- By Kelsea
I WAS FORTUNATE TO JOIN SWEETIQ at what felt like a coming of age period for our little start-up. Departments were growing and finding their flow and other teams, like mine, were just beginning to form. The energy and excitement was palpable. Uncontainable — literally.
The decision to move was based on functionality. We simply couldn’t function in our space anymore. It seemed like we were constantly drilling together new desks to Tetris into the space and every weekly Huddle would introduce new employees to butt elbows with. But on top of the immediately obvious problem of No More Desks, something about our evolving culture was no longer reflected in the white walls and rooms we worked in every day. Thankfully, after months of searching, we found the perfect blank canvas to move to: a spacious office in Montreal’s historic Windsor Station just down the street.
When I was tasked to lead the design for our new office, I knew what I was in for: an avalanche of opinions coming my way, endless options to choose from, and many, many aspects to consider along the way. Any designer will tell you how delicate the process of designing internally is, a balance I experienced first-hand at SweetIQ as I was assigned with rebranding the company my first day on the job. You can say that I “got my feet wet” early on.
What I don’t think any of us anticipated though was the scope of this particular project. But with my 20/20 hindsight now in full swing, I’ve collected and divided this handy guide to help your startup next time you move — whether it’s city to city or simply down the street.
PART ONE: THE INSPIRATION PHASE
1. DO YOUR RESEARCH. As with any design project, you need to fill your brain with that inspirational gold. I devoured articles on the growing ideologies around creative work environments, improving corporate culture, and the office reimagined — a shift lead in large part by tech companies and startups. I logged countless hours online ogling gorgeous spaces in New York, San Francisco, London, Vancouver, and our very own Montreal. Visits to the state of the art offices of Shopify, G-Soft, and Paysafe. Dozens of magazines with their corners turned down.
Throughout your research though, always be sure to keep your own company, culture, and branding in mind. What’s right for an enterprise-level firm you spotted on officelovin.com maybe not be right for your team, or vice-versa.
At its core, SweetIQ is a multidisciplinary organization that believes in and thrives in an open-concept office. These spaces encourage collaboration, prevent working in silos, enable transparency, foster culture and save square footage.
In the end, the answer for us lay in an open-concept space, paired with multi-functional rooms to be shared and leveraged. Each room would have a designated strength and purpose, but could double for whatever our growing company called for.
2. ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS. My little designer’s heart was fluttering at the idea of mid-century modern chairs and thick Acacia tables, but what would make everyone else’s heart of hearts go pitter-pat? What could solve the problems we had now, and the ones we’d have in the years to come? Think critically while building your plans—future-proof your new space as much as you can.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Will the space scale with us?
- Will new departments form in the future, requiring spaces you haven’t forseen?
- Are you international or local? Is your space client-facing? How important is street access and office visibility?
- How much square footage does each employee need?
- Open-concept or closed offices?
- Are we modern, warm, fun, serious, casual, collaborative, or private? What feel are we going for, and does the feel need to be the same throughout the space?
- What functions should our rooms have? What level of office technology do we need?
GET THE BUY-IN — SO YOU CAN START BUYIN’. You’ve done the research, but now you need to prove it. More and more often, in-house designers are being trusted with major interior design decisions — whether it’s to save time and budget, or to give employees an opportunity to learn new skills, and to leverage their existing knowledge of the company.
If you’re moving within a start-up, chances are your primary role and expertise is not interior design. Whatever your natural or learned design skills may be, translate everything you know to the critical presentation that may determine your go-ahead date, but most importantly your budget. Instilling your leaders with confidence in your research and abilities will grease the process of moving, and every purchase you make along the way.
PART TWO: THE ORGANIZATION PHASE
The making of a new office takes an army. Build a bulletproof team with varying skill sets and nail down key processes to streamline as much as you possibly can. Key players to get on your roster are:
A PROJECT MANAGER. You know those people who are equal parts relaxed and incredibly, incredibly organized? Find one of them. Let them work their spreadsheet magic.
THE NUMBER CRUNCHER. Let’s be honest: we can have all of the glorious ideas in the world, but at the end of the day, the bottom line matters. Make sure this person is involved at every step so you keep your ideas realistic.
AN I.T. MASTER. Unless you’re a tech wizard, you’ll want an IT specialist present at all times to evaluate all existing tech in both old and new spaces, how they’ll work together, what needs to be added, and ultimately to translate all the jargon critical to your seamless move. This was particularly important as a SAAS company, but at the end of the day any employee expects to come in to working wifi — the lack of which is enough to dampen any moving day celebrations.
AN OFFICE COORDINATOR. This person will manage everything from appliances and catering to shipping and expenses. You know that must-have coffee machine in your new office? Or that #goals carbonated water dispenser you have your eye on? This is the person who can make that dream come true.
PART THREE: THE BIG DAY
Walking through the office now, it’s hard to imagine the gutted framework that drooped here only a few months ago, and to remember every step that got us here. I have to say though that the vision of empty boxes piled to the ceiling on the morning before our Grand Opening will be burned on my brain forever.
That’s the kicker. After everything’s said and done, the hardest part about moving a company may very well happen after the actual move. Everything was transported and deposited at the proper stations between lunch and sundown—but that’s when the real fun started.
If you start the clock when the movers cleared out, we had about 56 hours to get our company up and running again, and we used almost every second.
Follow these last few steps to make the most out of your final few days:
1. DON’T BE AFRAID TO CALL IN THE TROOPS. The weekend of our move was the battle that won the war, one we couldn’t have won without every bit of help we had. Remember that sky-high pile of boxes I mentioned? Every piece of cardboard in that heap represents deliveries accepted, tape sliced, furniture assembled, and packing guts deconstructed. You can’t fathom how much waste a move can produce until you realize it won’t fit into your new building’s dumpsters. Which leads me to:
1.1 Get a junk guy. The last thing you’ll want to do after moving all your stuff in is to move all your crap out. Trust me, we tried.
1.2 Feed your troops. This will be an all day affair. Make sure you’ve got a cooler full of liquid morale and a table full of snacks for anyone helping out.
1.3 Help them help you! You won’t be able to be in two places at once on Moving day, so do what you can so that you don’t have to be. Leverage one of your largest whiteboards to write out your To-Do list, and assign a volunteer to be in charge of each. Then, label the door of every room with a plan of what it will look like that is as detailed as possible. Include pictures of the furniture to be placed inside, the number of chairs, and the placement of everything within the space.
The weekend of our move, SweetIQ had 26 different chair styles delivered to our space in one day, and every single one was destined for a specific room.
2. BUDGET FOR THE LITTLE THINGS. You’ve spent months planning the perfect move and the perfect space. Pay respect to all that hard work by allotting enough time and coin to go the extra mile. Use art, books, and plants to inject some life into the finished space. Pack the nooks with creature comforts like best-selling biographies, throw blankets, and patterned pillows.
Keep in mind it’s those unexpected and underestimated expenses that will put you in the red, so when breaking down your budget make sure you include the items that will finish off your space, and the extra cost you’ll incur over your actual Moving Days.
Some items to budget for:
- Last minute tools like an extra drill, hammer, and picture hanging kit
- Multiple box-cutters. Everyone gets a box-cutter
- Garbage and recycling bins
- Cleaning supplies and extra large trash bags
- Plants, plant stands and plant care items like watering cans and spray bottles
- Light bulbs for new lamps (it’s easy to forget these won’t magically appear)
- Food and drinks for your volunteers
3. CELEBRATE YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS WITH THE WHOLE TEAM. Moving spaces is exciting, but it’s also a bit daunting for some. It usually means that people have to re-route their path to the office everyday, pack up their stuff, and generally interrupt the flow of the work. While it’s easy for everyone on the moving team to see the benefits, it might not be that obvious for everyone else. So once the new desks have been assigned, the internet is up and running and you have everything looking just so, give yourself some time to relish in your brand-new location.
A quick shout out to our team:
Our team was lead by Lorenzo Pirri, our VP of Finance and Admin — lover of fine tables, Smirnoff Ice, and sensible bottom lines. Sally Harada was our Project Manager, who is Los Angeles-bred and has the perfect balance of chillness and checklists. The inner workings of the space were entirely overseen by our IT Coordinator Behnam Hosseinpour, and magical Office Coordinator Meghan Stevenson quickly joined our team to tackle everything from appliances and catering, to shipping and expenses. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Larry Este, official mover for ReachLocal and our moving day hero for any task that needed doing. Finally, charged with tackling the look, feel, and various functions of the space was myself. SweetIQ also collaborated with Laura Palumbo from Kiva Design for technical design drawings, lighting and interior design advisement. Our primary supplier was ABI Montreal, contracting was handled by Avantage Plus, and our movers were Demenagement la Capitale. A sincere thank you to everyone who contributed their time along the way to ensure a smooth and successful move.