July 18, 2019
Meet Panelist Lynne Kjolso: Women in Leadership Interview Series
Later this month, Metric Theory will open its third office, this one in New York City. In addition to dreams about enjoying autumn in Manhattan, eating real bagels, and walking to work in foot traffic that matches my speed, it’s also given me an opportunity to reflect on the most important considerations when establishing a new office. While many of the focus areas should reflect what your company has done successfully in other offices, the following four items are especially important.
Metric Theory is focused on people. We demonstrate this through our investment in our training program, our goal cycle program, and through a number of employee development initiatives, and in response we were named the #1 Place to Work by AdAge. Nowhere is our commitment to people more evident than how we approach new offices.
When we opened our Denver office in 2013, I had two options: recruit a Director with years of experience, or let one of our newer managers, who had worked with us for several years, take on the task (it helped that she was an absolute rockstar and already living in Denver). I went with option B, and it was one of the best professional decisions I’ve ever made. I already had someone who embodied MT’s culture, was hungry for more responsibility, and was a proven high performer. While she had less management experience than a senior-level hire, she grew with the office, a process that was a phenomenal professional experience for her. She expanded our Denver office from one employee to 18 in just two years.
I took the same approach in NYC. We have a manager living in New York who’s been with MT for 3.5 years, and I want to build a business around a Director who has consistently surpassed my high expectations. Don’t get me wrong, New York also has a wealth of exciting retail clients and SEM talent (in addition to the awesome bagels) to make it an attractive locale, but I want to build a new business on a strong foundation, and that starts with a great leader.
When you’re opening a new office, hiring a terrific first round will give you a tremendous jumpstart on success. These individuals aren’t just going to be the first people managing accounts from that office, but also the cultural bedrock that will influence whether, three years down the line, this is an office of 10 or an office of 30.
There are five main qualities that we evaluate when hiring PPC Analysts for any of our offices: analytic skills, drive, communication skills, leadership potential & cultural fit. My colleague Grace covers them in more detail here.
While all five are important, you should pay special attention to leadership potential and culture for an inaugural office class. In a larger and more established office, you need employees who excel at data analysis, enterprise account management, and other specialized fields, in addition to managers who can lead teams. When opening up a new office, I look for employees that I could see leading a team in two years. You want to find individuals who are fearless about taking on new challenges to help you grow.
Even more important is that the first class represents the company culture you wish to promote. Future hires are going to take cues from this initial class. For this reason, we try to meet with every candidate in person, either for coffee or at a meet & greet before we ever bring them in for an interview. We want to ensure we’d be excited to work with them for years to come. Our initial three-person class in Denver checked all of the above boxes. They helped us grow that office from four employees to nearly 30, and all three of them just celebrated their third anniversary with the company.
This one I didn’t get right when opening our Denver office. I knew that our Director and our first hiring class were critical to success, but I overlooked the importance of the physical office space, and I learned how important the physical space is to the productivity and well-being of our employees.
In Denver, we started out in a co-working space that had been… oversold. On day 1, the construction was so incomplete that we didn’t have walls on all sides, and the wifi was spotty at best. Neither of these were ideal for managing accounts, holding meetings or training our new employees. We were also the first tenants occupying the space, meaning it was a bit of a ghost town to begin with. And the office was located in a ritzier residential part of town that lacked the energy (and happy hour spots) of downtown, making it more difficult to excite our employees and build the early bonds necessary to make the office a success.
In NYC, our Director scouted every co-working space in the 5 boroughs (or at least that’s what it felt like) and settled on a WeWork space in Soho. Our floor is filled with startups that exhibit the same drive and passion for their work that we do. There are weekly startup events and happy hours, as well as endless coffee and beer on tap (although to nitpick, I’d prefer my water without a fruit salad in it). Office environment and surroundings are important, and the energy in our New York space is contagious.
When opening a new office, you need to make sure the employees don’t feel like “just another satellite office.” The first step is that senior management should invest time to be physically present in the office. I’ll be spending two weeks in NYC for the office launch. In the first two months, the Director who launched our Denver office and a Senior Manager in charge of PPC Analyst development in SF will both visit for a week. Meanwhile, our CEO put in the time to choose artwork for the new office. The early presence of senior leadership is vital to model the culture, attitude, and enthusiasm that you hope your new employees will adopt and pass along to later hires.
I hope you find some of these suggestions helpful when starting new offices in your own business.