Change Is Brewing

What are you waiting for?

Don't just envy the Sprechers' new office--fix up your own work space. Filicia says there are many ways entrepreneurs can improve their offices without extreme makeovers:

1. Improve the lighting. You shouldn't have one light to one office. There needs to be balance, says Filicia. Incandescnet lamps are a nice touch, especially in the evening, offering a "warm, soothing feeling." But there should be a balance of light, with both fluorescent and incandescent lighting. Filicia also recommends bringing as much natural light into an office as possible. And hey, it's free, too.

2. Paint the walls. "Paint can really change an office and be a dramatic yet inexpensive solution," says Filicia. "And if you end up not liking what you've done, it isn't a problem. You can always repaint it."

3. Be kind to your, um, assets. It may not be as drastic a change as painting a room, but the right chair can truly alter your perspective in your office and keep you in your seat longer. Says Filicia, "You're spending a lot of time in your chair. Put your money where your butt is."

4. Try to have living things in the office. We're not talking employees, though those are great, too. Plants and fish, says Filicia, "are wonderful and easy and can transform the space. I bring my dog to the office, but obviously, to each office its own."

5. Remember the personal touch. That means family photos, your favorite baseball cap nailed to a bulletin board or other mementos. "Your office is part of what you do, for better or for worse," says Filicia. "We live our careers, and they're part of our lives. And so in a positive way, you need some space that's a refuge from your work and an extension of your home personality."

1st Runners-Up
Ryan Millman, 27, was skeptical when his director of marketing, Harvis Kramer, revealed his intentions to try to win an office makeover for Millman Multimedia in Owings Mills, Maryland. Millman thought, "I guess you must not be that busy if you have time to enter contests." Later, when Millman saw Kramer taking photos of the office and devoting precious time to the application, Millman believed Kramer had his priorities out of whack.

Millman believes that no longer. Thanks to Kramer's efforts, the company is the first runner-up in our makeover contest. Millman's office won a Xerox WorkCentre C2424 color solid ink multifunction system, a HON Alaris Work Chair and a three-year subscription to Entrepreneur. Millman Multimedia's main source of revenue is GreekYearBook.com, which provides portrait services for fraternities and sororities at approximately 300 universities across the country. They also do corporate work and have an unofficial nonprofit wing of their company--they frequently take photographs for charities that use the pictures for their own marketing and fundraising. But despite bringing in $1 million in annual sales, Millman's business--which has 10 employees and 84 contract photographers--was still making do with a 7-year-old printer.

Between order forms and letters sent to the college students' parents, "We [make] over 100,000 copies a year," says Millman, who is enthusiastic about being able to do printing in-house. And he says he plans to remake his office himself at some point, seeing a nice office as a pick-me-up for his employees. "I think morale is vital to the success of the overall business."

2nd Runners-Up
Colleen Mahoney, 49, owner of Mahoney Architects, a $1 million firm with offices in Tiburon and Petaluma, California, is pleased to have a new Xerox Phaser 8550 color solid ink printer, a HON Alaris Work Chair and a three-year subscription to Entrepreneur: "I'm always looking for ways to improve our company and to make people's time efficient."

Mahoney, whose company's work has been profiled in This Old House magazine and on HGTV shows, also tries to use her business as a platform for helping social causes. Since she started her firm in 1986, she and her company have donated time and money to everything from hospice care to cancer research and athletic programs for inner-city kids.

Mahoney says she was inspired by her parents, who volunteered generously. "The world is full of a need for help," says Mahoney, "and I think in the last several years, it's become even more challenging for all the nonprofits because things have tightened up a lot." But that's just when volunteerism becomes even more important, says Mahoney, whose generosity is also evident within her company. Mahoney is giving the cushy chair she won to her office manager and administrator, sticking with the "cheap" chair she bought for herself at Costco.

Mahoney sounds surprised when it's suggested that nobody would have thought less of her if she had kept the chair herself. She says, "I think Pat needs it more than anyone 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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