Better Than Ever

Making an Impression

Entrepreneurs generally like to be in control of all aspects of their business, but when it came to the makeover, the Hamletts were delighted to leave the work up to Filicia and his associates. Says Jack, "Would we have decorated like this? Maybe not. We wouldn't have imagined this kind of thing."

Even a year after settling back in, their enthusiasm for the space is unabated. "It's not a typical office look. It has a very warm look, quite different from most offices," says Kathy. Other entrepreneurs who look around their own offices and find them lacking can find inspiration in Mad Science's experience. Perhaps the ultimate compliment comes from their customers. "It's a very user-friendly office. When the moms come in, they really like it," says Jack.

What's next for the Hamletts? Well, the warehouse space in the back is reaching capacity, and they're thinking about rearranging it again to accommodate more supplies. "We're waiting for a 'make your warehouse over' contest," says Kathy. If that ever happens, Mad Science of Scottsdale and northeast Phoenix will be the first to enter.

Design of the Times

Now that you're constantly bombarded with makeover shows and spectacular before-and-after pictures, you may be hankering to have your own office made over. If you have the time, inclination and design sense to tackle it yourself, great. If not, a professional designer is your best bet. We caught up with designer Patricia Lang of Just Interiors in Kansas City, Missouri, to get some tips and advice.

  • Why is a makeover necessary? It's not just about impressing your customers, but also about retaining employees and making them comfortable at work. Says Lang,"If you walk into an office that's grungy, old and dark, that turns good employees off."
  • Color is hot among growing businesses. "Darker colors are in. [Businesses are] not painting all the walls one color. One wall might be one color; one wall might be another color."
  • Imagination can conquer tight budgets. Says Lang, "You have to be creative with paint, and you might not use carpeting. There are ways of making it look nice."
  • Warranties are important. "Good furniture has a warranty." A professional designer can help find furniture and carpeting with warranties that will protect your investment and fit your needs.

Furniture Finds

As a business owner, you can't spend every waking moment pondering your office furniture options. But when it comes time to outfit a new office or replace your worn-out desks and chairs, you owe it to yourself and your employees to put some thought into new furniture.

John Malnor, general manager of the Turnstonedivision of Steelcase, has some tips and advice for entrepreneurs. For starters, "Don't shy away from working with a full-service contract dealer. Be upfront about the amount of time and money you want to spend so they can help you get to the solution quickly." Ask around, and find an office furniture dealer who has experience working with smaller companies--they'll be more attuned to your needs.

Remember that this process isn't just about tables and chairs. Says Malnor, "It's more the integration of the space with the furniture." Malnor also suggests bringing your employees in on the discussion. Find out how they feel about the office environment and how much space they need. Even small things, like letting them choose the fabric color for their chairs, can impact employee satisfaction.

Also, look for furniture that meets the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturer's Associationstandards for safety and quality. And finally, a little flair doesn't hurt. "Style does make a difference," says Malnor. You don't have to break your budget to get office furniture that conveys professionalism and style.

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This article was originally published in the September 2005 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Better Than Ever.

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