The Right Office Building For Any Business

When it comes to office buildings, you generally get what you pay for, but first you need to know what you want. Colliers International Workplace Strategist David McEwen shares his guide to selecting the office building right for your business.

Defining your requirements starts with a solid understanding of your business strategy and a well formed workplace strategy, identifying who is going to occupy the building and how they will use it. Prioritizing your requirements (other than cost and lease terms) can be broken down into these broad categories:

1. Risk Mitigation

What is the risk profile of the business activities to be undertaken?

What is the impact of unexpected loss of power, phones or data circuits?

What is the security profile of the operation? Is it at elevated risk of industrial espionage, theft, hacking / social engineering attempts, or public protest?

Is the building in close proximity to any location specific hazards?

2. Spatial Needs

Will the floor plates, core placement, column grid, ceiling heights and features like internal atria work for your business?

Are there any groups requiring high levels of floor space density such as call centers or clerical processing teams? Or are there areas where typical occupancy may be higher than expected, such as non-territorial environments?

Conversely what’s the expectation for the density of built zones such as personal offices and meeting rooms?

How large are your various teams? How much do their sizes vary and what are their needs for interaction and collaboration?

How long is the facility required and what are the expectations for changes in team sizes, work practices and technology over that period?

3. Building Performance

Will capacity, sustainability (eg. energy and water efficiency) and other characteristics of the various building services including electrical supply, air conditioning plant, telecommunications risers and elevators meet your business needs?

What are the operating hours? Is shift work undertaken? Will the building’s plant be able to service your needs efficiently outside normal business hours?

Is there to be a computer room or data center? Does it host applications or web services used by customers or users in other sites? Does it need to be on site?

Are there any specialist requirements such as labs or clean rooms?

Do you require particular delivery access or garaging? Do you have areas requiring high floor loading?

4. Amenity

Is the building located close to a public transport hub? If not, is adequate car parking available?

Are there end of trip facilities like secure bicycle parking, shower and locker services to support employees’ lifestyle choices?

Does it provide access to cafés, banking facilities, other retail, gyms and child care facilities nearby?

5. Cosmetic appeal

Will appearance and fit out standards for the building exterior, lobbies, lifts, bathrooms, and the floor and ceiling finishes within the proposed tenancy area align with your brand?

What types of employees are you trying to attract? What will they look for in a building?

What is the profile of visitors or clients attending the site? What are their expectations? Are signage rights important?

Armed with this information you can start to prepare your property brief and prioritize your requirements. In practice it’s a complex juggling act with many traps for the unwary. At the outset, it is useful to assemble a team of internal and external specialists headed by an experienced Project Director, typically covering the following disciplines:

While this sounds like a long list, a good Project Director will help ensure timely and efficient inputs from the necessary experts to develop the right strategy and property brief, and provide effective due diligence on short listed sites.

The story was originally published on Colliers International.

 

About The Sundance Company
Established in 1976, The Sundance Company has the experience to help you with your commercial real estate needs throughout the Boise Valley. If your requirements include property management, leasing, real estate development, project planning, construction or space planning then look to us. The Sundance Company has more than 1.5 million square feet of office and industrial space available in prime locations in the Boise metropolitan area. More information is available at www.sundanceco.com or 208.322.7300.

Advertisement

3 Ways to Maintain Work-Life Balance While Staying Connected

In an increasingly mobile environment with a business clock that runs 24-7, many entrepreneurs use their smartphones and tablets to stay connected to both their customers and business partners no matter where they are.

“A lot of small businesses deal with other small businesses, so it’s important to communicate when it works for both parties,” said Mike Pugh, vice president of marketing at digital business solutions provider j2 Global. “It might be early in the morning, late at night, or on a lunch hour. You need to be able to take a message and access information to keep a deal in motion.”

However, just because you can be reached constantly through your mobile devices doesn’t mean you should be. “You should avoid being available all the time to everyone, or available to no one,” Pugh told Business News Daily. “Use technology to make yourself accessible in the right ways to the right people at the right time.”

Pugh offered the following mobile tech strategies to help people stay accessible while still maintaining their work-life balance:

1) Take your time and single-task. With online faxing and a digitized signature, you can send an important fax from anywhere while you’re doing other things. But when you multitask, you’re far more likely to make errors. Step away from what you’re doing so you can give the business task your undivided attention.

2) Don’t take calls unless it’s quiet. Projecting professionalism and seriousness is just as important as being responsive. Before you take or return an important call from a prospect while you’re out of the office, make sure you’re in a quiet environment first.

3) Find solutions that work on any platform. You need to be able to use whatever device  is available to you at the time to conduct your business. The software and programs you choose to run your operations should behave the same way on your phone, tablet and desktop.

The story was originally published on Business News Daily.

About The Sundance Company
Established in 1976, The Sundance Company has the experience to help you with your commercial real estate needs throughout the Boise Valley. If your requirements include property management, leasing, real estate development, project planning, construction or space planning then look to us. The Sundance Company has more than 1.5 million square feet of office and industrial space available in prime locations in the Boise metropolitan area. More information is available at www.sundanceco.com or 208.322.7300.

Making Your Business Buzzworthy

An article from the Business News Daily discusses how email marketing used to follow a one-size-fits-all model, but now new technology is giving businesses the chance to take their campaigns to the next level.

Vivek Sharma, co-founder and CEO of email marketing technology provider Movable Ink, said there are numerous new ways businesses can help ensure their emails are not only read, but revisited multiple times.

Originally, email marketing was similar to direct mail in that everyone got the same message, Sharma said. Eventually, email messages could be targeted to different customer segments — for instance, one email could be sent to men, and the other to women.

Sharma said “agile marketing” takes things several steps further. “Agile marketing is actuality-based marketing — meaning, rather than creating a prefabbed message, the message is adapting to you based on when you are [reading it], where you are, what device you are opening it on and even the weather outside,” Sharma said.

To help businesses better understand the capabilities of email marketing, Sharma has compiled a list of 10 ways retailers can use email marketing to generate excitement and boost sales:

  • Multimedia: Rather than a simple picture, use video and a countdown clock to unveil a new product and create a sense of urgency.
  • Social media: Use social media to make emails interactive by incorporating real-time tweets and Instagram photos.
  • Personalize: While some think slapping someone’s name at the top of an email makes it personal, take it even further by personalizing an image with the recipient’s name on it — for example, a piece of jewelry with the person’s name engraved on it.
  • New deals: To get consumers to revisit the email after they have opened it, use new technology that allows for the email to be updated with new deals every hour.
  • Shipping: Include real-time shipping-status information in purchase confirmation emails.
  • Updated locations: Use geo-targeting to show nearby store locations and the hours when each of those stores is open.
  • New products: Change offers that are promoted based on each shopper’s location. For example, a ticket broker could change the concerts or sporting events it promotes in an email based on each consumer’s location.
  • Bar codes: Use bar codes in mobile emails to drive sales by letting consumers have their email scanned straight from their mobile device for an in-store discount.
  • Best sellers: For businesses with fast-moving products on their home page, use new tools that allow the emails to always show the most up-to-date best-selling products. It ensures the emails never go stale.
  • Mobile friendly: Optimize emails for mobile devices — for instance, include a “click to call” button for customers who want to make a purchase or speak to a customer representative.

Sharma said email marketing makes the most sense for retailers because it has the largest return on their investment. He points to past research that shows that the return on investment for email marketing is $29 for every $1 spent.

“Dollar for dollar, out of all of the digital channels available to retailers, email simply performs the best,” Sharma said. “It is incredibly effective.”

About The Sundance Company
Established in 1976, The Sundance Company has the experience to help you with your commercial real estate needs throughout the Boise Valley. If your requirements include property management, leasing, real estate development, project planning, construction or space planning then look to us. The Sundance Company has more than 1.5 million square feet of office and industrial space available in prime locations in the Boise metropolitan area. More information is available at www.sundanceco.com or 208.322.7300.

For the U.S. Office Market, 2013 Was A Very Good Year

Investors are cheering the gains in asset values seen during 2013 from a strengthening recovery in the U.S. office market, and looking forward to an even brighter 2014 as virtually all the important metrics that drive rent growth and property income are expected to continue to improve over the next 12 months.

The robust office market performance was the highlight of the year-in-review analysis and forecast webinar presented by CoStar market experts Walter Page, director of office research; Hans Nordby, managing director and corporate officer, and Aaron Jodka, manager, U.S. market research.

According to CoStar’s analysis, net absorption in the U.S. office market rose a solid 22% in 2013 over the previous year to 59 million square feet, with the increased demand helping push the vacancy rate down 50 basis points from 12.4% to 11.9%.

The growing demand for office space, combined with an extended period which has seen little to no new office construction, resulted in the average U.S. office rent to grow 3.1% last year – the first time rents have cracked the 3% annual growth mark since 2007, the peak of the market cycle.

New office construction remains muted with just 40 million square feet of new office space added in 2013, and another 78 million square feet under construction at the end of December. Any gains in construction were largely offset by the loss of existing office space as older buildings were demolished or converted, in many cases to be replaced with apartment or condominium properties.

Despite a flattening yield curve and expectations that 10-Year Treasurys will rise to nearly 5% over the next few years, investors increased office purchases by 20% last year, for total office property sales of $106.2 billion, driven in part by demand created by the 2.4% gain in office-using employment in 2013, well above the overall U.S. employment growth rate of 1.6%.

Looking ahead, the CoStar analysts expect the country should finally reach its pre-recession employment peak by summer 2014, building on the 750,000 new office-using jobs gained in 2013.

The office recovery continues to evolve and broaden in new and different directions. While CBD markets in top-tier gateway markets saw the lion’s share of improvement earlier in the recovery, suburban office is now recovering at a dramatic rate, driven by gains in technology, health care, education and even energy industry jobs.

“Markets such as Charlotte are being driven by diversifying economies and lower business costs. Many of the jobs coming into the office sector such as call centers don’t use CBD towers, but they do absorb space,” Nordby said. “This is one of the few calls we’ve been on where it’s hard to find much bad news at all.”

Vacancies Down, Rents Up

In fact, the CoStar analysts said, 2013 was a great year for the office market. Even better, the office recovery is only at about the halfway point — the vacancy rate is expected to plummet another 100 bps to 10.9% by the end of 2015, noted Page, adding that the 59 million square feet of net absorption included a strong year-ending 20 million square feet in the fourth quarter.

“For office investors in particular, the second half of this recovery is what they like,” Page said. “With the occupancy gains, we should see rent, NOI and value gains.

“We are reaching what I’d call a sweet spot — and we’re also reaching a tipping point, the 11.6% vacancy line which is the historical average between 2004 and 2012,” Page added. “At that point, we will really see accelerating rents.”

Roughly half of major markets have already reached or are near that point, including Pittsburgh (8.2%) New York City (8.8%), San Francisco (9.3%) and even St. Louis (11.6%). Baltimore (11.6%) and Philadelphia (11.7%).

Not reflected in the hard numbers is the decline in free rent and concessions offered by landlords, which have been cut in half in such markets like Seattle, Boston and Miami. Rent discounts tenant improvement packages are also shrinking in many markets, Page said.

While the majority of U.S. office markets experienced notable gains, others still have a ways to go. Detroit and Phoenix still have vacancy rates of 17.9% and 18.2%, respectively, but they’ve also come down from stratospheric levels.

The Amazing Suburban Office Rebound

While suburban office markets were still largely lackluster as recently as a year or two ago, CoStar analysts now describe the recovery in the suburban office sector using superlatives such as amazing, remarkable and “on fire.”

Lingering higher vacancies have prevented additional construction in many suburbs, which are also benefitting from the fast-growing tech, health-care and other employment sectors. Suburban markets, which make up a much higher share of total office inventory than CBD markets, account for 90% of total office absorption.

“Some of the recovering suburban markets would have been in tough shape a year, 18 months ago,” Nordby said. “The economy has become much more broad-based, and normal, low-cost back-office places like Tampa and Phoenix have been posting very good job growth.”

Cranes Rising In More Markets

While office construction starts remain low as a percentage of existing inventories, building has been relatively brisk in a few markets like San Jose, Austin, Houston and Boston — and more recently, San Francisco, Dallas, Northern New Jersey and even Chicago.

Most projects are built with tenants or owners in tow, although developers are beginning to move forward on a handful of speculative projects. It’s hardly a surprise to see cranes piercing the skyline in San Francisco, where 2.5 million square feet is under construction, including Jay Paul Co.’s 181 Fremont, a $500 million mixed-use tower in the South Financial District with 415,000 square feet of speculative office space.

San Francisco CBD rents have risen 63% from their recession lows, compared with average 5.7% rent growth for the 54 largest markets.

“Much of this activity is smart money getting under way before the cycle becomes long in the tooth, and we’ll see more of this across the country,” Nordby said.

The story was originally published on CoStar.

About The Sundance Company
Established in 1976, The Sundance Company has the experience to help you with your commercial real estate needs throughout the Boise Valley. If your requirements include property management, leasing, real estate development, project planning, construction or space planning then look to us. The Sundance Company has more than 1.5 million square feet of office and industrial space available in prime locations in the Boise metropolitan area. More information is available at www.sundanceco.com or 208.322.7300.

Does A BYOD Policy Make Sense For Your Business?

Smartphones and tablets are what make many small businesses tick. Modern mobile devices are portable enough for a daily commute and powerful enough to keep your employees productive from anywhere. For many small businesses and startups, these devices are practically indispensable.  So should small business owners be the ones to buy iPhones, Android phones, Windows phones or BlackBerrys for their employees? Or should your employees bring their own?

For decades, companies have usually provided a desktop computer for each employee if the job called for it. But as personal computing devices become more and more mobile — not to mention numerous — small business owners are faced with tough new questions. Shelling out for company-owned devices may be the most secure option, but it can be expensive — and, counterintuitively, could even dampen morale. Here are three reasons to adopt a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) model for your business — and three reasons to stay far away from BYOD.

Your business should go BYOD because:

1. It’s cheaper: Smartphones and tablets are not cheap. Regardless of how many employees you have, these devices might not fit into your business’s budget. And the hardware costs are just the beginning: don’t forget to factor in the cost of a data plan for each device. Prices vary widely between devices and carriers, but providing a Web-connected cellphone or tablet could cost you $1,000 or more for each employee.  Besides, most of your employees probably already own at least a smartphone — and if they don’t, they’re likely to be in the market for one soon.

2. Employees want BYOD: When it comes to mobile technology, most workers have strong brand preferences, be it iOS, Android or otherwise. Those employees are most content when they can work using their favorite devices, applications and Web tools, instead of ones hand-picked by their employer. And working from your own smartphone or tablet is often simply easier, since there’s no need to juggle multiple devices or partition mobile activities. That translates into happier, more productive employees. And because workers will almost always have their personal devices on hand, they can be ready to work at a moment’s notice.

3. You’re busy: Let’s face it: You’re busy, and your small business isn’t likely to have an IT department on hand to manage a fleet of cellphones and tablets. And there’s a lot to manage beyond picking the right devices and juggling payment plans. You could spend a lot of time micromanaging which apps your employees use for functions like reading and responding to company email. And if a company-owned device breaks down, you’ll be the one tasked with fixing it. By going BYOD, you leave those decisions in their hands, letting you stay focused on daily business operations.

Your business should stick to company-owned devices because:

1. It’s (much) more secure: Letting your employees work on an unsecured personal device is risky business — especially when it’s a device that’s so easy to lose. Even when using devices and apps that hold sensitive company data, employees are likely to use weak passwords — or no passwords at all. And if an employee accidentally sends private client data to a personal contact, your business is on the hook. By managing company-owned devices, you can control which applications your employees use — and how. You can also retain the option to wipe company devices — even remotely — or revoke access to company accounts at any time. All else aside, legal liability is the No. 1 reason to steer clear of BYOD policies.

2. You own the numbers: Letting employees use their own phones has its perks, but what do you do when an employee leaves? Shelling out for company-owned devices means you own more than just the phones — you also own the corresponding phone numbers. That can save you from a lot of headaches — and keep you from missing out on business if a client tries to contact your company through a former employee. Owning all phone numbers associated with your company will also help your next employee get right to work without any hiccups and avoid lost productivity.

3. Your employees really need them: The majority of Americans have smartphones, but the pocket-size computers are far from ubiquitous. If you depend on your employees to respond to that email from wherever they are, buying them a phone might be the best option. Employees can’t be expected to shell out for an expensive phone or tablet — not to mention foot the bill for a data plan. Biting the bullet on company-owned phones isn’t just secure and practical for small businesses; it might also be the only way to ensure that every employee can stay connected and productive when they’re away from the office.

Ultimately, this choice comes down to the needs of your individual business. Not every employee needs to stay connected to work through a smartphone or tablet. But when they do, there are very good reasons for small business owners to buy and maintain their own devices. On the other hand, if your business is very small, or if employees rarely handle sensitive company data, the flexibility and cost-savings of a BYOD policy might be too good to ignore.

The story was originally published on Business News Daily.

About The Sundance Company
Established in 1976, The Sundance Company has the experience to help you with your commercial real estate needs throughout the Boise Valley. If your requirements include property management, leasing, real estate development, project planning, construction or space planning then look to us. The Sundance Company has more than 1.5 million square feet of office and industrial space available in prime locations in the Boise metropolitan area. More information is available at www.sundanceco.com or 208.322.7300.

Cybersecurity Tips For Your Business

An article from Fox Business offers five ways you can help your business avoid being a victim of a cyber attack.

Every day, it seems another security breach makes headline news. Companies such as Apple, Twitter, Facebook, The New York Times — even federal government agencies have fallen victim to cybercrime this year.

While big companies make the news headlines, the real targets are small businesses just like yours. According to the 2013 Internet Security Threat Report from Symantec there was a 42% increase in targeted attacks in 2012, and 32% of all attacks were aimed at businesses with fewer than 250 employees. That’s a three-fold increase from 2011. Yet many small business owners don’t believe their business is big enough to attract the attention of a cyber-criminal. Quite the opposite, small businesses are easy pickins’.

Most businesses today are reliant on the Internet. Technology provides the power to reach global markets, efficiently run operations and manage finances from anywhere at anytime. Yet along with all those benefits there is also significant risk.

You don’t have to be a technology guru to take smart and simple steps to minimize the risk of a cyber-attack on your small business. Here are a few things you can do immediately to protect your small business.

No. 1: Create Strong Passwords. My husband is a disaster when it comes to passwords. He has sticky notes all over his desk and when he can’t find what he needs his backup plan is to call me. Typically, he uses some variation of the same elements for all his passwords, but he gets confused about what he used where. Yikes!

Don’t use the same password over and over, and don’t use one that is easy to guess. The longer your password the better, because it’s more difficult for a cyber-criminal to hack. The experts recommend a minimum of 12 characters if the site allows.

Make sure you store your passwords safely. Don’t use sticky notes like my husband. If you want to store them manually file them somewhere away from your computer.  It’s best to write down a clue rather than the actual password as another protective measure.  However, the most secure way to store your passwords is to download a password management program.

No. 2: Log-Off. One of the simplest ways for a cyber-criminal to access your proprietary information is from your computer or mobile device when you forget to log off. Think about how many times you leave your computer or mobile device unattended while you’re still logged-on.  A cyber-criminal can easily and quickly access account information, log-ins, even financial information. So before you leave your computer or devices unattended for more than a few minutes, take a few seconds to log-off to protect your information.

No. 3: Update Systems. Cyber-attackers are really smart folks. I wish they’d put their intelligence to work for a good cause rather than criminal activities, but unfortunately that’s not going to happen. What you need to realize is that as soon as you have updated your anti-virus software, web browser and operating systems, the cyber-criminals are already devising new methods to steal your information.  To protect your business, you need to make sure you’re regularly updating everything. This should be a priority, not something that falls to the bottom of your “to-do” list.

No. 4: Regular Backups. Even when you do everything right, there is still a risk of becoming the victim of a cyber-attack. Make backup copies of all important business data such as financial information, word documents, electronic copies of legal documents, databases and customer account information. If possible set your systems to back-up automatically, and if not make it a process to do it at least once a week.

No. 5: Limit Employee Access. Not everyone on your team needs access to the same information so limit your critical data access to those who truly need it to do their jobs. Require employees to have unique passwords that are changed at least every 90 days.  And don’t allow any employee to install a software program without your permission.

The bottom line is — a determined hacker can most likely crack any system, but why make it easy for them.  These simple steps can minimize your risk and help you maintain the integrity of your company’s critical information.

About The Sundance Company
Established in 1976, The Sundance Company has the experience to help you with your commercial real estate needs throughout the Boise Valley. If your requirements include property management, leasing, real estate development, project planning, construction or space planning then look to us. The Sundance Company has more than 1.5 million square feet of office and industrial space available in prime locations in the Boise metropolitan area. More information is available at www.sundanceco.com or 208.322.7300.

End-Of-The-Year Checklist for Business Owners

An article from the Small Business Center at Fox Business discusses how to wrap up 2013 so you can hit 2014 running.

There are a couple of steps to take to make sure your business is legally fit for 2014. By doing so, you’ll be making sure your business gets the right start in the New Year, and you won’t end up paying extra in administrative fees and fines. Here’s what you need to consider before the calendar hits 2014:

1. Incorporate or change your business structure: If you’re like many small businesses you may have started as a sole proprietorship or partnership. But many businesses eventually outgrow these business structures. If your business is not incorporated, you may want to incorporate (either by forming an S Corp or LLC) to shelter your personal assets and perhaps give you more flexibility and cost savings when it comes to your taxes.

If you choose to incorporate, you can look into a “delayed filing” option with a document-filing company. This option lets you get all your paperwork submitted now, then it will be held and filed on the first business day of 2014. This approach will simplify your tax paperwork, since your business will have the same business structure for all of 2014.

2. Close any inactive businesses: If you’ve ever registered a business with the state and are no longer operating it, you need to file a formal termination with the state as soon as possible. Why? Until that paperwork is in, you’re still going to be charged for any fees associated with the business, you’ll need to file an annual report, as well as submit any tax returns.

To close a business, you need to file an “Articles of Dissolution” or “Certificate of Termination” document with the Secretary of State where your Inc. or LLC was formed. Keep in mind that you will need to settle any owed taxes before you can do this (but again, the sooner you take care of this, the better…when it comes to taxes, ignoring the problem won’t make it go away).

Make sure to take care of these matters while it’s still 2013. There’s no reason to keep paying for a business that’s basically been retired.

3. Hold an annual meeting for your Corporation or LLC: If you’ve gone through the work to incorporate your business, make sure you keep it in good standing. If you haven’t held an annual meeting for your Corp or LLC this year, be sure to get one in before the end of the year. Along with the meeting, you’ll need to generate written minutes/resolutions to be signed by the shareholders (Corporation) or members (LLC). If this will be your first meeting, you can find free meeting minutes online to use as a starting point.

4. Make sure you file an annual report for your corporation/LLC: Most states require some form of an annual report filing (some every year; some every two years). If your state requires you to file this report, there is a specific due date for filing each year. In some cases, it’s on the anniversary of your business’ incorporation date; in other cases, it’s when your annual tax statements are due; and in some cases, it’s at the end of the calendar year. Missing this deadline can result in penalties and late fees, and depleted state budgets mean that we’re seeing several of these late fees grow.

5. File an “Articles of Amendment” to record any company changes: If you made any changes to your business (for example, if you changed your business address, dropped the .com from your official company name, authorized more shares, or a board member left), you’ll need to file an official notification with your state.

This may seem like a pretty trivial thing, but it’s actually essential to keeping your LLC/Corporation in good standing. For example, if your business happens to be sued and your paperwork isn’t up to date, it’s possible that the plaintiff will try to come after you personally.

6. Review your estimated tax payments for 2013: Now that we’re nearing the end point of the year, review what your business has made year to date and assess your estimated tax payments to avoid underpayments or overpayments. You’ll want to adjust your final 2013 payment (which is due Jan 15, 2014) as needed.

The next few months will be busy, but set aside some time to address these legal obligations. It will help you save money in fees and penalties moving forward. And what better gift could you give your business than a fresh start for the New Year?

About The Sundance Company
Established in 1976, The Sundance Company has the experience to help you with your commercial real estate needs throughout the Boise Valley. If your requirements include property management, leasing, real estate development, project planning, construction or space planning then look to us. The Sundance Company has more than 1.5 million square feet of office and industrial space available in prime locations in the Boise metropolitan area. More information is available at www.sundanceco.com or 208.322.7300.

The New Science of Who Sits Where at Work

An informative article from the Wall Street Journal about companies trying to boost productivity by micromanaging seating arrangements. By shifting employees from desk to desk every few months, scattering those who do the same types of jobs and rethinking which departments to place side by side, companies say they can increase productivity and collaboration.

Proponents say such experiments not only come with a low price tag, but they can help a company’s bottom line, even if they leave a few disgruntled workers in their wake.

In recent years, many companies have moved toward open floor plans and unassigned seating, ushering managers out of their offices and clustering workers at communal tables. But some companies—especially small startups and technology businesses—are taking the trend a step further, micromanaging who sits next to whom in an attempt to get more from their employees.

“If I change the [organizational] chart and you stay in the same seat, it doesn’t have very much of an effect,” says Ben Waber, chief executive of Sociometric Solutions, a Boston company that uses sensors to analyze communication patterns in the workplace. “If I keep the org chart the same but change where you sit, it is going to massively change everything.”

Mr. Waber says a worker’s immediate neighbors account for 40% to 60% of every interaction that worker has during the workday, from face-to-face chats to email messages. There is only a 5% to 10% chance employees are interacting with someone two rows away, according to his data, which is culled from companies in the retail, pharmaceutical and finance industries, among others.

Want to befriend someone on another floor? Forget it. “You basically only talk to [those] people if you have meetings,” Mr. Waber says.

Companies should think carefully about who they put where, according to experts who study office design and workplace psychology. Grouping workers by department can foster focus and efficiency, says Christian Catalini, an assistant professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management, but mixing them up can lead to innovation

In his dissertation, Mr. Catalini examined the impact of proximity at an academic campus in Paris. When scientists were shuffled around to different buildings because of an asbestos problem, the result was more experimentation, he says. The shake-up produced some bad ideas—but also more breakthroughs.

MODCo Media, a New York advertising agency, has tested three different seating arrangements over the past few years. For about six months, the company intermingled its accountants and media buyers, hoping they would begin to absorb each others’ skills through “osmosis” and “overhearing phone calls.”

The experiment ended up saving MODCo “a couple hundred thousand dollars a year,” says CEO Erik Dochtermann, but it turned out badly for the accountants. The media buyers began to understand the financial side of the business so well that MODCo no longer needed a full accounting department. Now, the media buyers “do the accountancy on the fly” and the company’s chief financial officer checks their work, says Mr. Dochtermann.

Other seating configurations have helped inspire new products and expedited the training of new employees, he says.

At travel website Kayak.com, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Paul English has joked with his colleagues about developing an algorithm to capture all that goes into devising his seating plan for the engineering team.

He uses new hires as an excuse to alter the existing layout and thinks carefully about each worker’s immediate neighbors. He takes into account everything from his employees’ personalities to their political views to their propensity for arriving at work early—or, more important, their propensity for judging colleagues who arrive late.

“If I put someone next to you that’s annoying or there’s a total style clash, I’m going to make your job depressing,” he says.

Young Chun, a product designer at Kayak, is one of Mr. English’s ambassadors in his pursuit of an office with “a balance of energy.” A self-professed member of the “loud” contingent of Kayak employees, she was recently dispatched to the mobile group, where she estimated 90% of the workers were quiet, to get them to be more vocal.

“The first week that I was down there I was like, ‘Oh my god, I could hear a pin drop here,’ ” she says.

It took a few weeks, but Ms. Chun says she was able to get the group to open up and start chatting. Her seating mission accomplished, she was soon switched to another section of the office.

Aspects of a worker’s disposition can, in fact, be contagious, according to Sigal Barsade, a management professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. “People literally catch emotions from one another like a virus,” she says. Her research has found that the least-contagious emotional state is one marked by low-energy and sluggishness. The most contagious is a calm, relaxed state—which she nicknamed “the California condition.”

People with similar emotional temperaments work best together, Ms. Barsade says. But if a manager is trying to get a stressed-out worker to brighten up, the best strategy is to surround her with lots of cheerful, energetic people.

Constantly shuffling people around has its consequences, however. Ms. Barsade says that moving from desk to desk can make workers feel like they have little control over their environment. And some seating experiments can cause a backlash.

For about four years, employees at HubSpot Inc., a marketing-software company based in Cambridge, Mass., switched seats randomly every three months. The seating strategy was meant to reflect the lack of hierarchy at the company, which HubSpot says was especially helpful in recruiting Millennials. Eventually, the company added some structure to the arrangement, splitting workers into loud and quiet groups.

But when HubSpot decided to group its executives in one part of the office, the employee feedback was negative. The executives felt more efficient and liked being able to chat without having to arrange formal meetings, but the employees felt the higher-ups were too far removed. The setup was reversed after six months.

Employees now have the moving process “down to a science,” says HubSpot Chief Technology Officer and co-founder Dharmesh Shah, unplugging their phones and rolling file cabinets to their new spots swiftly.

But having grown to more than 600 workers, the company is facing a new problem: no one can remember who sits where.

About The Sundance Company
Established in 1976, The Sundance Company has the experience to help you with your commercial real estate needs throughout the Boise Valley. If your requirements include property management, leasing, real estate development, project planning, construction or space planning then look to us. The Sundance Company has more than 1.5 million square feet of office and industrial space available in prime locations in the Boise metropolitan area. More information is available at www.sundanceco.com or 208.322.7300.

Business Lessons From The Best Global Brands

Fox Business recently discussed four small-business lessons from 2013’s top brands.

Apple just took a bite out of Coca-Cola’s 13-year standing as the most valuable brand in the world, according to Interbrand’s 2013 Best Global Brands list. In fact, technology dominated the top five this year, with Apple at the No. 1 spot and Google coming in at second, and IBM and Microsoft landing at fourth and fifth, respectively. Coca-Cola, meanwhile, fell two spots to take third place.

“We talk a lot about how the speed of business has changed,” says Interbrand Global Chief Executive Jez Frampton, commenting on the shake-up at the top of the list. Frampton says building a brand that resonates with consumers still takes time, but tech companies like Facebook have learned to do so more quickly in today’s day and age.

To help small-business owners make a big impact when it comes to branding, Frampton shares four lessons from Interbrand’s 2013 report:

No. 1: Be consistent. “When you look at great brands, one of the things that sits right at the heart of them is consistency,” says Frampton. “They have a clear understanding of what they mean to the world, and they’re consistent year after year and time after time.”

Google, in his opinion, has also succeeded in this regard, thanks to its “Do no evil” ethos. “It’s a relatively recent company, but the essence of ‘Do no evil’ has set a very clear pathway to what kind of company they are, the kind of culture they want to create and the brand they want to be in the world,” says Frampton.

No. 2: Be nimble. Frampton says startups must be nimble enough to take advantage of gaps in the market.

“Having worked with startups over the years, the business you end up doing is not the one you start out doing. You have to adapt to the market,” says Frampton. That said, being nimble doesn’t have to mean being inconsistent.

“At your heart, you still need to have something that unites your people, and creates a bond between the company, suppliers, buyers … and ultimately with customers and shareholders,” he says.

Frampton adds that businesses that are not nimble enough run the risk of becoming unseated by quicker-moving competitors. “Underneath, you need the speed and agility of newer, younger businesses. Companies like Apple, Google and Coca-Cola have learned to do that. IBM has learned they can completely change direction, and Microsoft is going through that right now, you can argue,” says Frampton.

No. 3: Concentrate on service. “Brands are built through every single experience you have,” says Frampton, discussing Apple’s success when it comes to providing top-notch customer service.

He says customer loyalty is one of the most integral factors when it comes to brand strength, and service innovations like the Genius Bar have given the company a real edge.

“Apple’s genius ‘Genius Bar’ not only creates great levels of loyalty among customers, it creates, in the words of [Harvard professor] Michael Porter, a barrier to entry,” says Frampton. “The ability to hire that number of people, and have them in the position to serve your products is not something you can do overnight … It makes it very, very difficult for anyone to compete.”

No. 4: Use digital to your advantage. Frampton says digital innovation has been key to the success of many of the companies on Interbrand’s list, especially in the case of older, more traditional brands.

“Companies like Burberry have reinvented the way people think about luxury by using digital so well,” says Frampton. He says the company realized it didn’t have the cash to compete with rivals like Prada, so instead decided to dominate when it came to e-retail.

“When you talk to them about their flagship store, they’re actually [talking] about their website and mobile capability. They haven’t just benefited from hundreds of years of industry experience; they’ve carefully thought about the market … and how to maintain an incredibly powerful luxury image through digital,” says Frampton. The takeaway, in this case, is figuring out how to grow your brand through digital – not just maintain it.

About The Sundance Company
Established in 1976, The Sundance Company has the experience to help you with your commercial real estate needs throughout the Boise Valley. If your requirements include property management, leasing, real estate development, project planning, construction or space planning then look to us. The Sundance Company has more than 1.5 million square feet of office and industrial space available in prime locations in the Boise metropolitan area. More information is available at www.sundanceco.com or 208.322.7300.

Creating The Right Office Environment to Attact and Retain Workers

A recent article by Fox Business said that by 2020 it’s estimated that 46% of U.S. workers will be made up of millennials and that is projected to grow to 75% by 2025, which means companies of all sizes will be vying for this group of professionals.

If small businesses want to have an edge over their larger counterparts when it comes to recruitment and retention, then they better create an office environment that meets this generation’s needs.

“Millennials have a very different mentality,” says Wendy McCubbin, senior manager of global worksite wellness at Ergotron, the maker of ergonomically correct office equipment. “The older generations have grown up with office environments. They, on the other hand, have grown up with technology.” Because the millennials are so adept at using technology to communicate, socialize and work whenever and wherever, they want an office environment that caters to that.

Unlike the older generations before them, the millennial workers are used to collaborating and easily communicating with their team members. For small businesses, that means creating a workspace that fosters that by getting rid of high-walled cubicles and offices for executives and creating an open environment where people sit beside each other instead of being blocked offed. “They don’t want to be stuck in a cubicle,” says McCubbin. “They want a collaborative open work environment.”

But it’s not only their workspace that will have to change if small businesses want to attract and retain this very important group of workers. According to experts, this generation wants to work hard but they also want to balance that with their personal lives. They aren’t afraid to work all hours of the night if the company is willing to be flexible and let them take care of personal things during office hours. According to McCubbin, the quickest way to turn off a millennial is to require them to punch a time clock or be in the office from 9:00 to 5:00. Companies should embrace flexible hours and allow their workers to go to doctor visits, pay bills online, or exercise during office hours. McCubbin says a way to attract this generation is to create a cool, relaxing and social environment, which could mean a lounge area, a fully stocked kitchen or treadmills near their work stations.

Millennials have grown up with technology and expect that to be major part of their work environment as well. Because of that, experts say companies have to embrace BYOD policies as well as make it easy for them to use all of their different mobile devices.

“They are very tech savvy and super connected and are multi taskers,” says Peter Mahoney, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Nuance, the software company that makes voice activated software. “It’s very important to make sure they have constant access to information.”

According to Mahoney, Nuance focuses a lot of its attention on their millennial workers and will create office environments that will appeal to them both from a physical and technological standpoint. For instance Mahoney says since the company knows some of its staff, particularly the milennials, want to work in or near cites it just opened an office in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “We know there’s a certain segment of our workers that are much more interested in working in different kind of environments you might see outside the suburbs,” he says.

In addition to picking locations that appeal to millennials, Nuance also knows this group of workers value their mobile devices and see it as an extension of themselves, so they make using them easy to do. He says companies are missing an opportunity if they don’t create polices that let them use their devices or accept the fact that they will get their work done, but it may not be in the confines of the office.

“It’s really important to millennials and as a result it’s important for companies to adopt these polices that help people use the technology they want to,” he says.  For example, Nuance has found that among their millennial workers e-mail has become passé. Since this group is more interested in collaborative communications and feel using social networks is not only part of their business but also their professional lives, Nuance has created an internal social network to encourage collaboration and socializing among workers.

“A lot of people are catering to them, but they are not focused on the way they work,” says Mahoney.

About The Sundance Company
Established in 1976, The Sundance Company has the experience to help you with your commercial real estate needs throughout the Boise Valley. If your requirements include property management, leasing, real estate development, project planning, construction or space planning then look to us. The Sundance Company has more than 1.5 million square feet of office and industrial space available in prime locations in the Boise metropolitan area. More information is available at www.sundanceco.com or 208.322.7300.