Made with love, remotely

When Matt and I started this business, it was in the middle of the worst recession the world had seen for decades. We turned that into opportunity. Office spaces were abandoned rent was low. In fact, our first office was rent-free for three months.
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To us, getting a studio space was a symbol of being a ‘real’ business. We had looked up to our peers with their cool office spaces and we wanted a piece of that action. We looked to our contemporaries for the template of how to build a successful business and stole the bits we liked to make our own. As we’ve grown we’ve upgraded the space and have been fortunate enough to find a great place in the second city’s iconic jewellery quarter. It has the classic agency staples like exposed brick walls and a foosball table.

Today, I look what makes us SMILE, differently. And the Coronavirus pandemic has opened my eyes. I see another opportunity to do better.

The office does not define us. Our work does.

It’s not all rosy. We’re working where we live, which is blurring the boundaries of when work ends and life begins. But as our freedoms of movement are restored I hope that this pain point will become easier.

It’s not work from home, it’s work from anywhere.

I’ve had a commute for as long as I can remember. I started on the train until they became too crowded. Then I got a car, but rush hour is so frustrating. I got a nicer car to make it more palatable. Even that was tough, so I changed my working hours to avoid the traffic. But commuting is still the worst thing about my day. Last year I spent 345 hours commuting. That’s over 14 days. 2 weeks in a tin can on wheels. That is silly.

The environmental impact is huge. Not being tied to an office gives us a freedom to work and live from anywhere. And we still produce great work.

It’s clear as Matt and I push to grow the business, that being tied to 2000sq/ft in Birmingham, makes this harder.

The SMILE Jewellery Quarter HQ

When Matt and I started this new business at university, one of the most forward-thinking lecturers tried to tell me that an office is an outdated concept and we didn’t need one to be successful. I shrugged it off, thinking it wasn’t possible. SMILE has lost talented staff to this conceited ego-trip. Now I recognise that I was wrong to ignore that sage advice.

I’m trying to do better every day by facing my mistakes and changing. So here it is: I was wrong. We don’t need an office.

SMILE has been based in Birmingham, but SMILE isn’t known for being in Birmingham.

We’ve always added to our sites that we’re they’re made with love, in Birmingham. But now they’re made with love, remotely.

Nathan Monk
Nathan Monk

I'm proud to work for some of the world’s most influential brands that shape cities and define lives: Universities and colleges.

I provide advice to forward-thinking senior leaders on how to exceed their organisational targets by creating user-focused, digital-first strategies.