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The Difficult Second Album

Posted on Thu, 2017-10-12 20:58 by Martin Dempsey

It’s the ultimate music cliché – the “difficult second album”.  Musicians spend their youth perfecting their craft, writing and re-writing their songs, playing terrible gigs, then better gigs, then great gigs

Finally, after years of effort, they “breakthrough” and success beckons.  Now they’re gigging furiously, touring the country and enjoying their success. 

The trouble is that it’s the second album that often defines whether a band ‘makes it’ or not.  The second album proves that the band can professionalise and produce quality on top of quality, and have something relevant to say.  But, it’s hard to recreate the emotion and grit of the first record while touring the nation’s budget hotels.

The same is true for start-up businesses.  They begin as an idea in the mind of an inspired individual.  That first workplace is often a spare bedroom, a borrowed office, a converted stationery cupboard. 

As the company grows in that first space, it has the culture of a camping trip in the pouring rain.  It’s not a nice environment but it creates bonds, common purpose and spirit.  It’s somewhere that you look back on and laugh, remembering all the things that didn’t work and that’s what turned a group of individuals into a team or even a family.

Then, that first taste of success comes – the business needs a bigger place, a ‘proper office’.  New staff and the growing pains that come with a developing business and a new office is secured.

The temptation at this point as a start-up is to try and do everything yourself.  Cash can’t be wasted and it feels like it’s cheaper to buy flat-pack and order the odd ‘statement piece’ online.  The carpet that’s already down will do, and a couple of cheap wardrobes will double for storage.  Someone will manage the project while they continue to do their day-job.  It’ll be fine.

Now, the new space has neither got the personality and soul of that first, flawed but inspirational workplace nor does it feel like the dynamic home of a growing inspirational business. 

Creating a great workplace doesn’t mean spending a fortune.  It means understanding what is important to the business now, and where you’re headed.  It’s about designing the space around and for your people – how they work, who they are and how they collaborate and engage with one another.

The starting point isn’t the space itself, it’s the business you want to be.  When you move into that second office, you can’t recreate the gritty, cramped, togetherness of your first space.  Just like that second album, expectations – from your clients, your market and your people – have changed and the bar is higher. 

What will your next workplace say about your business?


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