Why We Are Closing Our Uptown Office

Last September, in this video, I announced our new offices in uptown (or, “downtown,” as it's called in most cities) Charlotte. I was thrilled, and looking forward to marking a new season of life and business, becoming more involved in my local business community, and avoiding the endless call to tend to my home when I needed to be working.

At Panera Bread

After 5 months, we are closing the uptown office and returning to working from home (or wherever). In no particular order of priority, here's why Darryl (my husband business partner) (pictured above, working with me this morning at the local coffee shop) and I made this decision:

  1. It wasn't what we needed. Rather than a permanent address change, all we (well, I) really needed was a temporary change of scenery and routine. I began to make this discovery after about a month. I didn't mind the commute. I actually relished additional time alone to listen to and digest personal development and leadership CDs.

    But after a month or so, I discovered that, while I enjoyed making new business friends, I wasn't establishing real connections with them in a work environment where we all shared different goals. I'm having more fun connecting with them at social meetups like tonight's Charlotte Tweetup. Because I can listen to my CDs on other driving trips, and via MP3 download on my iPod, I concluded that my needs were best met using a different routine, not a different location.

    Instead of a whole new office, what I needed was to vary my routine, so I could return to whatever office I chose, refreshed and ready to tackle the next project.

  2. Panera (or wherever) is “office” enough. Since there was only one employee other than me at the office (Darryl hardly ever came down), even though the rent was reasonable, it was a hassle to go there just so I could say I had been there. My employee and I started meeting via conference call, and we met in person only a few times a month. And when we met in person, guess where we went? That's right, whichever coffee shop we were in the mood for that day!

    I am now enjoying the flexibility of meeting and/or working wherever I want and whenever I want — and being home when I need to be, which is a lot more than I thought I'd need (or want) to be. This brings me to the next point.

  3. Our kids still get sick. Almost on cue, soon after our office opened, our son became ill. For a whole week. While my husband and I alternate caring for our kids when they are sick, it's is hard to be an hour away when my child is ill. Not only can I not give a hug when one is needed, but I can't relieve Darryl when something urgent comes up on his end. As soon as our son got sick, I saw the handwriting on the wall.

    Even though our kids are a bit older, and “we can be available to them in different ways now without being as connected to them physically,” (remember, I said that) the reality is that they are still very young children and I missed the flexibility of caring for them on the spur of the unplanned moment.

Since I Don't Manufacture Anything …

Of course it's easier for me not to have a non-home office because I do not manufacture products or maintain a warehouse. Back when I was a cosmetics manufacturer, I had neither an office nor a manufacturing facility in my home. Everything was made, and the business was managed, off-site in a room tucked in the back of my retail store. Since I don't make products today, there's one less reason to have a physically static work location away from home.

I Love The Constant Discovery Of Business Ownership

After ten years of working from home, I thought a change of scenery would be good not only for me, but for the business and for our family. Turns out, it was good, but it didn't need to be permanent. I love the journey of working for myself. I am always enjoying new discoveries — about myself and the people I care about.

Woman, Wife, Mom, Business Leader

As a woman-wife-mom-business leader, I must be free to flex when I need to flex, and contract when I need to contract.

I can choose whatever Wi-Fi equipped place makes me happy on any given day, and I can see my local business buddies at events and locations where I can get to know them better than I ever could in an office environment where we don't share the same priorities.

I feel sort of silly for having made this little detour, but as I lead our business into the new year, I'm glad I discovered what I, my family and the business really need. Not a different location, but a new way of maximizing the ones (emphasis on the plural) we already have.

Looking For Space Uptown?

If you’re in the Charlotte area, and are interested in leasing space where we were, visit Lightbulb Coworking to get the scoop! Our space is already rented, but others may be available. It's a great place, but spaces are snapped up quickly so check it out soon if you're interested. You can follow the office manager, Tyler Ford, on Twitter to keep up with announcements about available space.

Question: If you have a home office, have you considered opening an offsite location? Why or why not? If you have, how are things working out?

PS – OK, Darryl. You can say, “I told you so,” now!

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About Donna Maria Coles Johnson

Donna Maria is an author, podcaster, attorney, and the founder and CEO of the Indie Business Network, providing affordable product liability insurance and mentoring. Donna Maria teaches Makers and Creative Entrepreneurs how to use technology and community to build a profitable, sustainable business.