S2E6 – What to Look For in Your First Office

For business looking to make the transition to an office space, watch as we breakdown the pros and cons of each office space option. #Office #HomeOffice #Bootstrap #Startup

Mr. Matthew Ley:  Welcome back to Boot Strap: Insights for the Self-Funded Entrepreneur with Frank Cianciulli.  My name is Matthew Ley, and of course, I am going to be your host.  Well, as we said off [sp] the end of the last show, if you’ve got a business, generally you need a place to go.  But what does it look like?  In this day and age with all of the capacity to work from home, shared workspaces, what is the best move for a bootstrap startup?

Frank, I know when you first got into business it was many moons ago.  You probably went into an office.  I’m not sure what that story was.  But if you were to start a business today, how would you do it?  Would you have a physical office?  Would you work from home?  What are your thoughts on that?

Mr. Frank Cianciulli:  My thoughts are a little bit mixed, and I think it’s a delicate balance.  You know, when we did get started we did work in a shared office, so somebody carved out a nice little 10 x 10 office for us.  But we did have some of the early guys working from home.  Later did bring them back in.  So I think nowadays it’s easier than ever to work in collaborative spaces.  Heck, even a Starbucks will do.  That being said, you know, you want to keep the cost down so it’s important to not get into leases and that sort of thing.  But at the same time you want to create that culture and feed off each other’s energy.

Mr. Matthew Ley:  Okay.  Well, one of the businesses that I run for you at The Wish Group is a technical or a collaboration provider, so we provide collaboration software to help people work remotely or do many things in a virtual world.  But interestingly enough, with all the technology, they get better every day.  They’re always improving.  One of the — when you actually survey employees one of the things that they say is that their companies are not collaborating very well.  So I understand what you’re saying about, you know, the mix needs to be right.  So what are the — like let’s look at the — we know the benefits of at home.  Save money.  But what are some of the benefits of you guys being in that 10 x 10 office when you started?

Mr. Frank Cianciulli:  Well, I think first and foremost it’s feeding off the energy, you know, especially in the early days, whether you’re struggling, something that bad happened, you just got, you know, a real — somebody hung up on you.  It’s always good to have someone around to commiserate and/or feed off the energy if someone is having a good day because what I find — and this is why partnerships really worked well in businesses is hey, when someone’s having a good day, someone’s having a bad day, and it kind of offsets, and you kind of carry through.  That being said, you can have 100 people sitting in an office under one roof, and they’re not communicating, they’re not collaborating, and they’re not feeding off energy, whereas you can have a group of people all working from homes utilizing some of the great technologies that are available, Skype for Business, and Instant Messenger and Slack.  I mean there’s many of them, and they’re actually collaborating and communicating even better.  So you know it’s really how you use the tools.

Mr. Matthew Ley:  And it’s got to be, also — well, what I’ve seen anyway.  Shouldn’t say it has to be.  What I’ve seen is it works better for certain people than others, right?

Mr. Frank Cianciulli:  I’d agree.

Mr. Matthew Ley:  But you said you can have 100 people in a room, not collaborating, not talking, the culture isn’t there.  And some would argue it’s because the workspace is incorrect.  But what’s interesting is, you know we had this whole Google approach, the romper room, and now I’m reading articles that say that that’s a bad idea.  And so you know if you were — I think you are.  You said you’re moving offices.  When you look to move offices, you know, are you going with that modern look?  Are you keeping it old-school?  What are your plans?

Mr. Frank Cianciulli:  We’re doing a combination of both, and I think this is where people got a bit mixed up because a lot of the articles were written around the Google type environments, and oh, the offices are amazing.  They had rest places and ping-pong tables and all that kind of fun stuff, which is awesome.  That being said, you know, what were a lot of the people doing at these tech companies?  Are they writing code?  You know, are they sitting in front of their computers so they need to take some kind of breaks and they would just want more lounge type environments, versus a sales culture where everybody is on the phone like we discussed in previous episodes?

So I think in our new offices we’re going to have a hybrid, you know, and the same thing with the teleworkers.  You know, we find that certain tasks they can not only do as well but possibly better in the comfort and quiet of their own home.  Maybe they’ll be even online longer as opposed to wasting three hours of their day commuting.  Salespeople, I think a little different.  You know, I think at least in my experience I like being around other like-minded guys.  I think the watercooler talk is important as far as strategizing, account penetration, that sort of thing.  But even then, is a dedicated, you know, traditional desk for the sales rep important, or are you okay just having a communal area where people can plug in and even just use their cell phones to make some dials?

Mr. Matthew Ley:  What I’ve been finding right now, you know, we’re changing our office around a lot, and what I’m finding is that the office has become this home base.  So I’ve got a home base, and I’ve got all these agents in the field, if you will, and people in different places, and it’s still the place that brings us all together.  But it’s not the only place that we do work together.  You did mention something about leases, and I know that, you know, leases are a long-term commitment to a space.  And as a bootstrap startup or any start up, how do you know how much space you’re going to need?

Mr. Frank Cianciulli:  That’s the trickiest part, and this is why I like seeing the growth of the modern office.  I think it obviously addressed the need because when you’re growing a business, you know, if you’re looking at signing a long-term lease you’re not exactly sure how many employees you’re going to have maybe in six months, never mind three or five years, which is usually what landlords want.  So I think as much — as flexible as you can be in the early stage, whether, you know, even if it’s not a formal shared office because even there, you know, it’s a little pricey.  It’s a little confining sometimes.  Because even if there’s often other people that have office space that have a section or some cubicles that you can borrow, and they’re just looking to offset costs because they are there anyway.  So I would encourage you — and sometimes even just Kijiji ads is a good place to find those.  But you know, just to be clear in this whole debate, because you are seeing some of these big companies, the big brands actually cutting their — telecommute programs.

Mr. Matthew Ley:  Yeah, IBM.  IBM is pulling [sp] people back.

Mr. Frank Cianciulli:  Because I think they feel like they’ve lost touch.  But I think like collaboration — you referenced collaboration — you know, we built, you know, one of the largest collaboration companies in the country, not with the motivation to eliminate face-to-face meetings.  We’ve always said a conference call or a webinar just augments your meeting schedule, you know, and same thing with office.  You know, maybe in this new world you use a hybrid approach where traditionally if you had to have everybody come in you need, for example, 10,000 square feet.  Well maybe in this age you’ll be okay with  3,000 to 5000 square feet, and then have everybody do a combination of at-home versus come to the office.  I think that’s what we’re going to try, and I think it’s going to work really well for us.

Mr. Matthew Ley:  Yeah, you’ve got to get that right.  The office — regardless of what you decide to do, you’ve got to get that office environment right for what you’re doing combined with the right technology to help you bring them in.

Mr. Frank Cianciulli:  And just the last thing.  If you do decide to lease a space, you know, everybody likes — you know, ego gets in there.  Everybody obviously wants fancy offices in a fancy part of town, but you really have to assess whether that actually contributes to the growth of your business and the bottom line or it hurts you because to be honest in a lot of businesses that I’ve assessed, whether we’re looking at them to acquire them, or what have you, or just generally studying businesses or people asking me for advice, I’ve seen bad office leases or bad choices and too expensive of an office cripple more businesses than possibly anything else, including even bad hires.

Mr. Matthew Ley:  Really?  And I found, too, on the nice offices, I find it helps us in one place, and that’s recruitment.  And then after that they have the same problems with the office that they’d have if it was a crappy hole in the wall.  The water isn’t right, or if it’s too loud in that section —

Mr. Frank Cianciulli:  To warm, too cold.

Mr. Matthew Ley:  Too cold.  It doesn’t matter how nice it is.  You still have those problems.  That’s the issue with real estate in general, right?

Mr. Frank Cianciulli:  Yes.

Mr. Matthew Ley:  Okay.  Well, on that note it sounds like I feel like we got to a conclusion there, which is basically there’s a lot of options.  Keep your costs down, but I think that debate is going to be going on for some time.  So with that we are going to wrap this session.  The next one is really my favorite — is we compile the questions we receive from you, and then we ask Frank.  So until that time, guys, keep it lean.  Share, like, make your comments, ask us your questions, and we’ll see you next time on Boot Strap.

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