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Is it just furniture? When does it lead to something more meaningful?
See how an interior space can open your corporate culture and go beyond just the furniture. Find out what a large insurance brokerage has to say.

by Rob Terpstra, Head of Real Estate and Facilities for Haworth — As facility managers, the temptation to fall into a “it’s just furniture” mindset is incredibly tempting. To us, it can be a commodity and we have budgets to balance against everyday needs.

Admittedly, as a facility manager at an office furniture manufacturer, you are going to expect me to convince you differently. Instead of trying to do it myself, I want to share a recent client experience with you.

My colleagues recently met with Ash Brokerage, the nation’s largest independently owned insurance brokerage firm serving insurance agents, financial advisors, registered representatives and career agents through business-to-business relationships. The project was for the company’s new headquarters in downtown Fort Wayne, Indiana, called the Ash Skyline Plaza. This new building takes up an entire city block with retail stores, a residential tower, a parking garage and a rooftop green terrace. For photos and a video from Ash Brokerage, click here.

Ash Brokerage’s new headquarters in downtown Fort Wayne, Indiana. The Ash Skyline Plaza is an entire city block with retail stores, a residential tower, a parking garage and a rooftop green terrace.

Ash Brokerage’s new headquarters in downtown Fort Wayne, Indiana. The Ash Skyline Plaza is an entire city block with retail stores, a residential tower, a parking garage and a rooftop green terrace.

The existing location was in two separate locations due to growth. It was a very traditional office space but Ash Brokerage didn’t think it spoke to who they were as a culture.

At the start of this project, Ash Brokerage made a visit to Haworth headquarters in Holland, Michigan with their architectural firm, MSKTD. In the words of the client: “it set the tone for what was possible – much more than we originally expected.”

We have all heard the “culture eats strategy for breakfast” quote by Peter Drucker and many have likely heard the somewhat scary stats that estimate 70% of all employees are disengaged from their work (Gallup). Culture has certainly emerged as a catalyst for engagement, collaboration and innovation. In this project, Ash Brokerage had already started to think about and take actions to preserve and grow their culture. During the visit to Haworth, they discovered that the discussion about their space was going to be a big part of that effort.

 

Haworth has a variety of culture tools and worked with Ash Brokerage to discover the priority of business issues to consider during the headquarter project. They focused on:

  • Enhancing the existing culture. The space should inspire pride in their work and who they are.
  • Employee engagement – understanding what existing spaces worked well and what didn’t. Employee feedback was critical.
  • Incorporating 3 floors – making sure that people were collaborating across the space
  • How do we make the space work for us instead of just working in the space?

This was important as it gave the project team a clear goal to work towards and an exact understanding of what the client was looking for.

Ash Brokerage’s open, inviting, collaborative, bright and inspiring space supports their culture goals.

Ash Brokerage’s open, inviting, collaborative, bright and inspiring space supports their culture goals.

“Going into it, you don’t know what you don’t know. You think you are going to look at furniture and you are going to fit that furniture into your office and it is just supposed to work,” said Tim Ash, CEO. “What we found was much different. It’s the furniture in your surroundings and in your architecture that unlocks potential in people and then you have magic.”

Fast forward to where Ash Brokerage is today – they have an open, inviting, collaborative, bright and inspiring space. To meet the goal of keeping the space about the people and the culture, they have a space with low partitions that encourages camaraderie and a lot of glass to let in a maximum amount of light. Ash Brokerage employees can go to a variety of office environments to sit at a desk, workstation, or lounge chair to do work. Some of the products that the project team used to pull this space together are: workstations (Compose, Reside, Beside, Belong), seating (Zody, Very, Hello, Harbor Work Lounge), storage (X-series, Beside) and lounge (Openest, Haworth Collection).

Ash Brokerage utilized low partitions to encourage camaraderie and a lot of glass to let in a maximum amout of light.

Ash Brokerage utilized low partitions to encourage camaraderie and a lot of glass to let in a maximum amout of light.

The reaction? The client is seeing a lot of smiles and the best in people. They feel the space has unlocked the cultural enhancement they were looking for.

“I look at it that we made a choice to invest in this space to unlock this potential. We have seen it day in and day out,” added Mr. Ash. “There hasn’t been a day since we moved in that there hasn’t been a positive comment or a thank you for the environment and the experience it has created.”

As a facility manager, I took this away from Ash Brokerage’s experience: it is more than just furniture. When you align a space project with the strategic goals of the company, the project and goals both win. It also gives a common goal and better understanding of what the project is trying to accomplish.

 

Ash Brokerage employees can go to a variety of office environments to sit at a desk, workstation, or lounge chair to do work.

Ash Brokerage employees can go to a variety of office environments to sit at a desk, workstation, or lounge chair to do work.

 

 

Interested in learning more about space and culture? I recommend the book Change Your Space, Change Your Culture and can share a summary booklet here.

 

 

 

 

 

Rob leads Facilities and Real Estate at Haworth. In this unique role, he works on Haworth spaces to solve employee and business issues and then presents the experience as proof statements to customers who want to better understand Haworth’s point of view. Rob is a process improvement champion, recently launching a new CAFM software, and manages Haworth’s real estate portfolio.

Haworth improves workplaces with award-winning furniture, interior architecture and technology solutions. Haworth is committed to protecting and restoring the environment, creating economic value as well as supporting and strengthening its communities. Founded in 1948, Haworth remains family-owned and privately-held and serves markets in more than 120 countries through a global network of 650 dealers and 6,500 employees.

 

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