Change Is Brewing

The Big Reveal

Two weeks later, Randy, Anne and about a dozen office employees gather in the parking lot, prepared to go in and see what Filicia and his team have done. About half an hour before, Filicia paces anxiously inside the offices, which now have new red carpeting, bright yellow paint, raised ceilings in one meeting room and numerous other improvements, like fluorescent lighting. Previously, the doorway from the parking lot had a small window; the same door now has a large window, allowing natural light to stream in. There is new furniture from HON, including four laminate conference tables, Valido desks and 25 chairs (both Nuance Chairs and 6500 Series Chairs), but there are also bookcases that were holdovers from the last office. They're just placed more strategically now, so they look attractive and functional rather than haphazard and useless. Much of the d├ęcor in the office is the same, in fact, though considerable thought has gone into what stayed and what didn't. Later, an employee studies an old ceramic pot, remarking to another: "I moved this pot from one office to another. It was junk, but now it looks cool."

Which is the point of the entire contest, says Ed Gala, vice president of worldwide strategic public relations for Xerox. "It doesn't have to cost a lot of money or even take a lot of time to remake your office," insists Gala. "You don't have to do an extreme makeover. We're trying to show that with a minimal investment, you can make very significant improvements in your environment and reap a lot of benefits."

But 30 minutes before the unveiling, Filicia doesn't yet know how his guinea pigs are going to react or if they'll see the benefits, even though it seems obvious to anyone else that he's about to be on the receiving end of a lot of praise and gratitude. Filicia may be a successful TV personality, but he is also an entrepreneur with just as many jitters as anyone else. His business, Thom Filicia Inc., is a New York City company that deals in high-end residential and corporate work, including projects for the U.S. Pavilion of the World Expo in Japan and luminaries such as Jennifer Lopez. Given the two-week timeline, says Filicia, "This was a really big undertaking."

Once Filicia ushers the Sprechers and staff in, the shouts of joy may be ramped up due to the presence of the Today show cameras, but the emotions are stark and real.

Anne looks as if she has just scaled Mt. Everest and is taking in the view. Randy, with an unshakable grin on his face, marvels, "I feel like a caterpillar coming out of a cocoon."

Several employees seem on the verge of tears. Tom Strelka, an administrative manager whom everyone calls Crusher, whoops as though he were at a pep rally. One woman blurts out to the cameras, "I'm never going to want to leave my job, and I never thought I'd say that." Then she appears embarrassed, as if she shouldn't have said that. But everyone knows what she meant. The office had been a place designed to make people want to flee at the first available moment. Now it feels warm and inviting.

"Obviously, it's going to improve morale," Strelka says later. "It's going to be so much more efficient."

He feels that way partly because everyone will have new technology at their disposal--from the basic and beautiful, like thin Xerox monitors, to the indispensable, such as the Xerox Phaser, which prints up to 35 pages per minute in color (a boon to the graphic design department), and the Xerox WorkCentre M20i, which prints, copies, scans and faxes (a blessing for the payables/receivables and administrative staff).

It may sound like a potential problem for any staff members who are technologically clueless, but Digital Office Solutions, based in Milwaukee, will be providing training and support for an entire year. Additional items for the office makeover were provided by InterfaceFLOR, Omtool Ltd. and Room & Board, which gave the office a lot of the personal touches. The furniture is a major morale booster, too.

"We had such clunky, clunky furniture," says Anne an hour later, a couple of offices away from Randy, who is calling his mother in Oregon to share the details of their new digs. "It was hard to work in here. And our technology--remedial is the wrong word. It was substandard. It's like going through a three-decade time warp. The other office was very nondescript, but now it has a sense of flow--it's more open. And professionally, it feels very, very comfortable."

Anne adds, "I was hired in part because we expected large growth in our business, especially in the soda line, and adapting from a small company to a medium company is the goal. Now that we've got the technology, if business booms, we can handle it. I don't think we could have prior to this redo."

Randy hasn't thought that far ahead yet. He's still wandering through the hallway, feeling good about the year--noting that they've recently had some national recognition in their industry, including a Brewmaster of the Year award. "And now this," he says, his voice full of awe. "This still doesn't look like our office. It's like it's someplace else."

Geoff Williams has written for numerous publications, including Entrepreneur, Consumer Reports, LIFE and Entertainment Weekly. He also is the author of Living Well with Bad Credit.

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This article was originally published in the November 2005 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Change Is Brewing.

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