The Essential Components of a Business Growth Roadmap

How do you take your business to the next level?

If you’re hoping to figure it out as you go along or, worse, blindly expanding on ambition alone, you’re going to have a hard time. And it’s going to take forever to see positive results.

That’s why you need a roadmap to follow.

Like using Google Maps to guide road trips, your business roadmap will help your company grow in the shortest amount of time by taking the most efficient routes.

Working without one is like driving blindfolded in a foreign country.

How will you know how to budget for and allocate resources your company needs to operate and grow? Will your growth be aligned with your company’s vision? How will you get everyone focused on the same goal?

To keep your brand on the path to success — and to minimize the risk of expansion — you have to design a business growth roadmap everyone can get on board with.

Today we’ll cover the essential components of a business growth roadmap to help you create one for your company ASAP.

Grab this free growth roadmap template for your business. Download and customize it for your company now!

Truth: Your Business Needed a Growth Roadmap Yesterday

When’s the right time to expand?

It’s a question that haunts businesses in their infancy and well into their thriving success. So what separates companies that seamlessly grow from those struggling and failing?

Planning.

Large companies need a plan to unify all their separate departments under the same growth umbrella. When everyone knows the destination, it’s easier to caravan together on the path to achieving the same goal.

Small businesses often backburner growth strategies because they’re so bogged down in the day-to-day operations. This crucial mistake may keep you from reaching your full potential.

That’s why all companies need to set aside time to discuss their vision, write down their goals, and create a plan to achieve them.

Then, you and your crew will be able to take actionable steps in the right direction to grow strategically.

“If you decide not to grow, you may be paving a path to failure,” Patrick Latour, Senior Vice President of Growth and Transition Capital at BDC Capital, tells the BDC blog. “If you don’t grow, your competitors will, and that will put pressure on you.”

Here’s what you need to stay ahead:

The 9 Landmarks of Your Business Growth Roadmap

Your business roadmap should be able to fit on one page. That will not only make it easy to read, understand, and follow, it will force you to be direct with your goals and directions.

Every businesses’ needs are different, but every strategic growth plan should include the following 9 steps on the path to your expansion:

1. Your Mission Statement

Your Mission Statement is the declaration of why your company exists.

It explains the purpose of your business and addresses not only what you want to do for your customers, but how you plan to deliver.

You probably already have a Mission Statement, and that’s fantastic.

Your Mission Statement should:

  • Outline how your brand solves problems for customers
  • Clearly present the products/services you offer in your market/niche
  • Describe what makes you different from other companies
  • Be no more than one or two sentences—max

    Keeping your Mission Statement in the forefront of your employees’ minds reminds everyone why they’re hustling so hard.

2. Your Vision Statement

Similar to your Mission Statement, your Vision Statement is a short summary of your company’s future goals.

What do you want your company to achieve in five years? Ten years? 20 years down the road?

Add a one-sentence description of where you see your company and let it guide and inspire everyone on your team to move in that direction.

3. Your Company’s Core Principles (aka a Values Statement)

Your company operates under unique guiding principles that shape your business’ core beliefs. These values enticed your employees to work for you and matter to your customers (and investors).

As such, your guiding principles will probably never change. They’re part of your founding values, but you can also use them moving forward in your strategic development.

Add these principles to your roadmap to recall the passion that inspired your company to start doing what they do best.

4. SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, & Threats)

If you want to be the best, you have to admit you’re not perfect. And then take every step you can to improve.

By assessing your company objectively through a SWOT analysis, you’ll be able to understand your internal strengths and weaknesses; capitalize on opportunities you may be missing; and prepare for threats that pose a risk to your company’s growth.

growth_planning

Gathering this information will give you intel to proceed in the most profitable direction. So collect your data and asses your current place in your market to brainstorm about how you think you can do better.

5. Find Your Competitive Advantage

The biggest marketing flaw in most companies is their failure to fully reap the benefits of their competitive advantages,” author Jaynie Smith tells the American Management Association.

Smith continues:

“Either [companies] think they have a competitive advantage but don’t. Or they have one and don’t even realize it. Or they know they have a strong competitive advantage but fail to promote it adequately to their customers and prospects.”

All these reasons make it a must to highlight why your company beats the competition.

When you start with these advantages (which may not be as strong as you initially thought), you and your team will be able to find ways to either make the most of these perks to set your company apart for your customers or rethink them entirely.

6. List Your Short and Long Term Objectives

It’s a good idea to plot short and long term objectives, or measurable goals, on your growth roadmap to create a deadline and a sense of urgency.

Aim to complete your short term objectives within a year or two; long term objectives could be projected three years out or longer.

When creating your roadmap, it’s important to be very specific about your goals. Vague objectives like “increase profits” or “expand social media presence” do little to give you actual direction.

Instead, you’ll want to outline the specifics you want your initiatives to take: the what, how, and when of your goals.

These objectives will give your employees an idea of where you plan to take your company. It tells investors you’re working hard to grow profits. And it sets up all the work that needs to get done.

For example, if you want to expand to new territories, a short term goal would be finding fully-furnished temporary office rentals in three hot markets by the end of the quarter. Your long term objective would be committing to a lease and establishing roots later down the road.

Short and long term objectives should work together to keep momentum strong on your way to achieving your goals.

7. Strategies to Accomplish Your Objectives

Now that you have your goals on paper, it’s time to figure out how to make them happen.

Your roadmap doesn’t need a detailed plan of attack, but you’ll need to explain the general strategies and tactics you plan to use (or want your team to follow through with).

teamwork

Ask yourself: What’s it going to take to make our vision a reality? What are the specific steps we need to complete?

This is where you transform the intangible ideas and goals into real directives you and your team can start executing.

8. Outline the Resources and Financial Means to Accomplish Your Goals

You don’t want to divert money to achieving your directives if it means you’ll be leaving another area of your company in the red.

When you take inventory of all the resources and budgets you have allocated for other parts of your business, you’ll have a better idea of what you can spare and devote to growing.

For example, if you know you historically see a huge profit in Q3, you can plan to direct some of that excess to completing an objective in Q4.

9. Determine How You’ll Measure Key Performance Indicators (KPI)

Each of your objectives should be easily measurable so you can track the effort you and your team put forth.

Determine how you’ll be tracking KPIs for your goals and then set monthly (or weekly, quarterly, etc.) targets for reaching them.

If you want to increase your social media outreach, for instance, you may set quotas for new followers, shares, or brand interactions for each of your social media platforms.

Keep checking in with your team to evaluate if your strategies need tweaking based on the data returning from your tracking.

A Well-Written Business Growth Roadmap Helps Your Business in More Ways than One

Just like your initial business proposals led to the founding of your awesome venture, let your business growth plan define your company moving forward.

Explaining how you see your company expanding will help your team work hard to achieve your shared vision. It also inspires investors to fund your progress.

Focusing your efforts also benefits your clients, who will undoubtedly see the unique value your company brings to the table. The more happy customers you have, the easier growth will be.

Customize this free business roadmap template using today’s tips! Download it now and get to work:

7 Effective Ways to Streamline Your Business

You’re burning the midnight oil and sipping your first coffee with the sunrise.

You have a game plan to grow your business and you’re working nonstop to make good on those promises.

But the work never stops.

You can’t focus on the more important aspects of your business because you’re constantly bogged down in mundane tasks just to keep it running. Fortunately, there’s a better way.

Streamlining your business takes all the headache out of the day-to-day operations of managing your business so you can work on your business.

Plus, automating certain procedures helps your company become more cost effective.

When there’s only one way of doing something, you’ll find less confusion, fewer mistakes, and almost zero delays in getting the work done.

So stick with us today as we cover 7 of the most effective ways to streamline your business.

Follow through on these tips and you’ll have more time to work on what really matters. And maybe sleep for more than three hours (no promises).

Should you spend time on that task or outsource it? Download this free checklist of signs to help you know the way. Click here!

1. Consolidate All Your Information in One Place

Social media stats on multiple sites, website analytics in another, financial records somewhere else—it’s hard to grasp the big picture of your business when your data is scattered like a trail of breadcrumbs across the internet.
Instead of logging in and out of all your different sites to monitor your numbers, consider using an all-in-one business dashboard to track all your metrics in one secure place.

Companies crushing this space include:

Taking advantage of software like this will give you individual dashboards in your command center to monitor everything from your social media and marketing efforts to your sales, IT, and financial stats.

Centralize your business metrics and you’ll save countless hours clicking around and compiling this intel on your own.

2. Get Your Team on the Same Page

Just like it can be frustrating tracking down your facts and figures, staying in communication with your employees can also turn into a super time-waster.

One employee prefers text messages, another’s constantly emailing to stay in the loop, and your devices are buzzing with notifications from 15 different messaging apps.

colleagues-having-business-meeting

Simplify the lines of communication by adopting one form of maintaining contact.

With so many different apps and messaging services, touching base with your teammates has never been easier, whether you have remote employees or an in-house crew.

Using a communication tool will also cut down on the amount of emails, text messages, and other notifications you receive (#win).

Consider distractions a hassle of the past when you get everyone on board with one of these services:

Bonus: You can also share files, collaborate, and archive all communication for referencing with these services.

3. Set Up Standard Processes and Make then Accessible

You and your business follow certain procedures every day, whether you’re paying attention to your routine or not.

It may be a specific ritual you perform before you start your sales calls or the exact steps you take to ensure an invoice gets paid—we’re creatures of habit who do well with structure.

So set yourself (and your team) up with concrete processes and make them readily available when anyone needs them.

For example, let’s say you figured out a way to conduct market research without wasting half the day.

Instead of keeping that process all to yourself, create a document outlining your steps and upload it to your shared folder. It also helps to create templates to save yourself hours of repetitive work (think: standard email responses for new leads).

Manage your processes by enlisting the help of online project management software and apps designed to give your team a visual list of tasks to be accomplished, such as:

You can task other employees with these projects and rest assured knowing they’ll be done to your liking, as long as employees follow your procedure.

Outlining processes like this also cuts down on questions, hesitation, and unproductive time figuring out the best course of action. Instead of scratching your head wondering what to do, you’ll have all the steps outlined so you can take charge.

Block out one day a month to work on establishing your businesses’ core processes, or those you handle on a regular basis.

As your business grows, update these processes to run at optimal efficiency and discard unnecessary steps you’ve evolved from.

4. Automate Workflows with Web Automation

Web automation services connect all of your most-used apps so you can create workflows based on specific triggering events.

I.e., “When this happens in app A, I want this other action to happen in app B.”

Common automatic workflows for business owners include:

  • Saving Gmail attachments directly to Dropbox
  • Archiving @mentions from Twitter to a Google spreadsheet
  • Syncing starred emails to Evernote

The beauty of these services is that they’re totally customizable and geared to save you time and money.

Spend time researching the functions of these top workflow automation companies to see what they may offer your business:

5. Talk About What’s Not Working

While all these processes should help your business increase efficiency, you’ll need to take a step back and evaluate what’s truly working.

Get into the habit of objectively auditing your procedures every month.
Find out what’s helping, what needs tweaking, and what should be scrapped entirely.

You can opt to hire an outside consulting agency, but oftentimes you’ll glean more useful feedback from your employees in the trenches.

balloon-dialogue-discussion-communicate-message

Your teammates know exactly what slows them down and may even offer up solutions to increase productivity using programs you may not be aware of.

The faster you adopt more efficient procedures, the more you’ll get out of your employees.

6. Stop Multitasking and Start Monotasking

Even though you may feel more productive knocking out several of your to-do list tasks at the same time, research shows that multitasking is not only terrible for your productivity, it may even negatively impact your brain in the long run.

One study found that participants distracted for less than three seconds doubled the number of errors they made during an assigned task; those with interruptions averaging four seconds tripled their mistakes.

Multitasking causes us to perform at a much lower cognitive level because we’re less concentrated on the task at hand.

This costs companies up to 40% in lost productivity from their employees—or almost 16 hours a week!

So to streamline your workload, learn how to focus on one task (and coax your work crew to do the same).

As Cal Newport, author and professor at Georgetown University, told Fast Company:

“High-quality work produced is a function of two things—the amount of time you spend on the work and the intensity of your focus during this time. If you can increase your focus, you’ll get more done in less time.”

Set specific goals to complete one task at a time—uninterrupted—before moving on to others (like checking your emails or Twitter feed).

7. Consider Outsourcing Tasks

Outsourcing helps your business cut costs while giving you access to experienced talent from all over the world.

The key to outsourcing is knowing when to let go of certain jobs to outside agents and when to keep these tasks in-house.

Generally, time-consuming tasks like accounting, payroll, and IT services can be outsourced to free up your time so you can work on more profitable areas of your business.

Similarly, if you’re looking for highly-specialized talent—like a graphic designer or content writer—it may be more affordable to hire them occasionally for projects instead of keeping them on your payroll.

As Benji Hyam, cofounder of Grow and Convert and Wordable, was quoted:
“There isn’t time to learn how to be an expert in every area of the business. Play to your strengths and specialize in one to two areas that you can do better than anyone else – then offload the things you aren’t good at to fill your gaps.”

Thanks to online freelance marketplaces like Upwork and Guru, it’s never been a better time to hire remotely.

Get Your Business Lean and Streamlined

You’ll need to let go of these draining tasks for your business to grow.
When you automate routine chores and establish procedures for your employees to follow, your business will run like a well-oiled machine.

You and your team will be more efficient, more productive, and generate higher profits.

And then you’ll need to expand to hassle-free office spaces to grow your business to the next level.

Outsource that task or keep it in-house? Download this free checklist of signs to help you decide ASAP. Click here!

What to Wear: Setting a Dress Code for Your Office

When you’re running a business, it’s tough to make time for trivialities like how people dress. Most people can dress appropriately for an office environment, right?

In most cases, yes. Most people understand what is appropriate to wear at work. They know to wear clean, sensible, non-revealing clothing that represents the business well. The dress requirements do not need to be formalized in a rulebook.

In fact, that’s how it works in many businesses. 45% of companies in the United States lack a dress code. The dress policies are merely implied. Many of the companies who do have dress requirements only address safety (work boots, eye protection, hair nets, long pants, etc.).

But at some point you’re bound to come across a person who doesn’t understand what’s appropriate and for whatever reason can’t pick up clues from other people. These individuals can make your other employees, customers, and vendors uncomfortable.

Even if you trust everyone’s work style, it’s helpful to have a written policy in case there’s a dispute or in the event that someone decides to change their routine.

You might think, “If someone is being inappropriate, I’ll address it with them privately.” That seems tactful, but rules are tough to enforce on an individual basis. It’s smarter to create a clear policy that applies to everyone.

Creating a dress code is a simple exercise, but it requires some careful considerations.

Ready to write your dress policy? Use this free template to get started!

Your dress code should reflect your culture

If your dress code doesn’t mesh with your culture, you’ll have a hard time hiring and retaining the right people. You’ll also make people uncomfortable in a work environment that doesn’t suit them.

“Ensure your guidelines are authentic to your business,” recommends human resource executive Ashley Wilczek.” If you are a progressive technology company employing millennials, requiring business suits and ties might not be the best fit.”

In most cases, it’s easier to define your company culture before worrying about a dress code. What type of company do you want to be? What do you want the work environment to be like? If you expect strict professionalism and a luxury appearance, suits and ties would be appropriate. But if you want a relaxed atmosphere of people who work on their own schedules, reduce your dress requirements.

Take common sense into account

Just like your culture, your dress code should consider your business’ purpose. Before you ban a type of dress, piercing or tattoo from your workplace, ask yourself if it really affects your business.

For instance, a law firm that regularly entertains clients would want to put on a professional appearance. Business formal attire would be reasonable. But if you lead a team of developers who work at desks all day and never see customers, jeans and T-shirts are usually fine.

Image: Tom Britt / Flickr
Image: Tom Britt / Flickr

Furthermore, your dress code should reach beyond clothing. Your dress code is an appropriate place to define other work environment policies that matter to you. You’ll want to include instructions for the following categories (if appropriate):

  • Tattoos
  • Piercings
  • Perfume/cologne
  • Makeup
  • Footwear
  • Dress code while traveling
  • Dress code on the customer’s site
  • Dress code for trade shows or conferences
  • Days or circumstances where the dress code is different (for instance, casual Fridays or scheduled days the investors visit)

Always abide by the law

There are no federal laws governing dress code policies. You may set whatever dress requirements you like as long as you do not discriminate on the basis of religion, age, gender, pregnancy, genetic information, race or disability.

It’s possible to discriminate against a protected class, even if the dress policy doesn’t do so explicitly. Disparate impacts are considered discrimination. Here are a few examples:

  • A hair length policy may discriminate against men whose religion prohibits cutting their hair.
  • A uniform policy that requires a specific garment that isn’t available in a size a pregnant woman needs is discriminatory.
  • A policy that requires a specific garment that doesn’t work with a disabled person’s medical device is discrimination, unless a reasonable accommodation is made.

A common mistake employers make is to implement a policy that creates a burden on one gender over another. Whatever burden you place on your employees should be equal to everyone, otherwise you risk a sexual discrimination lawsuit. In some states, for example, it’s unreasonable to require men to be clean shaven every morning because it’s a burden women don’t share.

Image: Highways England / Flickr
Image: Highways England / Flickr

Some states have their own protections, as well. Your state might protect workers from policies created on the basis of marital status, national origin, or sexual orientation. Make a quick call to your state’s labor department before you write a dress code policy, or consult with a human resources expert.

Follow your own code

Employees take their cues from the top. If you establish a dress code policy, be prepared to abide by it yourself every day. If your staff see you disregarding your own rules, two things will happen.

First, they’ll lose respect for you. Why would they respect someone who thinks they’re better than their own rules?

Second, they’ll disregard the policy as well. It might not happen right away, but eventually everyone will be dressing however they prefer.

So any standard you create should be one that you’re willing to meet. If you want to command respect and be treated like a leader, dress above your own dress code so others see that you take the work environment seriously.

Put the code in writing so it can be enforced

Policies are impossible to enforce unless they’re in writing. Include them in your employee handbook. They don’t have to be extensive, just available.

Human resources professional Suzanne Lucas recommends enforcing the policy consistently. “Companies get in trouble when they let the thin, gorgeous woman wear a micro-mini skirt, but tell the overweight woman to keep her skirts down to her knees,” she says. “If your dress code is reasonable to begin with, enforcing it is not generally a problem.”

Make sure your policy includes a structure of progressive disciplinary actions for dress code violations. These usually start with one or two verbal warnings, written warnings, and then serious consequences.

Let your policy evolve over time

Trends come and go. What was presentable yesterday may not be appropriate today, or vice versa. Three-piece suits were once the height of professionalism, but they hardly exist today. If new hires learn about your unusual dress code, you’ll struggle to bring in good talent.

Evaluate your dress code at least once a year. Have your employees contribute their thoughts as well. (This should be part of a broader review of your employee policies.) Make any changes so that your dress code reflects your business and culture.

Dress codes aren’t a substitute for good judgement

Just because you’ve developed a dress code doesn’t mean you or your employees can stop thinking for yourself. “No dress code can cover all contingencies so employees must exert a certain amount of judgment in their choice of clothing to wear to work,” says human resources expert Susan M. Heathfield. Encourage your team to speak with you if they have any questions.

Use this free template to create a dress code for your business!

We know that as a business leader, you don’t want to think about little details like a dress code. When there are customers to serve, marketing strategies to implement, and a product to build, it can be tough to tear yourself away from work that has immediate results and worry about office policies.

Nevertheless, your work environment matters. How your employees feel and behave at work can create lasting effects on your business. So a portion of your time must be spent developing and optimizing policies to structure their behavior and create a positive environment.

By starting with a dress code, you send a clear message to your employees that you take your business seriously, so they should too.

Hosting Meetings Without Wasting Everyone’s Time

That word makes many of us cringe.

Some of us can recount days of endless meetings that never seemed to solve any problems, but they excel at preventing us from doing actual work.

According to Atlassian, employees attend, on average, 31 hours of meetings per month, but half of that time is wasted. $37 billion is spent annually on salaries for people to sit in pointless meetings.

In that study, participants were asked how they’ve felt about meetings or how they behaved during them. Here are their responses.

how-people-behave-in-meetings

We use meetings to facilitate discussion and collaborate. They shouldn’t get in the way of work, but that happens in businesses all over the world, no matter their size.

Nevertheless, some meetings are necessary. We have to talk to our teammates and face-to-face communication is fastest.

It’s smart to look for reasons to cut out meetings. If there’s no clear purpose, don’t waste everyone’s time. If you have to hold a meeting, however, you should take steps to make them productive.

Download this guide to help plan a productive, hassle-free meeting.

Restrict the number of attendees

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It seems like adding more people to a meeting will accomplish more work and present better ideas. In actuality, large meetings present a significant handicap.

Parkinson’s Law of Triviality, coined by historian and author Cyril Northcote Parkinson, tells us that people in groups tend to give an unreasonable amount of weight to pointless decisions. The law is based on an event where a committee was convened to debate the designs of a nuclear power plant.

But the group did not consist of engineers, physicists, builders or energy specialists, so they spent all of their time discussing a triviality they could understand: the materials needed to build a bike shed.

Today this practice is called “bikeshedding.” It applies to instances where a group focuses on a trivial component of a larger issue, or when someone present is compelled to say anything to justify their attendance, even if it adds no value.

You can prevent bikeshedding by only inviting people to your meetings who can add value to the topic. Don’t invite people to meetings just so they are informed. If their thoughts and opinions aren’t necessary, catch them up with meeting notes or a recap email.

But let’s say you have a lot of people who can provide value. It makes sense to invite a lot of thoughtful minds to a meeting, right? Surely many heads are better than one.

Actually, no. A University of Minnesota study found that group dynamics affect our behavior. When given a problem, people overwhelmingly come up with more creative and efficient solutions when they work alone. When others are around, we’re willing to conform to the group, even when we know the group is wrong.

Psychologist Solomon Asch proved this with an eye-opening study where subjects were given an easy vision test. When paid actors gave false answers, the subjects repeated those answers in order to conform to the group.

Even if someone’s opinion is relevant, that doesn’t mean they should be at the meeting. Brainstorming sessions don’t actually generate good ideas, because the dynamic of the group plays too strong an influence. A particularly influential person will dominate the meeting, causing everyone else to defer to them so absolutely that a meeting wasn’t necessary in the first place.

The solution, therefore, is to reduce the meeting attendance list as much as possible. Amazon limits meetings to the number of people who can consume two pizzas. Google harshly restricts meetings to 10 people. However you do it, keep people who can’t add value to a meeting out of it.

Schedule meetings during unproductive work time

It would be great if our employees were 100% productive all day long, but that just isn’t the case. We all have periods of the day where we’re more focused. Smart employees adjust their work habits so they exploit their high productive hours as much as possible.

Behavioral science tells us that for most people, those productive hours are the first two hours of the day after a person becomes fully awake. At this time, our bodies and minds are rested and we haven’t taken on a significant cognitive load of the day’s events.

And yet, most meetings are scheduled for morning time slots, even though productivity isn’t necessary. We don’t need 100% focus to discuss last month’s figures or update the team. This time is better spent in deep work, pushing through challenges and being creative.

Leave mornings for uninterrupted work. Resist the urge to schedule early or mid-morning meetings during this period because it can take a person 25 minutes to refocus on their original work. Protect your team’s morning burst of productivity by scheduling meetings after lunch when your team begins to lose steam. The optimal meeting time is 3 P.M. on Tuesdays.

Try to schedule meetings back-to-back as much as possible. This is called time-blocking. It puts your mind in absorption mode and leaves other portions of your day available for production.

Cut your meeting durations down

If you schedule 30 minutes for a discussion, but the attendees reach consensus in 15 minutes, what do most meeting organizers do? Do they cut the meeting short and send everyone away?

Generally, no. They spend the remaining 15 minutes seeming to work.

When you define a period of time for work, work has a convenient way of filling that slot, even though quality isn’t likely to improve. This is another law coined by Parkinson, succinctly called Parkinson’s Law.

Our attention is limited anyway. Our attention spans last 15 minutes at the most and then our minds move on to other things that we deem more important. This effect becomes more dramatic if the attendees feel the meeting’s purpose has been fulfilled.

As economist and author John Kenneth Galbraith once said, “Meetings are a great trap… They are indispensable when you don’t want to do anything.”

You can make your meetings more productive by scheduling them for no more than 15 minutes. Do not tack on any extra “just in case” time. Set a specific agenda so everyone knows what the meeting is working toward. If your meeting fulfills its purpose before the scheduled deadline, end the meeting right away and let people get back to work. (Pre-defined goals can actually cut time off meetings.)

If your meetings regularly run over their allotted time, you can speed them up by hosting them in locations without seating. Software teams need daily meetings to coordinate work, but they don’t want to devote a big portion part of the day, so they hold standup meetings. Walking meetings are useful to hasten the pace of a discussion, and they also inspire creativity.

Provide lots of documents

provide-meeting-documents

Before you host or attend a meeting, ask yourself if it’s necessary. Plenty of meetings occur all over the world every day that never needed to happen in the first place.

In many cases, the meeting objective can be met with a simple email or document exchange. If the purpose of the meeting is to distribute information, that’s better done electronically.

Many discussions are best hosted online, as well. If you require in-depth responses from a group, use a chat or email thread (Slack is a great tool for this) to organize a discussion that doesn’t erode the quality of the information by forcing answers right now.

Provide as much material as possible at the start of the meeting so attendees show up prepared with thoughtful questions and valuable comments. Give them as much time as possible to consider the topic. Send this along with a clear goal for the meeting (i.e. “To identify and distribute project deliverables”) and agenda if possible.

During the meeting, have someone take minute notes. (No, not an actual minute-by-minute itinerary, but a general recap of the discussion and any decisions made.) They can be spread to people who didn’t attend the meeting, or used by attendees and other people in the organization as a reference. If you’ve never taken meeting minute notes before, here’s a great guide.

Finally, follow up your meetings with a quick email. Remind the attendees what was discussed, what decisions were made, and any actions items for teams or individuals.

Most importantly, use your follow up as an opportunity to solicit feedback. “Get a sense of whether or not your team thinks the purpose you set out to achieve at the beginning was actually fulfilled,” recommends Richard Feloni, management strategy expert with Business Insider. “Be open to suggestions on how the meeting can be improved.”

Not sure what the ideal meeting looks like? Use this free template!

Going forward

It’s smart to think of meetings like a tool. You wouldn’t use a tool if you didn’t need one, and you certainly wouldn’t use a tool longer than you necessary.

If you reduce your amount and duration of meetings, give them a clear purpose, and document them well, you’ll put a lot more time into your employee’s (and your own) hands for work.

How Much Office Space Square Footage Do You Need?

When you begin your search for office space, one of the first questions you’ll consider is “How much space do we need?”

If you rent an office that’s too small, you’ll end up right back where you started: Struggling to complete work in a cramped space, climbing over each other and equipment, and embarrassed to bring clients or family into your work environment.

Then again, you are trying to grow a business. You need to protect your cash flow. You don’t want to pay for more space than you need. Every foot of unused space is wasted money that could be used elsewhere every month.

So how much space should you rent? Well, we have to consider a few things…

Free download: Factors That May Increase Your Space Needs in the Future

Your company will change

First, let’s acknowledge that you’ll never have the right amount of space. Your business will change often. You’ll hire and lose team members. You might buy or sell a piece of equipment. Jenny needs her big potted plant beside her, which takes up space in the aisle. It will never be perfect.

Your business will change often, but you’ll sign a rental agreement for at least a year. There will always be moments of discomfort, whether that means everyone is cramped, or you routinely get frustrated every time you look at that empty office.

In most cases, you can’t shave off a few feet without moving a wall. That isn’t practical, anyway. In some turnkey office spaces, however, you can adjust the amount of space you rent if the property allows. For instance, you can expand your agreement from two offices to three without construction or too much negotiating.

Our advice is to consider your company beyond the first year. Consider your future growth as well. If you expect to have 50% more people working for you before you expect to change locations, you’ll need an office with room for newcomers. If things go as planned, what will your company look like in three, five or ten years?

How much space people need to work

how-much-space-to-work

How much space you need will depend on your business and team. If, for example, you need large pieces of equipment like an architect’s printer or a copier, your numbers will deviate from the averages, but these will get you started. (Source)

  • Typical desk worker (with computer): 125 to 200 square feet per work station.
  • Owner/leader/manager workstations: 175 to 225 square feet per work station.
  • Conference space: 25 square feet per chair + 50 square feet.
  • Reception area: 10 square feet per chair + 100 square feet.
  • Lunch/break room: 25 square feet per chair + 75 square feet.

For more specific information regarding your needs, check out this office space calculator.

Usable vs. rented space

Keep in mind that spaces of equal sizes aren’t equally usable. “Look for spaces that are more efficient, like rectangular spaces versus angled corners of a building,” recommends real estate advisor Denis Mehigan. “No two spaces with the same square footage are the same. Floor plan and layout matter.”

Coworking spaces and executive office suites provide a lot of flexibility to businesses in terms of space. In these arrangements, shared spaces and amenities can be scaled up or down to save you money. You can actually have access to more space than you rent.

For instance, let’s say you want access to a conference room, but you only intend to use it once each month when a client visits. It would be wasteful to rent an office with a conference room for such little use. Then again, you want to impress that client.

It’s possible to rent offices in a building that allows you to share amenities with other tenants. You could rent a few offices on a floor with a conference room. Even though you only rent a small portion of the building, you still get the conference room. It’s possible to share reception areas, bathrooms, and lunch/break rooms as well.

Bringing clients around

office-space-for-clients

If one of the reasons you need an office is because you expect to entertain clients, it’s smarter to opt for office space that’s slightly bigger than you need.

“The spaces we inhabit influence how we act and how we feel,” says architect Barbara Holzer. Your office space will affect the feelings of your clients when they visit.

The size of your office can affect the perception of your company in several ways, so be careful. A roomy office where everyone is comfortable exhibits success and financial security, both traits that might make someone want to do business with you.

An office that’s too large for your company (and has lots of unused space) exhibits wasteful spending and poor planning. Your clients and customers won’t like to see that.

Then again, cramped offices might indicate that you didn’t plan for the future, can’t afford to grow, or aren’t interested in treating your employees well. Your job is to find a comfortable balance so that your clients are quietly impressed.

Don’t forget about your employees

Finally, it’s important to put economics aside for a minute and consider your employees’ happiness and the culture of the work environment.

“Your company’s office plays a big role in shaping its culture,” says Jerry Jao, CEO of Retention Science. “Equipment and décor can influence productivity and mood, and the floor plan can facilitate the flow of energy and ideas.”

If you want your team to be productive, you have to make them comfortable. You have to make them enjoy the time they spend at work. A survey by the American Society for Interior Designers found that “employees cited their physical environment to be one of the most important factors influencing their decisions to accept or leave jobs, tying for second with benefits.”

41% of that survey’s respondents said the workplace impacted their decision to accept a job. 51% said it would impact their decision to leave a job. So if you want to hire great talent and retain your employees, you need to create an environment they like.

Often, that means renting more space than you need. Here are some examples where culture and employee preferences might affect how much space you need.

  • The nature of your work means a nontraditional furniture layout keeps your team more productive, but it doesn’t use space efficiently.
  • You sell yourself as a confidential vendor, so rather than host your client’s data on the cloud, you need space for a server rack in the offices.
  • Even though you keep retail products in a warehouse, you need table space for examining and photographing samples.
  • Everyone likes to work in an environment with lots of plants.

Final thoughts: Give yourself context

We’ve given you a few things to consider along with some hard numbers, but they won’t mean much until you have some context. If you don’t work in real estate, it’s hard to picture in your head what a 2,000 square foot office looks like unless you’re standing in it.

When you start searching for office space, it’s important that you view multiple units before making a decision. When we help people find office space, we always setup multiple viewings.

The love-at-first-sight syndrome is real, especially for business owners moving into their first office. They picture watercooler chats, busy crunch days, and office pranks, but they fail to evaluate potential spaces objectively.

Plan adequately for the future with this list of factors that may increase your office space needs.

Even if you fall in love with the first unit you see, you need to have an idea of what else is available. 2,000 square feet in a rectangular room is very different than 2,000 square feet in a rectangular room with a central pillar. Arm yourself with numbers, but make your decisions based on what you see.

Let us set you up with some no-obligation viewings. Start your search today.

Smart Strategies to Improve Employee Retention

If it hasn’t happened already, at some point one of your employees will leave your business. You might receive a thorough explanation, but most of the time you’ll only get a vague excuse.

On the surface, you understand that people change jobs for lots of reasons – most are perfectly reasonable. But as a business leader, turnover is frustrating for three reasons.

  1. Now you have to spend time and money hiring and training someone new.
  2. Productivity will be suppressed during the transition.
  3. Plans you made around that employee have to be abandoned.

Take it from a human resource expert: “Failing to retain a key employee is costly to the bottom line, in addition to organizational issues such as training time and investment, lost knowledge, insecure coworkers and a costly candidate search aside.”

You can’t expect your employees to stick around forever, so you have to take retention seriously.

Free download: Checklist: Encourage Your Employees to Stick Around

Create opportunities for growth

employee-career-growth

In most cases, your employees are looking to grow in their positions and expand their careers. They want more responsibility, more authority, and, of course, more money. They don’t expect these things for free (well, most don’t), but they want the opportunity. If they can’t move up, they’ll move on.

Unless you’re a large company with a well-defined organizational hierarchy, you won’t have a clear growth path. You can’t commit to salary growth charts. You can’t point to a manager and say “When he moves up, you can take his job.” This makes creating growth opportunities a challenge because even you don’t know the next step.

The growth problem is especially difficult if your staff is composed of millennials (people born between the early 80s and 2000). Millennials have a notorious reputation as job hoppers and it’s not without merit.

A survey by Deloitte explains the situation well: “During the next year, if given the choice, one in four Millennials would quit his or her current employer to join a new organization or to do something different. That figure increases to 44 percent when the time frame is expanded to two years.”

By 2020, 66% of millennials hope to have moved to a new position. Only 16% see themselves working for their current employer for a decade or more. This lack of loyalty is a challenge every employer should account for, because millennials are the largest segment of the workforce.
So what’s the solution?

1. Provide lots of career and professional development

The best employees want to growth their skillset and become better at their job. You raise the chance of keeping employees if they feel like you’re investing in them.

Send your team to training seminars, workshops, conferences, and meetups of similarly talented people. Give each team member a budget for training. Tell them to suggest a learning opportunity within the budget for your consideration. You get smarter employees and they get to control their growth. This can be a big perk for some people, like database administrators who can attend a conference on a cruise boat.

2. Set a trajectory for financial growth

Everyone wants to make more money. We tell our teams that we want their loyalty, but if you told them they wouldn’t earn a penny more than they do now, they’ll quickly find new work. People aren’t entirely motivated by salary. In fact, there’s a tenuous relationship between compensation and satisfaction, but no one likes a lack of growth.

You may not be able to say “Do X Y and Z and you’ll a raise,” but you should be able to set conditions for financial growth. Tell your employees what has to happen within the business for them to earn more money.

For instance, you might say something like “Once we pick up new accounts worth $200,000/year, I can give you a 5% raise.” This approach not only makes it clear that financial growth is obtainable, but it ties the employee’s performance to your goals. In this example, the employee is going to look for ways to bring in new business because it affects his income.

Develop the right culture

Image: TopRank Marketing / Flickr
Image: TopRank Marketing / Flickr

Your organization’s culture is an intangible quality that’s critically important to your team. Sadly, many organizations neglect to foster a culture that’s healthy and aligned with their business goals.

Your culture should emphasize the significance of each employee’s contribution. A team member should feel involved in the company’s progress. They should feel engaged, which has numerous benefits. They want to believe they are a part of something, not just an easily replaceable cog in a machine.

Making your employees feel valued is easier said than done. 68% of employees don’t feel like their contributions have significant purpose or impact on their companies.
Fortunately, company cultures are far easier to manufacture in smaller organizations. They can be influenced quicker and the results are realized sooner.

1. Hire the right people

The easiest way to foster a desired culture is to hire people that fit. They don’t need any special training, coaching, or readjusting. During your interview process, ask questions that gauge applicants in areas that relate to your values. For example, if your company values impeccable customer service, ask applicants how they would respond to certain customer scenarios.

2. Squash gossip right away

CEO Matt Ehrlichman says “[Gossip] is the antithesis of transparency and collaboration.” Even if it’s not cruel, gossip erodes the company culture. Over time, people build cliques. These groups reinforce their own comfort by putting down other people, which prevents relationships from forming based on goals and accomplishments

3. Discipline/coach consistently

Poor behavior has to be addressed, especially if it violates a written policy. “If behavior doesn’t improve with the individual in question then some may assume the behavior is considered an acceptable way to deliver results,” says Tim Kuppler, Director of Culture and Organization Development for Human Synergistics.

Furthermore, don’t punish competent people who violate minor policies. Be willing to judge the spirit of your rules, not the letter, especially in cases where the employee’s actions serve your goals. For example, let’s say an employee resolved a customer problem with a solution that ordinarily would have required your approval. If the employee made a judgement call because the customer was irate and you weren’t around, don’t write them up for violating a policy when they actually saved the account.

4. Create a transparent environment

Like I said earlier, people want to understand their own contribution to the business. Make your company goals and strategies available so everyone understands the plan. Empower them to work without being micromanaged. Give them access to your time.

Use this checklist to position your business to retain your talent.

Figure out why

Most importantly, determine why your employees leave. Do they feel under-compensated? Do they dislike their coworkers? Do they feel stagnant with nowhere to grow? Do they just hate the desk chairs?

You can’t craft a retention strategy until you figure out why people leave. You won’t be able to respond to many of their reasons. You can’t reduce their commute, pay them double, or switch industries. But some might give some feedback that helps you improve overall retention. The best way to gather this information is through exit interviews after the employee has committed to leaving.

Finally, put your retention strategies in place before people exit. Talking someone off a ledge is pointless in nearly all cases. Once they’ve decided to go, there’s little you can do to stop them. You have to be proactive.

Look for These Warning Signs Before You Rent an Office

As a business owner, there’s nothing more stressful than a poor relationship with your landlord. You can fire bad employees and clients whenever you want, but you can’t separate yourself as easily from the person who owns your workspace.

It’s critical, therefore, that you take every precaution you can to avoid getting into toxic rental situations. While you can’t see the future and some problems are inevitable, you can mitigate the risk by looking out for these warning signs. If any of these become apparent during your viewings or conversations with property owners/managers, you should find a new work environment.

(Related: 4 Things to Look for When Viewing Potential Office Space)

Free download: Critical Questions to Ask the Property Owner Before Renting Office Space

The exterior and common areas look neglected

office-building-exterior

Even if the interior of your unit looks immaculate, you should look at the exterior of the building and any common areas, such as hallways, break rooms, bathrooms, lobbies, stairwells, etc.

A property manager or building owner may spruce up the interior because that’s what most people care about. But maintaining the exterior of the building is often costly and time consuming.

Even if your unit looks fine, you have to assume the lowest form of maintenance is what you’ll end up with. So if the lawn is unkempt, the parking lot is littered, and the lobby is a mess, assume your unit will end up in that condition one day and the owner won’t do anything about it.

This is a bigger problem if your business intends to bring clients to the office. Your clients will judge everything they see, even if it’s not technically your problem. A dirty bathroom will make your clients wonder what else you aren’t managing, even if that bathroom is community space.

“I’ll show you a similar unit”

Sometimes less-than-honest landlords will offer to show you a unit that “looks exactly like the one you’ll be renting.” They offer all types of excuses. They might say that it’s occupied and the tenant doesn’t give him permission to enter (which is nonsense because every landlord writes a walkthrough provision into the lease) or it’s under construction (again this is nonsense because it doesn’t prevent you from seeing it).

Never sign a rental agreement unless you have physically stood in the unit mentioned on the lease. We always tell our clients to arrange a full viewing of the unit and property they’ll be renting. If the landlord says he/she can’t show you something that you’ll be paying for, run away.

The owner doesn’t want to sign an agreement

People make a lot of mistakes regarding rental agreements. The biggest one you could make is not having one.

Property owners sometimes want to avoid leases for different reasons. Some want to avoid paying taxes on the income. In some cases, the space isn’t zoned for commercial use or the owner doesn’t have the right paperwork/licenses/certifications in place. In the worst cases, the owner is actively looking to take advantage of you.

Truthfully, this happens more often in residential renting than commercial office space, but it does happen. Even if the property owner offers you an attractive arrangement in exchange for untraceable cash payments, it’s still in your best interest to have an agreement.

Here are a few problems you could experience if you don’t have a rental agreement.

1. You could be evicted early.

Since there’s no official agreement, the property owner can have you removed at any time. In some states you can prove occupancy without a lease, but that takes time, stress, and money to fight. Experts at Real Estate Lawyers agree. They also suggest a common way un-leased renters can be evicted:

“It is better to rent commercial property with a lease agreement, given the possible liability associated with renting. For example, if someone does not have a lease and their property owner decides to sell the property where the business is located, there is no lease to prevent the new owners from giving notice that they would like you to vacate the property. Without a lease, the new owners would be able to tell you to find a new location for your business.”

2. You could lose any money you put into the unit.

Small businesses don’t usually incur a lot of expenses when moving into a unit, but there are some. For instance, you might buy office furniture that fits the space or maybe a yearly parking pass in a nearby garage. If you are suddenly evicted, you could lose those investments.

3. Your rent could suddenly increase.

If you don’t have a lease, there’s technically no legal rental price. The property owner can demand a bigger rent at any time and your only recourse is to move. Sometimes unscrupulous landlords will bait-and-switch you by letting you in without a lease and then requiring you to sign one at a higher rent.

4. The owner might not perform maintenance or repairs.

Lack of a rental agreement means the landlord isn’t legally liable for basic repairs (excluding repairs relating to health and safety, which they would have to handle even if the unit was empty). You’ll have to pay out of your pocket even for the simplest things, like new lightbulbs or worn carpeting.

Remember: A rental agreement should be in place as much to protect you as the property owner. If the landlord refuses, so should you.

The owner won’t answer questions

office-space-warning-signs

Naturally, you’ll have questions for the property owner or manager. Who will handle repairs? Who do you call if the building is locked? Who do you call if someone is parked in your spot? How are conflicts resolved between tenants?

In turnkey spaces, the tenant relies on the property owner for more services than they would in a traditional lease. The owner might pay for high-speed Internet, phone lines, a shared receptionist, or a hundred other things. As a potential tenant, you would have questions about all of this.

But if the landlord doesn’t have answers to your questions, they either aren’t taking the arrangement seriously, don’t know what they’re doing, or don’t intend to abide by any of the promises they’re making. Either scenario is bad for you.

A good landlord that wants to provide a quality space and build a long term relationship with you should be happy to answer your questions. It’s in their best interest. If you get vague responses or “don’t worry about it,” look elsewhere.

The owner is difficult to deal with

Even if there’s nothing wrong with the unit, you can get an impression of what renting will be like by having a simple conversation with the property owner (or whomever is your point-of-contact). Assess this person carefully. Are they pleased to have a new tenant? Are they proud of their building and business? Are they protective of their other tenants?

People are usually on their best behavior when they’re on first dates and job interviews. If the property owner is distant, distracted, dismissive, or doesn’t seem to have time for you, chances are that won’t change once you’ve signed an agreement. Don’t waste your time trying to work with someone who isn’t willing to invest into the relationship.

Download this free list of questions you should ask at any office space viewing.

Whatever you do, don’t settle

There are likely more available office units available than you know. Most are off the main road without signage. You don’t have to settle on the first property you see. The property owner/manager might try to influence your decision with something like “There isn’t much else available in the area,” but that probably isn’t true.

Make sure you find the right space for your business. The success of your business and your team depends on it. We insist that our customers schedule multiple viewings so they can get a feel for what’s available and what they need. Find your next office today.

Must-Know Productivity Techniques for You and Your Team

When you’re building a business, you don’t have the resources for extra people. Maybe someday you’ll have a generous budget, but today you need to get as much work out of your current team as possible.

Getting the most out of your team doesn’t mean working them to death. If you overwork your employees and cause them stress, you’ll struggle retaining talent. Plus you’ll build a reputation as an employer who doesn’t care about employee happiness, which can make hiring problematic.

However, you can make a few optimizations to your workflow, office space, and process to squeeze out a bit more productivity.

Free resource: The 5 Best Productivity Models in the World

1. Schedule Everything

Most of us use a calendar to keep track of our lives, but we don’t use it for everything. You probably mark down important meetings, phone calls or deadlines, but you don’t schedule 15 minutes for household chores or 3 hours to have dinner and watch a movie with your spouse.

Scheduling everything is a critical way to make sure everything gets done, including your personal responsibilities and a bit of healthy entertainment. You want your team to have balanced lives so they can give you their focus at work.

2. The (10+2)*5 Formula

Taking breaks is critical to working productively, but those breaks have to be timed properly. If your breaks interrupt key moments of thinking (like when you’re interrupted by someone else), they can actually inhibit your overall productivity. This is because it takes time for your mind to orient itself to a problem, even an old one.

The (10+2)*5 formula is simple: Work for ten minutes and break for two minutes. Do this five times consecutively before taking any longer breaks (like lunch or quitting for the day). You’ll find that the reward of a two minute break keeps you on track during those 10 minutes.

3. Productivity Colors

We’ve known for a while that colors impact our brain’s performance and motivation. A study by Science Daily discovered that red and blue impact productivity.

Red increases attention to detail and focus. It’s great for reviewing documents, editing materials, or studying proposals. Blue ignites creativity and inspirational thought. Use it when you’re trying to solve problems or write messaging or software code.

4. Look for Shortcuts

Working more productively doesn’t always mean working harder. In most cases it means finding ways to automate tasks. Do you find yourself completing a regular task that doesn’t take much brainpower? Find a way to automate it. It’s not worth your time.

Most importantly, encourage your team to do the same. Tell them openly that you would rather them spend time on creative problem solving, not paper-pushing. If you don’t already, consider investing in licensed software designed to solve your specific administrative problems.

You should also look for tasks that can eliminated from your workload. You should only be working on projects that provide value to the business. If you find yourself doing low-value work… just stop doing it.

5. Assign a Task Master

This is a lesson taken from software developers who use a system called Scrum to organize team activities. A Scrum team has a leader who organizes a task board. The task board has columns for “upcoming,” “in progress,” “ready for review,” and “complete.” Post-it notes are used for each task and moved through the columns.

The Task Master’s job is to prioritize the tasks, assign them to team members, and manage the task board. This is a useful technique when you have a lot of work to do that can be completed by anyone, or are working under a tight deadline.

6. Ban Gadgets from Desks

A study by Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers found that the average person checks his/her phone 150 times per day. We don’t think that checking out notifications takes long, but it quickly adds up. Leaving the phone on the desk makes the device almost irresistible, but it’s easy to forget about when it’s put into a drawer.

You can eliminate the distraction by creating a policy that requires phones or tablets to be put away during work hours. This could be a challenging policy to enforce and you might actually struggle retaining talent if you come across as a micromanager, so you’ll have to decide if this is right for your company.

7. Quick Morning Workouts

A few minutes of exercise is proven to boost productivity throughout the entire day. Some companies even direct their employees in a bit of morning calisthenics.

You don’t have to suffer through an hour at the gym early in the morning, but you should implement a daily 10-minute workout. Take a brisk walk or a bike ride, or do some of these quick, no-equipment exercises.

8. 15-Minute Meetings

Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. This means that if you schedule something for 30 minutes, it will take 30 minutes. If you schedule it for an hour, it will take an hour. This happens often in meetings because people feel compelled to stay to the end, even if the meeting functionally ended early.

“Make meetings more productive or don’t have them,” says productivity coach Ciara Conlon. “Meetings waste an enormous amount of money each year for organizations. Too many people are in attendance that don’t have to be there, and most of them are replying to emails and focusing on something other than the meeting.”

If you find yourself sitting bored in meetings it’s because you don’t need to be there. Our brains can only focus on a single topic for 10 to 15 minutes anyway. After that, you’ll start doodling and looking at your phone. Give meetings a short duration. If you meet its objective early, disband the group.

9. Batch Your Tasks

Batching is a form of time management where you dedicate blocks of time to certain task (or tasks that relate to a theme). It allows you to maximize concentration, creativity, and of course, productivity. It also suppresses fatigue and stress.

You see, we struggle to switch between tasks. “Multi-tasking” is nonsense. We can be more effective if we combine similar tasks that require similar resources so our minds can operate in one state at a time.

“Batching tasks works because you’re maintaining the same frame of mind for all the tasks involved,” says self-improvement expert Steve Scott.

Many people like the Pomodoro Technique, but it doesn’t allow for much variation. Instead of sticking to a hard rule, just plan your day to group similar tasks together. Do all of your financial work at one, all of your software coding at another, all of your phone calls at yet another.

10. Turn One Task into Many

Sometimes a big project can be overwhelming. Instead of trying to keep everything sorted in your head, break down large tasks into manageable pieces. Don’t be afraid to drill deeply. For instance, instead of putting “Complete financial report” on your to-do list, add the following:

  • Gather sales data from Tim
  • Gather retention data from Janice
  • Pull online purchase data from dashboard
  • Find report from last month
  • Format financial report
  • Get sales team comments on report
  • Send report to Mike

Listing projects like this may seem like more tasks, but they’re far simpler because each item is pretty basic. There’s little thinking required. Plus, you have a high level view of the project so you can get multiple pieces moving, like requests for more information (which may take time).

Optimize your productivity by using one of these productivity models.

Optimizing Your Team

Productivity is a fickle thing. What one person does to stay productive might distract another person. People are different, so it’s your job as a manager to uncover what makes your team productive and steer them in that direction.

Furthermore, you can’t be productive working out of someone’s basement or meeting in coffee shops. You need office space that’s easy to set up and move into. Search for offices today.

Coworking Spaces: The Way of the Future

If you’re a remote worker, working out of your spare bedroom or basement can be isolating. Even small teams who meet in someone’s dining room or at the coffee shop can feel separated from the rest of the workforce. Over time, isolation can lead to fatigue and poor productivity.

Furthermore, working in environments that aren’t made for work can be distracting. You’re exposed to stimuli that isn’t conducive to productivity. People in the coffee shop are loud. There aren’t any seats at the library. Or maybe your spouse wonders why you couldn’t do a load of laundry since “you’re home all day.”

If you’re one of those people who struggle working from home or in public places, you aren’t alone. Lifestyles are changing, and many people are now capable of working away from the traditional office setting (especially the millennial generation).

Make sure your coworking space has everything you need with this checklist!

What is coworking?

Image: Zona Coworking / Flickr
Image: Zona Coworking / Flickr

Coworking is based on the idea that working alone doesn’t mean you have to be alone. You can still work in an environment designed for work. “Coworking is still an emerging industry and, while many people are now familiar with the term, it’s sometimes hard to explain,” says Diana McLaren of New Worker Magazine.

A coworking space is an office environment with all of the basic work amenities. There are desks, chairs, proper lighting, and access to Wi-Fi and power. In the best coworking spaces, you’ll find tables for small and large groups, quiet spaces for concentration, free snacks and coffee, and a clean, trendy design that clients can respect.

The most luxurious coworking spaces (and the most expensive) offer some incredible features that might be worth the money. Green Desk offers bike storage and a mail service. CoCo has a room filled with game consoles, dart boards and a foosball table. Hera Hub gives you access to paid staff who will work for you.

You’ll find all sorts of people using coworking spaces. Freelancers and solopreneurs are the most common type, but there are plenty of teams who enjoy the simplicity and flexibility. It’s common for solo workers to meet one another, collaborate, and even do business together in a coworking space. For some people, it’s a fantastic networking tactic.

Typically, coworking spaces charge by the seat. You can buy access on a daily, monthly and yearly basis. Permanent desk spaces (where you have an assigned spot and can leave your stuff each day) cost about $387/month on average. Flexible spaces (where you find your own seat wherever you can) cost about $195/month on average. If a coworking space has a large conference room for use, there may be a reservation fee. Most spaces offer special rates for teams.

While there’s nothing preventing large teams from using coworking space, at a certain point (usually around six or seven full time team members), it may be smarter to rent a dedicated office space. In some coworking spaces, seats and desks are first-come-first-serve. If a large team is using a popular coworking space, finding enough adjacent seating can be difficult, which makes collaboration tough.

You can rent adjacent desks in a permanent-desk coworking space, but those cost more. Fortunately, bigger teams can get the same flexibility in a turnkey office space.

What’s the future of coworking?

Deskmag’s 2016 Coworking Forecast found the coworking trend will continue. They discovered that 62% of coworking space owners want to expand their spaces, and one out of three are looking to open another. 80% of coworking space members plan to stay where they are for another year and that overall satisfaction with the model is rising.

According to the Small Business Administration, there are 28 million small businesses in the United States, which account for 54% of all sales. A majority of people work for small businesses. Even though “corporate America” has been downsizing and outsourcing outside the country for years, the small business market has been growing. The number of startups have increased and their failure rate has declined.

This type of environment is perfect for the shared work model, which is why it’s becoming a permanent part of the American workstyle. Coworking spaces are popping up everywhere. Some are big players, like WeWork, which is valued at $16 billion.

“Coworking represents less than 1 percent of the world’s office space. But that tiny percentage, which represents nearly 11,000 shared workspaces exist around the globe, is certain to grow, according to many experts,” says Patrick Sisson on Curbed.

As workers divide into smaller, more flexible companies, they’ll need amenities that allow them to enjoy the benefits of a large business (having a trendy, comfortable work environment) without the cost.

Why work in a coworking space?

benefits-coworking

The benefits of coworking spaces extend beyond costs. There’s a good chance a coworking environment is right for you and your team.

1. Coworking exposes you to more people

Unlike traditional offices, coworkers work for a range of companies in different industries. There’s no direct competition between them. There are no internal office politics to deal with. Don’t like someone? Stop talking to them. There’s no pressure to behave a certain way.

You’ll also work near people with varying skillsets. There’s likely a programmer, a writer, and an executive somewhere in the room. Over time, you’ll learn about how your “coworkers” are adding value to the world, and you’ll be able to lean on each other for help.

2. Coworkers have more autonomy

Coworking spaces are usually available outside normal businesses hours. Early birds and night owls can work in a professional setting at their preferred time. They can choose to work in quiet spaces for focus, or communal spaces for collaboration and interaction. Coworkers are the type of people who prefer autonomous lifestyles, so a working environment that supports that is useful.

3. Coworking adds structure to liquid schedules

Autonomy is beneficial to the modern worker, but so is a little bit of structure. Coworking puts you in an environment where work is expected. Even though comforts are available, it’s still a working space that keeps you motivated.

A coworking office is a far more productive environment than a living room couch or a coffee shop. Plus there’s a community of people to silently judge you if you decide to blow off the day and play video games at your desk.

4. Coworking creates a community

Even though the members of a coworking space aren’t employed together, there is still a sense of community. For the most part, coworkers have a lot in common: They work for small or solo businesses, they are successful enough to afford rent, and they’re driven to work in a professional environment that limits distractions and spurs productivity. Socializing isn’t forced, but it’s available.

Furthermore, each coworking space has its own vibe and feel. Some are trendy, designed for young, tech-savvy and creative people. Some are modern and stark, designed for corporate folk. Others are prim and classic, designed for lawyers and other professionals. They come in all shapes and sizes.

Download this free checklist: Does Coworking Space Have Everything You Need?

So is coworking right for you?

Unfortunately, I can’t answer that for you. If you have a large team, then probably not. You need a dedicated space so everyone can be together. But if you’re alone or working with two or three other people, coworking might be a good arrangement.

If you’d like to look into coworking spaces for yourself and/or your team, contact us.

Designing a Productive Office Environment

Your office is more than the place you do business. It’s the heart of your company. If the heart doesn’t pump energy to the rest of the body (you and your team), your work will suffer.

Productivity is on everyone’s mind these days. How do we get more done in less time? How do you improve the quality of your work without disrupting the balance of your lives?

You don’t need to hire an expensive office designer to create a productive work space. Nor do you need pricey office perks like ping-pong tables, nap pods, or beer fridges. For small, growing businesses, those aren’t options anyway.

In a turnkey office space, you don’t have the luxury of redesigning your space. Want to blow down that wall? A generous property owner may give you that freedom, but don’t count on it. They typically want to preserve the space so it’s easy to rent in the future.

But that doesn’t mean you can neglect office design. There’s overwhelming evidence that a carefully designed office can increase employee well-being, happiness, and productivity. You just need to make some basic changes.

Use this easy checklist to create your own productive office space.

Comfortable lighting

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Lighting is an often overlooked office feature. Poor or painful lighting can cause fatigue, headaches, and eyestrain. Working in poor lighting conditions over long periods of time can actually cause depression.

According to a study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, consistent light exposure during the day makes workers sleep longer and better at night, feel inclined to participate in physical activities, and report a better quality of life.

Dr. Ivy Cheung, co-author of that study, told CNN that “light is the most important synchronizing agent for the brain and body.” It improves mood, communication, focus, and even regulates physiological functions, like blood pressure and heart rate.

It’s a simple formula: Healthy light = healthy people = better work.

Natural light is the best lighting for work, so for best results, open the blinds or use daylight color balanced CFL bulbs. They’re naturally energizing. Moods and productivity will improve.

Ergonomics and appearance

A person can’t be productive if their back hurts, their chair is too low, or if any of their equipment creates discomfort. Just using a computer can be painful, says OrthoInfo: “Under certain circumstances and for vulnerable individuals, frequent computer use that involves awkward postures, repetition, and forceful exertions may be related to nerve, muscle, tendon, and ligament damage.”

Supply your team with equipment that facilitates comfort for your specific working environment. For example, if your team spends hours sitting idly, you need ergonomic chairs for maximum comfort and monitors positioned parallel to the worker’s neck. But if your team is frequently moving, opt for standing desks (or desks that convert to different positions) for easy access and less body strain.

Encourage your team to take opportunities to adjust their bodies depending on their own needs. Let them stretch their legs with a short walk. If it’s all the same, consider taking a walk during meetings. Or, provide alternate types of seating based on their preferences.

Appearance is important if you regularly bring clients into your office. For instance, attorney clients expect large, heavy desks and shelves with legal books. Even if these objects aren’t necessary for a modern team, they build a perception your clients expect.

The right technology

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It doesn’t matter how positive you are, how talented of a leader you are, or how diligently your team works if you don’t have the right tools. Technology is key to building a competitive business.

This infographic from Intuit explains how much of an impact technology has on productivity.

  • Dual monitors can increase productivity from 9% to 50%.
  • Laptops instead of desktops improve productivity by 100 hours/year.
  • 69% of IT professionals say cloud computing improved their productivity.

I can’t tell you what the “right technology” means for your business. That would depend on what you do. But I recommend using newer devices, modern tools (like shared Google Docs over Word), and a strong Internet connection.

De-clutter-ize

According to Princeton University, “Multiple stimuli present in the visual field at the same time compete for neural representation by mutually suppressing their evoked activity throughout visual cortex, providing a neural correlate for the limited processing capacity of the visual system.”

That’s a fancy way of saying that clutter in your workspace negatively affects your ability to process information and stay focused.

The best way to reduce clutter is to digitize everything. Maintain all records electronically – just make sure to regularly back up your drives. Even calendars and notes should be replaced by apps so they aren’t lost, damaged, or misplaced, and can be shared.

Create a standard file naming convention across your company so anyone can find files on anyone’s computer or shared folders.

Anything paper that must remain should be clearly labeled and filed in a drawer or cabinet so it’s out of the way. Anything that doesn’t have immediate use or anticipated use should be archived.
Insist on a clean desk policy. Some employees may resist, but the increase in productivity will soon be apparent.

Spatial arrangement

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Often, offices are furnished quickly without much thought to the actual space. The movers drop a table against a wall and it stays there. You can enhance the productivity of your team by positioning items and equipment where they make sense.

For example, it doesn’t make sense to position Joe and Sue’s desk away from one another when they have to collaborate throughout the day. Every time they need to speak, they have to swivel around. It may take only a second, but over the day (and year), those wasted moments add up. Every unnecessary action costs something. Plus, they’ll be less inclined to speak to one another because it means repositioning and breaking from their current task. Over time, this handicaps your teams overall productivity. And that’s just one example of a tiny flaw that can do damage to your business.

And what about Eric the receptionist? He uses the copier several times an hour, but it’s on the other end of the office. Each time he needs it, he intrudes on other people’s workspace. It would make more sense to put it right near his desk.

Even if you have a simple turnkey space, you don’t have to stick to the original arrangement. Get creative with the furniture. Should everyone face each other? Should desk space be sacrificed for a conference table? Who should be near the door? There are countless permutations.

Temperature

A study by Careerbuilder found that working in an office that’s too hot or too cold affects productivity. Workers are easily distracted, prone to mistakes, and more concerned about alleviating discomfort than producing quality work.

What’s the right temperature? Software Advice conducted a study of office workers. They found that 50% of people are dissatisfied with the temperature in their workspace. Medium temperature preferences for men are about 70 degrees Fahrenheit, whereas women prefer 72 degrees.

However, the correct temperature is the one your employees prefer. The only way to find out what they like is to ask them. Just make sure to match your required office attire to the temperature so employees can be dressed properly.

Setup a productive office environment of your own with our free checklist!

Productivity and simplicity

The single best way to be productive with life and business is to simplify what’s on your plate. Remove any tasks that aren’t necessary to burn through your to-do list.

The biggest advantage of a turnkey office space is how hands-off you can be. Instead of wasting your time dealing with contract negotiations, facilities maintenance, billing, and construction, you can write your rent check on the first of the month and let someone else worry about the details.

If you’re ready to find your next office, start your search here.