January 10, 2020
This year at Rhapsody we’re undertaking our boldest experiment yet as an organization. A “moment in time” created an opportunity for us to revisit some of the fundamentals about how we do business.
Challenging the Obvious
There’s a common progression in many business success stories. It goes something like this; the business starts in the basement or the garage or the living room, and moves to a small office as it grows. Over time, the company matures and starts to occupy more and more space. Or it shifts from Class B to Class A office space as its brand and reputation grow. In many ways, location has served as a short-cut for gauging business maturity — it tells us how far the company has evolved.
In the last ten years, we’ve seen that model pushed even further. The building or space alone isn’t enough to signify maturity. We saw the likes of Google, Apple, Shopify, and countless others transform those spaces into rich experiential locations. Stunning designs, creative themes, in-house catering, endless snacks, and every possible amenity have been provided.
As technology and connectivity have matured, the possibilities for organizing our businesses and our operations have also grown. The truth is that we have more choices than ever before — but only if we’re prepared to pursue them.
Where We Are Today
Rhapsody has grown quickly and profitably. We have team members in multiple cities in both Canada and the United States. We’ve won awards and just completed our most successful year by any measure you apply: customer satisfaction, revenue, profit, etc.
When it comes to the maturity of the business, we’re hitting every benchmark and target that we’ve set for ourselves and dramatically exceeding those of our industry. We’re not trying to boast here, but understanding our context will help you understand our choices. And the truth is, things couldn’t be going better.
So it’s time for things to change.
If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It. Or …
Success in business is very often about finding a model that works, and then working that model. By repeatedly delivering a valuable product or service, you can continue to invest in the value of your product and service as well as in the processes and structures you use to deliver them. But there are also moments when it’s worth examining the fundamentals. To look at your core beliefs and mental models to see if they’re still true.
These conversations aren’t for the faint of heart. Once you start poking at someone’s core beliefs, you’re likely to get a reaction — and often a strong one. Very often, inaccurate core beliefs get revealed in times of crisis. It happens when that absolutely loyal client — or team member — suddenly ends the relationship. When a business partner leaves. When we face a financial crisis or a health crisis. Any of these crises require that we challenge our core beliefs to make sure we’re actually looking at the real world, as opposed to a world of our own creation that’s stored in our belief systems.
So What Did We Believe?
We started by describing the link between the maturity of a business and office space — the more mature your business is, the more your space tends to reflect that. We believed that.
In fact, one of the things we said to ourselves is that we HAD to have office space to differentiate ourselves from an industry characterized by coaches working on their own without space or sophisticated infrastructure. We wanted Rhapsody to look and feel different from the rest of the industry, and a key element of that was our office space.
We were lucky enough to find a beautiful space with brick and beams, large windows, lots of natural light and a stellar view of the historic Byward Market in the national capital. We put a huge effort into crafting that space so our clients would feel supported, energized, and empowered. And we regularly receive compliments when someone new visits our space.
We had really embraced our belief.
Moments of Opportunity
Our lease expires soon. Last spring, we started to examine our options to decide if we would stay or move. Quite quickly we decided we would move.
While our clients always liked our space, they didn’t tend to like coming downtown and parking can be tricky in the Market. The Market’s also been making the news with an uptick in violent crime, a major fire, plans for more construction, and a number of other factors that were prompting us to look at alternatives.
So we started looking for new offices. We were confident that we’d be able to reproduce the “Rhapsody experience” wherever we found space, it was just a matter of finding the right location. We hunted and hunted. We discussed and discussed.
And then, one day at noon, as we were entering a local restaurant for lunch, we asked this question: “Do we really need space at all? We don’t have it in any other city we’re in?”
It was a moment when the three of us looked at each other. We were directly challenging one of our core beliefs. This wasn’t the first time we’d floated this idea, but it was the first time we’d done so with the decision on the line.
In that moment, we realized we had an opportunity in front of us. With the end of our lease, we had room to undertake an experiment. A window had opened for us to challenge a core belief.
The Rhapsody Experiment
Instead of finding new space, we’ve decided that we will take the company fully virtual. No real estate. No offices. It means saying goodbye to the space we’ve loved for years — the space in which we built Rhapsody. It means new logistics and a host of new questions that have to be answered. But it also means an opportunity for us to challenge how we think about our business and how we can find more powerful and effective ways of running the company.
Was everyone happy about the decision? No. Absolutely not. But we took our time. We’ve had a series of conversations to work through the logistics and the mechanics. We’ve listened and explored and found lots of creative options.
Our last day in the office will be February 29, 2020.
We’ve started to let our clients know that we’ll come to them or use video conferencing. Those who are already meeting us online are overwhelmingly positive in their feedback. It turns out, clients don’t always like to travel either.
We don’t know how our experiment will end. In our worst case scenario, this will be an unmitigated disaster, in which case we’ll go get office space and make it our own. But the exercise is challenging us to think more creatively, to keep looking for options when it would be easier to stop, and to reconsider the fundamentals of how we operate with the hope of finding other opportunities that we’ve overlooked.
Our decision isn’t the right one for all businesses. It might not even be right for us. But the approach is something we’d encourage you to consider.
Taking the time to genuinely re-examine how you do business — including some of the most obvious functions — helps you know your business with a level of depth and clarity that will strengthen everything you do. Even if you choose not to change anything, looking at yourself and your business with that deliberate intensity will show you a different version of yourself if you let it.