For some people, an office is a sign of status: The bigger the office, the greater the status. That's especially true for entrepreneurs who own a small business. For some, an office isn't just a place to work -- an office is an expression of personality, tastes, and success.
I know what you're thinking: What about privacy and confidentiality?
I rarely need privacy. Granted, I have some conversations that need to be private, but privacy is easy to arrange. Plus having most discussions out of the open helps keep our team in the know. I don't have to fill them in; they already know.
Or you might wonder what happens when I don't want to be disturbed. That's also easy to arrange. If I need blocks of quiet, I can work from home. I can come in early. I can stay late. I can slip on headphones, of tell our team that I need to focus for a bit. It's easy to carve out "space" to focus.
Think of it this way: What are the real downsides of not having an office? You lose a little privacy -- but how often do you really need privacy? You lose a little separation and quiet - but in the dynamic, fluid, ever-changing environment that is a small business, how often is separation and quiet a positive?
Teams work best when information spreads rapidly: When ideas can instantly be floated, when proposals can immediately be run up the proverbial flagpole, when knowledge can be shared, when role models can actually be role models.
And if that's not enough to convince you, consider the cost. Office environments are more expensive to lease and equip, than open floor plans. Smart companies, and especially smart startups, only spend money where it touches the customer. If a customer will never see your office, or your company's office space, then making a great impression is irrelevant. Serving your ego is irrelevant.
What matters is that your office environment supports collaboration, creativity, innovation, teamwork, efficiency, that's what matters.
Granted that can be a tough perspective to adopt if you're leaving a corporate environment to start your business. In that case you might think your amenities should be equal. If you are starting, say, an accounting firm, then yes, your office does reinforce your credibility and professionalism. Plus, you work with sensitive information.
But if you run an online business, or a retail store, or a restaurant, in that case, no customer should even know you have an office. They care about what you provide -- not where you work. That's why savvy entrepreneurs only spend money where it makes a real difference to customers; they know that success isn't defined by offices or amenities, but by profits.
And just as importantly, entrepreneurial success is based on building a team of employees who have a great attitude and are able to learn quickly.
Every startup evolves -- which means what you originally hired an employee to do may suddenly not be what you need. As I've written before, if you're like most startup founders you're an expert in your field. You can teach other people your skills. So, you look for people who are adaptable and eager to learn because they will drive your business forward.
But they can't learn and can't adapt unless they're in an environment where learning and adaptation can happen as quickly as possible -- which means you need to not just lead your team but be a part of your team.
The best way to accomplish that? Get rid of your office.
You, and your business, will be glad you did.