One of my more popular presentations is called “The Virtual Agency.” In that presentation, I explore the various options available today for creating a 21st-century “office.” As consumer expectations change from physical face-to-face to browsing a website, to interacting via a mobile device, it may be time for you to rethink what your physical office looks like and whether you need a physical location.
I’ve been thinking about this for quite some time, and probably agree with what you’re feeling right now — there are some excellent reasons to have a physical office location. I have a physical office separate from my home. It’s not very big, nor very fancy, but it is a place I go “to work” when I’m not traveling. It actually might be accurate to consider it my “man cave.” You see, I realized some time ago that I am more productive and can concentrate better in a work environment.
Is Your Agency a Place to Go?
That also doesn’t mean I can’t also work effectively in remote locations. I travel quite a bit and often find myself in multiple environments where I need to get work done. These remote offices could be a Panera Bread, a coffee shop, an airline club at an airport, or a not-so-quiet place in an airport (the picture is of me writing an article at the Nashville International Airport while waiting for a flight due to a delay).
Bank 3.0: Why Banking Is No Longer Somewhere You Go, but Something You Do is an interesting book that helped me begin to think differently about the requirements for a physical office. While the book is focused on the banking industry, I saw many parallels to the insurance agency universe.
One of the recommendations of the book to banks was to think differently about what their branch offices could become. Here are a couple of ideas that could apply to your agency:
- Rent out (or make available for free) empty desk or office space to new startup companies.
- Allow your clients to utilize conference room space for meeting or events.
- Some larger organizations have training rooms that could be used for non-insurance-related events.
- For those with more retail storefront locations, create a coffee shop atmosphere that would bring in people with whom you can start building relationships.
You can probably think of lots of reasons not to do this, but if we indeed are in the relationship business, then how could your current physical office be used to build more relationships with a broader range of consumers and business owners?
For Anson Thompson, owner of The Thompson Group in Parker City, Indiana, it’s rent space at a co-working site in Indianapolis. He uses that for his office when he is in town, and just hangs out there and meets with and helps new startup business owners.
Co-working spaces can also be an excellent option for an organization that wants merely to test the waters in a new city or market. In the old days, we used to call these executive offices.
E | Spaces is a new co-working space that is walking distance from my office in a newly renovated building in downtown Franklin. You can rent an office or workspace by the month. They also have a couple of different sizes of conference rooms you can use by the hour for quick meetings or a small, all-day event.
There are a growing number of co-working spaces that you can choose from. There may be one in your area, or where you might want to experiment opening a new location. Some of the options include WeWork and Regus. There are many others, and a simple Google search for your area should give you the options available.
The cost of space varies depending on several factors. WeWork in Nashville starts at $300 per month for a “Hot Desk.” A hot desk means you do not have a permanent location but pick any available open spot when you arrive. A one-person office goes for $550 per month.
What has been your experience with making space in your office available to outside parties? What about your experience with using a co-working space? Share your comments below.