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Finding the Right Office Space for a Startup

Company Culture

6 August, 2021

Prahasith Veluvolu

Prahasith Veluvolu

Sr. PM HackerRank / CEO Mimir at HackerRank

Prahasith Veluvolu, Sr. PM at HackerRank, recalls his efforts to find the most suitable office space for his growing startup and shares how after choosing a fancy highrise, they went back to a more affordable space.

Problem

We moved from Indianapolis to West Lafayette, Indiana, to set up our first real office. We were a fast-growing startup, and we were looking for nice office space, highrise with sleek interiors, spacious and imposing. In hindsight, I could tell that we focused too much on aesthetics and not on functionality, but it didn’t seem like that in the beginning.

As we later learned, we didn’t need a highrise or showy space since we didn’t have that many customers visiting us. Our decision to go with a fancy space looks now like a waste of money. When the lease ended, we moved into a much affordable space, and the entire team supported the decision. The place was functional; it was not a show-off thing that served to impress other people. Unfortunately, we took that office just before the pandemic hit, but we are ready to return as soon as the situation gets better.

Actions taken

For starters, we tried to understand the needs of the team. We sat down with the entire team and asked them what their ideal office space should look like. Oftentimes, in similar decision-making situations, the CEO or executives would make the decision by themselves, and a couple of days later, a lease would be signed. We tried to involve the entire team and have them rank their priorities.

We learned that location was a top priority for the team, followed closely by having a number of spacious conference rooms. As we started to have more meetings, large conference rooms became increasingly important. Our old office space had only one conference room, which was booked all the time. (Not) surprisingly, a commodious kitchen and hangout space rated quite high too.

Since the team would spend a significant amount of time there, we wanted to make sure that they would find a new space enjoyable. We took them on tour to have them look over the new space. We already knew that many find the constraints of a single conference room difficult. Also, some people loved the concept of open space, but that would not necessarily work for everyone. When we went to see some new spaces, we were looking for some quiet areas where more secluded team members could work and some open areas where people who were leaning toward more physical interaction with their peers could arrange their desks accordingly.

The highrise we decided to move into was quite fancy but didn’t have too many amenities. It didn’t have a built-in gym or parking garage, but most importantly was exceedingly expensive. I guess that an exorbitant price was the most decisive factor for us to start considering more affordable office space. But some other things proved to be important too. Some team members needed parking space, and we secured it at a much more reasonable price at a new location. When we finally moved to the more affordable office space, we were able to spend much more money on what the team actually wanted rather than just having a nice-looking space.

Lessons learned

  • Listen to your team and their needs. This applies as well to their needs in terms of office space. In retrospect, I can more clearly reflect on our changing needs, which gives me a broader understanding of how priorities and tradeoffs also changed over time. No one ever stated that they needed office space situated in a shiny highrise, yet we thought we should go with it. Build an office for your team, not to show off to external guests or investors. Take a space that works the best for you, not to anyone else who you may try to impress.
  • Focus on internal growth and how you can evolve as a team rather than what office space you will rent. Yes, office space is a prerequisite (pre-Covid at least), but that doesn’t have to be anything shiny or grand. Go with what you can afford and invest more into internal growth of your team.

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