Written by: Lawrence Waugh, Founder of Calavista Software
Goodbye 360, hello Cuernavaca.
When Calavista was founded over 20 years ago, one of the first questions we asked ourselves was whether or not we needed an office. We quickly decided that it was important to us to have a place to go – to focus on work, meet with customers, and establish a culture. Over the years, much of our business has come from word of mouth, so as time went on, our space became even more important, as we began hosting events and providing space for clients and organizations such as the Austin Technology Council, Central Texas Angel Network, The Rice Alliance, Technology Advisors Group, and more. Our space became a way to market ourselves – to bring people in to meet us where we lived, and just see who we are.
But times have changed.
When Covid struck, like many companies we found ourselves paying high rents for tons of space that was effectively idle. So in early 2022, knowing that our 7 year lease was going to expire in February 2023, we started to think carefully about what was next. We could renew our current lease, forego office space completely and go remote, or find somewhere else. As the title of this blog suggests, we went with the latter, even though it was the most difficult option.
It would have been easier to stay in our current space and not worry about moving, but as is almost always the case, the terms of our new lease would have been even more expensive than they were before. Renewing our current lease would have continually increased our costs and required a 6+ year commitment. Good space and good location is worth paying for, but in this economy there has to be a limit. We quickly realized that we would have to come up with another plan if we didn’t want to throw tens of thousands of dollars down the drain every month.
What About Remote Work?
We had just started getting back to normal after the lockdowns of the pandemic sent everyone out of the office. Calavista is well suited for remote work – in fact, when the pandemic was first declared, all that was necessary for us to move to fully remote was an email telling people to stay home. As a company that effectively manages remote teams, working remote has little impact on our day-to-day activities. Like many other companies we could have just embraced this functionality and saved lots of money. The thousands of dollars spent on rent every month could go directly back into our business, our employees, and support growth.
That sounds great in theory, but there is something to be said (a lot, actually) for the energy and culture a physical space brings. We realized this was vital to who we are as a company. While we work well remote, we still want the boost of working together in an office.
Fully Remote Was Not an Option
Though we were fond of coming into the office, we did seriously consider sending everyone home or offering to rent out co-working space. A few permanent offices at WeWork or something similar would be pretty affordable, and could provide us a “footprint,” and a place for regular meetings. The savings were hard to deny and we were struggling to find a new space. But after another failed negotiation with realtors, I walked out to make some tea and caught our COO at one of the coffee machines with one of our Solutions Directors brainstorming about a project. I was reminded that this is one of the selling points of having a physical space. This “meeting” would never have been scheduled on Zoom. It just happened spontaneously, because 2 coworkers bumped into each other.
Without a physical space, you also don’t get the same level of team building. I’m no Luddite – again, Calavista has been doing remote work forever. We’ve managed remote teams for over 20 years, and moved to video meetings back in 2011, back when you needed specialized software and often hardware. But like it or not, there’s something special that happens in the time between meetings – call it the power of 2, or gestalt, or camaraderie, or whatever… You don’t get that on a video call.
Not only do these moments help business, using a few minutes here and there to move projects forward, but they improve our teams too. People see each other outside of scheduled minutes. They can talk about their personal lives and build deeper relationships with each other without “derailing” a given meeting. They can drop by and give someone an urgent update about a project. They can vent over lunch or coffee. These moments make daily life easier and build a better internal culture that actually makes this an enjoyable job for our team members.
Plus, if we didn’t have a physical space for our own team to meet, we also would no longer be able to host other companies or events. For over three years we have been the headquarters for the Austin Technology Council and welcomed techies from all over the city to learn and network together in our space. Our training area was one of the selling points of our old office and we didn’t want to give it up. ATC’s CEO Thom Singer noted that “Even in our digital and hybrid world, bringing people together is key to building community. Having access to Calavista’s space allows ATC to host some amazing networking and educational events.” We couldn’t agree more.
Occasionally, having space has helped us form better relationships with our clients by not just bringing them in for in-person meetings, but providing office space as well. Whether that’s bringing in a few developers for a while or giving an out-of-town VP a place to work while they visit, this hospitality is important to us.
The New Space
What is the price of such camaraderie, though? We were not willing to pay the rate that our old space proposed, so we were tasked with finding a space large enough to support our current organization, ideally with room for growth and room for hosting events – at a better price. This was a challenge, but persistence and patience paid off. We looked at new spaces, subleases, shared spaces… pretty much anything that would give us the environment we wanted, and a place where we could bring our customers.
After a lot of looking, it was our good fortune to stumble upon (they actually called us…) a company that had gone in the opposite direction. They had a great space that they desperately wanted to get out of, because they didn’t see the value for their money. It was a win-win. They saved money, and we ended up with an even better space than we’d had (which is saying a lot) at a fraction of our previous rent. Good deals are out there, it just takes some persistence, patience, and focus to find them.
The icing on the cake is it is just ten minutes away from our old location. We are now located off of Bee Caves Road (2244) near Cuernavaca, just down the road from 360. It is slightly further off the beaten path from downtown, but we hope that folks will still continue to come in and check out our awesome Hill Country views .
We are excited to be in a space where we can gather, exchange ideas, host clients, get lunch together, and save money.