Letters From Stan

Our Culture Dictates Our Office Space

Stan Richards

Dear Catherine,

This is one of the last letters you’ll receive from this address. I’m not going to stop writing to you; I’ll simply be sending next year’s mail from our new building which, if all goes according to plan, we’ll move into at the end of the year.

While a new building is exciting to us, it’s generally a “nice to know” to others and doesn’t warrant an entire letter devoted to the subject. But having spent a few years in this business, I know the clients’ thought process generally goes like this: “Oh, ABC Agency is building its own building. Wow. Things must be really good over there. I wonder if we’re paying them too much?”

So I thought I’d take the opportunity to arm you with the reasons we’re building our new offices – reasons that won’t surprise you in the least. If the subject ever comes up as you’re walking a potential client through the long list of potential agencies (unlikely but possible), you’ll be equipped to address it.

Let’s start with why we’re moving. We’re moving for the same reason businesses move every day all year long: Our lease is up. And for the past 20 years, as lease rates have climbed all around us, we’ve been able to secure minimal increases in rent in order to avoid the disruption of relocating (our hard-nosed negotiating skills extend well beyond our media team).

This time, the insurance company that owns our building wanted a major increase in rent, and we just couldn’t justify paying a much higher rate to stay in a building that, quite frankly, hasn’t kept up with the times.

And it wasn’t just about the money. It was about our culture. As we’ve grown over the past 20 years, we’ve added space catch-as-catch-can. Our stairwell no longer connects all of us, as we’ve spread from the contiguous floors 11 through 15 to the first floor and parts of the second, ninth, and tenth. Growth is good, but not at the expense of how we work together.

After making the decision to move, we set about looking for space in existing buildings. But nothing we looked at offered us the right combination of space flexibility and the lowest possible rent. In the process, our real estate broker asked if we’d consider a build-to-suit. Having designed and built my own house, I knew how much time and effort (and, if I’m honest, headaches and hiccups and frustrations) it would require. But I also knew that, like my house, it would be exactly right.

Despite the best efforts of the winter weather to derail us with ice storms and temperatures too low to pour concrete, we’re now about a week ahead of schedule.

We’ll have an even larger stairwell. We’ll have bench seating that fosters cooperation and collaboration, a hallmark of our culture – even more than our current “studio” system. We’ll have our own fitness center on the top floor to make a healthy lifestyle convenient for everyone. And an amphitheater that can seat up to 100 people for larger gatherings. We added another large conference room for client meetings (we have three here, and we’ll increase to four) and 90 open collaboration spaces inspired by the always-used 12 we have now.

We’re moving closer to downtown in a thriving area where many of our younger people live – allowing them to walk to work or ride their bikes and lock them up safely indoors. We’ll be closer to the museums and the performing arts centers. We’re next to the trolley that travels through the city and adjacent to the light rail station that serves our suburbs.

In the end, we’ll be in a space that will fuel the energy, electricity, and vitality that permeate this place and drive everyone who works here.

High rent and space that doesn’t complement our culture? Those were two prices we weren’t willing to pay. Next time you’re here, I’ll look forward to giving you a tour.