The alarm goes off. Turns out it’s only been few hours since you shut your brain down (as a courtesy to your body of course) from the night before. Your daily fuel? A whole tank of passion often topped off with a healthy (unhealthy?) dose of liquid caffeine.
Yet even with that passion and caffeine jolt, the daily needs of your emerging business are plenty and you are constantly required to both strategically and quickly make choices that either will help or hurt your company’s future. Overwhelming? You bet. More often than not, you’ve started with tight resources that are being beckoned by every faction of your business. Do we hire more people? Invest in development? Build a stellar website? Pay the rent? Take a paycheck? Buy the cool business cards? Get that software we need? Design our space to fit us?
Regarding your physical office environment, let’s just get honest here: A giant lump sum of cash isn’t always available to invest in physical space in the early days, especially since every dollar is fiercely competed for by each and every pressing need. This, is the reality. Cash is tight, stakes are high.
To get your start-up’s space right, you have to know four things before you put pencil to paper, paint to walls, or start assembling furniture.
1) The culture you’re building
It’s key to articulate up front, as early as possible your ideal culture, so you can be proactive in building it rather than reactive about fixing it in the future. Your physical environment has a substantial impact on how your people work and interact. Productivity and goodwill can all be influenced by the space you’re in every day. And in a time where the economy is rebounding, the war will be for all-star talent, making it urgent to know how you’ll attract others to join you in your adventure. Understanding, and being able to articulate the culture you want to build will allow you to create a space that fosters it.
2) The brand story you’re building
Brand stories give an easily shared and readily understood message to what your company is all about. As a start up, you are uniquely positioned in the early chapters of your own brand story. Take advantage of this opportunity to pen your own message from a blank page, being thoughtful and deliberate. Knowing this early allows you to use your space as yet another medium to communicate it. Even more, it ensures your space will be authentic to you.
3) Your ideal work-flow and processes
There’s never been a better time than now to get this right. If you can imagine what your ideal work-flow will be between you and your team, you’ll save yourself the energy of correcting the ineffective ones that will arise in a void. What’s the level of interaction your people need to have together? What types of tasks will occur? How are they different for various roles? How is technology utilized and how can it be integrated best? Do you have road warriors? Heads-down production roles? Highly interactive/social roles? Most certainly you’ll have a mix. So before designing the environment you’ll work in, know your unique mix so that your space can be a place to enhance it, not hinder it.
4) Your staffing projections
Yes, I realize that this is a super practical no-brainer. However, the projections of who and when you hire should be a by-product of your above ideal work-flow exercise. Studying your ideal growth pattern for your human capital will be one of the most critical informants of the design and phasing of your space. Knowing your strategy here will help you make clear decisions as you assess your options.
The start-ups that know these four things, can be confident in approaching the design of their workspace in phases as cash becomes available. [Note: you probably do want to get that coffee maker first.]