In Search of the Perfect Office

Dorie Fain
Dorie Fain is the founder and CEO of &Wealth, a boutique financial advisory firm dedicated to helping women who are recreating their lives, with offices in New York City and Baltimore.

Published 8/13/2015 in The Maryland Daily Record

It was brought to my attention recently that, as a growing business, our thriving company has outgrown its office space. My first reaction was to be defensive, as though I couldn’t have possibly allowed my group to work in such unworkable conditions. This observation though, by a well-meaning friend caused me to stop and look around for the first time in a while. So consumed are we in the actual work and feeling too short of time for reflection, it had not occurred to me how cramped we are and what good sports our staff has been. This has kicked off a more complete overhaul of how we are operating and the ways in which we can improve our work space to better collaborate, communicate and thrive in our work environment.

As this revelation occurred in Baltimore, my office in New York City happened to have just completed a move to a new space that is so bright, beautiful, professional and grownup that I realized the same tone needs to be set in our Baltimore space. So I set out to find this fabulous new home for our firm. So far, it has been fairly exhausting, at times hopeful, followed by disappointment upon learning that this isn’t such a straightforward process. Having never gone through the actual steps of having to find my own office space in favor of the business center plug-and-play model, I naively thought that I would find what I like, agree to terms, sign the lease and schedule the movers.

It turns out, there is so much more to this process.

As I often do, I began seeking out the opinions of other business owners who already have their own space. In return, I heard many different points of view about ideal location and concept, from a walk-up office in a mixed-use building to a corporate office in an executive high-rise to a village setting with tons of charm. I realized that the culture of our firm had to be at the forefront of this decision. So many of our clients are not accustomed to attending meetings with financial professionals, so we strive to provide a warm, welcoming atmosphere that won’t be intimidating. Other important criteria are commute time from drop off at my son’s school, easy parking, and a sense of community in the office complex.

I quickly realized that I would need a professional to assist in finding locations. This process is very time-consuming and once again, I underestimated how much so. The broker that I decided on came highly recommended from friends. Given that this is Baltimore, he is also the husband, brother-in-law and best friend of six other people I know I won’t even say the term we all know about our beloved city! So with this endorsement in mind, off we went to find the dream office space. When someone questions a professional’s worth, I have to laugh because given how many times I have changed direction with this search, our poor broker is earning his weight in gold. He is always available, responsive, and quick to adapt to my new ideas.

Having found what I thought was the perfect solution, the ideal space, location and charm, I learned my first lesson in how not straightforward this process can be. I feel a bit naïve in retrospect, not considering how many different factors could come into play.

One example in this learning process was when I learned after our initial meeting with the owner of the ideal space that another tenant was insisting a business similar to theirs be the next tenant … not a corporate office tenant like us. Little did this business know that we are more alike than different. Now they will never know, because we won’t be moving there.

I’m a big believer in things happening as they are meant to, but what seems ideal actually may not be. In the end, I think I have now actually found a fantastic spot. My staff and I are going to see this space again with our designer, who, of course, lives on the same street as the owner of the office. It does feel like there is safety in these connections as this is a big decision for our growing business.

I believe things will fall into place, and we’ll look back on what initially seemed like the only perfect solution to later realize that when it comes to office space, there is more than just one perfect place. Thankfully, there are several good options and as these come together, I realize how important our physical work environment is to our overall productivity and satisfaction.