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Moving offices for the sixth time in 13 years

They say moving offices is a sign of growth and progress, but for Tracy Ebdon-Poole it has not been without its headaches and pressures.
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Moving home. Classically the stuff of nightmares. Suddenly you realise you’ve accumulated a thousand car boot sales’ worth of junk. All the furniture that’s looked perfectly respectable in this, the current gaff, will simply have to go. Will the telly work in the new place? God, what about broadband? It’s going to be a wrench. Will the kids adjust? How are they going to remember the new address? Can we really afford the four-times-the-size, costs-a-small-fortune doer-upper we’re moving to?

As you shut the door for the last time (just before you discover that the cat’s gone AWOL and the house keys are nowhere to be seen), you think of all the times, good and bad. And as you wipe away a metaphorical tear you can’t help but wonder. Was this moving thing really a good idea?

TaxCalc just finished moving offices for the sixth time in thirteen years. It’s like leaving home with a mixture of excitement and tinged with a little sadness. When we went about moving offices in 2009, to TaxCalc Towers in Winnersh, we couldn’t believe the size of the place. We rattled around hardly believing we could afford something like this, clinging onto the hope that one day we might even fill all those offices with actual people.

Then, over time, it started getting hard to find a spot in the car park. Queues didn’t quite form outside the loos, but you get the picture. Desks replaced seating areas. Meeting spaces, no matter how tiny, were converted to offices. The boardroom became the most popular place in the building just to get some quiet. Working so physically close to one another had an upshot. It created tight-knit teams. But at the same time it created silos.

For me the decision to move was based on a number of factors. Firstly it was about more space to expand, of course. Then it involved an entrepreneur’s self-belief in investing in growth. Also relevant was a desire for office space that reflects our standing as the fastest-growing independent software house in our sector. Finally, and vitally, there is a need to foster collaboration amongst our staff.

Our new offices boasts 10,000 square feet, compared to 4,200 in our previous residence. There are 158 places for 80 people to work in. One day I’m confident we will outgrow even this. But the intent right now is to make the environment as conducive as possible for collaborative working. You don’t need to pore over text books, TED talks and podcasts to understand why. The buzzword du jour, “productivity”, our own buzzword, “innovation” and culture are all improved through collaboration.

Ultimately our business is about creating a great place to work, making stuff that people want to keep on buying. That means getting the left brainers to meet with the right brainers and getting the best out of each others’ strengths. Not only do we develop our software through an agile collaborative methodology, other teams including creative and marketing do too. We’ve seen great benefits with getting product to market and revolutionising our brand and sales and marketing activities. With space at a premium we just needed a home where we could make it happen more easily.

We‘ve done our damnedest to create an environment where collaboration happens naturally without being imposed. Many CEOs boggle enviously at the likes of Google, Facebook and the new breed of micro-office rental solutions such as the WeWork empire. I too have boggled, but am also highly sensitive to our brand, what I feel is right and what my staff want. During the design process we consulted and, appropriately, we collaborated to be sure we got the new gaff right. We worked extremely hard to create an environment that was still us but now TaxCalc 6.0.

Now, I make no secret of my love of creativity, design and shopping. Moving offices has created a fantastic opportunity to make a number of “strategic purchasing decisions”. We put the interior design fit-out to tender and have worked hard with Mark Bessant and the design team at Curve Workplaces to make the new HQ our own.

The biggest challenge of all was more about layout than fixtures and fittings. We spent days on the floor plans to keep teams together, while at the same time encouraging flow between departments beyond the casual “hi” at the kitchen area. We now have plenty of space, such as a town hall area for stand-up meetings, booths for small meetings and big meeting rooms, mob spaces and scrum/collaboration tables – making it far easier to get together.

Andrew Webb, our group facilities manager and someone who is ex-Mitie, has grappled with some incredibly challenging tasks in his career. Before joining us he supported the team migrating 3,500 people of the 7,500 on the Sky UK campus into the 41,000 square metre Sky Central building.

With the indispensable support of other could-not-do-without staff, including my fantastic right-hand wonder woman Adelle Griffith, our talented creatives, headed up by Alex Rado and our quite exceptional IT team headed by John Thirsk and Jen Loveday, Andrew has orchestrated and executed the move. It wasn’t without its interesting moments however. A tight project plan didn’t allow for much space for delays from our fit-out partner. Needless to say, after some very late nights and early mornings the team delivered the practical completion on time and budget. Everyone’s done an absolutely amazing job.

Even since moving offices in mid-July, we’ve played host to a number of high-level meetings with potential partners, media owners and are about to pitch for some serious new business. Our new surroundings have added a certain confidence and dynamism to our attitude and culture. There are still some finishing licks of paint required but, with its Nespresso machines, media rooms, popcorn machines and with the new brand adorning our walls and windows, TaxCalc’s new HQ already feels like home. Actually more like home 6.0.

This article is part of a wider campaign called Founders Diaries, a section of Real Business that brings together 20 inspiring business builders to share their stories. Bringing together companies from a wide variety of sectors and geographies, each columnist produces a diary entry each month. Visit the Founders Diaries section to find out more.

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About Author

Tracy Ebdon-Poole

After ten years working in the retail sector in management for M&S and new product development for Belling, Tracy Ebdon-Poole then commercialised Dyson’s inventions in the early 90’s, pioneering a four-year period of exponential growth. Five years later she crossed into M&A and SME consulting until acquiring TaxCalc in 2004, building the tax and accounting software company into a multimillion business, challenging industry Goliaths such as Sage and Iris. With her creative and entrepreneurial leadership style, she has ambitious plans to further disrupt the sector and build Taxcalc into a formidable business brand.

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