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Summer is by far my favorite time of year.
Mmmmm. Otter Pops.
The urban trails are full of people running or biking. The weekends are spent by the pool, hiking, or visiting friends. There’s always an opportunity for good food and free concerts in the park. The daylight lingers to afford us all some much needed play time. Rigid routines fade and it’s finally time for a change of pace. And Otter Pops are always on standby.
It’s mid-July and Mack Web finds itself more than half way through our 12th year of business. Lucky for us, this summer started with a bit more excitement than the usual change of seasons: a move to a brand new office space that we were fortunate enough to customize to match our collaborative culture.
I’ve got all the photos (and even a super awesome video) to share with you. But first, indulge me with a little history.
It Always Begins in a Basement
When I started this company back in 2003, it was just me for the first five years, so I had the pleasure of working out of a home office on the south end of Fort Collins, Colorado (aka suburbia). When my daughter Ryan turned one, it was time to get out of the house and find a space I could call my own.
At the time, finding an office that matched our culture wasn’t much of a concern because we didn’t really have a culture. I was still our only employee. But I knew I wanted to be somewhere where there were adults, a whole lot of life, and good places to eat. I was being called to Old Town.
Typically the businesses in Old Town — that aren’t retail and don’t require store-front visibility — are located above restaurants on the second floor of the building. That’s exactly where I found my new office.
Old Town never has enough parking, but it does have lots of bars who are well equipped with Jager.
The new office was pretty typical of many in the Old Town area that share a common area lobby, kitchen, and restrooms. It was perfect for our (meaning, my) needs at the time.
The common area lobby outside our first office space.
As the years went by, our company grew, I hired some employees, and our culture began to take shape. We loved being in the heart of Old Town, so even though that original space was tiny, we continued to make the most of it.
Our culture was very different in those beginning years. At first, we operated pretty traditionally. I was the boss. I had a few employees. We came to work. We did our thing. We went home. We returned the next day. All pretty typical office stuff.
To match our culture at the time, we had organized the space very traditionally. I had an office all to myself (I could close the door and everything).
My private office in our Old Town space.
The rest of the team worked in a space that was divided into two small offices. For a while, the work we did was pretty siloed compared to how we work now. We didn’t have stand ups. We didn’t do much integrating or leveraging across channels. We each just handled our individually assigned work and went home at the end of the day.
Lots of dividing obstacles in our tiny Old Town space.
Fast forward to 2012 when we took the leap into the world of content marketing and community building and both our company and culture made a huge shift. We changed how we approached our work and, most importantly, the way we worked together.
As the evolution of Mack Web continued and more people joined our team, we were able to add more square footage by renting the office next door. That was great for us since we could bite off more space (and more rent) a little bit at a time. Our flexible work environment also helped because it meant that not as many people were physically working in the office every day, giving us more room to breathe.
Since we weren’t in a position to move anytime soon, it was time to adapt that Old Town office into a place that better supported our culture. We didn’t have much to work with, but we figured transforming my office into a group work space would be a great first step. It doesn’t sound like much, but just opening up that room to the rest of the team for meetings, creative sessions, and an alternative work space made a huge difference.
My old office transformed into a collaborative space.
Even with the new layout, we still had a great many constraints in the space. It was difficult to find a place to work in teams; it was even more difficult to find a place to work alone. By the time we were ready to move, our team of 11 was literally divided between two and a half offices (in a total of 600 square feet). Many days I wouldn’t see the half of the team that was just in the office next door. For an extremely collaborative bunch, this was proving to be a problem not only for communication, but definitely for our culture.
Movin’ on Up (to The West Side)
It still seems pretty surreal to me, but as of June, we’ve moved into a spacious newly remodeled building just on the west side of Old Town (where parking is abundant and money grows on trees).
Our new office space is conveniently located directly next to a liquor store.
I wanted this new space to be a gift to the team, so I worked secretly with Mike and my assistant, Haley, to get everything ready. The team worked remotely for an entire week. For ten days (and many very long nights) we built furniture, painted walls, moved furniture, unpacked dishes, placed plants, and finally got everything perfect for the team reveal.
On the big day, the team lined up in the hallway outside the new office. Even our remote employees were on standby, waiting in anticipation over FaceTime as we carried them into the building on an iPhone. Single file, they all marched inside with their eyes closed.
On the day of the reveal there was absolutely no peeking.
When the team opened their eyes, this is what they saw:
The team was very pleased with our new digs.
A brand new office custom-built just for them with all of the very necessary amenities that a Mack Web office should have. Allow me to give you the tour:
A Newly Renovated Building
We were very fortunate to secure a space in the building as it was still undergoing renovations. Built in the 80s, it was long overdue for a new look, and we were able to get in when the big stuff was done but none of the detailing. Rather than moving into a space that was already planned, we had the pleasure of selecting layout, colors, and finishes that fit our culture and the needs of our team.
Because our team is so collaborative, we wanted an open concept with many different places to work so that you could change up your workflow throughout the day. We also wanted to provide some privacy for meetings and perhaps self-selected seclusion.
When you first walk into the office, we have a more relaxed area for casual team meetings or simply changing up your workspace.
Yes, we have an orange couch. We really like orange.
Just opposite the couch area there are galvanized panels that serve as whiteboards and allow for plenty of space to sketch out ideas and stick stuff to the metal (thanks to an idea we saw at the ever-inspiring office of our good friends at Wistia).
Whiteboards are so 2005.
When we have larger creative meetings with the team, we can pull the couches to the back wall and allow everyone to take part in the visual inspiration that’s guiding the discussion.
Galvanized boards FTW!
And just next to this very flexible area is a pingpong table (but only after 3 pm, as our friends at Marmoset advise; otherwise Mike and Olivia would spend all day in a tournament).
Mike doesn’t really do any work at Mack Web. He just plays ping pong all day.
Despite what it seems, we do in fact work here at Mack Web, so just down the way from pingpong, you’ll find one of the dedicated work spaces where the team can do just that:
This is where the real magic happens.
To provide a little bit of separation, and stay true to our Colorado roots, we used a living wall to divide the space between the pingpong table and the first team work station:
Some day, this will be amazing. Some. Day.
Here, let me give you a closer look:
We had to skimp somewhere.
Directly next to one of the team workspaces is a very necessary and coveted part of our new space: our very own kitchen equipped with a microwave and – wait for it – a dishwasher!
All we really care about is food.
We still have a snack cabinet (full of salt and vinegar chips, gummy bears, and fruit gum), but we’re also taking full advantage of our very own fridge, toaster oven, and electric teapot. We have a whole cabinet dedicated just to tea (we know, we have a problem):
We heart tea.
But the kitchen isn’t just a place for eating and drinking (and yes, we do a lot of that). It’s also a place for our standup meetings that doubles as a workstation at any time of day the team may desire.
Don’t let them fool you. They’re not getting any work done.
Just off the kitchen is another dedicated workspace that can expand over the years and allow for many people to work. Because we want the space to feel open and still allow for a bit of privacy between areas (like we did with the living plant wall), we installed visual dividers like these to divide the workspace from the kitchen.
This thing took some time to put together. One 14” honeycomb square at a time.
Because our culture is very team-oriented, when we were designing the space, we knew an open concept was most fitting for us. However, we do have introverts on our team and we very much appreciate the fact that sometimes you do need a little alone time. So we designed some enclosed spaces, too:
A conference room for many of us to join our daily video calls with clients:
A proper conference room with a TV, web cam, and everything.
And also some mini meeting rooms (guarded by our llama):
Yes, we still like llamas.
Without a doubt, the new office is much more fitting to our culture and we knew the team was going to love it. But we also knew that it would take a little time for them to adjust to the space, so we wanted to do everything we could to make it feel like home. Just like we had in the collaborative space in our tiny Old Town office, we dedicated one wall to all of our family and friends.
Cats are people, too.
We also placed an individual photo on each team member’s desk to let them know where they could call their own.
And lastly, the most special part of our new home are the beautiful tables that Mike, Jon (my husband), and some great friends built for us. Both the 12-foot conference table and 14-foot standup tables are made out of local, beetle-kill pine:
It was no small feat getting this sucker up the stairs.
There’s More to Come
We’re extremely grateful for our new office, but even more so, we’re fortunate to have built such an amazing culture (which is no easy task). We’d love for you to drop by any time you’d like (we may even save you an Otter Pop). If you don’t find yourself in Fort Collins any time soon, here’s a video so that you can get the full, Blair Witch experience.
We’re going to squeeze every drop we can out of our summer. We’ve got some things planned on the horizon with something big coming this fall. So thanks for coming along the ride. And stay tuned.
- Mission briefing
- Stop One: Our New Digs
- Stop Two: Cultivate an Asset
- Stop Three: Pick a Good Alias
- Stop Four: Improvise
- Stop Five: Regroup & Conquer
- Stop Six: Safe House
- Stop Seven: Get the Intel
- Stop Eight: Hang on Tight
- Stop Nine: Mack Web is now Genuinely