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How a Traditional Accounting Firm Embraced a Start Up Office Vibe

New Ambience Transformed This Accounting Firm's Office—and Its Culture

Friedman LLP, a top accounting and consulting firm, recently moved from midtown Manhattan to a 44,767-square-foot headquarters in downtown's Liberty Plaza, right at the World Trade Center.

In the process, they consolidated a three-floor operation to just one floor, but gained a panoramic view in an open, column-free space. The new office features open areas, bright colors, breakout rooms, state-of-the-art technologies, and an 1,800-square-foot centralized employee cafe.

We spoke with Harriet Greenberg, co-managing partner of Friedman LLP, for a behind-the-scenes look at why they decided to make this move—and the lessons learned along the way.

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Simultaneous Consolidation and Expansion

The old space was what you'd expect an accounting office to look like—large executive offices, columns, rows of filing cabinets, and not a lot of personality, she describes. When moving the firm, Greenberg and her team knew they wanted to be able to bring the whole company together on one floor while still leaving plenty of room for growth.

“We were in a 39,000-square-foot accounting office, and we were busting at the seams," says Greenberg. “Our dream was to go into a column-free office where we could use every inch of space and have room for expansion."

With just under 5,000 additional square feet at the new location, not only is there ample room for the entire staff on one floor now, but there's extra room to accommodate a 20% growth in new hires since not a single inch of space is wasted, says Greenberg.

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Location, Location, Location

The company also wanted to convey that it was a young and vibrant firm. For Friedman, that meant relocating to an exciting, up-and-coming part of the city.

“We wanted to be part of that growth," says Greenberg, “We want our younger staff to be excited to be here and feel good to come to work."

Friedman recalls actually having people tell her they were crazy to move downtown, because “there are no accountants there." That gave her all the more reason to push forward.

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Channeling a Start-Up Vibe

Once they secured the space, Friedman worked with architects and local interior design firm MKDA to transform from a "stuffy" accounting firm to one with a tech start-up look and feel.

“The café had to be inviting because that would be the central space where people congregated. The conference room was meant to be grand, with bright yellow chairs and green walls," says Greenberg.

The new space is anything but traditional. Natural light streams through the whole office. People are not tied to their desks thanks to a variety of zones to relax, collaborate, or do some quiet work in private. Also, with everyone now consolidated to one floor, people find themselves working with other teams on a regular basis.

“The move really changed the whole vibe of the company," says Greenberg.

Even the smaller sizes of the individual offices were intentional.

“With the new space, we wanted to show an equality, so all of the partners and principals have equal office sizes now," says Greenberg, whose own office space is a quarter of what it used to be.

While she admits the new set-up was a bit shocking to some of the long-time staffers, any hesitation quickly faded once clients began visiting the new location and raved about it. Their recruiting team has also gotten great feedback from prospective hires.

“Even some of our staffers with flexible work from home hours have asked for space in the new office," she says.

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Lessons from the Move

Trust your experts. Friedman worked with a real estate firm to find the perfect location, and then interviewed four architects before finding one that fully understood their vision.

Don't let people tell you what you can't do. Get some counsel, but ultimately, trust in what you believe to be the best decision for your business.

Embrace change. “You can either direct the change, or the change happens to you," says Greenberg.

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