By: Monique Muldrow, Senior Marketing Director
Fifty yards isn’t far; half a football field, a stroll around the grounds, a really, really short marathon.
But when Breakthrough Technologies departed their old offices recently to move into their new home “just across the way”, they upgraded to a larger, brighter, more inviting space eminently suited to the needs of their expanding staff and growing list of clients.
A variety of factors prompted Evanston-based Breakthrough’s move to suite 300 in the nearby 1880 Oak Ave. complex, company growth being the key.
“In the past year and half we’ve taken on a number of fairly significant contracts, particularly in our education and assessment lines of business,” says Randy Knapp, Breakthrough’s co-founder and managing partner, noting ongoing work with multistate education consortiums the National Center and State Collaborative and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.
“Those, in addition to general business growth really drove our need for new employees and contractors and the space to accommodate them,” he says. “We’ve increased our staff across the board – not just among software developers but our design staff, project management, software quality, and others.”
Further fueling the move was the need for a less archaic space.
“Our old space was old in the sense that it was actually physically old – 130 years,” says Knapp. “While it had nice features, we were running into acoustical problems, limited conference rooms, a stressed wireless network and IT infrastructure. It was showing its age.
“This new space has given us opportunities to resolve those issues, with double the square footage, an increase in conference rooms (adding facilities and meeting spaces for clients and contractors), upgrades to our audio-visual capabilities, and the design has a lot of nicer spaces for employees to interact.”
The creation of casual, informal meeting spaces as a way to enhance the creative work process, as well as social interactions among staff was an important goal in planning Breakthrough’s offices.
“These spaces are warm and inviting – ideal for employees to continue a chat they might have begun on their way to grab coffee,” Knapp explains. “It might be a business conversation aimed at solving some mutual project challenge, or just a friendly, social chat where folks get to know each other.
“We wanted an environment with pleasant, little areas where comfortable conversations could result from these office ‘collisions’.”
Well received by all, the Breakthrough staff has already begun naming these meet-up spaces.
“There’s the Café, a casual area with funky seating and tables near the food service space. Then there’s the Hookah Lounge – a sort of central, circular area with high-backed seating and a round, low table.”
And in case anyone’s wondering, “No, we don’t actually have a hookah there,” Knapp adds.
Typical of Breakthrough, every office features the ubiquitous white boards – the ultimate creative planning tool.
“We love our white boards here at Breakthrough,” says Knapp, noting that in every conference room and office at least one entire wall is coated in a writeable, white-board paint. “White boards give people a mechanism to scribble and think and try out ideas in a very easy manner.”
Having recently completed a rebranding exercise, Breakthrough incorporated their color scheme throughout the office, most notably in the glassed entryway that looks through into the space. One wall features the Breakthrough logo with additional wall space reserved for artwork of a special nature, to be added later.
“It’s not going to be a Picasso,” says Knapp. “Our intent is to feature the work of local artists. We’d also like staff to post the artwork of our kids – the kind of stuff that goes up on the refrigerator at home. It’s another way to make the Breakthrough offices even more welcoming for us and our visitors.