The office may be the second place that you spend the most time in, rather than your home. Although the actual office and office culture is shifting, it is still important to hone in on company values and positive work environments, even if you are meeting over Zoom.
We decided to meet with an expert. Allison Brooks is the founder and owner of B2 Architecture + Design. She is the visionary that started B2 Architecture + Design from the ground up, and instigated its success and growth. Plus, her really cool office is right next to the Gardenuity studio so we get to witness firsthand the work and people coming and going from one of the hottest firms in Texas.
Check out her interview below for more information about her business, how she creates a positive work environment that fosters and challenges her employees, and what advice she believes is important to create a successful business and a happy staff.
Tell us a bit about B2 Architecture.
How many people are on the team?
B2 Architecture currently has 31 people on staff, with most located at the headquarters in Dallas (right next to us, Gardenuity!) In addition, B2 recently opened an office in Chicago where they have 4 full-time staff continuing the mission. All other employees on the team are fully remote, working all over the United States, from California to Florida, Kansas, Wisconsin, and even overseas in Honduras.
What does a day to day in the office look like?
Allison explained that no two days are the same at B2 Architecture + Design, which creates an exciting and innovative environment. She spends a lot of the days in meetings with B2’s Business Development team and the B2 Leadership Team.
This is a collaborative space where everyone puts their heads together to identify opportunities for new business ventures that they haven’t previously thought about, as well as working with the Leadership to improve and streamline internal processes to make teams more agile.
These meetings are also a space to dream up ideas to make sure new measures are being put in place to grow and retain talent since the people are the greatest resource in Architecture and Design.
Allison keeps an open-door policy in an effort to let all employees know that they can stop in and talk with me about anything, at any time.
What is your role in the company?
Allison is B2’s Owner and Founder. She founded the company in 2007, and since then, has been able to grow it a ton!
Allison says that she used to have a hand in just about everything that happened at B2.The beauty of the growth that B2 has experienced over the years is in the outstanding group of individuals that she has been able to bring in. This group of top-tier people are able to tackle projects and issues head on, which allows Allison more flexibility to focus on high level strategy for the business.
She is often thinking about questions like, “How do we position ourselves to grow over the next four years?” “Are there service offerings that we’ve yet to tap into?” “How do we make sure our employees are feeling valued every day?” “What markets have we yet to enter that we want to do work in?” “What are our competitors doing that we aren’t?” “How can we improve?”
What is your favorite wellness / self-care routine?
Allison’s self-care and wellness rituals consist of working out with weights, treating herself to massages from time-to-time, spending time traveling with her husband and their daughter Eleanor, having a regular Sunday evening dinner with her parents and siblings, and visiting her home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina as often as possible.
How do you create team bonding opportunities?
The business of architecture and design, in general, is a team effort. So, making sure that all team members feel valued, supported, and have the assurance that they can work well together is extremely important.
B2 Architecture and Design have weekly happy hours where the office can gather around, take their business hats off, and have fun conversing with one another over some bubbly and appetizers.
In addition, they also make an effort to invite vendors in to hold Lunch n’ Learns to educate the designers on up-and-coming trends in the design world.
Another fun team bonding activity that has also started is a B2 Book Club. This is a space that encourages the staff to participate in team activities that different employees set up—some examples include pottery classes, flower arranging classes, and wreath-making classes—it allows designers to keep the creative juices flowing and have fun along the way with their coworkers.
Finally, at least once a year, B2 will do something really special for their employees. This past year, for instance, they spent a couple of days in the spring at their B2 Pep Rally, which was a way of focusing on B2’s values and getting to know a bit more about their teammates through activities and tours of recent projects that had been completed recently in the Dallas area.
What would you say are the 3 core values that make your office thrive?
B2 has quite a few core values. Allison says that out of all the values, she would choose the three that she believes are the most impactful to the business: Exceptional Service, Initiative, and Optimism.
How do you prioritize your employees’ wellness?
Allison explained that COVID-19 taught the leadership a lot of things about their team and their business, most importantly, that the work can be done from just about anywhere.
Due to this realization, B2 is very flexible and gracious with the Work From Home policy. The company understands that things come up, people get sick, or team members may need to take care of personal business from time to time.
Therefore, the leadership team encourages their employees to do what they need to do to take care of themselves first, so they are well-positioned to come into the office and focus on their business tasks.
B2 believes in the need to take some moments away from your desk and reset for the next project. The Dallas office is located next to a walking trail, so employees are encouraged to step away and take a walk when they have a creative block, or when the brain fog kicks in.
What advice would you give to other leaders to optimize a life-work balance for themselves and their employees?
Allison believes that encouraging teamwork in all areas is huge for employee wellness. When the personal life gets busy, make sure there’s a back-up in place so that the business is always covered, and employees can devote their full attention to whatever is going on at home like recovering from a surgery, taking care of ill family members, or taking a much-needed vacation.
Furthermore, clear communication regarding work obligations and personal obligations is huge. Allison encourages employees to ask for what they need, as well as strives to make sure that the work environment is a safe place for employees to make those asks, as asking for help or time off can be difficult for people.
Overall, encouraging employees to do what they need to do to take care of themselves first, so they are well-positioned to come into the office and focus on their business tasks during work hours is the way that B2 sets their life-work balance expectations. “And of course, having a Desktop Garden is always the perfect accessory for any office.” Allison Brooks