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  • 16 February 2021

The CEO Institute Interview’s Jared Wade, CEO – A1 Office

When building a career, sometimes there are inevitable stumbling blocks that require finesse to get you through to a place where you are satisfied as a leader.

For Jared Wade (Syndicate 9), he found himself at a crossroads nearly a decade ago. After years in the Health industry, working in an operations and logistics role, he had reached the limit of where he could progress. Although he was excelling at cost management and mergers and acquisitions, there was no opportunity to get into the revenue building side of things that he was eager to get into. A fully rounded career included that side of a business for Jared. He felt that it was an area in which he could excel, and moved to a General Manager role at A1 Office in 2011. In 2015, he was promoted to CEO, and the business has been growing ever since.

A1 Office is unique in that it is a commercial workspace company that turns business insights into intelligent and deliberate workplace experiences by offering superior design and end-to-end consultation. When explaining A1 Office’s unique approach, Jared says, “Look and feel comes last. Functionality comes first, productivity and potential come second. And then environmental look and feel is about – where are tomorrow’s workers coming from, and who will need to inhabit and work in this space?”

A traditional approach to a workspace is not one that A1 Office espouses. Sitting at a desk from nine to five may meet a corporate criterion, but as Jared points out, there are always going to be people who put in the bare minimum because they are either not inspired by their workspace or feel constrained by traditional views of what a workday should look like. “A happy workplace is where someone can come in and put in six hours of work and feel like those hours were productive”, Jared comments.

The design of any office space is intended to get an outcome. The system that A1 Office uses is to first consult with the key leadership team and run through a process where key people are shadowed. What Jared and his team has found, is that by reverse-briefing their findings back to the company, many of the leaders’ assumptions turned out to be wrong. “They would think that they were doing one thing on a cultural level, when in reality they were doing the opposite. One side of the company believes they are connecting with the clients, when it actually turns out to be the staff who have more of a daily engagement with the client”, says Jared.

Each workspace will require a different approach. For example, A1 Office had a client who approached the renovation with the idea of having a certain price per square metre over a seven-year lease. Jared saw the potential in that company was going to far exceed the space that was currently being leased and argued that a five-year lease would be more prudent. The customer went with seven, however increased the price per square metre by 20%. And that’s where the alchemy of A1 Office’s specific view and talent came in: when the company owner went to negotiate the lease, which was with an investment company who had never seen the end result, they walked in and said, “we will buy it off you”, which gave him the freedom to get out of the space even though he had a four-year lease left to go.

Heading a workspace transformation company was obviously very challenging once the pandemic hit. Much like many other CEOs during the first wave, Jared was concerned for the future of the company. A1 Office went from growth in double digits to a virtual freeze. However, when the second wave came around, Jared saw a shift in the way that employees viewed the situation, saying “by the second wave, the feedback from our clients, including our own staff, was that people were ready to get back into the workplace. If you are working from home that has a lot of space, it is a very different environment from working from a one or two-bedroom apartment with a partner who also needs their own space. People were ready to have the interaction that an office environment allows.”

A particularly inventive product is called the WOOOM chair: workspace + room = WOOOM. Working with Klӧber, this chair is a self-contained office with many plusses, including plugging into your Bluetooth, a USB port, a massage function and the ability to step in and out quite seamlessly. Imagine walking into an airport lounge and being in your office in a second. Although it is still being used in office communal spaces, the larger vision is to have it in airport lounges, which will occur once airports return to a new normal.

Finding a group of people at The CEO Institute – many of whom he already knew – has been an important resource for Jared: “The team in the Syndicate has been a great group to bounce ideas off. Over the years, many friendships have grown and I look forward to seeing them each month. People think that CEOs always have the answers, but that’s simply not true – many times, we have a hell of a lot of questions.”

Another factor that Jared has found helpful is the vast array of life and work experience. “In our Syndicate, we have one man in his 70s, who has run multiple businesses over many years and has a beautiful insight and wisdom that comes from twenty years more in the game than me. The dynamic of our group works. Speakers often happen to be the right one at the right time. Even if you come away with one thing a month, it’s worth it. I highly value the camaraderie and confidentiality. It has been really enjoyable.”

The future for A1 Office is looking aspirational and completely within their capacity. After 30 years in the game, their business comes from 80% repeat clients and a lot of word of mouth. Think about it – if your company exceeded its financial growth forecast and found its employees to be more productive, taking fewer sick days and being happier, this would be a relationship well worth keeping.

What the pandemic has highlighted is that many companies need more technical support. If someone is working from home and does not have a great Wi-Fi connection, that would hinder productivity. The expansion of A1 Office’s technological and building technology solutions has greatly helped the rollout of new office fits.

The aim of A1 Office is to empower potential and this seems to be simple when spelled out, but you can see that a lot of passion and attention goes behind each office design. Jared says, “for the next five years, we will need to navigate the current environment. It has opened up things for change, which has made it really good to look at things with a new view. We will see lots of market engagement, the brand may change, but this pandemic has opened up lots of new opportunities in terms of how people use their workspaces. It will be a really good story to tell.”

One question that seemed to resonate with Jared was, “what is the biggest mistake you see when you first go into a potential office renovation?” The response was surprising in a sense because it broke down the wall between the executives and the people who work in other capacities for a business, “Executive leadership gets what they want. They take what they want and get the best, whereas the rest of the company, the people who perform the grunt work, often have office spaces that are far inferior. Think about going to head office for a work trip and seeing the great disparity between their space and your own. This creates resentment and an ‘us against you’ mentality. What we try to encourage our clients to do is look at office space as a holistic area where all should feel included and all should have the opportunity to be motivated and inspired.”

“How you treat your space and technology is at the essence of how you empower staff to do their job… and that’s what it’s all about – forget budget. Imagine if staff reached their potential, that’s worth everything”.

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