Building a Presence: Graebel Opens New Market in 60 Days, Saves $60k for Offshore Drilling Client

Building a Presence: Graebel Opens New Market in 60 Days, Saves $60k for Offshore Drilling Client

Chris Binding

A new market, a tight timeline — and many unique needs

When leaders from a large offshore drilling contractor met with us to discuss a new project in Abidjan, on the southern Atlantic coast of West Africa, their request was simple…yet complex. Manage all the details for the relocation of 50 ex-pats and put the arrangements in place within 60 days.

The scope of these relocation services would range from coordinating move-in ready office space to addressing the needs of the employees who would relocate to the city – housing, vehicle rentals/leases, school registration for dependents, visa and immigration support and much more.


  • Opening new market in Abidjan, Ivory Coast in West Africa
  • Client unfamiliar with local culture and business environment
  • Tight project timeline (60-day target)
  • Unreliable local networks (electricity and internet)
  • Concurrent with Ebola epidemic in neighbouring country


Local expertise drives success

We assigned one of our senior African market relocation specialists, Claude Adounvo, to coordinate the project locally. Paperwork for Adounvo was underway immediately after the kickoff meeting, and he was on the ground in Abidjan just a week later.

Adounvo served as an invaluable asset to the company’s Human Resource Mobility Manager who was based in Dubai. Fluent in the native French language and familiar with the geography, culture and nuances of life in Abidjan, “I was quickly able to make the connections and arrangements we needed,” explains Adounvo.

Adounvo reached out to our existing service partners in the region and identified and vetted additional providers that met our standards and the client’s unique requirements. These local services included commercial and residential realty, schools, churches, banks, supermarkets and all the other support and amenities the company and its transferees needed. Adounvo even met with another large, U.S.-based company with offices in Abidjan to compare notes on how they established their local presence in the city. By the end of his first week in Abidjan, Adounvo was touring office space and housing options.

Two weeks after the project kicked off, we provided the company a comprehensive plan. The client’s Mobility Manager had a full week to review the proposal and consider options before his planned arrival date in Abidjan.

Meeting Unique Challenges

Business environments across the globe are unique. Challenges and opportunities are localised. Establishing this new business presence in Abidjan presented several unique challenges:

  • Traffic: A single bridge connects two busy areas of Abidjan, creating a major traffic bottleneck. We ensured that the office space and employee housing were on the same side of the bridge to ease commutes and enable immediate response when necessary.
  • Network Outages: Power and internet networks across much of western Africa are unreliable. We met with representatives of other companies in Abidjan to learn about their approach for dealing with those technology issues. As a result of this input, we ensured the new office space and staff housing included generators, data backup and related solutions.
  • Ebola Epidemic: All of this activity took place in the middle of 2014’s horrific Ebola epidemic in the region. Adounvo’s experience traveling to and living within West Africa helped him prepare the company and its people to live and work safely in the midst of this health threat.


  • Assign our relocation specialist with 30+ years of experience in the Ivory Coast
  • Consult with another large, U.S.-based company with established offices in Abidjan
  • Identify and retain reputable local service providers
  • Prepared comprehensive relocation proposal prior to arrival of client’s advance team


From kickoff to market opening in two months

With the relocation proposal drawn up, Adounvo and the company’s Mobility Manager began touring office and housing options. They were able to make most of the critical decisions within days of the Manager’s arrival. All contracts and details were finalised less than 60 days from the kickoff meeting. The first employees arrived in Abidjan a few weeks later.

“The relocations went very smoothly because we had everything chosen and arranged beforehand. Having everything all set up before the client arrived on-site enabled us to use our time productively, so we could be cost-conscious and efficient.”  – Graebel Director of Account Management, Marta Schilling-Gogain

Consistent communication key to project success

With decision-makers spread across the globe, accurate and timely communication was critical. Our team stayed in continual contact with the company’s Mobility Manager in Dubai, providing a day-to-day rundown of progress in Abidjan.

Once the company’s Manager was on-site, he worked with our local project manager to iron out details, finalise decisions and keep the project moving. We also retained a translator so the HR Manager, who did not speak French, could communicate with the various local service partners and other parties.


  • All contracts finalised six weeks after project kickoff
  • Efficient process management resulted in $60k USD savings
  • Employee and office arrangements in place within 60 days


Eliminating the burden — minimising the costs

Although the drilling contractor maintains operations in more than 20 countries worldwide, they do not have an internal team dedicated to employee relocation activity. But thanks to their partnership with us, they can cost-effectively outsource these types of sensitive and demanding initiatives. We have the expertise, established protocols, best practices and a worldwide network of service partners, so the company was able to accelerate the timeline of their initiative while saving approximately $60,000 USD.

Chris Binding