Moving into Critical Mass' New Building

It’s been a weird week. Imagine trying to do “business as usual” knowing full well that in a week you’d be working out of a new office. That’s pretty much what last week was like.

Critical Mass is big. As of next week, we’ll have 252 people … in Calgary. That doesn’t count the Chicago, New York, or Stockholm offices. (We’ll be even bigger once we open the Toronto office. That actually scares some people.) We ran out of space in our old building a long time ago — it was almost to the point where we would have to start stacking desks just to get everyone in.

So many moons ago, our Operations Manager starting hunting for a new space. That’s not easy in Calgary — there’s a lot of office space around, but it’s either occupied or WAY too dull for a “leading edge interactive marketing agency”, which I think is how we describe ourselves.

The search went on for months before (somehow) we started negotiations with Mogens Smed, one of the leading interior designers for office spaces. Funky furniture, comfy chairs, and nothing that would be considered really “corporate”. It’s kinda like a step up from IKEA furniture, which is what we had. (Not that there’s anything wrong with IKEA).

Smed bought a building just north of the Stampede grounds that had been abandoned for many years. With Critical Mass providing direction (as we were to be the sole occupants), Smed transformed the old Pilkington Glass Company factory into the World Headquarters for Critical Mass.

In six months.

Frankly, I’m amazed they pulled it off. As Ted (our Chairman) remarked during today’s “tour”, it was an 18-month job done in a third of the time. But you wouldn’t know to look around. It’s a quality job. It’s also a bit getting used to — everything’s so … new. And unused. Kinda like a Star Trek episode…

The trick, of course, was to get us from our old building and settled into our new building in as little time as possible. That was what happened during the weekend. With a significant amount of prep work by our administration staff, we packed and labelled every single last item in the office, right down to the spare paper clips, before Friday. On Friday morning, everyone came in, packed up their desks into plastic bins, wrapped up their computers, and left by about 9:30am. After that, it was all up to the movers.

We came in around 2:00 in the afternoon on Sunday, on a directive from Ted, to unpack our bins and set up our desks. Aside from a few small things, everything arrived intact an unharmed. Even more shocking was when I got in this morning — except for our LDAP server, we were up and running. All the phones, the mail server, the Internet connection — everything. It was all up. Mind you, it wasn’t without its glitches, but when you consider that the office was moved in a weekend to a new location, and it all works, well … that’s a pretty amazing feat.

We have a really interesting deal with Smed. They own the building, and all the furniture inside. We own the computers. We get a really cool office (for a lot less than we should), and Smed gets a really cool company to occupy the space. Smed gets to drag in companies like Coca-Cola to show them what a cool space looks like, and if we happen to pitch a website to them at the same time, well, that’s business.

Hollywood scripts aren’t planned this well. (Especially this year…)

With slightly over two weeks left before I duck out for Ontario for Christmas, the next couple of weeks are going to be really hectic.

But at least I can go insane in a cool building…