Como Vencer la Sobrecarga Informativa

La sobrecarga informativa es algo a lo que muchos estamos expuestos en Internet. Vamos abriendo artículos para leerlos más tarde y cuando nos damos cuenta tenemos 50 pestañas abiertas en el navegador. Aparte de saber que no las vamos a leer ahorita, todas estas pestañas ocupan memoria y tiempo de procesador, interfiriendo con nuestro trabajo diario.

Luego, mientras esperamos que comience una reunión, que llegue el tren, salga el avión o nos atienda el doctor, quisieramos poder leer algo más que las revistas del siglo pasado disponibles en la sala de espera.

Las herramientas que veremos a continuación te permiten agregar contenido rápidamente a tu biblioteca de lectura y te dan fácil acceso para leerlos despúes, actualizando automáticamente lo que has leído o no.

LaterLoop:

Una nueva herramienta para guardar tus links de lectura que pareciera estar muy bien pensada. De entrada te permite importar tus listas de lectura creadas en otros servicios (por ejemplo, Del.icio.us o Instapaper) así que de una vez le ves la utilidad. Ofrece una extensión para Firefox que te permite guardar artículos con un sólo click o tecla, un bookmarklet e integración con la extensión ScrapBook para lectura fuera de línea. Además, ofrece versiones para iPhone y otros celulares, archivo, ratings, y feeds públicos y privados de tu lista de lectura.

Instapaper:

Usando un bookmarklet permite añadir páginas instantáneamente a tu lista de lectura. Despúes, navegas a la página de Instapaper desde tu navegador o celular y escoges lo que quieres leer. El artículo será automáticamente marcado como leído y retirado de la lista de lectura. Es posible también ver una versión ligera del artículo (haciendo click sobre el botón de “Text”) para evitar bajar el website completo a tu celular. También puedes suscribirte a un feed RSS con tu lista de lectura.

Del.icio.us o Ma.gnolia.com:

A través de un bookmarklet o una extensión para Firefox, puedes usar estos servicios para almacenar links, colocándoles una etiqueta que los identifíque como “LeerDespués” (o como prefieras llamarlos). Luego crea un link que te lleve directamente a tus bookmarks identificados con esa etiqueta y listo: una lista de lectura.

Read it Later:

Una extensión para Firefox que permite guardar copias de links a páginas para leerlas después. Ofrece una función experimental que guarda una copia local del contenido de la página, para poder leerla offline en Firefox. Usa los bookmarks de Firefox, lo que permite sincronizar la lista de lectura con otras computadoras a través de extensiones como Foxmarks o Google Browser Sync.

Y tu, ¿cómo controlas la sobrecarga informativa?

Barack Obama Wins the Democratic Nomination with 3441 Delegates

Forget Independence day, also known as June 4th (Yes, I do know Independence Day is July 4th, but thanks for the correction. The statement was tongue in cheek.), also known as the day that Presidential hopeful Barack Obama claims the Democratic nomination for president. We’ve suffered through five months of primaries and caucuses and all of the tree decorations that have been this Democratic primary season. Today, we stand five days shy of the Montana and South Dakota primaries that will wrap up all 48 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and American Samoa.

Michigan and Florida don’t get the distinction of being called states, in this post, due to their decision to buck the party system and make their own rules. Damn those independents!

So, though Obama appears poised to claim the victory, we thought we’d take the technical approach to the nomination process and figure out what Google Fights has to say.

Picture 6.png

According to Google, Barack Obama has won 85% of the vote for a total of 3441 delegates.

One wonders why it has taken this long to find a nominee…

Update: Digg it if you wish.

La Batalla es Digital

Parte 1 del desarrollo de los puntos del artículo “5 Cambios que Todo Ejecutivo de Medios Debe Hacer

1. La Batalla es Digital

La diferencia más importante entre la distribución tradicional de contenido (televisión, radio, cable, cine, impresos) y la distribución digital es que ya no vendemos contenido, ahora vendemos una experiencia.

Y no me refiero a que seamos expertos en la producción o venta de contenido, me refiero a la experiencia del espectador al interactuar con nuestro contenido. “Espectador” (o televidente, radioescucha o cualquier otro de esos terminos pasivos que estamos acostumbrados a darle a nuestra audiencia) ya no es un término adecuado.

El espectador es ahora un participante activo dentro de esa experiencia que queremos ofrecerle. Su función ya no es simplemente sentarse a ver televisión… ahora tiene poder de decisión (cuándo, cómo y dónde disfrutar nuestro contenido), distribución y promoción (a quién le recomienda o no nuestro contenido y con quiénes lo comparte) y hasta de producción (qué contenido adicional genera a partir de nuestro producto). Llamémosle, a falta de otro término, usuario.

Cualquier intento de controlar el contenido en dentrimento de la experiencia del usuario fracasará. No se trata de regalar el contenido o de confiar ciegamente en el uso que el usuario le dará, pero la mejor publicidad es un usuario contento, que se siente dueño de una parte de nuestro producto y lo hace suyo. Si nuestro producto es dificil de disfrutar entonces nadie lo tomará en cuenta (o lo buscarán por otras vias más convenientes que en nada benefician al productor original).

Tenemos que planificar de manera tal que todo nuestro contenido esté preparado para sobrevivir en el mundo digital:

  • Prepara todo tu contenido en formato digital:

    Planifica para tener una copia digital de alta resolución que te sirva de archivo y fuente para los demás formatos. También prepara una copia en formato Flash Video. Estos te permitirán distribuir tu video online y cuando sea necesario preparar formatos para podcasting, vodcasting y celular.

  • Convierte tus tarifas de publicidad a formato digital:

    La idea aquí es que cada televidente que migre a tu contenido online te genere al menos las mismas ganancias que si te hubiera visto por tu canal tradicional. Convierte tu tarifa tradicional a una cifra equivalente al costo de 15 segundos de publicidad por cada mil personas y usa esto como punto de partida para tu publicidad online. Recuerda que online no puedes presentar el mismo número de anunciantes por hora de programación, pero sí tienes más oportunidades de desplegar publicidad alrededor de tu contenido.

  • Amplia tu oferta de contenido:

    Mientras en los medios tradicionales sólo dispones de un tiempo finito de programación para presentar tu contenido, en el mundo online el tiempo y el espacio son ilimitados. Aprovecha esta oportunidad creando contenido alrededor de tu producto: entrevistas a los actores, detrás-de-las-cámaras, escenas borradas, versiones cortas o más largas, historias paralelas, biografías, conspiraciones, juegos, blogs – en fin, todo aquello que alimente el contenido principal y enriquezca la experiencia de los participantes.

¿Te interesa implementar estas estratégias en tu empresa? Envíame un mensaje a través del formulario de contacto (en mi página de RED66).

¿Tienes alguna duda o algo que agregar a la discusión? Usa los comentarios del blog para darnos tu opinión.

What a designer is and isn’t”¦seriously you need to know”¦

Before I begin, I want to thank Mari Adkins and Janice Thomason for taking the time to comment on the last entry.  I lacked on replying to your comments, but know that I agree with both of you and will be better responding in the future. Now on with the latest entry.

I’ve been doing this for a long time. Long enough where early on, to make a client happy, I neglected to mention that a graphic/web designer is not hired to be a professional writer/editor. Granted we work with your company’s content, but what we work with, mainly, is the space that the content needs to fit into.

Often enough, people seeking out a designer, regardless of the field, are looking for someone they can pass the buck of their project to.  What they fail to realize is someone taking on the full project management, content created, design and implementation will be”¦ wait for it”¦a firm or agency. What you really need, and I can hear the cries of your budget now, is team of people working on the whole of the project. You do not want the kid you just hired who learned HTML and some flash. You do not want the guy who has a start up doing design, print or web. These people are not, and I will repeat this often, not the people who should be carrying the full weight of the fact that you either can’t spell OR can’t clearly define in text what it is you want them to define visually.

A designer is just that”¦a designer. You wouldn’t ask your plumber to check your electrical wiring. You wouldn’t ask your electrician to align your spine. The cashier at your local fast food joint doesn’t make your burger.

The responsibility of making sure that the content of your web/print piece is yours.  That way, even though it may delay your deadline, helps you know that if the piece launches incorrectly”¦it’s their responsibility to fix it. If you’re whatever is launched with wrong content that is the result of a sign off that bares your signature”¦the responsibility for it being wrong ends up falling squarely in your lap. Sure you’re going to be pissed at the designer, but they will pull out your sign off, point out where you failed to review it fully and remind you that you signed off on it. You may never work with them again, but they aren’t out the money of paying for a mistake you allowed them to make. You will be out the money to get it redone by them or someone else, the new printing costs and the time for all of this, because you gave the responsibility of making sure your information is correct”¦to someone else.

So let’s review, a copy writer writes content, a project manager makes sure the project meets its projected milestones, a print graphic designer creates work on paper, a web designer creates work in digital and a business owner is responsible for hiring the people for the job. Can each of these people be capable of doing the other persons job? Yes, but will it be done effectively across the board? No one can know for sure.

There’s an old saying, “œit takes a village to raise a child”.  In that regard, it takes a team to fully realize a project you don’t have the time to work on yourself. Whether it’s an agency, a firm, a studio or a team of people your designer suggests; no project should every fully fall on the shoulders of just one industry worker.

Since I’ve gone, briefly, into what a designer doesn’t do; I’d love to hear what your expectations of a designer, print or web, has been in the past.  Do you view them as the guru of all things because their end result is something that, hopefully, brings you a ROI? Have you expected them to know the difference between a conjunction and participle? Or did you supply them the things they needed and get out of the way and let them design something?

Interview with the Entrepreneur: Jesse Thomas of JESS3

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Jesse Thomas of JESS3 an innovative design firm here in the DC area. He has been working hard to create a business that is not just about design but about transforming the innovation process and working with the startups that will one day change the world.

So let’s get started….

1. Please provide us with a bit of your personal background in business and entrepreneurship.

I was always business-minded as a child. I lived by a swimming pool where they charged 75 cents for a soda. I realized that I could provide sodas at a better price and offer a larger variety. I put together a business plan, took out a loan from my parents, and started selling drinks outside the pool. When the summer ended, I modeled the same business plan around selling gum and candy to my classmates.

Fast forward to the year 2000. Busboys and Poets, a restaurant in Washington, D.C., was one of my first freelance clients. I pitched my ideas to owner Andy Shallal and landed the account. From literally before the restaurant existed, I consulted with Andy and gave him key creative input. I helped come up with the name, designed their logo, mural, signage, and built the website. Partnering with Andy Shallal was another very important experience in my career. We still do lots of work for Busboys and I am their Creative Director.

At that time I was working at Qorvis Communications. I wanted to improve my skill set and breadth of knowledge, so I spent my money on attending workshops and traveling to various conferences all over the country. Through networking and meeting many interesting people during my travels, I received several job offers and ended up taking a position at Ogilvy PR as Art Director for John Bell’s 360 Digital Influence team. Building on my experiences at Qorvis, I further cultivated a keen business sense for what it takes to execute at the agency level while at Ogilvy.

Then I left Ogilvy and worked for AOL in the Experience Prototype Lab team creating new products for AOL. This added another tool in my tool belt in terms of what it takes to conceptualize and develop a product; it was also done so on a less profit-pressure-based system. While at Qorvis and Ogilvy there was a strong emphasis on account billables and profitability, which was an important set of lessons I carry with me now that I run my own company, at AOL there was a broader sense that we needed to think about the future of the Internet and industry as a whole.

When I left AOL in December 2007, I took with me a hybrid vision of always watching my margins (just as an Ogilvy would), but pushing the boundaries of conventional thought in the industry, letting ideas that are not bound by what is possible today, but possible tomorrow lead the way (as AOL would). I believe I have combined the best of both worlds with JESS3.

2. Your current venture is JESS3 – what’s your elevator pitch for it?

JESS3 is a creative interactive agency that specializes in Social Media. We design branding and interactive projects for fortune 50 brands and small businesses. If it is a product that exists online, we are able to build it. If it needs to look extra amazing, we have the ability to craft it from scratch using many old-way methods of typography and illustration often lost on a digital age.

And, if the elevator happens to be in Washington, DC, I would mention my contribution to Busboys and Poets. From its inception, I have been a part of what it takes to build a meaningful, community-minded brand. We are now in the process of providing tools for their vibrant offline community in an online setting.

My team is comprised of project managers, web developers, and super creative people. I really enjoy brainstorming big ideas that can be achieved on cost effective budgets.

Our current clients include Wall Street Journal, Verizon, AARP, AOL, New Media Strategies, Lookery, Heritage Foundation, Blue State Digital, Advertising.com, Userplane, Clearspring, Busboys and Poets, Shopzilla, Social Times, Brian Solis’ PR 2.0, Tech Cocktail, the Interact 2008 Conference, Ellwood Thompson’s, Buzzwire, and the list goes on. We are always looking to partner with creative, talented, go-getters.

3. There’s a ton of competition in the interactive space. What makes JESS3 unique?

We focus on branding, content creation, and social media PR. Many of our competitors focus mainly on the coding aspect, or sometimes view design as turning the crank; our advantage is creativity and drawing from atypical places for inspiration (I went all the way to Paris to come up with the just-right font for a local market down in Richmond, VA ““ Ellwood Thompson’s). JESS3 happily works with large corporations, but we also love to take on very abstract projects. We are active in a lot of communities and events such as Social Media Club, Barcamp, Podcamp, Tech Cocktail, Interact2008, Social Times, Facebook Developers Garage, AIGA, Art Directors Club, Startup Weekend”¦ this list also goes on J Not only are we leaders for these events and in these communities, we are also service providers and sponsors. I feel that it is very important to give back to the ecosystem in which I live and do business in ““ it just feels good and seems right that way.

4. Since your business model seems really aligned with pushing the boundaries using Web 2.0 technologies, what is the general roadmap for your business so readers get a sense of your vision?

My roadmap for the future culminates in a Think Tank/Lab business model. I am inspired by IDEO, Fabrica, and the work I did at the Experience Prototype Lab at AOL. I believe that innovation doesn’t have to happen inside a handful of large companies in room with “œInnovation” written on the door. JESS3 will be expanding into product design as well as IP patents.

I want to cultivate my team and build the ultimate work environment. Generating revenue from select clients and being an incubator for select startups is my passion.

The JESS3 of the future will be heavily focused on Venture Capital. I want a full service, integrated agency that can service the incubated companies and can ultimately provide award-winning work at cost-effective prices. I plan on continuing to work with friends, creating new experiences, and patenting as we move upward and onward. A big part of this expansion will be recruiting talented, young college graduates and developing them into priceless ninja innovators.

5. Could you elaborate a little more on your approach to revenue creation?

My approach to revenue creation is to be profitable on everything I do. If I take on a small project I try and keep my out of pocket expenses below the project fee. As I expand the margins get smaller, but the clients get bigger.

Right now, I’m doing my best to maximize effectiveness and efficiency for our 86 active clients. I’m also traveling the world, hiring, and training new employees. Hiring the right people is a big part of my strategy and I’m a big believer in hiring only the highest quality individuals. Zvi Band, CTO, is a tech genius. James Callahan, Art Director, is an absolute artistic prodigy. Leslie Bradshaw, President, is insanely smart and hard working; she grew up on a farm and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Chicago. I am so inspired by my team and partners.

6. How many employees do you have at JESS3 now? Is it important that they all share your entrepreneurial spirit and drive? How do you find that in new hires and keep that entrepreneurial energy alive?

Currently, I have 4 full-time employees, 15 part-time and 1 intern. Keeping the energy and spark alive is essential, especially because we are growing so rapidly. I highly value people who are hard-workers and I like to think that the harder and smarter we work, the more it pays off. We are beginning to attract some very big brands and I think this brand recognition helps encourage my team to continue their phenomenal work and dedication to the company.

7. What are the most important elements for a successful start-up company?

In the film Wall Street, Gordon Gecko said “œA fool and his money are lucky enough to get together in the first place” and I believe this to be particularly true for start-ups. I think innovative branding, a well-executed website, and a presence in social media are all essentials for a successful start-up. Cash flow and the core team are also very important elements. I believe a successful company is 20% ideas and 80% execution. Start-ups should focus on quality and enforce standards regarding execution and consistency. A start-up should spend their advertising budget on customer service. Microsoft and Google can come in and beat you on size and scale, but one of the few advantages small tech start-ups have is a combination of agility and freedom.

Travel to conferences that make sense for your market and meet new people, broaden your perspective. Always have a nice business card and make sure you always have plenty of them with you. Read blogs that pertain to your industry and always be a part of the conversation. Listen to your heart and be the best start-up you can be! I am a big believer that “œif you shoot for the moon, even if you miss you are still amongst the stars.” It is important to have big dreams and large goals. One thing I do is talk to everyone that will listen to my ideas. When someone says something negative or criticizes the idea, I think of the answer, and sometimes I change part of the idea or the way I explain it, depending on the feedback I get.

8. You are self-funded which is poses a different set of challenges versus those who get money from the likes of Sequoia and Novak Biddle. Can you give us a bit of detail on your approach to managing cash flow while trying to grow?

I am so blessed to have great cash flow and a long list of clients waiting in line to work with us.

9. Is there room in the web development space for more competitors? Have you seen any recently that seem interesting?

Sure, I believe there is a lot of room for competitors. I just completed a tour of Asia (Japan, China, Hong Kong), where I participated in lectures at design schools, took tours of agencies. What blew my mind is that, even in China, with billions of people, there is a labor shortage for Interactive Designers. At the universities that we visited, there was a lack of teachers, and in some cases it was the blind leading the blind. This is such a new concept that the rest of the world hasn’t caught up with and I believe this to be an incredible opportunity. Richard Florida writes about creative classes, and I think we should all read his books to realize that we can cultivate communities that attract smart, innovative people.

As more people get online around the world in different more exotic ways, there will be more web development needed. Brands will always need craftsmen to build beautiful original web services. The cream of the crop will always rise to the top. We are in the middle of something akin to the Industrial Revolution. It is as if I am a car creator and I am trying to explain to someone about the future of the car market. We are at a game changing moment, like the invention of the cotton gin.

10. What approach to marketing plays a significant role in promoting and attracting customers to work with JESS3?

Passion. My own passion and that of my team. My customers are so important to me; we have an amazing set of existing relationships and partnerships. I spend a lot of time in the trenches by attending events and volunteering my time and services to industry groups whenever possible. I talk to a lot of people in this industry. I pass out a lot of schwag and ask even more questions. At JESS3 we practice what we preach with creative and social media PR; we use the products we build and we hyper-actively participate in the online space that we help shape.

11. If you want people to remember one thing when they think about JESS3, what is it?

I want people to know how passionate about design and technology we are. We truly put our blood, sweat, and tears into this business. The second thing I’d like people to know is that JESS3 isn’t just me: my core team is comprised of Leslie Bradshaw, Zvi Band, James Callahan, Nick O’Neill, Jamie Gale, Eric Leach, and Becca Baker.

Technosailor.TV: Saturday Nights at 9pm

After a few weeks of messing around and getting comfortable in the video streaming game, we’ve had a lot of fun and a good deal of attention. It’s been fun. I’ve learned some things too – namely that these things can easily go over three hours if there’s no structure.

So, I’ll be streaming every Saturday from 9-11pm (eastern).

The format I’m going to play with will be:

Mixx Minutes with Special Guest Joe Fowler of Mixxingbowl.com’s Social Blend
My new favorite local company, Mixx, has some great stories. This will resemble the Diggnation show without Kevin Rose, Alex Albrecht or Digg. ;-) I’ll talk these stories over with you all as we goo, so get your webcams and uStream logins and passwords all brushed off.

Special Guest
Don’t know who this is yet – but open to suggestions. Who do you want to see? Otherwise, I’ll find someone interesting on Twitter. :-) Update: Our special guest this first week is Jonathan Dingman, an SEO guy. I’m going to skewer his SEO efforts but maybe he might have some tips for the audience.

Audience Conversations
The rest of the show will be a mish-mash of audience topics and conversations. The end of the show always gets the most fun. Last time, I pitched Andrew Hyde on a business model he stole and created VCWear from. ;-)

So, come on by on Saturday night. It’s bring your own beverages – let’s have a good time.

It's 5 O'clock Somewhere. In Case You're on a Deadline

For all the times I rant about PR pitches around here, I actually do get some good ones. Generally, these pitches are timely to me or my audience and are respectful in how they ask for press.

Thus was the case today when a guy named Sergei [last name withheld for privacy] emailed me about a web based project management tool called 5pm. His hook for this pitch (at least what caught my attention) was:

It’s a new web 2.0 tool that we launched recently. 5pm is an online
project management application that looks different from anything else
on the web in this category, but still feels familiar.

Web 2.0 was not the hook, but it was interesting to see that adjective used nonetheless. What hooked me was that it was different from anything else, yet still familiar. This is good because I’ve not been a fan of all the other web based PM tools out there.

I did a little investigation and am smacking myself for not seeing VentureBeat’s “Strong Project Management” endorsement from January. Or this from my new favorite company, Mixx from last year. (Of interest to Mixx fans is that Saturday night is the opening salvo of the new official Technosailor.tv which will be aired on Saturday nights at 9pm Eastern. As part of the format, I’m including a Mixx hour – which may or may not be an hour. ;-))

The Mixx story had a fantasticly engaging comment from one of the 5pmers which explains some of the thinking behind the product:

In terms of features – we implemented what worked for us and skipped what we thought is redundant. It’s difficult to find the right mix, as there is no such a thing, since each team works in their own way. That’s why we were developing our own project manager for about four years now (we had an old version called PTManager). And that’s why there are so many PM applications out there. It’s about finding the right balance, as the core features are common.

To mention new features, I would point to two things. Firstly – the interface. We spent a lot of time designing an interface which is very fast to navigate. Everything is within a click or two. We consider the UI being very important, since any pm application is just a tool. Less time navigating and clicking around, means more time for actual work. For example, coders usually hate to spend time on reporting, so our model for them was “get in. get out. fast”.

Second, I would like to mention our Flash timeline. It gives an alternative view to the projects and tasks and helps visualizing the durations and deadlines (kind of simplified Gantt). In time we plan to make it fully editable, which means you will be able to drag the tasks around the timeline. We think it will be pretty cool.

So this is just version one of our new tool. There is more to come – the feedback from our users will dictate that.

Hardcore. In fact, I may use this because, honestly I can’t stand using Basecamp and desktop-based apps are really no-go when it comes to client work. The one thing that I would really like to see before committing, is Freshbooks integration. I use Freshbooks for all my quotes, estimates, invoicing, time tracking etc. And all my clients have the ability to check in and see whats been done. Integration with Freshbooks is an absolute must for me.

I registered my 14-day free trial, poked around at it for a bit, and I can see how it is different.

Rules for Entrepreneurs: You Don't Need Swanky Office Space

When I started my first company, AppSolve, in 1999 it was the height of the Dot-Com boom and companies were raising massive amounts of money and staffing quickly without even making a dime yet and most not knowing how fast or whenever they would be able to. One symbol of this era was paying for expensive swanky office space that was most of the time half-empty waiting for all the other people they were going to hire when they finished their next round of insane amounts of funding.

As we all know, the boom busted hard and it left a lot of space available for companies to sub-lease or established companies to take over really cheap. As the economy got better, not like it sucks now, most people took a different look at office space but still some never learned.

My message to you who are growing companies or raw startups, you don’t need swanky office space and you probably never will. So here are some pointers in approaching your search for office space and some alternatives to serve your growing business.

Pointer #1 – You are a startup and most people will understand that.

As you grow your business people that are looking to join your company or sign a contract with you know you are startup. They will understand that and if they are potential employees they are more concerned with the fact that they will get paid on time and their stock options vest. Clients are buying from you because they believe you can deliver and what your office space looks like has nothing to do with it. A perfect example are law offices. Swanky offices and high billable rates but they do the same work that most small practices can do and probably they do it better for less cost.

Pointer #2 – You can work out of the house – the good and the ugly

When I started my first business we worked out of the house for the first 18 months. Granted, I didn’t have a wife or kids and I had a great space in a finished basement that worked well. The problem I ran into was since it was my house I was the only one with the key and had to be there to let everyone in. When my travel schedule got hectic it became ugly. This is good when you are working for yourself and have no desire to grow to a larger company. Plus, if you have really nice stuff and people you don’t exact trust, stuff can disappear. I had an intern steal most of my DVD’s and some CD’s that I didn’t realize until after they left the company had taken them.

If you have a place with a separate entrance you could make this work but it would be good to have an admin person hired that has a key to this part of the house so you can at least travel and not worry about people coming and going. Lastly, don’t forget about zoning laws. Some people in the neighborhood are just busy bodies and if lots of cars show up every day in front of your house they might call someone and you get hit with some type of fine and you will have to scramble fast to find real office space.

Pointer #3 – There is always Starbucks

If you continue to work out of the house it can become very isolating. Plus, there are many distractions (e.g. TV, Xbox, refrigerator, sofa) that can make focusing on work very hard. I found that when I don’t have to go into the office (which is far and costs me alot on gas) I work out of Starbucks where there are many regulars who have become my virtual offices mates. I also use it as a meeting place that people who have to live in an office love to escape to for a meeting. Plus, the coffee is ok and the wifi is great.

Pointer #4 – But I have a business where clients come in all the time….

Some of you have business where clients visit often or you have to present to potential customers. If you aren’t ready for formal office or your office doesn’t have a conference room, partner with someone that has nice conference space. Network with fellow entrepreneurs who you partner with and have nice conference space and see if you can use it for meetings. You can also leverage “Executive Suite” office spaces that have virtual packages that I describe next.

Pointer #5 – The beauty of “Executive Suite” offices

If you are meeting with clients alot or need to get your small team out of the house but are not ready or staffed high enough to justify a dedicated office space, these “Executive Suite” offices are great. They offer virtual plans that you can use a certain amount of hours to get an office to work in or use their beautiful conference space for client meetings. Plus they offer voice services to give you a centralized phone line with a real person answering the phone and access to other concierge services that can help you so you don’t have to pay for an assistant.

Pointer #6 – Have you thought of co-working?

If you are on your own and plan to stay that way and the “Executive Suite” is a little too expensive, there is an emerging model that blends the “Executive Suite” with the “Work at Home” model. It is called Co-Working and it is essentially renting your own cubical on a part-time, full-time or dedicated basis. It is an open space that blends together all types of consultants, freelancers, artists into one space. It usually has a conference room and a fun room along with a shared kitchen. Examples of this are Independents Hall in Philly and LaunchPad in Austin, TX. For a complete list of coworking spaces, check out the CoWorking Wiki.

Pointer #7 – Sublease, sublease, sublease

When you are ready for office space of your own, you might want to consider sub-leasing space first. We found this effective because we knew we were growing fast and didn’t want to commit to anything long term. There are always companies that have leased too much space than they need. Talk to local real estate agents or work your local chamber to find companies that are looking for companies they can sublease to quickly. This will buy you enough time to get to a point where you stabilize on your company size and will be ready for space of your own.

Pointer #8 – Getting a better space doesn’t really change anything, except how much you pay every month

As you prepare for getting your first dedicated office space, remember this simple thing: Better space doesn’t change anything, except how much you pay every month. If you are prepared to go this route and can do it to serve your ego, go for it. But don’t come back to me when you have to cut costs and are staring at that massive lease bill every month.

Pointer #9 – So what should I not have?

Here are three quick “never haves” from my past experience:

Open Work Spaces

When I first saw those dot-come spaces that were all open I thought they were really cool. Then I had one for our office and all I could think of is “everybody shut up!”. It was very noisy and you couldn’t have any kind of private conversation. You usually had to walk out of the room on your cell to talk to someone. The “ad-hoc” conferences became distracting for people that were not involved and need to get real work done. Don’t do this. You will regret it.

Huge Lobby Areas

This is just a waste of money. Most startups leave the receptionist as the last job hire so the front area is usually empty. Keep it small and simple. And no expensive furniture that no one sits on while they are waiting for someone.

Massive offices for executives

Yeah, yeah, yeah. You must be thinking, I am the master of my company I should have the biggest office so everyone knows who the CEO is. Trust me, they know who signs their checks so they know who the CEO is. You probably hired them yourself. Big offices just piss the rest of the staff off because it communicates that you deserve better than the rest of your staff when you are busting your ass as much as they are but still they come to resent you. Resist the massive office, you will have more space to put valuable staff in its place.

Pointer #10 – So what do I really need to have?

Here are three quick “must haves” from my past experience:

A big break room with free stuff

Tiny little crappy kitchen says to everyone that they should eat at their desk and never talk to each other. Smart startups put free stuff in their fridge (e.g. sodas, beer, snacks) and have good water machines along with great coffee machines. This keeps people fed when they are working late nights or want to work through lunch. You might also be surprised that buying lunch once a week can really keep morale up.

A “fun room”

Of course you should have big break room, but with many startups you are probably hiring a younger, hipper crowd. What better way to create real camaraderie than to have a plasma with a Wii or Xbox and have lunch or Happy Hour tournaments of Guitar Hero or Halo. People have fun and it helps give them an overall perception that going to work can actually be an enjoyable thing.

Great chairs, crappy tables and large multi-monitors for your people

I heard this from Jason Calcanis but he must have gotten this from me. People don’t need fancy desks, heck they really need a table to work from. The chair is way more important. People are sitting on their butts for 8-12 hours a day. Great chairs like Aerons are amazing and keep people from having to go to the chiropractor and be out of work and ultimately raise your health care costs

The other part of this great work environment is providing large multiple monitors because it has been proven that people see at least a 30% productivity improvement with two monitors. Go with two 24″ monitors so they can multi-task maximize the effectiveness for your company. Plus, if you have video game LAN parties after work, HALO looks amazing across two monitors. I am just saying….

So when is the time to get the swanky space?

Mostly, never. Spend it on getting good people.

What are your office space horror/humor stories?

So what are your horror or humerous stories about looking for office space?
Ever worked at one of those place that spent too much money on being self-important but not enough money on hiring the resources needed to grow the business?

Please share…we all want to know.