For many small business owners, relocation can often be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you have the opportunity to move into a new facility that can better accommodate your staff and services, but, on the other hand, the sudden decision to uproot your entire office to a new location may cause many of your valued employees to quit. So, how you do you balance the needs of your employees with the needs of your small business? In this episode, Gene Marks and Elizabeth Larkin discuss the best strategies for navigating this challenging situation.

Executive Summary

1:26—Today’s Topic: Should I Consult My Employees Before Moving My Small Business?

2:06—Because of the time investment that you’ve put into hiring and training qualified employees, you should at least take their input into consideration before making such a big decision.

4:06—Depending on the size and nature of your business, sometimes you can actually do away with a physical office altogether and simply have everyone work remotely.

5:00—One benefit of owning a physical office is that it fosters a sense of camaraderie among your employees.

5:59—Renting coworking space could be a good temporary option for your business if you have the finances.

9:13—Gene encourages small business owners who are conducting interviews to arrange scenarios that will enable them to observe how potential employees will behave in difficult situations.


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Elizabeth: Welcome back to the Small Biz Ahead podcast. I’m Elizabeth Larkin from The Hartford, and I’m here with Gene Marks from The Marks Group.

Gene: Hi Elizabeth.

Elizabeth: Hi, how are you?

Gene: I am doing just fine today. How are you doing today?

Elizabeth: I’m great.

Gene: That’s good. Any good TV shows to recommend, because I’ve been watching a lot recently.

Elizabeth: We will get to those at the end of the episode, Gene. I know people always like to hear your TV-

Gene: Well, I’ve been traveling, and whenever I travel, I have the Kindle with me, and I just binge-watch show-

Elizabeth: You watch shows.

Gene: I’ve got so many shows to recommend. I’ll pick a couple.

Elizabeth: All right. So after the words of wisdom, Gene will also do his TV show review.

Gene: Yes, please.

Elizabeth: But before that, we’re going to talk about a small business owner who is looking to move her place of business and how that’s going to impact her employees. And we’ll hear about that after a break and a word from our sponsor.

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QUESTION: How Do I Keep My Employees After Moving the Office?

Elizabeth: Okay, we’re back. And this is a question from Leslie. She did not give her last name. She is in Nashville, Tennessee, and she owns a consulting firm. And here’s her question: My business is moving to a new office space, and I fear losing employees due to a new commute. Should I poll the staff to get their feedback or should I just make an executive decision and hope they will not resign? Gene, this is such a perfect question for you.

Gene: I think it’s a very easy question. And you know, it’s funny, I was just at a client, just last week. They are bigger than the average small business. I mean they probably have about 150 employees. So that’s obviously a different thing, but same issue and same thing, Elizabeth, is they need to move, like they’re outgrowing their space or they need to move.

What they’re doing is exactly what I would do as well. They are going to their employees first. I mean they’re getting input from their people. I mean you’re, when you look at your business and you look at the assets in your business, I mean your employees, I know it sounds, people say it all the time, your employees are your biggest asset. But particularly in a, if you’re a retailer, if you’re a small service company, I mean you’ve invested so much time and effort in developing people that can work for you, that you can make money off of, that you really don’t want to lose that.

And location is a really important thing for a lot of people. I mean where their business is located, the commute that they have to their job and all that is very important. And I think that you, not only should you not ignore your employees’ feedback or their thoughts on where your business should move to, but I think you should be soliciting it, and I do think that you should actually make it a community involvement in that decision.

Elizabeth: I am surprised. I thought you were going to say-

Gene: Yeah, I know. Just well, I’ll just put it down. To heck with them. They can move or they want to … Honestly, I really wouldn’t do that.

Now, the other thing I also think about is, depending on the business, because this came up with another client for a much smaller company that was going to move. They had about 15 employees. Where the location was that would have been best for the employees, it wasn’t necessarily best for the owner of the business. In other words, the owner of the business would have to commute longer than like half of the employees if they were to move to like a bigger space.

And again, I’m like yeah, but okay dude, you’ve got you, but you can, if it’s an extra 15 minutes for you, I don’t think that’s a big deal. And plus, you play plenty of golf already and you take plenty of, you’ve got plenty of flexibility in your life. So, but I just think it’s a really important thing for your employees, and I just think to uproot your company and move away from them, I think you’re going to lose good people, and that’s going to hurt your business.

Elizabeth: Okay, so I have a follow-up question, Gene. So this is a consulting firm. Do they need an office?

Gene: Right. Well, you’re asking the right guy because we don’t have an office. I mean-

Elizabeth: And you are technically a tech consulting firm.

Gene: We are.

Elizabeth: You are not technically. You are. Yes.

Gene: We are a tech consulting firm. I have 10 employees. I actually have 11 employees now. We used to have offices, and then we shut them down. That was no inconvenience to anybody at my company because nobody ever came to my office. It does depend on the business. It really does.

Now, the one company with 150 employees that I was talking about earlier, their employees came to work. They did a lot of support work and work in the office, and that was very important to them as a company. Yeah, but if you are like the kind of company like a development company or a marketing company, something where you don’t need people to be in the office all the time, there might be a middle ground.

I do think that, Elizabeth, as somebody who does not have an office, sometimes I’m jealous of people that do have offices, because an office is a good thing for people to see and meet and chat and share ideas and build a little camaraderie. And we don’t have that in my business. We just see each other-

Elizabeth: You just have a Slack channel and just-

Gene: Yeah. We actually use our CRM as our communications, like a, it’s a chat thing and that. We see each other, we bump into each other at clients, we talk to each other on the phone, but, and then we have a Christmas lunch, but it’s not a great … It’s fine, it’s a good culture for us-

Elizabeth: I think it’s a holiday lunch, Gene.

Gene: Yeah, I’m sorry. It’s a holiday lunch, but it’s a … The culture itself is a … It works okay for my company, but it really would not work for a lot of other companies, so, offices are good, and having employees get to your offices in a short amount of time is good.

Elizabeth: What do you think about companies that move into like a shared office space? Like a WeWork … I know WeWork is having their issues, and the reason I bring that up is because they’re in the news all the time, but-

Gene: They are.

Elizabeth: … what do you think about that? It seems very expensive.

Gene: Well, the cost depends. I mean just to rent a desk at a shared office … I just did a big article on this for another publication. To rent a desk can be maybe 150 or 200 bucks a month for a desk. But then to start bringing your organization into these kinds of places, believe it or … a lot of big companies do this. They use WeWork and other shared office spaces as a resource for their employees.

Elizabeth: Because it’s typically not just a desk.

Gene: Right.

Elizabeth: You’ve got like the other utilities are paid for, and that. It’s your community. You’re sharing a lot of services.

Gene: Yeah. Yeah, I agree. I have mixed feelings about those coworking spaces as you get bigger.

Elizabeth: Coworking. That’s the word I was looking for.

Gene: Yeah, they are a … Once you move, once you start gaining in, I don’t know, a handful of employees or whatever, to have them intermingled among other people working, even if sometimes, they, a lot of these places will carve out certain areas of their space just for your company. So it’s almost like your little company space, but you’re still using shared resources. So it could be a very affordable solution, rather than leasing your own thing and buying your own phone systems and copying machines and hiring a receptionist, and the whole, you know, whatever, you can get that done.

Elizabeth: Someone to accept mail and packaging.

Gene: Yeah. So it could be like a real affordable thing. And then again, what’s changing is if you have clients or customers come by, yeah, I mean attitudes change. Back in the day, that would’ve been kind of a weird thing, but nowadays, it’s not that big a deal.

And we’re actually, I’m looking for like a web design firm right now. We’re interviewing, and one of them is like a little web design firm in a coworking space in Philly. And so well you know, you walk in. It wasn’t WeWork. It’s another space. You know you’re going into a coworking space. You know the firm is located there. They’ve got four employees like off in like two offices that they share, and it’s their little sort of corner of the coworking space. As a potential client, has zero impact on my decision about their qualifications. I’m like good for them.

Elizabeth: Yeah because it’s so normal now.

Gene: Yeah, it just seems normal. And the coworking space that I visited in Philly is super professional looking. We met in a nice meeting room, and then the other thing, I walk out, I’m like, “Hey, you know what? Good, I’m glad they’re keeping their costs low. Maybe they’ll reflect that in the fees that they charge me.” So coworking spaces are a great option for different people, so.

Elizabeth: Yeah, I thought you’d like that.

Gene: Yeah.

Elizabeth: All right. We’ll be right back with Gene’s word of brilliance and his TV show recommendations.

Gene: Just a couple good TV shows to talk about.


Elizabeth: All right, we’re back, and Gene is going to give us his word of brilliance.

Gene: So my word of brilliance today is breakfast. And the reason why is because it’s a story that I recently wrote about a guy named Walt Bettinger who is actually the CEO of Schwab, which is the big investment company, right? Big financial services investment firm. When he interviews potential job candidates, Elizabeth-

Elizabeth: He asks them what they eat for breakfast?

Gene: No, not at all.

Elizabeth: Okay, gosh.

Gene: He takes them out to breakfast. But do you know what he does when he takes them out to breakfast? This is a true story.

Elizabeth: He makes them pay?

Gene: No, he doesn’t make them pay either. You really … You’re just banging up against the wall. You know what he does? He does something even more devious than that. He goes to the restaurant, and he talks to the waiter, and he asks the waiter to, on purpose, mess up the order when the person orders. So if the person orders bacon and eggs, the waiter brings him ham and eggs or something, whatever. He tells them, “I’ll give you a good tip for that and all that. But I just, I want you to purposely mess up the order.”

And then what he does is he sees how the prospective employee handles that situation.

Elizabeth: What is he looking for?

Gene: Is that nefarious?

Elizabeth: Yeah, that’s crazy.

Gene: His take on it is, listen, in any business, in particular in the business that we run, there’s always problems, there’s always mess-ups, people make mistakes, there’s always whatever. He wanted to see how that potential candidate not only handles the mistake, but also handles the person making the mistake.

Now, as somebody who has … I’ve never worked in the service industry, but I have this … My daughter for years has been a waitress, and I’ve always had a big respect for people that do that, and I always, it drives me nuts sometimes when I see people behaving badly towards people that are in the service industry. I just think it’s a really bad reflection on them. And I have to tell you, if I was out with a prospective job candidate and a server messed up an order and the person reacted negatively to that person or whatever, I’d have a hard time hiring that person for my company.

Elizabeth: Yeah, but wouldn’t most people just be like, “Oh, you must’ve reversed this,” or I-

Gene: Most nice people would, and those are the kinds of people that you probably want to bring onto your company.

Elizabeth: What about the people who don’t say anything and just eat it?

Gene: That also is another issue.

Elizabeth: I think that says something.

Gene: I never really thought of that. I mean, say I’m like interviewing you, and then you get the completely wrong order. I mean you order the eggs, and you get French toast, and you just you don’t say a word. You just keep eating it.

That’s an … I would probably have to ask you. I would probably have to come clean and go like, “Elizabeth, you know what? I purposely had the waiter screw up your order, and I’d like to … Why didn’t you say … ” I’d be curious to know like what your reason why.

I think it just tells a lot about a person when they’re confronted with a surprise, a mistake, a problem, how do they handle it themselves? How do they treat the person that made the mistake? How do they … whatever. And that’s why Walt Bettinger does this. He’s done this for years, and it’s just one of the things that he does.

And you know what I also find interesting about that story, Elizabeth, is that as somebody who, I’m constantly either hiring people, interviewing contractors or people to do work, whatever, and I just, I’m the worst at it, I feel sometimes, you know?

Elizabeth: I think everyone thinks they are.

Gene: Yeah, they give you like a resume, and you’re like, they look great on paper, and this person seems okay. I would need all the help I can get to hire somebody, and that could be like a make or break kind of thing, seeing how they behave in that kind of a situation. I thought that was cool.

Elizabeth: So, okay, let me throw a wrench in this. What if he goes to the restaurant, he explains to the service person what he wants to do, and then the waiter or waitress or server brings him the wrong order?

Gene: Then … That situation happened actually to him.

Elizabeth: Oh really?

Gene: He said he got up, and he threw the plate at the waiter and dumped his coffee on the way to his head. That’s what he said. I’m just kidding. Obviously, he didn’t do that. I don’t know. I mean you would have to ask him. I mean obviously, you have to be specific in your directions.

Elizabeth: Yes, definitely, definitely. All right, great.

Gene: So anyway, that was my word of the day, it was breakfast.

Elizabeth: Breakfast.

Gene: Take your job candidate out for breakfast and give him a little bit of a challenge. That’s what Walt Bettinger does.

Elizabeth: I don’t eat breakfast.

Gene: Neither do I, actually, funnily enough.

Elizabeth: I hate breakfast food and-

Gene: It’s supposed to be the most important meal of the day.

Elizabeth: It’s not.

Gene: No, I know.

Elizabeth: Lunch is-

Gene: I eat early lunches. I eat lunch like 11 in the morning.

Elizabeth: Same. Yeah, actually, we’re recording this at like 11 a.m., and Gene and I are both absolutely starving.

Gene: Getting ready, getting ready, getting ready.

Elizabeth: Yeah, I don’t love breakfast food. I don’t really like eggs. I don’t eat meat.

Gene: I do on weekends.

Elizabeth: And French toast, like you’re going to have that at like 8 a.m.?

Gene: And for me, what’s really bad is that I literally cannot have breakfast unless I have bacon. I have to have bacon, and therefore, I’d rather not just not have breakfast at all. Some people have this stuff, they don’t have bacon, they’ll just have like eggs. Like, oh my God. How can you miss out on the bacon?

Hey, TV show for you. Can I? Just one. I’ll just leave you before we go, okay? El Camino, The Breaking Bad finale.

Elizabeth: Oh, was it good?

Gene: It’s like a two-hour episode of Breaking Bad. And if you’re listening to this now and you’re a Breaking Bad fan, I promise you that this, you will love the episode. I won’t give away any spoilers-

Elizabeth: Is it standalone or do you have to have watched the whole show?

Gene: I think you will enjoy it way more if you’ve seen the show.

Elizabeth: Yeah, it’s-

Gene: It literally picks up right after Breaking Bad ended.

Elizabeth: The Downtown Abbey movie, I haven’t seen it yet, but someone said you wouldn’t understand what was going on unless you had watched the show. And I thought, well, why would anyone go see that movie if you hadn’t watched the show?

Gene: Yeah, well, they had zillions of people that, they’d be a lot of fans of that so yeah, I hear you. I think, but the Breaking Bad, the El Camino film is just, it wraps up Jesse’s story really nicely, and it just is a … And by the way, it’s not like some crazy episode. It’s kind of like a Better Call Saul. It’s just, but really great writing and really great. Love it.

Elizabeth: Do you like Better Call Saul?

Gene: Love it, love it.

Elizabeth: Me too.

Gene: Love it, love it. So it’s like a cross between those two things. And I’m just telling you, if you’re Breaking Bad fan and you watch the series, I guess my only advice to you, if you’re thinking of watching it, just reacquaint yourself with the final episode of Breaking Bad first. Like rewatch that and then watch El Camino, and you’ll be great.

Elizabeth: Great. All right.

Gene: That’s my TV pick.

Elizabeth: Thanks for the tip.

Gene: I’ve got more, but maybe on another podcast.

Elizabeth: Yeah, definitely. Keep listening for more of these TV reviews.

Gene: I’ve got lots of them, got lots of them.

Elizabeth: Thanks for listening, everyone, and we will be back in a couple of weeks with our next episode. Stay tuned.

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