Despite not being an actual boat, this creative agency’s boat-themed office has an aquatic history, and makes business – under the guidance of Douglas Main – plain sailing.
Describe your business in no more than 100 words.
Ahoy! The Bigger Boat is a team of design and marketing professionals, although we prefer to refer to ourselves as a 'creative digital agency'. Unlike many other agencies we are predominantly 'results focussed' – we always attempt to demonstrate a return on investment to our clients, through clearly defined goals and targets set out at the beginning of a relationship and/or project. Founded in 2010, the company has grown considerably, relocated, and now our vibrant crew of 11 looks after clients including HR software provider Cascade, print finishing specialist Celloglas and luxury door manufacturer Deuren.
What kind of workplace do you have?
For the last 12 months, we have resided in a 2,000sqft space in a converted watermill at Wheatley Park in Mirfield. It’s a great open-plan boat-themed office on the four-acre rural business park, and although when looking out of the window you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere, it’s a relatively easy commute for all of us – and much preferred to the city commute!
Is there an interesting history to your workplace?
Yes. The historic 18th century watermill – formerly known as Hopton Mills – was founded in 1790, and used to produce textiles. First powered by water, then later steam from locally mined coal, it ran for approximately 80 years. We’re proud of the building’s heritage, and it’s great to see a structure steeped in so much history be brought to life again for modern use.
What makes your workplace special?
We’re surrounded by a stunning wooded valley, which is a real antidote to the hustle and bustle of a stressful city centre office. Inside, we have a meeting room with a secret hidden door (commissioned by our client Deuren), modern desks and a couple of break-out rooms to encourage creativity and productivity. We’ve tried to use some interesting wall coatings as well, with foam and split faced wooden tiles our favourites.
One other thing of interest is that we don’t pay for office water – we use the supply that flows underneath the building from the old watermill, which is then filtered for drinking!
Who is responsible for making your workplace brilliant?
It’s a real team effort between myself and the other founders of The Bigger Boat, Andy and Lee, but we also involve the rest of the ‘crew’ as well.
What made you want to deviate from the standard ‘desk, chair, kettle’ office setup?
We believe that if you want to get the best out of your employees then you have to give them the right creative environment to flourish. From my own experience, I produce my optimum work when I’m relaxed and enjoying what I do, so we’ve tried to create an ethos that encourages that.
How does this affect morale, productivity, staff retention?
We have excellent staff retention, and aside from the sprinkling of stress that every hard-working team thrives on, the morale in the office is always good. But the working environment is just one part of the mix. We also provide a free company fruit bowl, excellent fresh coffee, a jukebox, and other lunchtime activities in the woodland surroundings, such as mountain biking or trail running. We expect our employees to work hard, but we realise there is a need to break things up, so that productivity doesn’t take a nose-dive towards the end of the working day.
What kind of reaction do you get from visitors and clients when they see how you work?
Our clients are quite often pleasantly surprised with what they find at our HQ, and really love visiting the studio. We regularly get asked about how we created certain sections of our office space, and I know some clients have even gone on to use some of our ideas! The Cozy Coupe – provided by our client Little Tikes – is always a talking point when people come into our reception!
How far is too far – have you had to say no to anything?
Not yet, we’re pretty open to trying anything – within reason.
What other plans do you have to make your workplace even better?
We’re currently working on a cycle rack for one of our walls, to encourage staff to stay active and bring their bikes into work. There is also a pool table on the horizon, plus we’ve just started to look into sitting/standing desks to avoid being in the same position for 7 hours. Watch this space!
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