Creative thinking is best achieved by collaboration, and the configuration of an office space can severely hinder successful working and outcomes.
U/S Sports Advisors, a national sports and entertainment marketing agency has recognised this, and has created a different corporate environment for its employees.
With half of its staff female, including a 4-3 majority of senior staff, I spoke to their Founder and President, Ken Ungar on how he has achieved creating a business built on collaboration, unity and trust.
How is U/SSA reinventing the open door policy?
Throughout my career, I noticed that traditional offices became "silos." People used closed doors as an excuse to not communicate and collaborate. When I started U/S Sports Advisors nine years ago, I wanted to do it in a better---and smarter way. In essence, an open door policy isn't needed, simply because we have no doors, except for several conference rooms.
Our individual workspaces have no walls, and no one--including me, as the President--has an office. This type of environment leads to a feeling of oneness and enables our team to work smarter through collaboration. You can look around the corner to ask someone a question or to ask for help. We hear conversations that keeps up plugged into what's going on with our clients and our company. This environment is critical to the fulfillment that an employee has in his or her work and the product that we create.
How are women playing a leading role at your agency?
Presently, our overall staff is just about 50/50, and our senior management is a female majority (4-3). Our Vice Presidents of Marketing, Planning & Strategy, Operations and Administration are all women, and key decision makers in the company. When I'm sitting in a senior staff meeting, I don't see gender as much as I see savvy and smarts. As our company continues to grow, our leading women will be at the forefront of building one of the nation's top sports and entertainment marketing agencies.
What highlights and challenges have U/SSA embraced over the past several months?
Perhaps one of the biggest highlights has been the hiring of several new senior staff positions, including a VP of Operations and VP of Consulting. This has allowed us additional creative and professional internal resources to cultivate and grow a more diverse client base. We're experiencing a significant rate of growth and expect to exceed 40 employees and one additional satellite office by 2017. As that process continues, we've gone from a very small, organic company to one that's becoming larger almost daily. With that comes new personalities, and you have to work hard on preserving the corporate culture to ensure that new personalities will mesh the larger team. One of our challenges is we're outgrowing our Indianapolis headquarters, and are in the process of determining our expansion plans.
What tips can you offer to other organizations that are seeking to create a work environment geared towards collaboration?
Knock down the walls and do away with individual offices. By having your people together, you foster dynamic interaction throughout the workday. Creative ideas start to flow though the constant interaction with one another. There's no one person that has a franchise on ideas at U/S Sports Advisors, and often, the best and brightest ideas come from a collaborative effort. While our company culture may not be for everyone, it works for us. Ultimately, that means we play smarter for all our clients.
What are U/SSA goals in the next 12 months?
Our goals continue to be focused on our growth. That means having top talent available in our employee pipeline. With the additional senior level hires we've made, our client base will become far more diverse, as we position ourselves as one of the leading sports and entertainment marketing agencies in America.
How have you introduced collaborative working practices for your business? Share your thoughts with me in the comments or on Twitter.