Kate Dodge, Honorary Co-Chair, Lead the Change
News, Summer 2015
Reinventing Herself from Psychologist to Global Entrepreneur
BY MARY LEE HARVEY DIRCKS
Kate Dodge, president of NEI Global Relocation, says she is thrilled to meet Barbara Corcoran, this year’s Women’s Fund 25th Anniversary Celebration keynote speaker. “She built the largest real estate company in New York, has become an icon in the business world, and now the entertainment world,” Dodge marvels. “I very much look forward to learning from her amazing success.”
Success is no stranger to Dodge, who recently received the Gold Stevie Award for Women in Business Lifetime Achievement. “While that is a nice honor,” Dodge says, “I know I’m being recognized for what everyone else has done to make me look good.” In 1985, after practicing as a school psychologist for 17 years, she switched gears to join NEI as a founding partner. “I’ve seen other people make mid-life changes that aren’t very rejuvenating,” she says. “I was lucky—very lucky.” She attributes her accomplishments with NEI to hard work, great mentors and her willingness to ask questions and learn. “What we do is fascinating. It really is a fascinating interesting business.”
The opportunity to start NEI Global Relocation arose when NP Dodge Company added a relocation management company to its umbrella of services. Kate’s husband, Sandy Dodge, was president of the NP Dodge Company at that time. “Sandy and I discussed it and thought that maybe I could bring a little different approach to the company with my experience working with children whose families had frequently relocated,” she says. “We thought that perhaps I could bring a more holistic approach to service for the whole family instead of just that transactional piece of moving someone from one place to another.”
So, Dodge joined forces with Randy Wilson, chief executive officer and founding member of NEI, to build this wholly owned subsidiary of NPD Company. “Randy had exactly the same vision that I did, and so we have worked well together over the years in partnership,” she says. Wilson brought extensive industry knowledge and the necessary transactional skills. “That’s why it’s been such a great partnership in growing this company,” Dodge adds. NEI has grown organically, without acquisitions or mergers, to global expansion. The corporate office remains in Omaha with an office in Geneva, Switzerland and a new APAC office that opened in Singapore July 1.
“Moving is so stressful. Whether moving across the country or across the world,” Dodge says, “we’re here to make that a smooth transition.” NEI representatives work with businesses to create relocation policies when needed and coordinate all the details of employment transfer and recruitment, from real estate needs and moving vans to language and intercultural training specialists to spouse employment assistance. “I always tell our corporate clients— there’s one person who’s potentially happy about the relocation, and that’s the employee who’s getting the promotion or moving into a new exciting position. Everybody else in the family, for the most part, is kind of being dragged along,” Dodge explains. “And so the important thing is that we pay attention to the needs of each member of the family in this huge transition.”
“That’s why hiring the right kind of people who have a true recognition of what service is and want to really work with each person in the family is key,” Dodge adds. NEI takes the team approach to ensure that all needs are met and also applies that same cohesiveness within the company. “We have a culture here where we talk about service exceeding expectations, and that is true for working with each other as well as with clients and transferees.” In addition to industry certification for NEI team leadership, all employees attend NEI University. This formal in-house training program covers all aspects of global relocation and also provides management and leadership instruction to allow for natural progression within the company. “Our goal is to provide a career path for our employees,” Dodge says, adding that this support to succeed really fosters an extraordinary sense of loyalty to NEI and its clients.
NEI was named a Best Place to Work in Omaha by the Omaha Chamber and a Best Place for the Advancement of Women at the ICAN Women’s Leadership Conference last year. Both awards are given in partnership with Baird Holm, LLP. As a Certified Women’s Business Enterprise, women make up 83 percent of NEI’s 350 employees. Dodge is also proud of industry awards NEI has earned from outside organizations that poll clients and transferees from multiple relocation management companies and compare the results. In addition, NEI won the Coca Cola Company’s Partner in the Promise Award last year after just one year of working with them. She attributes these successes to NEI’s philosophy, which values integrity, great service and dedication to supporting its clients.
That philosophy of integrity and service expands into the community as well. “I grew up in a family where giving back to the community through volunteering was a given, and our family has continued the tradition,” Dodge says. “As a result, NEI and our parent NP Dodge Company both stress our value of social responsibility. We encourage our employees to be involved in our industry and in our community—and they do!” In 2014, NEI employees volunteered more than 10,300 hours, providing assistance to 296 different organizations, Dodge adds.
“My husband and I did a lot of hands-on volunteering when our children were growing up, but recently my participation has been more focused on serving on several not-for-profit community boards,” Dodge says. She has worked with many organizations that reflect her interests in children, education, health care and business. “By being on those boards, I’ve had the opportunity to learn about best practices and hopefully have brought my experiences in both psychology and business. I realize, however, and need to admit, that I believe I get more personally and professionally out of the board experiences than I contribute.”
Dodge has flourished in two careers, raised three children, enjoys time with nine “extraordinary” grandchildren, and celebrates 55 years of marriage with her husband, Sandy. As far as balance goes, she considers that both men and women can do it all, but not necessarily all at the same time. “If you believe that, you will perhaps be able to enjoy each stage of life more fully and still reach the goals you aspire to.”