Change Is Brewing

In the Spirit

The winners of last year's Xerox makeover weren't the only ones fired up by the contest. Rooster Hill Vineyards founders Amy and Dave Hoffman, 45 and 65, respectively, drew inspiration from the colorful spread that appeared in the November 2004 issue of Entrepreneur--and got to work improving their own office setting.

Starting in late April 2005, they integrated a few ideas from the feature--the L-shaped countertop and file cabinets on wheels--to improve Rooster Hill's office space. "The countertop allows for individual workstations, but if someone has a large project, they can really spread out," says Amy. Extra space in the office became a conference area.

While the couple did their own painting and electrical work, a builder was hired for the rest. Amy suggests doing some of the work yourself to keep costs down. The total cost for Rooster Hill's makeover: $10,000 and two weeks of work. "It was hard to just say it's $10,000 for a place where I can work; I could have bought two new wine tanks," says Amy, who projects $420,000 in sales for 2005. "But you have to make a nice environment for your employees to work in; it's your sanity, too."

Citing efficiency and professionalism as benefits, Amy is especially pleased that salespeople and wine writers who now enter the Penn Yan, New York, office feel both relaxed and comfortable. No one has to stand for lack of space, and that's an accomplishment worth toasting.

Hardware Highlights
A great business makeover is more than just good looks; it's good technology, too. Upgrading your hardware and software is what will really boost your efficiency and jump-start your employees' productivity. Don't worry, you don't have to spend a bundle; and the rewards you'll reap are well worth the investment. Let's take a closer look at some of the new Xerox technology Sprecher Brewing Co. received for its makeover. You might just find something that can work for you.

  • WorkCentre PE120i: Sprecher received four of these machines for a reason. The highly versatile PE120i combines printing, copying, scanning and faxing capabilities in a small, networkable package. The black-and-white device is capable of printing up to 22 pages per minute and costs $649 (all prices street). The PE120i is best suited for personal or small workgroup use.
  • Phaser 7750DN: Slow inkjet no more. Sprecher moved up to the $6,300 Phaser 7750DN color laser printer for in-house signage and high-quality graphics output. High-end features include two-sided printing, up to 35 ppm in color, 384MB memory and a 20GB internal hard drive. That's a lot of muscle for versatile color printing.
  • Phaser 8550: The solid ink Phaser 8550 printer offers more color options and will handle the needs of Sprecher's retail department. Speeds top out at 30 ppm both in color and black and white. The 8550 has a hefty duty cycle of 85,000 pages per month and can get the first full- color page out in as fast as five seconds. Pricing starts around $1,300.
  • DP 820 DLP Digital Projector: It's not all about printers. The DP 820 projector is a very portable 4.5 pounds with an 800 x 600 XGA resolution. Its 1,600 lumens of brightness will handle most room lighting situations, and it all comes in at just under $1,000.
  • DocuShare: DocuShare is a $4,500 secure, web-based document and content management system that will help Sprecher get organized, archive files, track different versions of files and boost collaboration among employees. It integrates with a variety of desktop applications and is easily scalable as a business grows.
  • WorkCentre Pro 128: The $8,500 Pro 128 is a major piece of equipment. It's a black-and-white workhorse that can hold a maximum of 3,100 sheets of paper and features full duplexing with a 50-sheet duplex automatic document feeder. It can copy and print and has optional scan, fax, internet fax and e-mail capabilities. The Pro 128 will handle a lot of Sprecher's everyday business needs.

More Design Tips From Thom Filicia
He plays an interior designer on TV's Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, but Thom Filicia is one in real life, too, having been in business long before the show. Filicia, who has done a lot of corporate offices, says there are numerous ways entrepreneurs can improve their offices--without resorting to extreme makeovers:

1. Tread lightly, or at least in style. Carpeting, like paint, will transform an office. It's more expensive, of course, but keeping expenses down and making life easier is why Filicia's team chose carpet tiles for the Sprecher Brewery offices. "They're easy to install, and if there's any damage, they're easy to repair."

2. Define your space. If every room has a function, it helps give an order to the office. "Think of [your business space] as a house, where you have your living room, and [another room] is the kitchen," says Filicia.

3. Look for areas of clutter and try to learn why the clutter exists. Case in point: Filicia's team put coat hooks at the front entrance where everyone comes in. Suddenly, especially in the tough Milwaukee winter, cumbersome coats, boots and scarves have a home.

4. Shrink sizes where you can. Filicia was greatly aided by simply bringing in technology that required fewer wires and figuring out how to hide massive piles of tangled telephone lines that gave the office an industrial, who-cares feel. He also loved being able to replace the giant computer monitors with thin "sexy" ones.

5. Clean. Whether it's hiring a maid service, assigning people to bathroom duty or what have you, a little cleaning will help the office look better and improve morale. The Sprecher offices had a lot of dust, and the bathrooms appeared remodeled, but only had a couple of knick-knacks added. Mostly, they were simply well-scrubbed.

Geoff Williams is a writer in Loveland, Ohio.

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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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