When 1970 Webster University alumna Laura Herring founded St. Louis-based IMPACT Group — a relocation support, outplacement assistance and talent management firm for Fortune 500 employees and their families — she didn’t just create a business. She created an industry.
As the first of its kind, IMPACT Group was the pioneering organization in the relocating spouse and family market. Herring — who was IMPACT Group’s Founder and CEO for 20 years before turning the company over to her daughter, Lauren, in 2008 — helped build IG into a nearly $50 million powerhouse. Now chair emeritus, Herring has supported her CEO daughter as IMPACT Group has expanded into 33 countries around the globe and retains its lofty status as the No. 1-rated company in the spouse and family genre of corporations.
Herring, 68, launched the spouse relocation industry not just because several clients of her psychology and consulting private practice — which Herring ran for 13 years — detailed their poor relocation experiences within corporate America. Herring, who grew up in Webster Groves, Mo., developed IG because she herself had gone through a horrible relocation when, as an eighth grader, Herring and her family moved from St. Louis to Memphis. As she put it, that relocation “planted the seed deep inside me that I don’t want anyone else to ever experience this.”
“Therefore, I became adamant — I started researching in 1985 and ‘86, started writing the program in ‘87 and IG came out in ‘88. I was fortunate enough to get some corporations who were genuinely hungry for this,” Herring said. “What I’m proudest of is we were the founders of an industry, the first ones ever to help relocating spouses find jobs and children find all the resources they needed to be happy and successful in a new location.”
As Herring built up IMPACT Group with the addition of global offices to serve international companies as well as outplacement aid, profits rose and awards trickled in. IG was named one of “Inc. Magazine’s” 500 fastest-growing companies, received the St. Louis Family Business Award as well as St. Louis’ Top 50 Award from the Regional Chamber and Growth Association. More recently, IG was selected as a top-25 game-changer by “Workforce Magazine” and earned the highest overall satisfaction rating in the 2016 Relocation Managers’ Survey for the 16th straight year.
But as the market starter and leader, IMPACT Group has faced numerous challenges in the past quarter-century, too, including increased competition as the industry blossomed. Herring, who said and believes “success isn’t built on success; success is built on failure,” detailed the lessons she learned from her missteps and achievements in a 2015 published book — “No Fear Allowed: A Story of Guts, Perseverance & Making an Impact.”
Herring was driven to write “No Fear Allowed” because she had minimal assistance when forming IMPACT Group and didn’t want aspiring entrepreneurs to feel like they were on their own. A two-time survivor of breast cancer, Herring donates 100 percent of the book’s profits to breast cancer research. She signed a legacy contract with St. Louis’ Siteman Cancer Center and has a goal to give $1 million to the center to help cure breast cancer.
“I always knew I could lose my house if I didn’t perform with IG. I believed in myself. I believed if I just worked harder and smarter, I could get to my goal,” Herring said. “Originally, my first goal was to have a $1 million company. Then it was $5 million, then $10 million. Then I made the next goal $20 million, then $25 million. And then I said, ‘Let’s just see where this baby can go.’ We got 40,000 outplacement assignments for General Motors and that put us almost to $50 million. My husband, Mike, and I looked at each other and said, ‘We’re done.’”
Herring — a member of the Webster University board of trustees and former chair of the Leigh Gerdine College of Fine Arts advisory board — decided to earn a bachelor’s degree in social sciences from Webster due to her fond memories of St. Louis and the school’s method of teaching “out-of-box thinking,” she said. The university’s small class sizes, strong theatre arts department and the Sisters of Loretto — particularly former Webster President Jacqueline Grennan Wexler — were Herring’s favorite aspects of the school. She added Webster provided her an opportunity to lead, something she’s effectively done for nearly three decades at IMPACT Group.
“What makes me happy is the number of lives we have impacted,” she said. “It’s well over a half-million lives when you consider the corporate people, husbands, wives, children, parents and grandparents. I know we have saved marriages. We have saved children from depression. We’ve saved parents and grandparents from serious sense of loss. I am absolutely thrilled we have truly made a difference in people’s lives.”