The last thing Matt Phelan ever wanted to do was to run a storefront operation. But last year Phelan gave up his fancy office on the second floor of the Atlanta Financial Center and moved his company--Phelan Annual Reports, a $2 million design firm--into a former lunch counter space in the building's lobby. Surprisingly, the new space has actually helped grow his business.
It all began with Atlanta's often-miserable downtown traffic. Last year Phelan decided to free his employees from commuting hell by letting them work from home. That meant he didn't need as much space, but he still wanted to keep a presence at the tony Financial Center.
So Phelan asked the building's management about moving to a smaller office. The only option: the old lunch counter, a storefront sandwiched in with a newsstand, a dry cleaner, and a barbershop. Phelan was miffed at first. Then he realized that a lobby location might have an advantage: exposure. Every day, thousands of corporate tenants walked through that lobby. A well-presented "storefront" could attract new clients.
So Phelan moved in, installed a large sign, and set up a flashy window display. In the first two months, the company brought in two new clients who otherwise never would have known it existed. "We spent nine years in that second-floor suite," Phelan says. "No one ever knocked on our door."