Your company may be virtual, existing more truly online than anywhere else, but you and your team are still 3D-beings that need to exist in a real, physical space. Once you’ve gotten past that initial “my bed is my desk and my bedroom is my office” phase, it’s time to get out in the world and find a rockin’ office space for you and your team.
While office hunting is obviously a pain, the next step is arguably even harder: decorating. You want your office to be a comfortable place to work, play and even sleep sometimes—you know you’re not gonna make it home every night. Just as important, investors and clients need to feel like your space is relaxed and interesting, but still professional.
So what’s an over-worked, no-time for eating startup founder with a bit of cash but still far from those Facebook millions to do? If you’re starting to feel overwhelmed, don’t despair! I’ve got some tips to guide you through office decorating for Lean Startups.
The image is the message
Stop thinking that your space has to be modernist and sleek; that look is repeated in about 532,234,256 offices across the world. Instead, think about your company’s image. What’s the feeling you want to project? What kind of people are you? Creative? Innovative? Professional? I’m gonna guess all three.
I’m sure you’ve already figured out how to present yourself online or you wouldn’t have gotten as far as needing an office, so take some ideas from that process and figure out how to make them 3D. You’ve got a team of creative, innovative people at your fingertips. Brainstorm, and you guys will figure it out.
One great example I’ve seen of this is Grafighters, a website that allows users to upload drawings that are then animated to duke it out in imaginary environments. Their office is exactly what you’d expect from dudes who thought of a way to make doodles fight: they’ve got a giant fake swordfish on their wall, vintage arcade games and random toys scattered around the open, collaborative space.
New is not necessarily better and it’s almost always more expensive. A lean startup doesn’t have a lot of cash to throw around on fancy furniture, so ditch the conventional routes and start scouring craigslist, antique shops and secondhand stores. You’d be amazed at the awesome things that people throw away every day.
One note of caution: be careful when you’re doing this. You don’t want your office to look like a college freshman’s dorm, but you can find solid, central pieces if you know where to look.
Even better? Make stuff yourself! If you don’t know someone who has the skills already, look it up and do it on your own; there are Youtube videos showing you how to make everything.
Startup Cloudant decided to go with the DIY approach and they ended up with badass tables made from doors. Functional, great conversation starter and they showcase just how creative and innovative their company is. Total win.
Enlist your family and friends
My dad has always owned his own companies and I learned really young (try five years old) that family means free labor. Do you have a sister with a really good aesthetic who has time to do that antiquing for you? A cousin with carpentry skills? A college roommate who randomly knows how to do electric? Put them to work!
People are going to be pumped to see you moving forward and you’d be surprised how much they’ll be willing to help you get where you need to go. Buy them a six pack as payment and get a little tipsy while you’re working together; why not?
Don’t forget about the down time…
Desks and offices are important, but make sure you include spaces for your team to relax, apart from the collaborative space that you’ll be working in. Chances are you guys are going to be in there 12-16 hours a day and there’s no way you can work that entire time. Nor do you want to: plenty of research has shown that the times we let our brains relax often produce the best ideas.
Talk with your team and see what they’re into. Is playing video games for an hour going to spark their brains or are they more likely to get the creative juices flowing with a beer from your in-office keggerator? A happy team is a productive team, so this part is pretty essential.
Ultimately, the most important thing is that your office space is somewhere that you and your team want to be, hopefully for a long time, and decorating it doesn’t have to be something you dread. Put your heads together, scrape up some cash, call your friends and get to work!