I recently went to visit a new client but couldn't find the new office.
I had the right address but I spent 15 minutes wandering around the building, which had been converted into office space after decades as a warehouse. In the end, I had to call the client to come and get me. It was a little embarrassing but the tail-between-my-legs feeling disappeared after the client, who runs an online start-up, took me on a meandering path to the office.
The start-up's new digs are located in a large room that was sublet from a film production company. The start-up has half of the space and two other companies share the other half.
From the outside, the first impression may not be favourable. After all, you want to create the impression that business is good, particularly if you are trying to attract more customers or investors.
I was impressed with the setup, which featured a pile of used office equipment and a mannequin missing an arm. It showed that this start-up was serious about spending money on developing the business as opposed to putting it into a nice office with stylish chairs and desks.
The start-up's part of the office featured two long desks with people working on laptops, and a printer sitting in the corner. A small conference room wass still under construction so we pulled four chairs into a circle in the middle of the office to hold the "meeting."
Going cheap and cheerful can be a thorny decision for many new companies because the excitement about launching often sees them spend money on the wrong things, such as expensive office space, nice furniture, new computers and a refrigerator full of drinks and snacks. I've seen first-hand how these decisions look imprudent when, months later, cash flow starts to get squeezed.
A more pragmatic approach is not to spend money on the frills but to focus on essential things such as hiring good people who can jump-start the business so it can grow and generate revenue. This, in turn, will provide the company with the resources to afford new office space or better equipment.
Special to the Globe and Mail
Mark Evans is a principal with ME Consulting , a content and social media strategic and tactical consultancy that creates and delivers 'stories' for companies looking to capture the attention of customers, bloggers, the media, business partners, employees and investors. Mark has worked with three start-ups - Blanketware, b5Media and PlanetEye - so he understands how they operate and what they need to do to be successful. He was a technology reporter for more than a decade with The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. Mark is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh, meshUniversity and meshmarketing conferences.