After 2 years of running Customer.io in New York City, we left the Big Apple. At the end of May, I wrote about our move to becoming a distributed company.
Even though we’re all distributed, it still felt important to have a home for our company. Our headquarters had to serve a few different purposes for it to be a worthwhile endeavor:
1. Be a place to bring people together
We’ve traveled to Barcelona, Spain and Hunter Mountain, NY for retreats. I’d still want to travel, but I also want to bring everyone together at the office once a year.
Beyond whole-company retreats, teams within the company will be free to travel here for a week to do work with each other (or they can get together in another city).
New hires can come and spend a week at the office to work closely with someone else and get up to speed.
In a company where place ethereal, I wanted our office to be a rock that people can come to whenever they want to work together.
2. Create a quiet space for audio / video recording
Recording product demos and webinars has always been a struggle in shared spaces. You can’t leave equipment out and you’re fighting for quiet to record. I wanted to have a dedicated room for recording so we could increase the quality of the videos we put out.
3. A permanent address for mail & back-office
Changing addresses is a huge pain for businesses. After moving once and being frustrated, I set up mail forwarding.
We also had a remote contractor helping with back office tasks – like sending t-shirts to customers, invoicing, and that sort of thing. They flaked on us with a big box of customer.io t-shirts :/
Both of those lessons we learned the hard way. Things are much easier to stay on top of if you have someone in person to help make sure that the company runs smoothly – from managing new employee onboarding to benefits, to invoicing etc… having mail come in to the place where that person works is a big benefit.
4. Communicate that we’re a lasting company
We still live in a world where people are used to physical offices. As irrational as it may seem, I wanted to make the investment in an office to show prospective customers that we’re planning to stick around for a long time.
How much does getting an office in Portland cost?
Compared to what I’ve seen in Manhattan and what I’ve heard about in San Francisco, Portland is quite affordable.
Our office is over 1800 square ft and the monthly costs are ~ $2700 a month when you average it out over the lease term. Most commercial leases include a free period depending on the length of the lease.
Here’s the layout:
The landlord also did the following for us:
- Knocked down some walls
- Installed a new kitchen, counters, cabinets and dishwasher
- Installed new carpet tiles
- Repainted the office
This gave us the ability to really make it feel like our office by picking some green Customer.io colors.
It was possible to pay more for an office than we did. Things like exposed brick and exposed ceilings tiles could easily add ¼ to 1/3 more to the rent.
Initially I thought about just buying cheap furniture and then upgrading. In the end I decided we’d buy less but try to buy stuff we wouldn’t throw away.
- Sit stand desk bases - $590 each
- Ikea Bekant table tops - $90 each
- Steelcase Leap chairs - $950 each
- Ikea kallax bookshelves - $139 each
Subtotal: $1,769 per person
x 3 people (to start) = $5,307
You might be thinking that the chairs we bought are expensive. They are. After some research, I decided to buy the Steelcase Leap, partly because of this review. You spend your life sitting in a chair at the office. $1000 on a chair is $41 a month over 2 years to help you avoid back problems. That sounds cheap. A Steelcase Leap is what I would buy for myself with my own money so that’s what we’re willing to buy for everyone on the team too.
They haven’t arrived just yet (the place gave us a couple of loaner chairs) but they’ll look something like this to match our color scheme:
Shared items for the office
- Fridge: $600
- Printer: $200
- Wireless Router: $200
- Dishes, Mugs, Silverware: $200
- Coffee making equipment: $250
Total spent: $6,757
This ended up being an unexpected amount of capital up front. And the office is looking quite bare!
There’s more we’re still planning to get to furnish it:
- Plants! ~ $500
- 6 - 8 more desks & chairs ($10,000 - $14,000)
- Kitchen table + 8 chairs ($3,000)
- Conference room table and chairs ($3,000)
- Large TV for conference room ($1000)
- Couch for the entrance ($800)
- Art for the walls ($1000)
I wanted to get just the bare minimum to move in initially. I’d expect that frugally furnished we might be able to do the whole thing for just under $30,000.
That’s no trivial amount, but the plan is to set aside a few thousand each month on improvements until we’re happy with the office. I’ll share some more pictures when we’re all done.
Until we furnish the inside a little more, I’m perfectly happy staring out the window.
What are your experiences with setting up an office? How much does it cost in your city? I’d love to hear in the comments below.