[Work Locations] Hit the Sweet Spot

It’s not Flo Rida, but like a lot of little things that add up to make a huge difference, where you put offices and people is critical for all sorts of reasons.


You want to hit the sweet spot.

Time zones, for example.

A recent call with a colleague left me chuckling as she walked me through the logic of her Shanghai-headquartered company putting their US marketing and sales office in New Jersey.

Why? Because that’s what the home office thinks all the “big companies” do.

The history on placement of US headquarters for foreign-based firms is pretty instructive. For decades they were primarily European firms that wanted a presence in the US. Having an office on the East Coast was usually a choice of metro New York or Boston and the time zone difference – London is 5 hours and the Continent for places like Geneva, Zürich, Berlin, Paris, Barcelona and Amsterdam is 6 hours – made it an easy call as to where to located offices. You can talk to people during each other’s work days.

I don’t know of a single major European firm outside of Addidas (who has an operation in Nike’s HQ hometown of Portland) and certain sector plays (think entertainment firms that are located in Manhattan, Nashville or LA) that put their US headquarters any place but on the US East Coast.

As Asian firms became more prominent they followed the path of Europeans. They put their US headquarters on the East Coast.

A 9 AM Shanghai call is an 8 PM New York City meeting though; Tokyo only buys you one hour less. It means lots of late nights and very early mornings for people no matter how you slice it.  

Far better for many Chinese or Japanese firms to put their US headquarters on the West Coast in places like Los Angeles, Seattle or San Francisco / Silicon Valley and catch more overlap time – the way European businesses catch overlap time with their US east coast-based colleagues. For the same reason an Indian firm should think placement of their US outpost on the East Coast, not the Pacific West. The time zone works better.

The sweet spot. A little thought and you just might hit it.

Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub.

R.O.O.T.S. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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