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Week 9: Remodelling for a culture change

When you walk into the Trimark Sportswear Group lobby, there is little to indicate what actually goes on there. In fact, the new, huge two-storey building in Richmond Hill, Ont., into which Trimark moved in March, is vast and creamy beige. There is nothing that speaks to the company’s 35-year history, let alone to its successes in the logo-ed apparel world or to the fact that it was one of the official licensees of the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

Tracey McCarthy, interior designer, on the new look for Trimark Sportswear


The company’s move from Markham to its new home - which includes a 165,000-square-foot warehouse - helped increase the company’s speed and efficiency to the point where it was running at virtually 100 per cent, says Will Andrew. But it also gave Mr. Andrew, who took over as president in June, a blank slate.

With enhancing the company culture his top priority, the opportunity to create an interior design that reflected the message Mr. Andrew wanted to convey both to his customers and to his employees was perfect.

Among the directions given to Tracey McCarthy, a designer with McCarthy Interiors who was enlisted to bring some life to the new space, was to be mindful of Trimark’s core values - particularly those that speak to the importance of collaborating as a team in a caring atmosphere, and to not taking themselves too seriously.

“I wanted it to feel inclusive, welcoming, inviting,” explained Ms. McCarthy last week, as she presented her first set of designs to Mr. Andrew and the two other senior Trimark people involved in the redesign - human resources manager Stacy Marshall and national sales director Diane Barrow.

Ms. McCarthy is focusing on reception, the all-important showroom and the office area. The reception area tells you what Trimark is all about, she says, “and that’s missing at the moment.” She has suggested adding warmth with coloured banners and a seating area for guests that would showcase some of Trimark’s current line with movable mannequins. There should also be something that notes the company’s involvement with the 2010 Olympics - something the staff naturally take great pride in - and building a partial wall to make the area seem less vast.

As you pass through reception toward the showroom, there is a wall on which she proposes Trimark’s core values be displayed - a daily reminder to all staff and a message to Trimark’s customers about who the company is.

Outside the enormous showroom space would be some company history. Inside, the room will be softened with a comfortable seating and bar area, warm lighting and proper shelves and racks to display apparel. The colours throughout the building will be Trimark’s maroon-red and grey.

Aside from the warehouse and showroom, much of the rest of the building is huge, open workspaces - one on each floor, in which different departments have their own areas. There is little in terms of decoration and colour, and the furniture is all from the old office. The only real offices are on the second floor and are occupied, for now, at least, by senior managers.

This is something Mr. Andrew has been grappling with almost since he took over: How do you stay connected with employees when you sit apart from them? “The way they designed this building is that you do have this management area but it’s really conveying the us-vs.-them mentality,” says Ms. Marshall. “We want to keep some of our management team in the mix of it all.” Ms. Marshall is moving downstairs and Ms. Barrow plans to sit near Inside Sales and Customer Service.

Ms. Marshall has been rethinking the space so it makes more sense, so that people who work together, for example, sit near each other and to their manager.

Because it’s a relatively young staff, she adds, they are hoping to create a fun environment. “A few of our people have gone to visit the Zappos offices and they’re totally crazy, for lack of a better word,” says Ms. Marshall. “They have vines hanging from the ceiling.”

But that’s not Trimark’s culture, she adds. “You create the culture around things you do - better communication, involving people. You have some fun elements in your design concept. We want to have a meeting area in the midst of our open space, make that fun and crazy if you want to. Not all closed-door meetings.”

The next step in the process is to get employee feedback on the proposed designs and then get the work started quickly to keep the excitement level high. Until very recently, Ms. Barrow said, staff said they’d had no idea management had been talking to a designer. “The employees just thought we were going to leave it like this.”

It was another reminder of the importance of communication.