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Family business office update: 6 ways to get the most out of your workplace designer

August 15, 2019

A family-owned business has history and traditions that a design team can enhance to instill a unique company culture—and do business better

My parents started their own business 40 years ago, and while I didn’t follow in their footsteps, I learned a lot from watching them pour their hearts and souls into their work every day. For them, business was—and still is—personal. The personal touch makes their clients choose them over bigger competitors. Clients feel like they are heard, respected, and that they’re receiving something that speaks to their needs.

Today, the corporate world wants to connect with their users and build the kind of loyalty that comes from personal connections. Family-owned businesses have the edge when it comes to connections.

A family-owned business has history and traditions passed down through generations. The way of doing things that has always worked might still work fine. But a tradition or routine that serves no purpose must sometimes be swept away. The challenge for a family-owned company is to change the right things, while maintaining the culture, tradition, and ability to make those personal connections that made them great.

That’s where design comes in.

The history wall at Ball Horticultural in West Chicago, Illinois.

As designers, it’s important to listen carefully to our clients with family-owned businesses, understand what makes them great, and determine how to instill that unique company culture in their space. There are many ways a family business can maximize the benefit from our design expertise without losing the secret recipe they hold dear.

There are many ways a family business can maximize the benefit from our design expertise without losing the secret recipe they hold dear.

1. Tell us about yourself. Don’t be afraid to tell your story, your history, how you got to where you are now. Designers get excited and inspired about the opportunity to tell your unique story in your space.

2. Be open-minded. A lot of family-owned companies think “We’ve always done it this way; it works. Why change?” We’re in the business of design to help you find the ways you can do business better. We know one size doesn’t fit all. But we can give you options and solutions. So, it’s best to keep the dialogue open.

3. Be honest about your pain points. You may want to make your employees happy, but you also need to balance your business interests. Giving everyone everything they want (or had previously) in an office design may not in fact be a good business decision, or even make them happy. We don’t want to take things away from your employees, but we can help manage the transition to a new way of working.

The reception area at Ball Horticultural in West Chicago, Illinois.

4. Keep your employees engaged. This goes for the design process as well. Can you form committees to get them excited? How can they be involved in expressing the brand or selecting design elements? The more engaged they are in a new design, the more ownership over it they’ll have.

5. Make leadership accessible. In a family-owned business, the leaders need to lead by example, be accessible and approachable.

6. Use your budget wisely and strategically. We’re here to allocate your funds to the design elements that will have the most impact and give you the most for your dollar. And it’s not in anyone’s interest to have us designing elements that aren’t affordable. You are investing in your employees, your brand, and ultimately your company’s success moving forward.

Your office is an expression of your unique brand. It’s more than a functional space. Your entryway and your public areas say a lot about who you are and where you’re going.

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