Chris Richards

marketing | branding | tech | startups

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Want to build office camaraderie? Try moving.

How a change of space invigorated a small agency.

Without change, things get stale. We all know that. Some people get tired of commuting on the same bus. Others get tired of eating the same breakfast every day, bound by habit or restraints they’ve imposed on themselves. In business, those tiny frustrations that come from feelings of ‘staleness’ can compound easily, impacting a company’s workflow. This becomes especially true if employees begin to feel jaded or take the frustration as a given.

So, when my small agency had the opportunity to move into a new office recently due to growth, it was easy to see a revived sense of excitement about not only the work, but the company operations from day-to-day. As moving day approached, employees all seemed to rally behind the idea of change. Everyone was engaged; the excitement was tangible.

Now a couple weeks into the move, having settled into the new space, I can clearly see that this physical change has brought the company together more than any incentive program, perk, or outing in the past. Personally, I’ve felt invigorated by the move, and I sense the same feeling in my coworkers. Throughout the process, I’ve realized that this new perspective for our growing agency has built camaraderie for a number of reasons:

1. Moving is physical. Really physical.

This might seem obvious, but in case you haven’t packed up one office, loaded it in various cars, and unloaded it on the 4th floor of a new building, you might not remember just how physically intense moving really can be.

Many companies, including ours, offer employee wellness days involving exercise, yoga, or the like. While those types of activities certainly achieve their goals of getting employees active, their physical settings (gym, park, beach, etc.) are somewhat expected. But, arriving at work in an oxford button-down and khakis, and leaving a little sweaty, having disassembled three desks, is not expected. For me, it was the physical element of packing and moving, mixed with the normal (keyboard-heavy) digital agency work that felt so interesting. I found myself smirking internally as I sorted boxes while in dress shoes, watching coworkers build chairs wearing heels.

We got really physical one day, going all Office Space on our crappy printer. It was the perfect way to release the stress that was brewing with the big move, and the growth of the agency. Seeing our CEO walk out of the office with our horrible old printer over her head, smashing it to the concrete, felt like watching the physical rebirth of the company and a new culture. Smashing the old, negative things, we were all ready for a fresh start — physically and mentally.

And, no matter how physically tiring the move may have been, it felt good to experience the physical fruits of our labor coming together. Seeing a new office emerge from an empty space isn’t something many employees in larger businesses typically get to experience.

2. Multitasking forces focus.

I know multitasking can get a bad rap in the digital world, but something about having to squeeze in packing, loading, and moving responsibilities with the day-to-day responsibilities every small agency faces made our team work harder and more efficiently. With the pressure of having to balance the duties of moving (assembling new desks to sit at), employees seemed to focus on the client tasks at hand with extreme focus in order to make time to both settle-in the new space and satisfy clients.

In a scenario like this, there’s really no excuse for “down-time” as there is always something to be done, something to be moved, or a new piece of furniture to be assembled. The focused feeling nurtured here is something we should carry with us beyond the move-in period. It’s a valuable feeling to capture.

3. Moving brings out the “real” in people.

Amid loading iMacs into the back seat of my car, it dawned on me that this wasn’t “typical” work behavior for a small branding agency. Do lead designers typically lug their 27″ machines across town in the back seat of a sedan? Do copywriters often take apart tables or wire phone lines? No. But all this atypical behavior actually brought out a refreshing “realness” in people. It reminded me a lot of moving in to college — while it’s stressful and physically demanding, the act of changing one’s surroundings brings out the essence of people.

At one point in the move, while pasting up a wall-length Whitey Board, as four of us struggled with installing the sticker-like covering, I felt as if I was taking part in a “team-building” challenge at summer camp. You know that one where you can’t let go of your partner, but you have to untangle? Everyone was real, everyone was focused on achieving the goal, and everyone was needed. It just felt like true teamwork. It’s a feeling I hope carries into the rest of our work as an agency.

Finally, the shared experience of going through this together as a company over many weeks has had a greater impact than any one individual perk could have had on the employees. By engaging everyone in the physical move, offering the freedom to “refresh” their perspective in a new space, and creating a chance to approach work from a new space, this move has done wonders for the health of the company.

I know it’s not possible for everyone to just up-and-leave their current spot. But, I’d recommend considering the impact that such a wide-reaching call to arms could have on one’s employees and business. Especially in our increasingly digital industry, removed from the real world, it can feel refreshing to take a day, grab some cardboard boxes, unravel a roll of packing tape, and cram some computers in a trunk.

Oh, and sharing a few beers after a job (move) well done? That’s always good for camaraderie too.


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3D Printing in Philadelphia – DesignPoint

I’m excited to be helping an awesome company that recently opened its office in Old City, Philadelphia. DesignPoint Solutions was formed based around adding value to existing 3D printing and design technologies, meaning they’ll teach you, train you, and help you design and prototype anything from a little chess piece to a sophisticated and precisely crafted medical device.

Personally, I’m blown away by the quality and precision of the little pieces their printers can put out and I’m glad to see the industry expanding in Philly. With other great 3D design and fabrication places such as Next Fab gaining lots of interest from the local community (also serving as the casting area for the next Shark Tank), it’s hard to deny the fact that the industry is blooming in Philadelphia and beyond.


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Adobe Just Gave Photoshop CS2 Away for Free

Corporate blunder or PR miracle? That’s what everyone’s asking following the news that Adobe was giving away free downloads of its full-featured software, Photoshop CS2 (from 2005).

Basically, Adobe wanted to make the software available for those who might have previously had CS2 installed on an older computer, but had since lost their registration key. So, they made “universal” serial numbers and posted them publicly on a downloads page with the .exe files for Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, etc. I found out through a friend who shared this link to Dealzon, offering the free download to anyone who signs up for an Adobe ID.

Check out the Adobe Forums where users are debating the outcome of this event. There’s even an official Adobe moderator in there saying that, while it’s possible for anyone to download and install the files using the provided serial numbers, that technically it wouldn’t be legal to actually use the software unless you had previously owned CS2.

I think Adobe should come out in the next day or two and promote this as an actual, legitimate way to obtain the software. First of all, it’s Photoshop from 2005. There have been NUMEROUS improvements since then, and giving it away for free would fall in line with many other software companies offering old versions for free when they are no longer supported.

Secondly, it would provide a huge PR boost and potentially expose many new users to the Adobe brand and software. At this point, it would look horrible to take it down and/or persecute anyone who downloaded the software “illegally” after reading the news.


Update: New LinkedIn Endorsements Better than Klout?

LinkedIn looks like its adding a beefed up endorsements system to the fray of digital “ego-stroking.” I think this new form digital endorsements, though, might be better than the type created and pushed by the ever-controversial Klout.

new linkedin endorsements

The help button next to the new “endorsements” section reads: “Got a connection with great expertise? Endorse their skills and expertise to give them recognition. Your endorsement will appear on their profile.”

Basically, LinkedIn is prompting us to go rate our business connections and vouch for certain skills they have listed. I like it. Because LinkedIn is the go-to professional network, these personal endorsements could add a nice touch to a profile, ultimately making one a more attractive job candidate.

linkedin endorsements connections

So, how are these new LinkedIn endorsements better than Klout? Well, first of all, everyone uses LinkedIn.

How many people do you know that actually use Klout? Right, not many. For many connections of mine, LinkedIn is a standard social network, used secondarily to Facebook. It’s where all my college friends turned when it was made clear that not having a LinkedIn profile was seen as detrimental.

Klout, on the other hand, is some “zany” off-shoot that maybe only a handful of my friends and personal connections actually use. Sure, plenty of my Twitter followers us it. But they’re all social media “gurus,” “ninjas,” etc, that are involved in digital marketing on a daily basis. My real life friends and business connections aren’t using Klout. They’re using LinkedIn.

My (real life) friend, Ben Konicek, seems to think that these new endorsements will finally make LinkedIn skills relevant. Before, they could have been seen as “filler,” something one put down because it seemed logical and complete. Now, we might see more emphasis placed on truly evaluating what skills one has actually demonstrated or those for which one could be held personally accountable.

Unlike Klout, which evaluates our social media posting habits, these new LinkedIn endorsements reflect our real world skills and experience, vouched for by personal connections. To me, that’s immensely more valuable.