Like all good ideas, EuRA came to be as a result of the combination of inspiration and timing. In 1997, the newly formed Syndicat National des Professionnels de la Relocation et la Mobilite (SNPRM) reached out for talks with the then well-established Association of Relocation Professionals (ARP) in the UK. The rationale would be to create a European wide association with the dual purpose of representing the growing and evolving industry and implementing professional standards. One of the early discussions concerned how the new association would be known and the first suggestion was the Syndicat European des Professionnels de la Relocation et la Mobilite (SEPRM). A little too EU perhaps? So EuRA got its name, its first secretary general (Tad Zurlinden, the current CEO of the ARP) and its first president, Liz Hennessey, then MD of the TheMIGroup Europe and work began.
There have been many milestones in EuRA’s history but those early years were challenging. Many stakeholders felt that their unique vision should be the one to carry the association forward and it took a steady hand and a certain amount of 'entente cordiale' to establish the core values that EuRA still holds today;
As a not for profit association run by and for the members, the numbers break down like this; membership income pays for the administration to function, the board to meet, the inter industry collaboration with other associations for research, networking and intellectual exchange. The administration of the EuRA Global Quality Seal also comes out of membership income as well as the small fees charged for the Quality Standard and the Updates. Everything else comes from conference profit. The online training programmes offered to all members for free, our research projects, our IT and web platform enabling members to publish articles and engage with EuRA’s social media, our international profile at events throughout the industry, our free to access legal advice services, our information portals, our Global Conferences to represent our growing worldwide membership, the RMC meetings and forums that promote better communication and business and more.
As Tad and I drove through France having had our flights cancelled due to the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland, we crunched the numbers. Everything for a conference the size of ours is paid up front and is not insured for Acts of God. From room hire to floral arrangements to dinners, receptions and parties, everything, the money goes out once it has come in from delegates registering and paying for the event. All EuRA’s working capitol was with the hotels in Palma, the gala diner venue, the party venue and all their suppliers. As we drove off the overnight ferry from Barcelona to the bright sun of a Mallorcan Sunday sunrise, we called an emergency meeting with all our suppliers. The kindness they showed us was unique and remarkable. We came up with a working plan to roll the event over to the same week in 2011. Obviously we had meet costs that had already been incurred such as food ordered, flowers and things that would perish and these costs were significant but nowhere near what we had feared. Had the hotel enforced their contractual right to charge for the event, EuRA would have been wiped out. Completely. We learned that building that personal relationship with the venues who deliver our events is absolutely critical and is the reason we start the planning with our venues four years in advance. By the time we get to the actual conference, we’re all truly friends.
The second remarkable thing that happened was the outpouring of support we received from members. The disappointed team in the office composed and sent the email confirming the cancellation of the event on Monday morning and as it got sent from my email account, I received the replies direct to my (in those days) Blackberry. Within 20 minutes we had 300 messages, not asking what would happen with refunds or would the conference be re-scheduled, but giving support to the teams involved and expressing how concerned members were about how disappointed we must feel. It is this level of support and enlightenment that truly defines EuRA as a family. When we asked members if they would accept an 80% credit, and that EuRA would charge 20% again to help offset the costs of the cancellation, only 1 person out of 480 took issue.
Today the EuRA family together has achieved so much. Looking back at that journey makes all of us who work for you feel humble and proud that we get the chance to represent the interests of an amazing, committed, professional group of the nicest, funniest and most inspiring people in any industry. Thank you… from our hearts.