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Matt Douglas, Founder and CEO of Punchbowl.com

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Finding Service Providers That ‘Get It’

As a start-up, you need to work with lots of different service providers. At Punchbowl, we have lawyers, insurance agents, accountants, auditors, bankers, and real estate agents (just to name a few). All told, I’ve spent a lot of time with service providers and I’ve found that there is a big difference between those who ‘get it’ and those who don’t.

What does it mean to ‘get it’? It means that you can explain what you need to your provider, and they’ll only show you things that match your needs. It means they don’t waste time with things that are ‘nice to haves’ and they only focus on the ‘need to haves.’ It means that they understand your intent, can fill in the blanks, and will help you prioritize how to spend your precious start-up money.

An example will help illustrate the value of finding a provider who ‘gets it.’ In the fall of 2011, we were growing out of our first office space. We had moved into our office in February of 2008 when the company was only six people. Now we had almost 15 people and we (desperately) needed a new office. We reached out to a few commercial real-estate agents, and made the decision to hire one that had a great reputation. Our needs were specific – but not unreasonable. Within a few weeks, we realized we had picked the wrong commercial real estate agent. They didn’t listen well, and showed us properties that didn’t meet our requirements. We hired another real-estate agent, and then another. And another. Each of them had their own agenda, and didn’t truly want to help us meet our needs.

Along came Connor Barnes from Cassidy Turley, Boston. Connor was different. He had a confidence that was infectious, and I didn’t feel the need to repeat myself. He quickly understood my intent and he was able to fill-in the gaps himself. With a healthy dose of bravado, he took the challenge head-on and didn’t distract me with unhelpful solutions. He didn’t waste my time, and understood that I wasn’t willing to settle for something that would make me unhappy in the long-run. In less than three weeks, Connor had found Punchbowl a new office.

What’s most amazing about this story is that the office he found for us wasn’t even on the market. Connor just understood what we needed, and used his deep network and relationships to find us the perfect solution. I’ll never forget the day he called me to tell me that he had a solution. It was a Friday morning, only a few weeks after we met. When he called, he told me that he thinks I’m going to be very happy, and asked me if I could meet him that afternoon. When I first walked into the space, I didn’t understand how it was a great fit. But Connor patiently explained how we could change the space to fit our needs, and he was right on the money. Connor is a commercial real estate agent who ‘gets it’ — and I’m so glad that he found us. Take a look at the photos below to see our fantastic office. We moved into the space in March of 2012. It’s a wonderful place to work that has transformed our business and our ability to recruit top-talent. And it’s all because we found a service provider that ‘gets it.’

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There are so many service providers that you need to work with in order to run your startup. Find ones that really understand your business. Don’t waste time with providers who ask questions that aren’t quite right and don’t listen well. Oh, and if you’re in the market for commercial real estate in the Boston area, do yourself a favor and get in touch with Connor Barnes.

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