Article

What Does the Future Office Model Look Like?”

Most people reading this will know of at least one reference to the big city hipster squad huddling around whiteboards in an exposed brick office making “magic happen.” After all, that’s the only way to know for sure that an agency is truly creative. Or is it?

Matt Walsh, founder and CEO of Green Stone, believes today’s creative consultancies are broken and given the right organizational architecture, he can deploy far more creative, culturally-attuned and inspired results by removing the “room.”

“… In three years with no funding, no famous personalities, and me living nowhere near any major market, we have gone from one guy in a basement to a team of 27 actively working on projects from 16 different markets.”

Read the original article here.

We followed up with Matt to learn more about his agency and perspective. He spoke passionately of a vision to create a truly distributed model with aspirations to create the first global network as such. 

Currently, Green Stone exists with no physical address or headquarters and is home to a dozen full-time employees and another dozen contract collaborators. Matt built the organizational structure to be as flat as possible with the majority of it being made up of “leads.” These would be the equivalent of Associate Directors at other firms, which Matt describes as ”seasoned enough to confidently zoom in and out, but not so senior that they just want to think big thoughts while the peasants go do the actual work.” 

They’re all makers at Green Stone, and what overhead they have is spent not on decorating trendy offices, but rather on enabling idea-inspiring experiences for both individuals and the company as a whole.

TBD: Why did you decide to build a network of individuals, rather than a traditional agency?

MW: The network model can extract the ideas, energy and inspiration from 100 markets, rather than 100 individuals from one market. Urban to rural and manufacturing center to design centers. Not to mention, when you are not restricted to full-timers who live within commuting distance, you’re able to curate talent per project based on a matrix of needs, experience, knowledge and temperament. The net result is razor sharp work from a nimble workforce.

TBD: You mentioned that you’ve built Green Stone while personally living outside of a “major market.” What can you tell us about the challenges and/or benefits you’ve experienced?

MW: When starting a consultancy inside a big city, it’s easy to have meet-ups and happy hours with potential clients and talent. They’re right down the street and very attractive when you’re trying to build momentum in those early years. But as you start down that slope, it’s extremely difficult for that to not turn into an office to house the founder(s) and those local people working on those local clients. It’s certainly efficient, but it’s also destructive to the kind of distributed model I wanted to build. A model not focused on a “mothership” office that alienated everyone who wasn’t there through hallway conversations they’d never hear.

And so my being in Boulder really helped because I wasn’t focused on any specific market. I had to work harder, but that work was focused across the continent rather than across the city. In fact I made a point of trying to avoid all Colorado clients and talent in the early years, and still do to a degree.

It’s a company focused on bridging those deeply immersed in all the big cities have to offer with a massive tribe of small and mid-market talent that are passionate about over-delivering for any world-class organization that’s designed to look past their mailing address.

That intentionally-designed convergence delivers people, perspectives and potential that reach far beyond me and wherever I choose to live with my family. That’s how it should be.

TBD: How have clients reacted to your model?

MW: Most clients we’ve worked with love it, especially as they’re tired of walking into agency offices that are way nicer than their own. They know their budgets are paying for the fancy art and designer lounge chairs, and they’re tired of it. Certainly some “older school” and foreign clients have had more questions to talk through, but as soon as they’ve seen us in action any concerns are quickly forgotten.

TBD: How has communication either helped or hurt the model?

MW: We use a variety of toolkits and programs to ensure efficiency, cultural cohesion, and the delivery of world-class work. Some are “off the shelf” digital platforms, some are custom-designed programs and methodologies, but all are focused on enabling differentiated and powerful value propositions that transcend what traditional office models are capable of. No matter how many big city offices they have.

Matt’s model is working and he’s already seen success beating out the likes of both domestic and international, conglomerate-owned shops. To read more of Matt’s thoughts, find them here.

Discuss your thoughts and perspectives @tobedisrupted