I have found myself in the start-up mode multiple times, this time is had a welcoming comfort to it that I just hadn’t felt before. Maybe it was due to my level of clarity that I was finally back on the path that was right for me, or maybe it was my return of energy that I just hadn’t had for the last 7 months. Either way, there I was opening a new office, knowing exactly what I needed to do to create a great environment even though it was smaller (1000 sf). It took less then 2 hours after signing the lease until we had our first team meeting with a potential client. A small reception desk came with the place and as a client I welcomed him in with a huge smile and “WELCOME TO?." I didn’t know what we were calling the place just yet, so I just said… Welcome to a place that is going to change the world! :D
It's easy to get caught up into wanting to create a location that competes with all the cool places you’ve heard about, jealousy can set in quickly… but when it comes down to it I believe there are 5 things to setting up a new office: (#5 being the most important)
1. White Boards – ldeas are stuck in all of us and having a location to draw those ideas out, write things down and brainstorm, visually is key to innovation. A picture, even an awful drawn one, is worth 84words, but having it stuck in your head doesn’t help anyone. A professional white board cost between $200 - $500, but you can buy a 4x8 sheet of showerboard from Lowe’s for $13 that works almost (almost), as well. The first day we went out and bought 6 of them.
2. White Tables – I’m a big believer in a thing I call “TableTime." Everyone working on a project sits at a set of white tables at least for the morning hours. It seems simplistic, but it is the 2nd most important thing you could do to improve the odds of the success of your business. The benefits of TableTime are remarkable and cover everything from vastly increased communication and learning to stronger team trust and relationships. The thing I find most interesting about TableTime is that it doesn’t even require people to interact …simply having people in proximity for consistent periods of time seems to have this amazing effect. All that and you can save a butt load of money, as opposed to desks. You can buy 10’ whitetables at Costco for under $100.
3. Comfortable Chairs – It doesn’t matter how good your perks are, what kind of work you give people or how much you pay them, if you give people an uncomfortable chair they will eventually hate you. A comfortable chair (or standing desk) is the base of which all other things are built on. The Aeron by Herman Miller has been the status symbol of choice but at $900 a pop it’s a bit tough to justify. My chair of choice is the Quantum9000 by Realspace, which you can get for about $300 on sale. The keys to a good chair are adjustable and mesh on both back and bottom.
4. Fast Internet – I am not sure if it matters what type of business you are in, we are all dependent on the Internet to make our business more successful. Whether its googling questions, working with SaaS software or communicating, every second a person waits for a response cost time and money, but more importantly human frustration. You can get a 100mbps plan from Comcast for around $200 a month. My personal recommendation is to buy the fastest Internet connection you can possibly afford.
5. Human Energy – Believe it or not when people feel energized, everything goes better. As a leader in your office, your job is to make sure you are creating and transferring positive energy. You feel this when you walk into a Starbucks or an Apples store… it’s hard to put your finger on it, but it exists in the fiber. If you don’t bring it, it won’t exist.
Two other points I have realized by going back to the start-up mode again. One, is a building a culture can happen with just a few people. We only have 6 people in our office right now, but our culture feels very strong and we are defining it more and more every day. Two, that building a great corporate culture and an engaged workforce doesn’t cost much, in fact you can save money, but it does take a different way of looking at things.
So I’ll ask you… what’s your office like? And are you willing to change it to improve collaboration, culture and engagement? :D
p.s. Our new office is at 238 MathisFerry Rd, Suite 102 MtP, SC 29464 feel free to stop by… the tour is a lot shorter, but the energy is better than ever! :D