. They began expanding the networks into other countries and because both were essentially doing the same thing it was decided to merge the organisations into one network, and OMNI was the result.”

OMNI today
Today OMNI still provides a network of high-quality moving and relocation companies that trade with each other on an agent-to-agent basis. Its 120 companies operate through 130 locations in 92 cities and 57 countries. Collectively OMNI companies employ over 8,000 people and relocate over 200,000 families every year. Its members focus on corporate and diplomatic relocations and work for over 76% of the Fortune Global 100 companies.

The close relationships between OMNI companies means that they know each other very well, understand their mutual customers and can rely utterly on each other to work as part of their own team. What’s more, because OMNI often has more than one member in each location, there is an element of competition within the group that keeps companies hungry for business and keen to please. “This is a very compelling argument that allows OMNI members to compete directly with multinational organisations,” said Ian. “That element of choice means that everyone needs to perform at the highest level all the time.”

The tonnage report, now used by some trade associations, has its roots in OMNI.  Tonnage exchanged through the network is the power that drives the group and helps create the bond between its participants. The statistics produced not only give information about the biggest shippers in the network, they also provide valuable market intelligence allowing members to identify trends and build strategy.  

Other member benefits include regular information about the financial standing of the shipping lines and freight forwarders; and the exchange of local, industry and political information that could impact members’ businesses.  

Independent verification by Dow Jones
Every organisation longs for something unique - something that sets it apart from every other player in its field.  For OMNI this is the Dow Jones Risk and Compliance Service, to which every OMNI member is required to subscribe.  The Dow Jones system enables OMNI to monitor its members, and every OMNI member to monitor their entire supply chain for any irregularities, incidents or corruption that could jeopardise their relationship with a corporate customer. This makes OMNI the only network of moving and relocation companies in the world that independently verifies its members for this type of risk and provides them with the means to do the same to their entire supplier base. 

Chris Ace explained, “These days, with instant global communications, bad news travels fast and companies are very sensitive to any adverse publicity that can be caused by corruption or bad behaviour by one of their suppliers.  Being able to assure them that everything is being done to avoid that happening is a compelling reason to use an OMNI company and gives our members a distinct advantage over the competition.”

Ian Waters and Chris AceJoining OMNI
All OMNI members are well established market-leading companies with a proven track record in the international corporate relocation industry and excellent credentials.  

Application for membership is by invitation only. It’s a company limited by guarantee and, as all members become co-owners of the company, the Board is rightly choosey about who it invites to apply for membership. “The Board typically invites companies who have been dealing with existing members for some time, are known to have an excellent international trading record and are financially sound,” said Ian. 

To become an OMNI member a moving company needs to already be a recognised market leader in the international moving industry rather than be hoping to gain promotion by joining.  The organisation is always on the lookout for new members, especially in areas in which it is under represented, but companies will only be invited to apply if they are considered to reflect the standing of the whole organisation and are of benefit to its existing membership.

The OMNI conference
The annual OMNI conference is a highlight of the network’s calendar and is always well attended by CEO’s and directors of member companies.  Business sessions are particularly popular, which perhaps reflects the calibre of the attendees and their focus on the issues affecting the global relocation industry. It also has a lot to do with the quality and content of the business sessions themselves and the industry knowledge that delegates gain from participation.

However, what’s different about the OMNI conference, different from every other industry meeting on the planet, is the people.  It is a unique opportunity for the thought leaders in the industry to get together, away from the usual sales clamour and high-speed networking, to discuss the crucial issues that face the industry and everyone in it. It’s helicopter time!  A chance to step back and work on business, not in it.  It’s where business strategy is founded.

Thirty years on, the aims and objectives of OMNI seem largely unchanged: to create and support a network of the world’s most professional independent moving companies and to maintain the highest standards of service in the industry.

Photos: (Top) Ian Waters, General Manager; (Middle) Ian Waters and Chris Ace, Risk and Compliance Officer

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