June 14, 2013
Why I Ditched My Corner Office

I recently ditched my office and moved into the “warehouse” seating area at my company. Was this a move to convince our office and cube dwellers that open, collaborative seating is the next new thing? No.

I was feeling disconnected from my employees and started to ask, “Why do I have an office?”

We have a flexible work environment, so I don’t need a quiet place dedicated to digging in. For that I just work from home. My employees are free to choose when and where they get their work done with no set office hours. Technology allows everyone to stay connected with clients and internal teams in addition to office days and in-person meetings for face-to-face collaboration. But it was the more frequent daily interaction I was missing while working out of my private office.

As a CEO of any organization, it’s critical to think often about how to invest in culture so we are able to attract, develop and retain the best.

If your goal is to hire people that are in the top 10 percent of candidates that are a fit for a role, then those folks are in high demand. Paying well is a priority, of course, but the caliber of people you need are too smart to take a job based on pay alone. They want a company that believes the business exists to serve them because they serve your clients, who in turn reward the company with repeat business and referrals.

When you invest in your employees, they will delight your clients, and your clients will strengthen their relationships with your company. This virtuous cycle starts with the focus and investment in people and culture.

The business should exist to serve your people first, not the other way around. Ambitious people want a company that explicitly invests in their growth. They want a company that values freedom, growth and purpose just as much as they do. They look for culture, appropriate challenges and big opportunities to make an impact over titles or corporate ladders.

A commitment to hiring and developing the best people and culture is not easy. It takes time. It takes perseverance when traditional business issues rear their head and challenge you to take your eye off what’s important, but not urgent matters like culture enhancement and context communication. Companies need the constitution, discipline and caliber of individuals throughout to invest in people and culture with the requisite focus and intensity that fosters competitive advantage.

So why did I ditch my office? I work for a service organization that seeks to transform its stakeholder relationships. Every premium service organization knows that the best form of customer feedback is “face time.” As CEO, my customers are the 140+ employees that help each other develop and strive for their full potential so they can “wow” clients. Ultimately, my corner office took me away from my customers (the people the company pays me to serve), so I ditched it!

Scot Lowry
Scot Lowry is the president and CEO of Fathom. He is also the president of PromiseONE, LLC, a Beachwood, Ohio-based investment company whose partnership with Fathom coincided with his arrival.