Welcome to the first post in my Finding Office Space series. I am writing a Lord Of The Rings-type of trilogy. This is the beginning, where we optimistically begin looking for a great new office. The next post will be the journey, conflict and rising action, without resolution. Then finally, after defeating the dark lord, a giant spider and unmasking some Scooby Doo criminals, we will move into our new space.
We launched The Weaponry, an advertising and idea agency, in 2016. We started off working with five brands, all former clients who wanted us to help them make some marketing magic. We were really lucky to have great clients who wanted to help us get started. Or maybe it wasn’t luck. Maybe this was a product of building trust and a history of success with these clients. Nah. It was probably luck.
Like a technology company, we quickly formed a minimum viable product (MVP). It didn’t take much to get The Weaponry cranking. After all, our value is in our people. When you have great people with great ideas offering great service, you’re in business. Literally.
Modern technology has allowed us to create a successful business without a physical office space. What we quickly realized, was that when our first team members fired up their laptops, The Weaponry came alive. The technology we used made us one cohesive team. Despite the fact that our initial team was in Atlanta, Seattle, Milwaukee and Columbus, technology like Slack, Google’s G-Suite, Dropbox and Zoom made us feel like we were all under one roof, collaborating seamlessly.
I was surprised when people asked me where we were going to have our office. A physical office was unnecessary. The office was wherever we were. We all had laptops and mobile phones. We were always on and always connected to each other. We didn’t need 4 walls and a roof. Or two turntables and a microphone. And after enduring Atlanta traffic for a few years I was happy to not deal with a commute for a while. No offense Atlanta, but your traffic is not the jam. #expandmarta
Of course there are some benefits that come from having a physical space. But to be clear, they are a bonus. Not a necessity. In fact, by the time we decided it would be worthwhile to have a physical space we had become so busy that we didn’t have time to go look for one. That, my friends, is a good problem to have.
The Search Begins
Finally, a few weeks ago I had a free Friday afternoon. I drove around town like the property paparazzi, taking pictures of Space Available signs on buildings and then making a lot of phone calls. I was surprised that the process of finding office space wasn’t simpler. If there is a comprehensive directory of all of the available office spaces in the galaxy, I didn’t find it.
Over the past few weeks I have visited eight buildings and seen twenty possible spaces. I have looked at cool riverfront lofts, an office in a converted brewery and high-rise suites overlooking Lake Michigan. I’ve looked at buildings full of bells and whistles. I’ve seen buildings that have lost their bell and can no longer whistle. Now, I face some challenges in making the next decision.
Office Space Questions
- Do we take a conservative approach and only lease enough space for now?
- Do we rent a bigger space to give us room to grow?
- How much room should we have to accommodate for growth?
- Do we rent as-is space, or have it built specifically for us?
- How long should our lease term be?
- What amenities are really nice to have in the building, and which ones just don’t matter?
If you have experience with any of these challenges I would love to hear your thoughts. We have narrowed down to a few options and we are sending out our RFP within the next week. As we compare and contrast I’ll share my version of The Two Towers. Thanks for following the story.
17 thoughts on “Looking for office space: A startup story.”
Exciting stuff, Adam! I hope you find the space you want!
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Thanks Steven! I’m thinking of hiring a specialist to be my space cadet.
The progress you’ve made so far with The Weaponry is so awesome, congrats to you and the team!
First off, I’m with you that the status quo is, “a company needs an office… just because they always have.” People think that for the wrong reasons, because to your point people can work anywhere. But as you grow, my advice would be that it is extremely hard to build a culture virtually. We’ve worked together and seen just how difficult it is with a few offices, imagine if you had 30+ people all working in different spots. I’m sure it can be done, but why risk jeopardizing the most important thing about a company – its culture.
Second, my advice on office space is to a) find an agent to rep you, and b) look for a one-year lease or sub-lease. An agent will know how to find you sub-leases you might not ever know about, they’ll know the market trends, and they’ll negotiate on your behalf and protect you.
Don’t lock into anything more than a year. Give yourself time to realize how fast your growth will be before taking on a long-term lease (ultimately most will want 3-5 year commitments.) Sub-leases are usually good for that kind of flexibility. And get IKEA furniture until you go big. Save that dough, bro.
Best of luck, looking forward to the series!
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Thanks for the good advice and encouragement Jeff! We’re putting some of your advice to work right now. We’re also going to serve Ikea Sweedish Meatballs at lunch.
How about The Weaponry tiny house? (Though you may need more than one)
I can’t wait to see what you come up with.
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That is a sweet idea. Like Little Sweet. Like the Diet Dr. Pepper Guy!
Hey Adam, this has always been a fun project for me (office space). I saw Jeff’s post and agree, it’s more about building the culture than enabling work to be done. Not sure of your current size, but for sure, go after a Sub-lease that’s 16 to 30 months long at most and furnished if possible. Work with a broker, doesn’t cost you anything. I can recommend a few good ones if interested. As it happens we (BrightWave) are about to put our space on the market for a sublease as we’ve out grown it (good problem). There is a link to the space if interested. https://www.brightwave.com/the-new-brightwave-office-and-the-superpowers-it-gives-us/.
It’s around 7k sqft and we can negotiate furniture and the beer tap if interested:-) Let me know and good luck. Ping me regardless if you need any advice. Raj.
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Great advice all around Raj. Thanks for the offer to help. And congrats on your continued growth at Brightwave!