Word on the Street by Kevin Carty
Or Should I Say, WHEN to Move?
Since last fall, we have been wrestling with this question at Classic Exhibits, Exhibits NW, and ClassicMODUL.
It’s no secret, we have been growing. And our growth has been at a consistent pace. But with growth comes the conversation of when to move into a larger building.
Over the years, we have learned to operate in less than ideal office conditions. Those who have visited us know what I mean. My office, Design, Accounting, and Production are at one end of the building. Customer Service is at the other end. Purchasing and Shipping are in another corner. The Rental Department is literally perched above Customer Service in an area without real walls.
Now, I’m not talking football fields distance (and we’ve made it work and mostly thrive), but one of the factors in deciding when to move is to consolidate everyone into one office complex. Communication, especially collaborative communication, is the key to any business. And because we’re collaborative by nature, it would be better if we were within shouting distance. And on some days, kicking distance.
That’s one factor. Another is Exhibits NW Portland. We’d like to have ENW and Classic in the same facility. That’s not possible now. Our building is very production-centric, very utilitarian. When you visit us, there’s no showroom. Our main door opens into the shop, and our Set-up Area serves as the impromptu showroom, which can be interesting and surprising, but not predictable. It also doesn’t benefit ENW Portland as much as it could. If they were co-located with Classic, they would have instant access to Production, Customer Service, and Design and a visual story to show their Oregon clients. And Classic Exhibits would have a real showroom.
The final factor is more obvious. With growth, comes the need for more space. Currently, our manufacturing facility is 63k sq. feet (plus another 10k for storage and offices). And while we are very efficient within that space, our growth and the change in the types of work we’ve been doing tells us we’ll need more room sooner than later.
Now the big IF is the economy. While I do not want to get into a political commentary, suffice to say, we don’t have a clear picture of the future. Yes, our sales trend tells us to look for a larger facility, but that may not sync with the overall economic outlook. If the recession has taught us anything, regardless of past business success and a solid product mix, you can’t build your business wearing rose-colored glasses.
Now let’s complicate the issue even more. Our broker showed us the “perfect” building. PERFECT! It’s been empty for two and a half years so you would think that’s good news. The property owner MUST be interested in making a long-term deal. It’s time to deal. Sadly, the current owner is a “new” owner of the property with visions of MEGA CORP and a fat wallet. He hasn’t felt the pain of an empty building for two plus years. Even with no prospects in sight, he wasn’t willing to negotiate so we had to move on.
So, you ask, “Why not build new offices at our current building?” We thought the same thing, but sadly, the economic climate is not our friend. Our landlord is not interested in investing in building improvements until the economy shows better signs of recovery. And to be frank, by then, we will need more space in Production.
So here we sit. In a building we love. One that we were able to layout exactly how we wanted when we moved in. Built perfectly to meet our needs for the foreseeable future. But that was in 2002. The foreseeable future has come and gone.
So why do I tell you all this. Simple . . . it’s cathartic. I am using your monitor and time as my therapist. And I appreciate it! Truly I do.
So when to move? When to stay? Any advice?
Finally, to the 30 distributors traveling to Portland next weekend for Shared Knowledge University (SKU), see you soon! We have good things planned, and the beer is on tap and cold.
BTW — Do you have time available next week for another session? I need to talk about my awkward transition from childhood to adolescence. Just between us.