Ep. 9: Branding Your Space

This week on The Gutsy Podcast, we’re talking about the space you work in and how it makes a drastic impact on your mood, your productivity, and how it impacts the decision-making process with your clients.

When I first started Worx, I literally worked from my couch. Which obviously was not the most ideal place to meet clients or represent the new company that I had just created. So most of the time I was going out to either meet clients at their office, or out at a coffee shop, or meeting for lunch, and then lugging everything back to my house and creating some sort of filing system from my couch and coffee table.

One of my top goals was to be able to be there with my newborn son, see him off to school when that came around, be there when he got home, and be able to watch all of the firsts in his life. And that came along with a very understanding husband, very supportive husband, as I grew from the couch to the kitchen table. Where by day I would have an office set up and by night I would have to take everything off of it, sit it on the floor, make dinner, put it on the table, clear all that off, and set the office backup for the next day.

We also had some pretty rock-star landlords at the time. So when we outgrew (and when I say we, I mean like me because let’s face it – when you’re starting off, we sounds way better than I), so when we, quote-unquote, outgrew the kitchen table, our landlord supported and allowed us to change the back of the garage into an office. Which was insanely exciting because for the very first time I had an actual space where I could set up an actual desk or I could go to work and it not impact my day to day family life.

Now one of the downfalls to working from home, like this, is it’s always there. And what I mean by that is work’s always there – and home chores are always there. We could do a whole episode on working from home (duly noted).

While all this was happening, we had a really cool opportunity to get a very small 400 square foot space in downtown Hagerstown. And this was one of my first major moves in the business because I was signing a lease, I was agreeing to a monthly payment. Because apart from this, all of my business expenses were basically my home expenses. So this was definitely a scary move for me, but I knew it was necessary because I felt like the space that we were working in was not truly representing who we were as a company.

Yes, the office was functioning, it was nice, it was clean. But, we still couldn’t bring clients in and show them what we were truly made of. So by having this small space on the square, we kinda used this as the satellite office.

It wasn’t super conducive to doing work there every day because of our server, our files, and our file management system, it just became really cumbersome. But it gave us a really great space to start meeting clients. So we would start scheduling meetings downtown. We would start working there a couple of hours a week to get out of the home office.

And as this was happening the home office was growing, as well, because we were expanding our team. Which meant we needed more space and one of Aj and I’s goals had always been to purchase a home. So when it came time to do that, we found a beautiful home that allowed us to remodel the basement to furnish it for a fully-functional office where my team came every single day.

I honestly thought that we would be in that office a lot longer than what we were. I was guessing probably four or five years but turns out after two years – a whole new concept and a brand new service line called us to move the office. Yet again. I tell you this kind of in-depth backstory because I think it’s really easy to get hung up on looking at where people are or looking at other people that you strive to be and saying, “Oh my gosh, I want to start there.” When the reality is, you’re seeing the end product of years (and sometimes even decades) of work that got them there.

A long-term client of ours called Innovative Inc., based in Hagerstown, Maryland, approached us because they were purchasing a building. And the building that they bought was quite dated and just really didn’t represent them as a company visually. They approached us and said, “Hey, would you like to work alongside the architect to see if maybe we can infuse some of our brand within the building itself?” And I thought, well, this is a cool new challenge. Of course we can do that (which is basically a whole concept of say yes and figure it out later).

So alongside their architect, their team, and a handful of other people with construction, we helped them to choose things like their brand colors, the decals on the wall, the color and form of some of their textures, and how to create a really cohesive brand experience within the office to enhance company culture and create a really great first impression for their clients.

And when this space was completed through everyone who was involved, this became one of the top state of the art, most beautiful offices in our community. And therefore, my light bulb went off. I thought if we could do this for one client, we could do this for another and for others and create really great branded experiences from within the building first. And the idea gates opened, the angels sang, and then I went back to the home office.

Now, I also want to say the home office was also really nice, but again, I just didn’t feel like it 110% screamed who we were and what we did. I had literally just experienced what branding an office did for Innovative and I wanted that for us, too. I’m also pretty big about practicing what we preach. So I felt like if we were going to start marketing this brand-your-space concept, that we should be doing it for ourselves.

It’s very rare that we recommend something to our clients that we either haven’t done ourselves or aren’t currently doing or have tried. So after a couple of conversations with some community leaders, I found this really great building that had a really great space called Mulberry Lofts that allowed us to build out the space exactly how we wanted it. And now I can truly and honestly say when you walk through our front doors, it feels like you are walking into the perfect representation of our team, our services, and the creativity that we provide.

Since then, we have branded tons of more spaces. And I also want to preface that branding a space is defined by anywhere that you are operating or representing your brand. So this could be an office or retail shop, a trade show booth, a vehicle wrap that drives down the road. Any type of physical space where your business is being represented could be branded.

Now you may be wondering: Why – Why is this so important? Well, through this whole experience of ourselves going through it, and some of our clients going through this as well, we have found that the space being branded has transformed people’s companies. There are always foundational things: The health of the business, the way that you’re marketing yourselves, the way that you treat your clients and your followup. I mean, there are a thousand ways that you can grow and expand your business, and your core business models should always be where your focus is.

But branding the space is part of the bigger picture. It’s a piece of the puzzle that puts together a full branded experience no matter where your customers are interacting with you. So if you think about the efforts that we put into branding and marketing – putting our message out, creating ads to go out, creating MailChimp campaigns to go out, creating Facebook and Instagram images that represent who we are, going to networking events – all these are touch points where people are experiencing your brand.

But branding the space itself is like bringing everything to full circle. A lot of our clients have said it’s almost like walking through a 3-D version of their website. And by doing this, you’re creating a cohesive message, tone, and experience no matter where anyone is finding you.

So, let’s just say that you put out an ad campaign and the colors are bright and vivid and the tone is fun and corky. Then someone comes to your office to have a meeting with you and it’s dark, drab, and lacking personality. That’s what we’d like to call a brand disconnect. You’re setting the expectation that there’s going to be one type of experience – yet delivering something that’s different.

Psychologically, that starts to create mistrust and confusion and people. Even if they don’t initially realize what’s going on, they’re making decisions in the background. But if someone goes to your website then finds you on social media and those things look and sound the same, and then they make an appointment with you and come into your office and it reflects those visuals as well – it’s like golden magical fireworks that go off. Because it feels comfortable. It feels familiar. It feels like they’re making a good decision before they even have had a conversation with you.

In the spaces that we’ve had the opportunity to work on, we have found that it has transformed people’s company culture. I mean, I’m talking employees feel more engaged and more excited and part of a bigger picture. They start to dress a little bit different because they want to represent the company stronger. Everyone started taking a little better care of their work areas and they felt more comfortable with their jobs because they felt the strength and the health of the company was there. It has also transformed the way that people do business. I mean these clients are having their customers come in who are immediately walking in saying, “Oh my gosh, this place is amazing. I can see myself working with you.

For us at Worx, it has changed the way that we do business, as well. So like I mentioned earlier, we were always having to go out to meetings. We always had to go to people. We always had to go to coffee shops – which I love coffee just as much as the next person, but it takes a lot of time.

So, as part of our process change and moving into our space, we always hold our very first initial exploratory meeting here in our office. It gives us a chance to show our potential customers who we are, meet the team, see our space, and immediately when you walk in here, you can tell that something creative happens here. And when people are hiring us, it’s because they have a creative need. Our space helps to reinforce why people came to us in the first place, and in turn, has helped us to close contracts faster and get to work faster.

It’s also given us and our clients opportunities to have community events or enhance public perception because as much as we hate to admit it, first impressions do make a lasting impression. And when someone immediately walks in your door, looks up and says, “Wow, you’ve kind of nailed it on the head,” it’s as if everyone got a little extra pep in their step. They stood a little taller and had just this really amazing positive perception and outlook, not only on the company but their tasks and their abilities as well.

And one of the craziest transformations that I wasn’t really expecting was how differently I viewed the company. Yeah. We’re talking about my own business, right? Like this is the thing that I’ve created. That I’ve worked day in and day out to build for the last 11 plus years. All of a sudden, I started to think of the business as a quote-unquote real business.

Now, there have been countless success stories of businesses that have started in garages, right? Amazon, Google, Harley Davidson, and even Disney. I’m a firm believer that you have to start somewhere to get somewhere, and I don’t regret the days of the couch, the kitchen table, or even the garage office that we had because those were valuable steps to get us to where we are now.

And you know, I’ve got a little more up my sleeve. There are a couple more plans ahead of us as well. But when I found myself working in a space that I felt comfortable, confident, and creative in, I changed my entire outlook on the business and the potential for us to grow. It’s helped me to make decisions faster. It helps me to want people to come in and see what we have created. It has boosted my own confidence within my own company and I want more people to feel that way as well.

There’s a quote that says, “Do what you have to do until you can do what you want to do,” and we did what we had to do for a very long time to get us into the space where we are now being able to do what we want to do. So when we break down the concept of branding your space, this is where you get your notebooks out.

There are a ton of things that you can do in the space you’re in currently to start to enhance it to get some of these benefits. We realized that not everyone is ready to move into a new space today or tomorrow or next month, but there are absolutely some things that you can do to enhance the space that you’re currently in to help it represent your company more.

When I talk about the concept of branding your space, I’m talking about bringing your branded elements, color, shape, form, tone, texture – all the things that you have built your visual brand on – and bringing those elements into the place where you perform your work.

This often starts with paint colors that match the colors within your logo.

  • Furniture – so you start to create some cohesive looks through the style of furniture, the color of your furniture.
  • Decor. So how are you decorating the office that you’re working in?
  • Graphics on the wall – Where is your signage? Are you labeling rooms? Have you put mission, vision, values up on the wall?
  • Utilizing lighting – What type of mood are you creating with the lighting in your space?
  • And all the way down to the flooring – If you can’t change the floor, what type of rug system can you put down?

The goal here is to create a cohesive, streamline look and feel that matches your website, social media, and other branding and marketing initiatives. And if those things aren’t in line yet, choose a starting spot to pick first. And I always recommend starting with evaluating your core brand – which is your logo system, fonts, colors, and tone.

When it comes to branding your space, you really want to know your brand. Knowing what type of experience you want to create. So for instance, for us, we wanted something that was very colorful and creative. So that’s the type of mood that we created within our office. When we designed Innovative’s space, they wanted something that was high-tech but very personable. So that’s the type of experience that we created there.

We also branded an office called Savvy Food Safety. Basically, they work within the hospitality industry to ensure that people are properly serving food. Her industry is solely based on things being clean, so their office is very light. It’s very bright, lots of white with accents of their brand color. So I want you to first ask yourself, what type of brand experience do you want to give your team and your customers?

Next up, I want you to know what’s important. For instance, some offices want a collaboration space where people can come together and it requires a lot of seating. Some spaces love the open-air concept because they enjoy collaborating, where other offices need closed-in spaces because of privacy or deep-thought work that just really needs to be silent. By knowing what’s important, you can start to create some of those areas within your space to grow and enhance that area of your business.

Now, sometimes, people are in a space that they are leasing or renting and they can’t do any cosmetic changes. And I know that can feel really frustrating, especially if you’re creative or really want to change something and you feel kind of boxed in. If you find yourself in this scenario, there are definitely some things that you can do that are temporary and can enhance the space.

First of all, I’m a huge, huge advocate for having very cohesive furniture. If you’ve walked into an office and there are three different desks and three different chairs and none of them match, versus an office that has three desks that are the same and three chairs that are the same – there’s an immediate mood shift in the perception and first impression.

Now, furniture can sometimes feel like the most expensive part of the office and that can be true. There are definitely conference tables that cost more than my house, but we’d love to be resourceful with places like Ikea. 75% of our office is furnished and Ikea. If you don’t mind rolling up your sleeves and using some allen wrenches, you can get some pretty cost-effective, really cohesive furniture. We also love online places like Wayfair and Joss & Main to help us carry out some of the details like couch cushions and barstools and unique pieces that we need in the space. Even by having all furniture that’s the same color can start to create a really great brand and experience.

You can also transform the space with things like lighting fixtures. So if you can’t change the lights within the ceiling, you can add things like lamps with lampshades that coordinate with your branded colors or changing light bulbs to create a different mood so you can purchase warm lighting or cool lighting. So some are going to be a little bit more reddish orange and some are going to be a little more blueish purple. If you find yourself stuck with that awful, awful fluorescent light, I recommend just turning those bad boys off and filling your space with really awesome lamps.

You can also add branded feels through textiles. So couch cushions, blankets, beanbag chairs – any kind of cloth material where you’re creating different spaces within the office. You can choose branded colors or branded textures to help soften the space. We love shopping at the store At Home for these types of things because they have a slew of pillows and decor for days.

And then something as simple as changing the accessories on your desk to coordinate. So we love Poppin, P.O.P.P.I.N. They have branded colored desk sets, and they make me so happy because everything on my desk matches (if you haven’t picked up on it – I like things to match!). In our office, we have white and teal. We even have white and teal and chartreuse pens. So everyone’s desk cohesively looks and feels the same. Even if you are dealing with only one desk, creating a really clean space for you to do what you do best on can really enhance the way that you work and the way that it visually looks.

And when we start talking about signage, things that we’re putting up on the wall, if you say, “Laura, I’m not allowed to even nail things into the wall or I don’t want to mess up what’s here, I don’t know how long I’m going to be here. I don’t want to have to re-do it.”

If you’re not able to paint or physically nail things or put things up on the wall, there are a ton of different materials through companies like 3M, who have temporary graphic materials that we can print on. So we could wrap an entire wall with a large old-time photo of the building that you’re in and when it’s time to leave we just peel that bad boy off and tada! It’s like it was never even there.

So sometimes signage can appear as though it’s permanent or it’s going to cause a lot of damage that you’re going to have to repair later. If you’re in a space where that doesn’t really matter, there are – I have boxes and boxes of – different types of materials that we can print on: wood, metal, clear textured. I mean I could go on for days. But if you are in a space where that is a concern, know that there are lots of materials and options for you to create a branded experience.

Heck, let’s say your brand color is blue, we could print your custom blue color that matches your brand onto a material that can be wrapped onto the wall that’s not going to damage anything. Top it off with your logo and tada! All of a sudden you have a welcome wall. The great thing is a lot of these tactics can be used in spaces, whether you are there temporarily or whether you’re there for the next 10 years.

One of the most important aspects of creating a branded space is creating a budget and a timeline. I often get the question of, “Well, how much does this cost?” And I kicked back and say, “Well, how much does a house cost?” It kinda all depends, right? So by creating a budget (knowing up front how much you have allocated to spend on time and materials) you first know if you need to do this in phases or if you can do it all at one time by identifying what your problem areas are first.

You can allocate the dollars towards those areas first and you’ll also have a better idea of what types of materials you can use or what types of accessories you can purchase or where you need to shop for your furniture based on the budget that you have allocated for those things.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help (and later this week on the #powerback, we’re going to be talking about asking for help and why that’s completely okay). Don’t be afraid to reach out to some people that can help you with this process as well. If it’s a small, simple renovation you feel like you can take on, by all means – go for it. If you feel like you need to pull in an interior designer to help you with some of the finishing touches, that’s great too.

Sometimes with a remodel or a brand new space or build out, getting people like an architect and interior designer and a graphic design firm are really important to help you not only execute your idea but know where things need to go. And if we need to pull in people like construction crews or permits and other technical things that may come up.

And last but not least, I encourage you to create a goal and to set a timeframe. Things like this can be sometimes overwhelming, especially because thanks to the Internet and so many beautiful stores around us, we have hundreds – if not thousands – of choices to make. So really think about what you want, how soon you want to get it, and when it needs to be executed by so that you don’t get lost in the land of endless options and frustration.

A couple of signs that it’s time to change up your space include things like:

  • Your space just doesn’t inspire you to do your work.
  • You cringe every time that you walk into it.
  • (One of my favorites) You have somebody over or somebody into your office, and you’re like, “Oh, oh, we’re working on this and we’re going to change that,” thus spending more time explaining all the things that you need to fix.
  • You find yourself making excuses to not have people over.
  • It doesn’t feel organized or purposeful.
  • It actually brings more stress into your life.

Something as simple as starting with organizing your desk can really, really make a difference in your life. You guys, I want you to feel that joy and proudness that comes along with being in a space that represents who you are, what you do, how you make a difference. The brand that you’ve worked so very, very hard to create and the success that has come along with it.

Branding your space is not only an investment in your company today, but it’s an investment in the growth of your company for years to come. If you’re interested in learning more about branding your space, I encourage you to head over to our website, worxgd.com, where you can click on the Brand Your Space link to see some real-life examples of not only offices but vehicle wraps, events, trade shows, and other examples of how we have been able to work with lots of different entrepreneurs to transform the space that they work in.

And if that piques your interest even more, I’m happy to do a 30-minute consultative talk with you to see what you’ve got going on and to see if we might be a good fit to help.

Join me for this week’s #powerback on the power of asking questions: How there’s no such thing as a stupid question, only ridiculous reasons that we create to not ask them in the first place. Until then, follow The Gutsy Podcast on Facebook and Instagram and for more business insights, follow me on Instagram @thatlauraaura. Catch you next time!

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