Look at the walls – you will know if you are in a high margin business

Categories: Innovation Insights

On a recent client visit, I remarked on the incredible modern art on the walls of every meeting room, lobby, and executive suite. There were statues in front of the car park. It was a nice place to work.

This company was not dissimilar from one of GE’s divisions. I had visited one of their facilities a few years back and in their office I noticed barren walls, desperate display cases, and a remarkable absence of anything ‘luxury’. Indeed, I had to be shown the secret stash of paper cups hoarded by the innovation team over several months – there was a cost reduction crack-down, and their cups were at risk (btw I kid you not – it was plain sad).

I have realized over time that the difference in a way a company portrays itself often highlights the margins generated by their core business. A low or declining margin business tries to spend as little money as they can. A high margin business can spend more on the business, and more on office quality of life.

I therefore have a goal for my company – good office quality of life. We commissioned a local artist to make new art works for our Boston office (a very talented friend of a friend – I think he is an accountant by day). And we have a funky looking space in a fantastic part of town (Back Bay). We could have got cheaper space in a gray building with a cubicle farm. This would not have sparked the creative juices, but we could have saved a buck or two.

Aspiration is one thing, business is another. We will not have higher margins just because we have nice paintings, but it sets a good impression for the company and our visitors – and supports the local creative community.


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