This guest post is a part of Technical.ly's Office Trends month.
When Planit, the advertising agency I cofounded, decided to move from an Inner Harbor office tower to the growing neighborhood of Locust Point, we wanted to make it into something special—not just for our employees, but for the community, too.
While the former factory that was to become our new office offered ample space for employee-requested amenities (like free parking, lots of collaboration spaces, a bike rack and a beer fridge), it lacked one crucial element—good local coffee; a space where creative ideas are sketched on napkins around a hot beverage and shared conversations.
So in keeping with Planit’s spirit of respectful disruption, we launched our own and Order & Chaos Coffee (O&X) was born.
What did we learn when we became Baltimore’s newest coffee shop owners? That making great espresso drinks requires different muscles than running one of Baltimore’s largest ad agencies.
Here are some of our key takeaways:
Know your audience
Customers behave differently than clients. Salaried employees have different needs than hourly employees. The agency P&L is quite different than that of the coffee shop. The nuances of both companies require us to shift when it comes to decision-making, communication, promotions and leadership. Embrace those differences and learn from each.
O&X became a testing ground for new ideas
Opening O&X gave us a unique opportunity to launch a new brand from the ground up. We help clients do this all the time, but launching our own brand gave us a platform to experiment, learn about consumer behaviors and try out new and innovative marketing tactics.
And the agency has leveraged O&X marketing channels to test new strategies. The lessons learned from O&X’s campaigns have influenced innovative strategies for Sheetz, one of our largest food and beverage clients.
Look for strategic ways to leverage your second endeavor so it can benefit and educate multiple constituents.
O&X helped us find our place in the neighborhood and reinforce our values
O&X is not only about serving coffee, it is about using coffee to connect Planit with the neighborhood and the business community while rewarding our team. Opening a coffee shop was aligned with our vision and values, and reinforced them. There’s a lesson here for any leader.
Planit has a track record of breaking convention in an effort to stand out. Like erecting street level “retail” signage for our advertising agency in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor back in 1999. This wasn’t expected from service businesses at the time, but it got Planit the buzz we wanted to compete and grow.
Sure, opening a coffee shop brings risk. It isn’t what people expect from an ad agency. But taking calculated risks and doing the unexpected brings great reward, too.
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