By Phil VanHorne
A few weeks ago we relocated our Syracuse office to accommodate our growing company. We went from 8800 sq feet to nearly 15,000. My vision for the new office was not only to be downtown to provide a nice work/life balance for our employees but to have every division of our company on the same floor, in an open office setting to allow for collaboration, better communication, as well as have enough space to add more employees in the future.
Finding the right location and making the deal was the first step. The real work started when we began designing the office layout, followed by what I saw to be the most grueling task of all—furnishing it. From carpet to paint; lighting to desks; door knobs to all the technology needs, it was an enormous undertaking that I had no time for and quite frankly, didn’t think I’d be remotely good at. The need for incredible attention to details was key.
So I thought about the skill sets of my employees to determine who would be best fit to take on this expensive and critical project. It didn’t take long to identify Mackenzie Naum as the ideal person to take the lead.
Mackenzie came to us from a temp agency in 2012, to perform a one-time project. This young 23-year-old, who was fresh out of college, had such an unbelievable work ethic. Rarely do you see a young person who is so meticulous and organized, and who goes above and beyond the task she’s asked to do. I absolutely could not allow her to leave us after her three days were over. Even though she had no experience in the energy business—she had a lot of energy! In fact, she held a degree hot off the press in dance and exercise science. So we offered her a full-time job. We found a place for her in customer administration, where she continued to put 100% into everything she did.
We eventually moved her into operations, reporting to the COO at the time. We needed someone to create presentations for us. So, like the eager learner that she is, she watched YouTube videos and scoured the web for information to teach herself how to use a program that would ultimately lead her to create impressive, professional presentations for us.
In 2015, she moved into her current position as our Event Coordinator. Once again, she took her responsibilities to the next level, making our events organized beyond belief—she thinks of every single detail in every single thing she does. It’s incredible.
“Ok, so maybe I have control issues,” Mackenzie Naum, now 28, said, laughing. “That’s why I was probably a great choice for taking on this project.”
However Mackenzie would be the first to tell you, she didn’t take it on without trepidation.
“I was panicked at first. I had never done anything like this before. I had no idea where to even begin,” she said. So she did what she is known to do —asked a lot of questions of anyone who might be able to guide her, did a ton of research and jumped in feet first.
She visited other offices that she had heard were well designed. She traveled around to different cities to look at showrooms and actual operating offices. She met with sales teams, took photos, heard their pitches and eventually narrowed the field down to six companies that she would obtain quotes from.
“Once I got into it, I loved it but the pressure was really intense,” Mackenzie said. “I think some of these company reps were questioning how some young staff person like me would be in charge of making these types of decisions.”
She asked each of the six companies to put together a Power Point presentation so that it would be easier for me to visualize everything. It was back full circle to the days when she was designing PowerPoints for us. She expected the same kind of professional presentations from the office interiors companies that we expected from her. Those that didn’t comply were out of the running.
Once we selected the company to go with, Mackenzie really began to do her magic as she spent hours selecting fabrics, veneers, desk configurations, light fixtures, chairs, carpeting, etc. etc. etc. She also handled every detail of the physical move, scheduling with moving companies, briefing management, communicating with employees, literally directing everyone like a traffic cop as we made the transition into our new offices. She even went back to the old offices to clean them in order to save the company thousands of dollars. It was remarkable.
Moving 52 people to a new location also presents people challenges, not only logistics and furniture decisions. “Pleasing everyone was probably my biggest challenge,” said Mackenzie. “Everyone had an opinion. I heard all kinds of reasons why someone needed this or that. It was a little trying at times.”
But she did it with a smile on her face—admittedly, sometimes forced—but she tackled the issues one by one and did a great job of accommodating those requests that were justified.
I couldn’t be more proud of her and the professionalism she showed throughout the entire process. As I walk through the new office and see everyone working together, eating lunch together in the break room, and taking advantage of the newfound collaborative spaces, the credit goes to her. She took my vision and made it a reality. Not easy for anyone to do, let alone someone with no experience designing and furnishing offices. The trust that was placed in Mackenzie proved to be a very successful decision.
It just goes to show that when you challenge yourself to take on something that you’ve never done before, and take it on with such fortitude and grace, as Mackenzie did, you will not only surprise your boss, you will surprise yourself. Great job Mackenzie!