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Packing up Featured

7:00pm EDT January 29, 2008

After eight years of leasing office space, Sally Koepke knew it was time to make a change.

“We sat down and did the math, and it was staggering what we spent on rent,” says Koepke, principal partner at McHale & Koepke Communications. “We could have owned a building had we made that commitment eight years ago. We decided we wanted to be owners, not renters.”

The firm began looking at locations on its own, then got a real estate agent involved in the search for the perfect location. The firm used the same real estate agent who had helped find its original office space in Beachwood because he understood the firm and what is was looking for in a new location, Koepke says.

“We wanted a building that had a lot of light,” she says. “We wanted it to be open, inviting and conducive to the creative environment.”

McHale & Koepke eventually found a location in Solon, but even though employees knew about the move from the beginning, many were still apprehensive. But by showing them the new location and sharing how it would benefit the firm, the company’s leaders got employees to buy in to the transition, Koepke says.

By being upfront and getting employees involved in the process with things such as picking wall colors, designing a new logo and preparing the logistics of the move, the firm made the transition a smooth one.

“Whenever anyone feels involved in a project, they are going to take ownership of it,” Koepke says. “So everybody felt a part of this move, and offered good comments, suggestions and solutions.”

Another important part of moving is hiring an office planner who can offer suggestions about placement of office items and make sure everything in the new space is up to code, Koepke says.

“A good office planner who understands your business can help design space to your goals of what your business does,” she says.

The key to a successful move is planning and organizing, Koepke says.

“Several weeks in advance, we had a packing day, where things we wouldn’t need until after the move were packed up,” she says. “We created a master layout of the new space, then provided it to everybody so they could code their boxes. Each space and cube had a number. It was ideal. Everything was coded so it correlated to the work areas, then the movers knew exactly where to put everything when they got (to the new building).”

Being organized and limiting work assignments the day the move began helped the firm complete the move over one weekend and be up and running the following Monday.

Koepke says it’s vital to keep the lines of communication open during a move, not just with your employees but with clients and potential clients, as well. The firm sent out an e-mail blast about a month before the move, announcing its new location and contact information, then sent another one a week before the move.

The move has provided the firm with a new, fresh work environment and saved it money in the long run.

“We would have had to renew our lease and throw money out the door,” she says. “It wouldn’t have hurt our business to stay there, but doing what we did definitely gave everyone a new look and feel. It’s a beautiful spot here — more conducive to what we do than the old location.”

HOW TO REACH: McHale & Koepke Communications, (440) 542-0080 or www.mchalekoepke.com

How to move locations successfully

Sally Koepke, principal partner at McHale & Koepke Communications, offers these tips to ensure a successful move.

  • Contact the Small Business Administration to see if you qualify for a loan to help with the move.

  • Hire an office planner. “Once you communicate what you do and how you envision it, they can take your thoughts and articulate it into a floor plan,” Koepke says. “There are critical things you want to take into consideration that they can assist with.”

  • Don’t try to move by yourself. Hire a moving company, and if you have cubicles, have the company you bought them from move them. “Our company was able to take a look at where we were, where we were going, and be able to understand if we needed to order any new items,” Koepke says.

  • Make sure essential computer files are saved to disks or to some other type of storage.

  • Label everything. “We took our floor plan and assigned each area a number,” Koepke says. “It was simple, and that made it easy to know where all the supply room stuff went, our backup CDs went, our art files went and the kitchen supplies went.”

  • Give advance notice to your customers, clients and prospects.

  • Plan ahead for your utilities and with the postal service.

  • Host an open house when the move is complete.