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Create a Space for Your Team and They Will Come!

Create a Space for Your Team and They Will Come!

Zach Burns
The Motz Group
October 24, 2023

At The Motz Group, like so many of you, post-pandemic we found ourselves wrestling with the challenge of many employees choosing to work remotely or on a hybrid model. And like many of you, we discovered that there is a significant cost to culture when the team is not together. We are perhaps unique in that, even before 2020, our team was fragmented, and therefore we were already searching for a solution to this problem when the pandemic hit. This turned out to be a great advantage as we sought to solve this challenge.

We are a sport field construction company, and we also provide products that go into synthetic turf sport fields and landscape applications. Our workforce numbers about 120, half of whom work out of a Cincinnati facility. The rest are either field-based sales reps or part of our field installation crews. We have experienced significant, steady growth over time, and as we grew, we added new space to our headquarters vertically, creating a series of different floors with different offices and different micro-cultures. This on top of the fact that so many of our employees are not office-based at all led us to prioritize finding and creating a new space where as much of our team as possible could be together. Moving into 2020, we had made a few moves to this end, including flattening the organizational structure and starting a search for a new space to allow for more collaboration. We were still talking about future real estate options when everything came to a halt.

The spring of 2020 saw everyone leave the office and go home, but as we moved into summer, we started to get back to work. Like everywhere, people who work in offices were largely working from home, but there was enough activity that we felt emboldened to make a move some may have seen as risky; in the face of all the uncertainty, recognizing that collaboration and teamwork were pivotal to our success, we decided to forge ahead with our plan to buy and start work on our new space.

Through the rest of 2020 and into 2021, we were deep in the design process for the new space. In the meantime, as work picked back up, we welcomed everyone back to the office, but we never forced it. Our mantra was always ‘office first, with flexibility.’ If you were better that day to work at home, do it. If you felt you could be more efficient and highly productive by being remote, do it. But we knew that for some things, like one-to-ones, team meetings, cross-departmental meetings, and huddles, something was lost when we were not all present. There we were, preparing to invest enormous time, effort, and money into this new space and we asked ourselves, “Are they ever coming back?”

As we considered this dilemma, it became clear that if we wanted everybody back, we had to earn it. We had to create an environment where people wanted to be there, where they wanted to fill the seats, to collaborate, to see their buddy. We realized that our new space would either be the key to the solution or, if we did it wrong, make our remote situation permanent. We set to work with this goal in mind.

Ultimately, we looked at this process as a great opportunity to declare our identity as an Evergreen®, People First company and to separate who we are in this community. As an employer of choice, you’ve got to earn people’s time; they have choices now. The design process was really cool; we brought in not just the folks that were actually going to inhabit the office on a daily basis, but also our field personnel, and we did collaborative brainstorming sessions of what the space could be.

In the end, the transformation of our space was driven not simply by our desire to return to the office, but also to create a workspace that aligned with our values. The result was a vibrant hub that symbolizes humility, inclusivity, and renewal. The architecture combines elements of concrete, steel, glass, water, and fire. This is a place where employees from all walks of life can come together – from those in collared shirts to those with mud on their boots. And for those stationed in a different city, we invested in technology to ensure that remote employees could connect seamlessly, which further fostered a sense of inclusivity, even for those who could not be physically present. As people started to return to our new space, we reinstated practices like monthly birthday lunches, happy hours, and quarterly in-person meetings. We did everything we could to make the office a place where our teams felt comfortable, inspired, connected, and at home. As an employee-owned company, we strove to construct a building that truly belonged to the team.

The transition was not just about the physical space; it was also a pivotal moment in Motz’s succession story. Joe Motz, our Founder, returned from sabbatical right at the start of the pandemic and we began the gradual process of my transition to CEO. In 2020, he named me President and I took all his direct reports, but he was still heavily involved with running the business. Then, through the building project, for which we broke ground in 2022, Joe detached from strategic touchpoints and immersed himself in physically building and renewing the property, to the point of literally jumping onto a bulldozer and doing site work himself. In a symbolic move, we built the new building without an office for Joe in it; he spent those years building something he ultimately would not have a home in. However, his presence is strongly exhibited throughout the building, inside and out. From hand-built wooden features, a koi pond for calmness, and beautiful landscaping, his legacy will stand strong and forever be an inspiration to our current and future team. Thanks to this, his transition to Founder felt natural and complete.

Did it work? Have people come back to the office? I don’t keep stats on it, but overwhelmingly, people are here. We don’t have any mandates around it; we still don’t say you have to be here a certain number of days. It’s still the same – flexible. But people are coming in to take part in the experience. Our field crews come in in the morning for coffee, we have a hoteling space for our salespeople when they are here, and we have spaces for project management teams to work together. They walk in and they think, “I helped envision this, and I helped to design it. This is my place.”

The space we created has allowed for more advantages than simply bringing our team back together. We have opened our space for our customers to use for meetings and gatherings. Recently, over 30 athletic directors that make up the Southwest Ohio Athletic Directors Association (SWOADA) hosted a meeting at Motz. Truly a win-win, they get to have a productive work session in a collaborative, inspiring environment and we get to deepen our relationships with our valued customers. Another is the adjacent property we gifted – a brand-new synthetic turf field to a local community church. Motz’s Purpose is Moving People to Better Lives. In addition to showcasing our most recent technologies right outside our front door, this means that now we can look out the windows every day and see our purpose in action – 100 children playing on the field.

The lesson we see in this story is that the best way we found to bring our team back together in person was to create a space that exemplified and embodied our values. We built a space that invites a culture that people want to be part of. The rest is falling into place – our place.

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