Boiling the Frog

7th December 2017


Early this week the director of a company, who shall remain nameless, invited me to a meeting at his offices.

A number of years ago I used to act for his landlord and negotiated against him on both rent reviews and lease renewals, but the building had been sold and the new owners had brought in their own agents with their own ideas. That’s all part of the circle of life as an agent in the city – some you win, some you lose.

The directors and brought me into discuss a forthcoming lease event. The landlord had proposed a new lease at a higher rent and they wanted to pick my brains as to whether the proposal was fair or not (as it turns out, I didn’t think it was too bad, best described as “full”, but not outrageous).

So far, so great – for the cost of a cup of coffee, they had been given some reassurances that the landlord wasn’t lifting their leg. The downside was that I had earned nothing, but it’s great to be trusted by another company to give them help. Indeed, at NG, we have an ethos (along with our “no d**kheads” rule) that we put the clients needs first and ours second. That’s unlike some local Practices, but we find it works for us in the long run and the money eventually does come in.

As the conversation progressed and meandered along, we established that their business was in rude health with a solid and growing order book. We also determined that the offices were the right size for them for the foreseeable future, they were at the right sort of money and they were definitely in a good location for them, being surrounded by other complimentary businesses.

We also established that the company were simply bored to death of their offices. The property had been refurbished in the 1980’s – it was still perfectly serviceable and in good decorative order but it was horribly dated, in the same way that someone wearing a suit from the same era with its double breasted lapels and huge shoulder pads would look wrong today. The staff and director at the company had for so many years walked over the same plain blue carpets and stared at the same bland magnolia walls that they hadn’t realised how far behind the times they had fallen in respect of their working environment. Their frog had been well and truly boiled!*

However, as I spoke to my contact of an office suite I’d taken for another client where we’d used colour, graphics and furniture to create the sort of space you’d be energised to work in, I saw the Cataracts of Familiarity clear in his eyes as he saw his tired office anew. At the mention of another I’m involved with that has a black linoleum floor and corresponding black metal suspended ceiling grid with inset contemporary lighting, he was positively evangelical and was ready to move into it at the first possible opportunity.

Whether he will move his office is yet to be seen as that can be both disruptive and costly, but he is looking at it next week with me so I don’t rule it out. What I am sure of though is that, if he does stay put, he’ll be doing some work to his office with new carpets and redecoration.

People are a businesses most important asset, so I’d recommend any employer giving his or her colleagues and themselves an environment in which they can flourish and thrive. If you’ve not shown your office some love recently, cast off the blinkers and look at it critically or, even better, engage with those who work in it to give them what they want and need to feel enthused. It doesn’t need to be expensive; a tin of paint costs the same whether it’s white, (heaven forbid) magnolia or bright blue. Just get the space to reflect your brand and its values.

I can assure you it will make a massive, positive difference.

*The boiled frog relates to an old wives tale that if you want to boil a frog, you don’t throw it into a pan of boiling water as it will just jump straight out. Instead, you put it into a pan of cold water that you then put over the fire. The frog, without realising the gradual change of temperature, swims round happily till it’s cooked.


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