It’s no secret that creating success with your start-up business requires skill with balancing priorities. How you set up your first office plays a critical role in defining your success because it will set the tone for customer expectations, as well as being the single largest influence on employee productivity. It is not as easy as just copying whatever the leader in your industry has done. You have to define your identity with the design. Walking through the process, from site selection to the last picture hung on the wall, will show you what to consider.
Location, location, location
The real estate is important. Whether you buy or lease will depend on your resources and the needs of your business. Most businesses find leasing to be a better option in their formative years. You need to think beyond the price and look at several factors. The first being accessibility. If you want walk-in traffic, then you need to be in an area where your clientele will be walking by. Converted mills can be affordable and offer great space, but if you are targeting impulse buyers then beware. Impulse buyers rarely wander around mills-they are at strip malls.
If you pick a strip mall, make sure that the other businesses there complement yours. A tech start-up in a mall that focuses on shoes isn’t going to fair as well as one placed in a grouping of business office supply stores and furniture stores. Always think about “like with like.” Customers are too busy to be making special trips.
What will be your first impression?
First impressions matter. Remember, however, that there is more than one first impression. A customer builds their impression of the business from the moment they walk in the door. That “door” includes the lobby door, individual office doors, bathroom doors, and so on. One of the best ways to make sure that the impression you are creating is consistent and reinforces the message about your start-up that you want to communicate is to pick your furnishings and furniture from a source like Boyles that offers products from related design styles. While Google may have people zooming around on kick-n-go scooters, the reality is that most customers want to see decor that communicates stable reliability. Skip the ping pong tables and go more traditional, especially if you are just opening your doors. The fun stuff can stay behind the scenes as part of the perks you offer your employees.
By the same token, the art you hang or place on a table is very important. Art communicates. The attention you pay to how your decor is set and lighted communicates to everyone your attention to detail, as well as your values. Well placed and lighted individual items, no matter how small, will communicate more than any amount of words on a glossy brochure. It is easier for the human mind to remember an object and form a visual association with the business than for the person to remember the content of the marketing material. Your marketing funds may be well invested in a piece of quality art that you feel represents the spirit and goals of your company.
What about employee spaces?
Aspiration is key here. Think to the trope of the “corner office with windows.” Employee spaces should be efficient and geared towards promoting work, but they should also be aspirational. Not in the manner of hanging posters with meme-worthy sayings, but in containing pared-down versions of executive furnishings that imply to the employee that they are on the path to achieving executive skills. Some companies do this by reducing the number of drawers and file cabinets that a person has attached to their desk as they climb the ladder. Keep lower employees working on tables only with shared cabinetry. Whatever you choose, it should make sense for your company identity.
The best way to plan the office for your start-up is to identify the pieces you are drawn to and then ask yourself, “Why?” Cross-reference your answers to what you know about how you want to market the identity of your business to your customers and employees. To build trust with your customers, make sure that all of your choices are consistent with that desired image and you will be able to create the right impression.