For the longest time, my team did not want to get an office. They instead preferred working out of their homes, coffee shops, and coworking spaces. It was hard to blame them. Many offices are barebones spaces with white walls, fluorescent lighting, industrial carpet and just enough furniture to get work done. Even newly designed offices with modern furniture tend to be undifferentiated from one-another and do not reflect a company’s culture or the interests of its employees. People see the office as the place they have to be during the workday, so they have the freedom to be where they actually want to be on evenings and weekends.

It does not have to be this way. What if you could build an office in such a way that people actually wanted to spend time there, even if they did not have to? What if you could build an office that has comfortable seating, warm lighting and décor that reflects the personalities of the team that works there? What if you could make an office that was as inviting and as comfortable to be in as your own home?

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When it finally came time for MarketBeat to get an office this Spring, we set out to build an office that everyone on our team actually wanted to spend time at. We found a great space in an old downtown building next to our favorite coffee shop and made it ours. We took feedback from our team about what they would want to see in an office and used that to remodel and build out our office space. Some of the suggestions included warm lighting, having a variety of different types of workstations (sit-stand desks, couches, tables, a bar, etc.), having lots of plants and incorporating local art. We hired a company called Northern Plains Management to take our ideas and turn them into reality and it turned out great.

Integrating Art into the New MarketBeat Office

One of the aspects I am most proud of about our office space is how we incorporated the works of local artists into our office. By the time all is said and done, we will probably have invested about $20,000 into local art and locally made furniture. The most visible piece in the office is a mural of downtown Sioux Falls created by local artist Zach Deboer. Our office primarily has brick walls, so we thought it would be cool to take the one section of drywall in our office and turn it into something special.

Here’s what Zach made:

Another very time intensive piece of art in our office are the custom-made manhole covers in our concrete floor. Part of our office is an old loading dock, so there are three manhole covers on the floor for drainage. One of them was cracked, so I wondered out loud if it would be possible to replace it with a manhole cover that has the MarketBeat logo on it. We worked with BronzeAge Art Casting and they were able to take our design (created by Kristi Wire) and cast new manhole covers out of pure iron. Interestingly enough, they used reclaimed iron from old radiators to make our manhole covers.

Here’s what they looked like before final fishing.

There is some more traditional art in our office too. We have paintings in our office from Idali Hall and Jerry Cook, both of whom have their art on display at Rehfields Art Gallery. We also have a sculpture from Clark Martinek in our office.

Here’s some of the art that’s on display in our office:

We wanted to avoid having 100% off the shelf furniture in our office. There was a custom-made table at Queen City Bakery made by Tom Ries that we regularly sat at, so he was a natural choice to build some tables for our office. He ended up building two wood tables and a square coffee table us. The tables were not cheap, but they are fantastic and will last a lifetime. The tables are visible in the photo at the top of the article.

Finally, we wanted to highlight the art of the youngest members of the extended family. We took a small section of drywall, which was at one point an entrance to the building and created an art wall to highlight the creations of the children of MarketBeat employees. We drilled a piece of sheet metal to the wall and used magnetic frames to make the art easily swappable given how short of a shelf life kids’ art seems to have. I don’t have a picture of the final version of the art wall, but here’s an earlier picture of it (right).

Does this make business sense?

Some in the business world may see these art projects as somewhat extravagant, unnecessary, and possibly a poor use of money. One might argue that in a world of finite resources, that every resource possible should be funneled into the core operations of the business (sales, marketing, and product development) to maximize shareholder value. That argument is irrelevant, however, because I am currently the only shareholder of MarketBeat. Also, I personally get a lot of value out of having a fantastic place to work every day.

For the sake of discussion, what is the tangible return on investment on creating a cool office filled with local art? I will not be able to point out what numbers are impacted on our income statement. However, I can point to my team of eight employees and see a cohesive group of people that enjoy their work environment and provide the company they work for their best 40 hours of work per week. MarketBeat has developed a unique culture that has resulted in 0% turnover in the company’s 12 years of existence (seriously) and our new office is part of that culture.

For those that do not see the value in investing in local art for your workspace, what is the productivity cost of having your employees to work in an uninspired environment? What are you saying about your culture by having a workplace that looks like every other workplace in town? What is your annual rate of turnover and how does that impact your business? The benefits of creating a unique workspace may be hard to quantify, but the costs of putting your team in a “bare minimum” office that they do not want to be at are not.

We have chosen to invest in local art as part of our business and hope your business will choose to do the same.