Spaces and the workspace design industry have both come a long way in 20 years. Chris McCormack, president of Spaces, Inc., discussed the history of the company and his predictions for the future in lieu of the company’s 20th anniversary.
How did you know you wanted to start a space planning business? In 1977, Scott Rice of Wichita KS gave me my first job after I finished college. I was very fortunate that Ben Grisamore and Jim West saw something in me. Although I did not know a desk from a credenza then, I was willing to work for free just to show them that I was serious. What prepared you to found Spaces? I had 16 years of industry business experience when we started Spaces. During that time I was able to determine the right way of conducting business and we continue using the lessons today. How did you come with the creative vision to open a contemporary space planning business? We didn’t reinvent the wheel when Spaces started 20 years ago. My primary motivation for founding the company was the fact that no other company provided the level of service that I felt should be offered. More often than not, customers are also our friends. We want to be a resource for any need they may have in or out of our industry. Our joint experience equals literally hundreds of years of expertise in our industry. In addition, we have associates in peripheral arenas, which means that even if we can’t provide something for you, there is a good chance we know someone with the expertise you need. When did you know Spaces would be a success? I was determined to succeed. My family, including three young children, were all depending on me, therefore failure was not an option. What do you think the emerging trends are in designing modern architecture? The days of positioning private offices around the perimeter of a building are quickly disappearing. We see a lot of companies converting to a more open office layout where natural light impacts everyone. Modern architecture supports all types of technology and it keeps people connected and creative in a variety of settings. This environment in turn, supports many types of work and activity which allow people to meet both formally and informally. No matter the setting, from a room, out in the open office, at a collaborative table, or by using video conferencing, communication is being encouraged in a much easier and inexpensive way. How do the manufacturers impact the architecture and space planning industry today versus 20 years ago? Manufacturers have expanded product offerings and given designers more tools to pick from to create a more interesting and ergonomic work space. Twenty-years ago we had panels and work surfaces with a typical drawer and an overhead to create a pretty standard “cubicle.” There were references to workplace design like “cube farm.” Today we have furniture pieces that support a more dynamic worker with different needs. For instance, we have towers which give you a more interesting storage options for coats, laptop bags, files and photos. Instead of a stationary drawer unit, we have them on casters with a cushion to act as a side chair for a guest. The panel of today could be a screen material, a whiteboard or it could be on casters. In this way, the individual is able to define their own space. Providing today’s companies with flexibility and interesting materials when space planning results in people having a much more dynamic and fun workplace where they can easily connect with their fellow associates. What is the most challenging aspect of your business? The goal since Spaces was founded has always been to listen to the client. We have to understand what they feel they need and then match both need and budget to the products that will solve their problems. Some time ago we coined a phrase “Solutions At Work” which means educating our clients on the features and benefits of our products that match their workplace need, and it encapsulates our business mindset. What accomplishments are you most proud of over the past 20 years? We’ve accomplished many great things over the years thanks to the amazing talent we have here at Spaces. When we all gather in the conference room and I look around, I am so proud of the staff we have assembled. The intellectual property that we have is incalculable. My business manager has been with me since day one, starting out in her basement. We have account executives with over a hundred years of combined experience. Our design and project management staff have also worked together for many years. Each account executive has their own designer and project manager which enables us to bring a total customer appreciation experience to our client. As you move forward, what direction do you see the company moving in five, 10 years from now? Staying contemporary with regards to industry and work trends is a must and we’re always seeking new ways to be innovative and current. I also like the way we service our clients personally, whether it is the account executive, their designer or project manager. There is a personal connection that we have with our customers, and I would not want to see that change. What is the most inspirational saying/quote or theory you could share with someone who is up and coming in the industry? One thing we enjoy doing here at Spaces is hiring-up-and-coming professionals directly out of college. We have a profiling system that allows us to understand their strengths, making it simple for us to match them to the place we are looking to fill. In addition, we have a lot of senior associates here that mentor these new employees in Spaces’ culture, which makes me very grateful. On a personal note, doing the right thing when no one is looking has worked for me since 1977. How did you create the culture at Spaces? I’m asked that a lot, and I’m not sure I can take credit for our culture. It is a collaborative effort by everyone here to do what is right and what is best for our customers. We are very entrepreneurial as a group. We take great strides to keep bureaucracy out of our business. That in and of itself weeds those out who need a more structured work life. Our motto is to work hard and then play hard. What was the most inspirational comment or individual in the industry that guided you throughout your career? If not for Ben Grisamore and Jim West taking an interest in me back in 1977, I have no idea where I would be today. Their guidance, mentorship and friendship was my professional turning point for which I will always be grateful. There have been countless others along the way but it all started with them. How do you feel you have affected the industry today? My goal is to help others along in their professional journey.