Holidays Light Up Our Favorite Cities

By Matthew Hutchison

Seattle's "Enchant Christmas" Light Maze

The urge to light up long winter nights with festive celebrations has been a part of human culture since the day an ancient European dragged an evergreen tree indoors and decorated it with candles, before Christianity even existed.

Who doesn't want to dispel the gloom of winter with some bright lights and fun?

Luckily, these days, we don't have to rely on candles. Holiday light festivals have become almost a competitive sport, with communities and whole cities trying to outdo each other with the size and originality of their displays.

There are some remarkable light festivals in the cities Relocity serves. Here are some of our favorites.

Seattle's "Enchant Christmas"

In Seattle, the Christmas season is a-mazing! That's because their Enchant Festival includes the world's largest Christmas maze, covering almost 100,000 square feet! It includes large light sculptures and arches, as well as an ice skating trail and falling snow (see photo above).

Afterward, a European-style Christmas market is your chance to purchase some decorations or an ugly Christmas sweater while munching holiday treats.

When it comes to Christmas, Seattle isn't fooling around!

The festival runs from November 22 through December 29th at T-Mobile Park.

Austin's Trail of Lights

In Austin, the "Trail of Lights" takes over Zilker Park, with over 2 million colored lights illuminating over 90 trees and 70 sculptures. This 55 years old festival has grown up with the city, maintaining the creative spirit for which Austin is famous, as well as a charitable element: at least 1/2 of the evenings are free, insuring all Austin residents and guests can participate no matter their income.

Visitors in 2019 will see new modernized displays, interactive environments, Austin’s famous food trucks, local musical talent, movies, local merchants and more. It runs December 10-23, 2019.

Los Angeles Area

Besides the famous Hollywood Christmas Parade down Hollywood Blvd. and some other local displays, the most unique holiday light festivals are actually in LA's neighboring cities of Riverside and Newport Beach, both accessible within an hour's drive. I've been to both of these events and they are definitely worth the drive.

Newport Beach Boat Parade

Leave it to Angelenos to find a way to combine theatrics, the waterfront, and holiday lights. The 111th Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade is a unique way to enjoy the holidays, with a "cast of thousands" (of lights, that is) adorning over 100 boats of all kinds: motor boats, sailboats, yachts, paddleboats and canoes. The parade winds for 14 miles through the labyrinth of canals in Newport Beach, backed by upscale canal-fronting homes that also compete for the most elaborate displays. To top it all off, there is a fireworks display after the parade!

The parade takes place this year on December 18-22.

Riverside's Mission Inn

The venerable Mission Inn in Riverside is an early California resort hotel on the National Register of Historic Places that was originally built in 1902, when Riverside was a resort area closer to Los Angeles than the now more popular Palm Springs. It is considered one of the largest Mission Revival style buildings in the U.S., so it is worth seeing even without the holiday lights.

However, during December, the property (which takes up a whole city block) explodes with lights and holiday displays to rival Rockefeller Center. Every inch of the property, both interior and exterior, is decorated, with 400 animated characters, 4 million lights, Christmas trees and holiday scenes everywhere.

The city of Riverside also gets in on the act with their own Festival of Lights on the adjacent streets, including live performances and horse-drawn carriages covered with twinkle lights.

USA Today recently named The Festival, which lasts from November 29th to December 31st, the “Best Public Holiday Lights Display in the Nation”.

San Francisco's "Illuminate SF" Festival of Light

As you might expect, San Francisco's approach to a winter light festival is a bit different. Rather than a traditional holiday themed event, the city's Illuminate SF celebration features light art installations by over 30 artists, appearing in 17 different neighborhoods, expressing the creativity of each artist rather than any religious or cultural connection. In fact, the light installations are available year-round, including street exhibits, illuminations on public buildings, and a light show each night on the Bay Bridge. But from Thanksgiving through December, the light art is highlighted by tours (either guided or self-guided), artist talks, and other events.

New York City - Everywhere

Many consider Manhattan the "Big Daddy" of holiday displays, from the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade to the famous tree and ice skating rink in Rockefeller Plaza.

Saks Fifth Avenue window | Photo by Zach Hilty

Instead of the lights and decorations being concentrated in one place, holiday displays in the Big Apple are everywhere, presented by stores, businesses and individual homeowners.

Some of the most fanciful displays come thanks to the holiday spirit of high-end retailers like Bloomingdale's, Macy's, Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor, who go all out designing seasonal window shopping displays to attract customers and liven up their neighborhoods.

Besides Rockefeller Center, other corporate centers and real estate developers get into the act, such as Bank of American which presents a Winter Village in Bryant Park, featuring an ice skating rink and holiday shopping; Saks Fifth Avenue, whose elaborate windows are accompanied by a 10-story projected light display and opening ceremony featuring Broadway stars; and Brookfield Place, which presents a Winter Garden.

Civic institutions like Lincoln Center, which presents a winter festival called Winter's Eve, and Central Park also light up during the holidays.

Perhaps the best holiday spirit comes from the private individuals throughout the city who festoon their homes and residences with lights and cheer. The Brooklyn neighborhood of Dyker Heights is a great example, where homeowners go all out, even hiring professionals, to help them compete for the most elaborate displays and most original ideas, earning the event the nickname "Dyker Lights".

We hope that whatever city you are in, you find the spirit of the season and enjoy your local events. And if you are in one of the cities Relocity serves, your Relocity Personal Host would love to help you find great ways to enjoy the season!

Dyker Heights home | Photography by Teddy Wolff

SF Neighborhoods - A Quick Overview

By Matthew Hutchison

Choosing the right neighborhood to live in San Francisco can be a challenge. Especially with the famously high cost of real estate, getting the most bang for your buck while making sure a neighborhood fits one’s lifestyle takes intimate knowledge and experience.

At Relocity, we optimize our clients’ chances by connecting them with a local expert called a “Personal Host”. Our Personal Hosts know the ins and outs of each neighborhood. They also get to know their clients well so that they can make highly targeted recommendations that will optimize happiness.

While no blog post can offer the customized information provided by one of our hosts, here is an overview of some San Francisco neighborhoods your employees might want to consider.

Brace yourself, however. The average monthly lease for a one-bedroom in San Francisco is $3,295 and the average home price is $1.61 million. Still, we are here to help make the most of an investment.

Marina District

Marina District with Palace of Arts in background

This waterfront district is popular with many young professionals and recent grads (along with some long-time residents) who enjoy the marina’s quaint bars and restaurants, as well as a variety of shopping options. Active types (and pet owners) will also love being adjacent to the Presidio National Park, a huge natural area offering hiking, cycling, and great views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Mission Bay

To the east of the Marina facing Oakland is this other waterfront district that has undergone extensive development lately, providing lots of much needed new housing options. This area is also popular with the young professionals and tech crowd.

Mission District and South of Market (SoMa)

If one’s vibe is a little more hipster and edgy, the Mission District (inland from Mission Bay) and SoMa are great choices. Though undergoing gentrification during the last few years, there are still plenty of nightclubs, ethnic restaurants, music venues, recording studios, and art galleries to justify the artsy reputation. SoMa especially deserves its artist’s cred as home to the Museum of Modern Art and Museum of the African Diaspora, as well as numerous artist’s lofts, boutique hotels and tech startups. Both neighborhoods are close to BART and train stations for an easy commute.

Outer Sunset and Outer Richmond

If a family is looking for a bit more suburban environment, Outer Sunset and Outer Richmond on the opposite side of the peninsula offer more single family residences, open spaces and family-friendly resources, including easy access to Ocean Beach and Golden Gate Park.

Pacific Heights

Shopping on Filmore St. in Pacific Heights

If one can afford it, Pacific Heights is one of the most beautiful and iconic neighborhoods in the city. Many of the homes are Victorian, dating from before the 1906 earthquake (and fires that destroyed much of the city), as well as mansions that were built soon after. Built on a ridge, there views in several directions of Golden Gate Bridge, the Marin Headlands, Alcatraz Island, Twin Peaks and the Sutro Tower. There are two gracious parks, Lafayette and Alta Plaza, and Filmore street is lined with quaint shops and restaurants. However, in 2013, Pacific Heights was named the most expensive neighborhood in America. So be prepared.

Oakland

Because of the high cost of neighborhoods living in San Francisco proper, many have chosen to live across the bay in Oakland and its surrounding areas. Oakland, of course, is a separate city, not just a neighborhood, and includes its own variety of neighborhood choices (subject of a future post). If you can deal with the commute, Oakland might be a smart, more affordable option, as the city continues to develop and improve with the recent influx of residents.

Sorting out all of these options, as well as the numerous other neighborhoods in the Bay Area, will be easier with the guidance of a local expert like one of our Relocity Personal Hosts. If your employees are moving to the San Francisco area, providing a concierge service like Relocity to help them deal with the decisions and pressures will dramatically enhance their experience and improve their performance on the job as well.

What “The Craic” Is and Why You Need It (in Ireland)

By Matthew Hutchison

If you are new to Ireland, you may be confused when someone walks up to you and asks “What’s the craic”? (pronounced “crack”).

No, they are not asking for drugs.

To the Irish, craic is a term for news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation. It’s how a Dubliner or Corkonian is likely to pass the time with their friends.

Fun and spending time with friends is so important to the Irish that the expression “What’s the craic” has essentially come to mean “How are you?” or “What’s happening?”. Not all Irish are familiar with the term, however. Check out this fun video from Ryanair of Irish locals attempting to define it.

But make sure you use the word properly! To get you quickly up to speed with the locals, here is some cool ‘craic’ lingo:

  • Good craic: An ok time, fun but nothing too amazing.
  • Mighty craic: Better than good craic, a great time was had.
  • Savage craic: Great time all together and everyone on top form.
  • Deadly craic: A step above savage - a super great time.
  • The craic was 90: An amazing time had by all.
  • Minus or Zero craic: Essentially boring, not much fun.

To some, craic is no joke. In a 2001 review of the modern Irish information economy, professor Eileen M. Trauth called craic “an intrinsic part of the culture of sociability that distinguishes the Irish workplace from those of other countries.” She further points out that good craic and a social life are “a fundamental part of workers' judgment of quality of life.” Sounds like serious business! Woe be to the newcomer who has not found good craic - or the business that neglects it for their people!

Craic underway in Dublin

Luckily, for people relocating to Ireland, we’ve got you covered. This is how we are different from other destination services providers. We care about our clients’ social lives and “quality of life”. We want to make sure that every client fits in with their new community.

That’s why lifestyle services are a key part of our offerings. Whether it’s taking a class, signing up with an arts organization, playing a sport, or just finding a pub or restaurant where they feel comfortable, employees need opportunities to broaden their horizons and make connections.

Especially in Ireland (where Relocity serves Dublin and Cork), we work to make sure our all our clients’ craic is 90 and beyond!

They Can Really Do That?

By Cory Rubinstein

In the six months working with Relocity, I have been continuously impressed with the ‘Personal Hosts’, the Relocity term for a destination consultant – though our hosts are so much more. These men and women will always go above and beyond to eliminate stress for the transferee while setting them up to be happy and comfortable in their new life. Here is a sample of the work accomplished for ONE SINGLE transferee and their family (husband and two daughters) over the course of a 6-week period.

  • After the initial consultation, Host immediately began researching rental homes that fit the transferee's specific criteria – a 4 bedroom with a pool, near good schools, but not too far from work that will accommodate 2 large dogs…on a budget!
  • Provided video tours of applicable houses
  • Arranged a pre-move trip for the family who flew in from across the country
  • Successfully secured a lease for their ideal home
  • Provided research on grocery stores, pet supplies, dry cleaners, stylists, swim lessons for kids – things no regular relocation consultant would ever do!
  • Researched and secured surf lessons for the entire family - really!
  • Measured the home for furniture, then went furniture shopping with the transferee utilizing Relocity’s retail license. Helped them purchase living room, dining room and master bedroom furniture at a discount.
  • Met Internet provider at home for set-up.
  • Met furniture delivery people at home for delivery.

How much do you think all of this cost? Would you be surprised if I told you it was less than $4,000 dollars? Well, it’s true. This was a 40-hour relocation ($99/hour). Working with the transferee, the Personal Host put together a game plan for accomplishing all of their specific objectives within the time constraints permitted. All of the Host’s actions were done in collaboration with the transferee. This was no boilerplate relocation. It was completely customized. Why settle for a typical destination consultant when you can have your own Personal Host instead – someone who manages every aspect of settling in, while also making sure all your personal needs are met? This is the kind of service you get with Relocity. Nothing else even comes close!

Your Personal Parachute

By Cory Rubinstein

Imagine you’re on a small airplane soaring 10,000 feet above the ground below. One by one skydivers leap from the airplane. Your nerves are rattled. You’re not sure you can do this. And ultimately, you decide it would be better if you returned home. This situation is an apt metaphor for relocation reluctance.

Relocating is scary. There are so many considerations. Will I like my new home or my new neighborhood? Will my family be happy? Will I make new friends? Will I find goods/services on par with what I’ve grown accustomed to? Anxiety leads to indecision. Indecision leads to staying put on the plane.

Relocation reluctance is a factor in over 60% of relocations. If you are a business owner or recruiter, overcoming this anxiety is going to be a major concern when attracting and retaining valuable employees.

Relocity has a solution for relocation reluctance, and that is the Personal Host. Think of the Personal Host as your very own Personal Parachute. When you finally take a leap into the unknown, the Host is there to guide you smoothly toward your destination.

Personal Hosts are trained professionals who specialize in organizing and optimizing your transition. They listen to your concerns and address your needs one by one. Imagine trying to find a new home and having to make a choice relying only on pictures. A Personal Host will physically go to each potential home and conduct a video tour, walking you through every last detail of the home that is of particular interest to you, providing you with insight and peace of mind.

Imagine having to choose a school for your children when you have never visited the school before and know nothing about it. A Personal Host will provide detailed research on the school and even visit the grounds and talk to the administrators on your behalf.

The Personal Host can assist with identifying doctors, dentists, day care, after-school care, music lessons, language lessons, nannies, babysitters, housekeepers, gardeners, contractors, beauticians, trainers, yoga teachers, religious communities and so much more. Go ahead and jump. We’ve got you covered.

Thinking Outside the Box(es)

By Cory Rubinstein


How Effective is Your Relocation Benefit Package?


For many companies, “relocation” means moving new hires and their families from Point A to Point B. The Company agrees to pick up the check and the movers do the rest. As an added bonus, many companies provide some kind of “lump sum” signing bonus for their transferee to use as they see fit during their transition. This is the extent of most relocation benefit packages.

What could possibly go wrong?

Choosing a Home

Let’s compare corporate relocation to the do-it-yourself travel process. When using a service like AirBnB, prospective travelers view photos of available homes to rent. They can narrow their search down by location (whether or not they have the entire home to themselves) and price. User ratings allow them to assess other guests’ experiences with the home. Ultimately, they make an educated guess and pull the trigger.

If the place isn’t great, you leave a bad review – chances are you’re probably going to spend most of your time outside the place anyway. You are on vacation after all.

Now imagine this same situation, except instead of a short-term rental, the individual is looking at a one or even two-year lease! All of a sudden, the stakes are much higher. Unlike AirBnB, most homes don’t have ratings from previous tenants available to review. Therefore, the decision boils down to photos, geography and price.

Now imagine this employee has never lived in their new city before. Maybe they’ve never even been there. How intimidating a decision is that? How many transferees do you think would appreciate the opportunity to have a local connection review these same listings, contact the owners, and go personally on-site to take photos and videos, allowing the employee to see their prospective home with their own eyes before making a decision?

Oh, I forgot to mention, the local connection isn’t a real estate agent trying to unload inventory. They are an impartial expert whose only motivation is to line up the best situation for your candidate

Spousal Isolation

Let’s suppose the person your company is relocating ends up in a home they are happy with, and they fit right in to the culture of your Company! Hooray! But, wait a minute…suppose the Spouse isn’t happy. While your new employee is putting in long hours at their new job, their spouse is at home dealing with the tasks of getting the children into school, finding services for the family, navigating the new neighborhood, finding furniture, etc.

Let’s say this spouse has no friends in the city. Do you think that might wear on them? Again, this is where having a seasoned local working for the family is so key. The Relocity Personal Host (our term for their dedicated consultant) essentially becomes the family’s first friend in Los Angeles. They are not only there to make sure the family gets the perfect home, but also to make sure that the family gets the most out of the local experience.

Maybe the spouse has always wanted to take an art class, but doesn’t have the time to look into it with all the chaos going on in their life. The Personal Host will not only assist with the chaos (schools, services, furniture, utilities), they can also assist with the little things like identifying activities that will enrich the lives of the transferee and their spouse. Your relocation benefit has now become a transformative lifeline.

Culture Shock

When I moved to Los Angeles in 2003, I was a 23-year-old from a small town in Michigan. The biggest city I’d ever lived in was Ann Arbor. Needless to say, Los Angeles was a big change. Fortunately, I was young, courageous and found like-minded friends very easily. But not everyone can be 23 and care free.

For many who are relocating for the first time, it may be comforting to be around people who share a similar ethnic background, religion, heritage, and value-system, at least at first. A big reason some individuals ultimately decide that a city isn’t for them is because they never really became a part of a community within that city. For people who are perhaps on the introverted side, this can be even more difficult. A Personal Host can smooth the transition by working with an individual and their family to help them find a little piece of home in their new home town. This can be a crucial relocation benefit in some cases, especially in those first few months.

Conclusion

The bottom line is: there is so much more to relocation than just moving boxes. In fact, the move is just the beginning. How the first few months in a new city go for your transferee sets the tone for their overall happiness in their new environment. This is why a quality relocation benefit including concierge destination services such as those from Relocity makes a huge difference for your corporate culture. No amount of free lunches or other perks will have as much of an impact on the transferee’s perception of their company as how the company took care of them during a stressful and life-changing time.

Building a Culture of Success

By Cory Rubinstein

How well is your corporate culture operating for your work team and company? As a leader, you’re responsible for the quality of workplace relationships and team cohesion. Leaving your corporate culture to chance is a sure pathway to workplace frustration.

A positive corporate culture can be one of the most important contributing factors to employee productivity and retention. Beyond creating a happy workplace, developing a distinct company culture can increase referral hiring and foster an environment of creativity and innovation.

Developing a strongly positive culture isn't the only task: conveying that message is also a priority. Talent acquisition and marketing should become involved in developing and propagating the message of exactly what your workplace culture means.

Corporate culture is one of those hard to define things, and can be interpreted in slightly different ways depending on the organization which is applying the meaning to itself. The most general idea of a company culture could be expressed as the set of common feelings and aspirations the management wants to infuse across the entire organization.

The culture is largely dictated and driven by the management; after all, the employees look to their supervisors and their supervisors’ supervisors to determine what behavior is acceptable and encouraged. This can and should include the vision, mission, and values established for the company, and the degree to which the members of the organization or the employees of the company are aligned with these goals. If the management team fosters a creative, dynamic environment which empowers the employees, this will spread throughout the company.

Conversely if the management micromanages the employees and publicly derides them for their own misguided purposes, this too will infect the organization and eventually create a toxic culture. The culture of a company is a difficult thing to alter or change, as it is rooted in the human behaviors of its members.

Corporate culture must be assessed and molded in a regular and intentional way by the management, human resources staff, and executives of the company if there is to be the desired alignment of the employees' goals and the company's goals. This should entail a well thought out and detailed strategy that is consistently and regularly reassessed and followed through on. The time frame for changing the culture in a company will depend largely on the size of the organization. In a small to mid-sized company, realigning the culture will be naturally easier and thus take less time. In larger companies, this time frame can be much longer, sometimes requiring a significant time investment to see the kind of changes that are significant.

The long-term effects of a properly implemented corporate culture shift are usually extremely positive for the company, yielding higher productivity, higher employee satisfaction, and larger growth for the company. At Relocity we believe the culture of the company starts in the on-boarding process. This is especially important when it comes to relocating employees. If you are uprooting an employee and his family from their home and comfort zone we believe it is incumbent to make sure the employee and his family find the right fit in their new city, neighborhood, school, all of it.

We work hard to help the transferring employee find happiness in their new home so that they bring this first major positive experience with them to their first day of work. If the first impression of your organization is that the company cares about them on a personal level and will do what ever it takes to help them settle-in and be successful, then you have taken a huge step forward towards building a culture of success.

Relocating to the Right Neighborhood

By Cory Rubinstein

Recently I had a meeting with a top executive of a great digital media company out of Seattle. During the conversation, I mentioned to him that I live in Venice Beach, California. Then he said to me "I lived in LA with my wife for just under a year in a part of town that didn't work for us." He continued "I love Venice. Had we originally moved to Venice, we would probably still be there." As the result of a bad relocation to the wrong LA neighborhood, he was miserable, his wife was miserable, and they ended moving back to Seattle.

“What a loss”, I thought to myself. Don’t get me wrong, I love Seattle, but this guy was obviously incredibly talented. He had helped grow several noteworthy companies, bringing two of them public, and due to a bad relocation, his company lost him in under a year. Replacing an executive of this caliber can cost a company not only valuable time but up to 400% of the person’s salary. At a base of $250,000.00, that’s one million dollars. So how did this all go so wrong?

There are 3 points of potential failure here.

1. Wrong location for life style. Newcomers to any city struggle with making decisions about where to live because they have not had the years it takes to pick up clues about culture, style, and amenities that any local would understand almost instinctively. For instance, in Los Angeles, if you are young and artistic with no kids, North Hollywood can feel like a death sentence. Conversely, a family with kids from the Midwest might struggle with the urban vibe of Silver Lake. Similar differences between neighborhoods exist in any major city. Those who take to Brooklyn easily might not like being in a suburban setting on Long Island.

Which brings us to the second point of failure:

2. Spouse. If the employee’s spouse is not happy, companies will be dealing with a potential time bomb. Every day when the employee arrives home from work, an unhappy spouse may eventually grow frustrated and push to move back to their former home city. This continuous pressure will affect the employee’s effectiveness at work and, like my friend from Seattle, it could result in losing the employee.

3. Family. Finding the right place for a family can be particularly challenging. Locating a part of the city that offers the right combination of affordable housing, space for kids, and good schools can be extremely challenging. If you do locate the neighborhood with these features, there is little chance that you will be able to get your children into the high performing school in that neighborhood. Most of the “good” schools will undoubtedly have waiting lists. Being able to find the right house in the right neighborhood that your employee can afford that happens to have a good school they can get their kids into can be all but impossible for a relocating employee to navigate.

This complexity could force top talent to decline an offer, or worse, churn out of the position. With so much of what your employees deal with outside of the office severely impacting their performance inside the office, and with the current competitive talent market, attracting and retaining top talent can be challenging.

By helping them achieve happiness in their new home you are not only doing the right thing for the employee, you are doing the right thing for your organization as a whole. Making sure the employee finds the right fit when they relocate is critical. As an organization, your company needs to do more to make sure the employee is properly relocated, in the right location, with sufficient attention to their lifestyle needs, or it could literally cost you millions.

At Relocity, we take care to make sure an employee is relocated to the right house in the right neighborhood, with all of their family’s critical concerns addressed. We consider every aspect of the employee’s lifestyle, their goals and their passions. Then, our Personal Hosts take the time to literally hold their hand throughout the arrival and settling in process, and even beyond. Relocity has found that employees we relocate this way are happier, more productive, and stick around longer.

Relocity CEO Interviewed on Bloomberg Business Network

By Cory Rubinstein

Recently, Relocity's CEO Klaus Siegmann was interviewed on The Price of Business with Kevin Price, part of the Bloomberg Business Network. It's a great introduction to Relocity, with Klaus speaking in his own words about how he got the idea for the business, and where he wants to take the company in the future. Hear about Klaus' personal experience coming from Germany, and how he turned his own need into a terrific service for others.

Click here to listen to the interview!



Klaus was interviewed by William Edmundson, who did a terrific job sitting in for Kevin Price, the host of the show. This episode was a series of interviews with business innovators and entrepreneurs, including our own founder, Klaus. William was clearly impressed with the idea of Relocity and saw the need for our services in the marketplace. He even said, "If I ever move again, I hope you're available in the city that I'm moving too!"

Hike of the Month - Eaton Canyon

By Cory Rubinstein

After a January and February of record setting rainfall (ending LA's long drought, thankfully), the natural areas in and around Los Angeles are unusually green and fresh, with a bumper crop of wildflowers. Hiking in LA is always hugely popular, with a wide variety of landscapes to explore. Right now, Eaton Canyon is a perfect choice, not only because of the wildflowers, but also because the hike ends with a dramatic waterfall made possible by a large runoff from the mountain snowpack.


Eaton Canyon is a nature preserve near Altadena and Pasadena, California that has several hiking trails and a nature center with nature exhibitions and programs for children. The main trail climbs through a desert landscape next to a natural wash full of boulders and scrub oak. At the moment, the banks of this dry river bed are full of wild sunflowers. The trail then enters a shady canyon where the trail zig-zags back and forth across a creek, so be prepared to leap and balance on quite a few stones, or be willing to get your feet wet! There are many shady spots with small water falls that would make terrific picnic areas.


After about two miles of climbing through the canyon, the trail finally reaches a 40-foot waterfall that lands in a pool deep enough for swimming, if you don't mind icy snowpack runoff. I personally enjoyed watching from a safe distance while the kids and teenagers squealed with excitement as brisk water hit their bodies.


If you take the hike on a Saturday or Sunday during peak season, be prepared for a crowd. Since this hike is so pleasant, with a dramatic waterfall, and only minutes from the center of town, it is one of the more popular spots for hiking in LA. Last Saturday morning, the overflow parking lot was filled, and certain portions required waiting for a crowd to clear the trail. While it was not as peaceful as some more remote hikes I have taken in and around LA, the crowd was actually in a good mood and rather festive.

If you prefer serenity, check out one of our other Hikes of the Month, or go to Eaton Canyon during the week or in the off-season. Just be aware that in late summer, the waterfall tends to dry up and is less dramatic, so early spring provides the best experience.

LA Getaway - Majestic Mountains in Under an Hour

By Cory Rubinstein

One of the best perks of living in Los Angeles is the easy access to natural beauty and dramatic changes of scenery. For those who love alpine forests, snow-capped mountains and crisp air, the local San Gabriel Mountains are a perfect LA getaway.

Just last weekend, I was visiting a friend in La Canada/Flintridge, which is about a 30 minute drive from my apartment in West Hollywood. After our visit, I was heading home at around noon when I passed the entrance to the Angeles Crest Highway, which begins in this community just north of Pasadena.

On a whim, I thought, "I'm right here...why not just take a detour up into the mountains for a few minutes?" No planning -- it was just a spur of the moment whim.

Of course, once the road began to rise into the foothills, my short jaunt quickly became a longer outing, as I was tempted by the majestic views and natural beauty. Like any mountain climber, I had to get to the top, just because it is there!

The remarkable thing, however, is that in less than an hour, I was at the top of Mount Wilson where the temperature was close to freezing and there was snow and ice on the road! When I began my drive, the temperature had been in the 70's, down below in La Canada.

But more importantly, instead of LA's desert scenery of palm trees and scrub brush, I was looking at towering Sequoia trees, craggy cliffs and rolling alpine valleys beneath the white-topped Mount Baldy in the distance.

I didn't dawdle -- the whole excursion was over in a couple of hours. But in the time it would have taken to see a movie, I had given myself a dramatic LA getaway and the thrill of visiting another world for awhile.

Here are some photos I took with my iPhone (I didn't plan ahead or I would have taken my fancy Nikon).

Make sure and check out our blog often for more LA Getaway ideas!

And if you are moving to Los Angeles or even just visiting, our Personal Hosts can advise you on finding the perfect getaway for your family, as well as other adventures.

By Matthew Hutchison

Matthew Hutchison is Manager of Business Development at Relocity

The Importance of Onboarding

By Cory Rubinstein

Onboarding employees is more important today than ever. A company’s success will be defined by its ability to attract and retain the best possible people.

In an increasingly competitive job market, HR professionals have had to invest countless hours recruiting, hiring and sometimes relocating the top talent. However if these employees are not onboarded properly, the resulting negative experiences most likely will lead to them leave the company.

The process of onboarding employees becomes even more important for a relocating employee. For these employees, the scope of the onboarding process must be greatly expanded to continue for some time after their first day. It must also extend beyond the office. After all, you are not just onboarding an employee; you are onboarding an entire family into their new community, home, and perhaps even kids into a new school.

With so much valuable time, effort and money spent on the recruiting process, one must have a complete, well-thought-out process for onboarding employees in place. The idea is to help your new employees as they come in the door, and not find yourself trying to keep them when it is too late and they have one foot out the door.

Starting a new job is stressful enough on its own, but combined with a move – and perhaps even relocating a family – the difficulty could be a deal killer. Many of your new candidates may not have relocated to pursue their careers in at least five years, and probably haven’t changed locations in that time either. So, for the majority of relocating employees, the move to a new city is a major life event and the source of significant stress.

Whether you like it or not, a relocated employee’s job performance may ultimately be decided by the success or failure of their location to a new city. It’s no wonder that 61% of companies report loosing a top prospect to relocation anxiety.


The Onboarding Process

In order to win the talent wars, human resources professionals need to be well-versed in onboarding employees, and for a relocating prospect, that process begins during their first interview. When the employee arrives at your office for the interview, show them around the office, introduce them to key employees and potential coworkers.

After the interview, show them parts of their new city that might interest them. This is especially important if there is a spouse. Get them excited about not just the prospects of their new job but the possibilities of their new home and life. This type of attention will give them assurance you and the organization cares about them as a person and you will not leave them to fend for themselves.

You need to treat the first impression of your company as the first part of employee onboarding. This is a vital part of your company's process to attract and retain top recruits. Ignoring the importance of employee onboarding can cost you, and, a strong program for employee onboarding can boost your bottom line more than you might realize.


Onboarding Employees Outside the Office

Employee onboarding may begin with the first interview, but the next steps are just as important. Even before the relocating employee arrives in town, someone needs to work with them to make sure they find the right neighborhood, the right home, and, if they have kids, the right school.

Being close to the right restaurants, stores, and recreational options, will also greatly improve employee happiness, productivity on the job, and most importantly, improve retention. Los Angeles, for example, has over 270 distinct neighborhoods, all catering to different lifestyles. Take the time to find the right neighborhood for your employee and their family.

If your relocation plan was to simply put them up at a corporate housing project and hope they somehow adapt, you’d might as well keep looking for their replacement, because chances are high that they will leave after a short stint with your company. So, get them taken care of at home first and they will be there for you later.


Onboarding Employees at Work

If the employee’s out-of-office onboarding is handled properly, on their first day, they will be much better prepared for dealing with the new challenges at work. In the office, have all of their paperwork ready to be completed. Getting this out of the way avoids human resource headaches down the road. A single tax form forgotten during employee onboarding can lead to major problems come April.

Next, be sure that all of the employee's practical needs are taken care of. Email or phone accounts should be created before the actual employee onboarding even begins. Employee onboarding goes smoother if there's no need to hunt down the needed materials or wait for an email account to be activated before they can begin working.

Preparation is vital for employee onboarding and for your bottom line. A vital component to employee onboarding, and one you shouldn’t overlook, is letting the new employee know just what is expected from them. This needs to be undertaken as soon as possible during the employee onboarding process, and includes not only an accurate description of their job duties and responsibilities, but also documentation about the company's policies and guidelines.

This step of the employee onboarding process ensures that they understand exactly what is expected and what the company will not tolerate behavior-wise – two issues that directly affect your profits.


Follow-through is Necessary for Successful Onboarding

The final aspect of onboarding employees is follow-up and support at home. You helped them find a home in the right neighborhood, but what about all of the other aspects of life that make them feel fully at home? We advise having someone help the employee with the hundreds of other things to get them fully settled-in.

Imagine how much of a difference it will make to have someone set up interviews for the kids at the right schools, help the kids find a soccer club, meet the cable guy, help the spouse find a decorator or furniture store, line up a personal trainer – whatever they need. Things like this will make your new employee feel like they're part of a team, but they also will feel as though they're among friends, even if it is only friends at the professional level.

At work, a first day lunch is a great way to bring some friendly interaction into the employee onboarding process. Something as simple as a full round of introductions can do much for your employee's feelings. Motivation and morale are a big part of your bottom line, and taking the time to ensure that your employee feels comfortable, not just at work, but in their new community, is a vital aspect of employee onboarding.

Ok, so you might be saying, “That sounds great, but who has the budget for all that?” Well, chances are, you do.

Relocity will provide a personal assistant for your employee, who will physically be there for them, providing concierge-level services, and staying with them throughout the entire relocation process, all for $99 per hour.

We bill only for the hours we spend actually helping your employee. The average move for an individual takes 30 hours ($2,970), a family with kids may take 40 hours, and a C level executive may take 50. So, if spending under $3,000 seems like a great investment in your employee’s happiness, well, that’s because it is.

Think of how much you invested to land that person. $3K buys the best insurance around. And think of how your company will look in comparison to your peers. You will look like the company that cares about its staff, a place everyone will want to work.

This will draw talent and increase employee retention a lot better than a foosball table or free snacks. Holding their hands throughout their relocation and finding their kids a great school will earn you an employee for life.

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