I’ve already mentioned open offices and relaxation facilities in a previous chapter. So let me briefly reiterate my position that the best space for a person to do work in is the space where they are most productive. While that statement may seem obvious, quite often the decision on who works where is based on the availability of space and the preference of management. If someone is like me and works best in a quiet, uninterrupted environment, then they can work either from home or work in an office with a closed door at the company location. I do not work nearly as efficiently at a coffee shop with ambient music or noise, nor an open office which very much resembles a coffee shop. A cubicle is a middle ground, as long as the ambient noise is held low. For someone who works better in a coffee shop-type environment, it may be that their home or an open office would also work well. The bottom line is not to assume that all employees will be most effective and efficient in a single environment that an executive happens to like.

For that reason among others, I’ve always been a big fan of allowing – and even encouraging – employees to work from home and avoid coming into the office other than for specific meetings. Want another reason to encourage people to work from home? Harvard Business Review wrote an article titled “To Raise Productivity, Let More Employees Work from Home” which supports what I’ve noticed empirically over the last 20 years. People who work from home work more efficiently. According to that article people working from home not only had higher satisfaction rates than their office counterparts, but they had a 13.5% higher productivity. Another huge benefit to hiring workers to work from home is removing geographic limitations. You can hire the most qualified people even if they do not live in the city where the company has an office.

So, what have I recommended for office space? While changing offices is not necessarily a common theme in my past consulting, I have been involved with commercial realtors for many companies I have worked with. I’ve opened new regional offices for companies, consolidated facilities from different states, and planned whole office relocations. What I have found over the last 20 years are two main points. First, the variety of commercial real estate has vastly more range of choices than residential real estate. This means that if an office might work for you, but isn’t perfect, keep looking because there is probably one that is much closer to perfection just around the corner. Secondly, commercial realtors are even less interested in showing you more than five properties than residential realtors. Sure, it makes sense that someone working on a commission of two months’ rent would love nothing more than to have you take one of the offices they show you on the first day. They make the same amount, and the total time at that point was less than 8 hours for them. The more time they spend with you, the less they make per hour.

But since you will be in your office for 3-7 years, depending on the lease, it’s important to take the time to find the perfect location because that decision will affect everyone in the company who doesn’t work remotely. Taking the time and focusing on what the client wants in an office has allowed me to find Class A-rated office space for Class B-rated pricing. I’ve done this many times by subleasing prime office space from companies that have shrunk or moved and no longer need the space. By spending the time and getting the agent to understand you won’t sign until you are ready, you can invest the time to find a location that ideally addresses your needs for the coming years.

Everyone has different preferences, but what I found is that there are three common uses of office space. Those are: house your employees, provide a location with a good environment for meetings, and produce your product. The latter may be a warehouse location, or it may be a table, but generally, every company has those needs to varying degrees. When it comes to meetings, there are certain things that help foster a productive outcome. Whiteboards for brainstorming have been very common for decades and a good meeting room will have at least one wall that has a full-width whiteboard. In some startup office situations, I’ve recommended using 4×8 sheets of plastic bathboard sold at Home Depot use in waterproofing bathrooms. Those sheets work perfectly for writing and erasing dry-erase markers. Naturally, for more established companies there are some better-looking options. Aside from a whiteboard, a good meeting room should have the ability to project a computer, either onto the same whiteboard using a projector or to a large-screen TV. Lastly, the thing that most people forget is that the room needs to set the right tone for a meeting.

Our environment affects not just our moods, but also how we view the world. This is why it is so common to see meeting rooms in high-rise office buildings with floor-to-ceiling glass. The birds-eye view of the city stimulates big-picture thinking and helps people imagine in ways they would not if merely sitting in a cube on a Skype call. Another example of altering the mood in a conference room is the use of large aquariums. Years ago I had set up a conference room in my company which didn’t have any windows with a whiteboard and projector, as well as a 12-person table. The room was just not very appealing though, and people wanted to leave as soon as a meeting was over. I ended up installing three large aquarium tanks to fill an entire wall on one side of the room. Having the tropical fish swimming around, moving rocks, chasing snails, and doing other fish things completely changed the atmosphere of the place. People were much less anxious to leave and there was more casual conversation in the room. I actually had clients and vendors both mention that the fish made them feel very relaxed. Of course, this is not a surprise to anyone who knows the Asian cultural perspective on fish ponds. Before there were ever glass aquariums, there were koi ponds with exotic and unique breeds of carp creating a relaxing atmosphere. Think about the many Asian restaurants with a tradition of using aquariums to encourage a peaceful and relaxed atmosphere. But also keep in mind that a dirty aquarium is very unappealing, so figure in the cost of ongoing maintenance if you go that route.


Excerpted From The Original

Beyond Sales: 50 Business Problems Every CEO Needs to Solve

Foreword by Roy H. Williams

Gene isn’t a journalist, but he is most definitely an investigator.
I was talking to a friend who employs about 250 people in 3 different companies when he mentioned that he had hired a specialist to figure out what was wrong with a company that was underperforming.
“Who did you hire?”
“A fellow named Gene Naftulyev.”
“He’s going to figure out what’s holding you back?”
“Yeah. He’s famous for it.”
“How famous?”
“Procter & Gamble. American Express. Kraft Foods. Target. They’re all clients of Gene’s.”
“What does he do, exactly?”
“He improves profits without spending money.”
“But how?”
“Process re-engineering, operational optimization, making business units autonomous, negotiating employee and consultant contracts and a hundred other things like that. It just depends on what you need. He refines the core of your business so that you become more efficient, have fewer frustrations and make more money. Naftulyev can always spot the problems and his fixes are famously quick and easy.”