Growing Pains

Growing Pains

Tuesday, 24 April 2012 14:58

Single Office, Arrangements, Benefits of Having All Staff Concentrated in a Single Office Space: Growing Pains Blog by Michael Fox

Should your team be based in one office?

We're currently advertising to hire five new roles for Shoes of Prey, and have had a few people contact us to ask if the roles could be based in cities other than Sydney.

 

I've read about quite a few start-ups with people based in different cities all working together remotely, but I really struggle to see how everyone could be effective working in that way.

 

There's so much additional value that comes from being physically located in the same space.

 

By nature, start-ups are chaotic. The ability to move, react and change quickly is critical to their success.

 

By sitting in the same office together, we get to hear each other's conversations. We live and breathe what works and what doesn’t in the business, allowing everyone to react quickly.

 

Even having two offices, one in Sydney and one in China, creates some barriers to reacting quickly and for the team working together. While we do a pretty good job in managing this, it's not perfect.

 

Thinking through our values and culture, much of what is core to our business would be very hard to do with people based in different locations.

 

Recognising great work becomes harder if you haven't been able to witness first-hand what someone has achieved on a project. Communication becomes much harder if you're doing it all over email, chat or Skype.

 

It's harder to be inspired by your colleagues if there's no one physically around you.

 

Despite advances in communication tools, such as video conferencing, there's still nothing quite like sitting at a desk, surrounded by a group of amazing colleagues working together to achieve the same goal.

 

So while we're happy to help an awesome hire relocate, all the roles we're hiring for will need to be based in Sydney.

 

What's your view?

Michael Fox managed Google’s online sales and operations agency team for Australia and New Zealand before moving into entrepreneurship. He's a co-founder of Shoes of Prey, an online retail website which allows women to design their own shoes and Sneaking Duck, which sells fashionable prescription glasses online. He blogs in detail about the process of running Shoes of Prey at his blog www.22michaels.com.


Comments (5)

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Hi Michael I think there is a lot of sense in what you say but I think (a) there are examples of businesses that have successfully worked with split offices and (b) those of us who start off in regional areas (we're in Townsville) need to consider if/when we need a presence in a capital city. I suspect the time will come when that business need outweighs the benefits of all being in the one place and I can see us having a Sydney or Melbourne office one day (and one in London, one in New York...)
Mick Devine , April 26, 2012
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michaelfox1
Hi Mike, I can definitely see that makes sense for regional offices. Would you consider moving your whole operation to Sydney or Melbourne when the time comes to open an office there? That might not be possible/desirable if you've hired a decent sized team in Townsville though, and the cost of having two offices might be less than the cost of moving everything and losing some great members of your team who don't want to move.
michaelfox1 , April 26, 2012
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I'm currently trying to start a company from Brisbane with a business partner in Sydney so I'll see how things go! Definitely harder (and slower) then working from the same office but hopefully once things start fully operating it wont be too difficult. I think due to the nature of the business it wont be as hard as others running from separate locations.
Jason S , April 26, 2012
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michaelfox1
Hi Jason, when we started work on Shoes of Prey Mike was based in the US for the for 6 months while Jodie and I were in Sydney. Worked out fine during that period. I think different offices is actually pretty manageable when it's a very small team or just the founders, gets harder once you grow beyond that though.
michaelfox1 , April 26, 2012
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Hi Mike, great post. Your post was a topic of discussion within our company. Here were some of my thoughts...My thoughts on the question are yes and no. I think that the team may not need to be in the same office/location during the planning phase, but it is beneficial when the company is operational, for various reasons, including the free flow of ideas and feedback, there is more accountability, there is more of a bonding amongst the team, creative ideas are generally better developed when in person.

Taking the question to another level, is what about a team being based in an open office environment? Is that effective? Where there are no walls, generally everyone faces the center. Basically everyone is in a large room with desks/tables together, everyone can see everyone. I think this to some degree exacerbates all the benefits mentioned above, such as increased creativity, bonding, more fluent and free flowing feedback. Many of the larger tech companies have embraced this way of working, including Google, Facebook, etc. I do not think open office is for every company and works best for those focused on innovation and creativity.
Marshall Hargrave , June 02, 2012
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