The pandemic has been good for business at Ovative Group, the Minneapolis-based digital marketing agency founded by former Target.com president Dale Nitschke. But as more and more clients sign on, now convinced that e-commerce, online analytics, and digital branding are essential to success, Nitschke is doubling down on a seemingly pre-pandemic modality: more office space.
Ovative is adding an additional floor to its office, which currently occupies floors 9-11 of the Nordic building in the North Loop. Construction will begin in June on the 19,150 square foot expansion, which will provide a dedicated workstation for each of Ovative’s 245 team members—and growing. The new space, designed by local architecture and design firm Studio KKChong, will accommodate up to 314 employees.
“It’s human behavior—people want to be together. I don’t think that’s ever going to change,” Nitschke said. “The energy, the joy of being together, I’m a believer that people want a space to go to.”
Attendance will not be required, however. “It’s up to the team to choose. We’re not dictating. I feel like if you create the right environment, people will want to come in, and be surrounded by smart, excited people.”
In addition to adding workstations (with ergonomic, standing desks) and conference rooms designed for video meetings as well as in-person collaboration, the expanded Ovative office will feature a game area with feather bowling courts and shuffleboard, a rooftop bar and lounge area and outdoor rooftop deck with skyline views. There will be beer and kombucha on tap.
“Our team includes a lot of young people who share apartments, or their WiFi goes out,” said Nitschke, who works in a glass enclosed space in the center of the office for full transparency. “We want to create an opportunity for them to choose.”
And yet, as Ovative augments its Minneapolis headquarters, the agency continues to grow nationwide. Pre-pandemic, just three Ovative employees lived outside of the Twin Cities. Now, 30 employees are based in 11 different states. That includes staff members who felt liberated this past year to move away and retain their jobs as well as new hires in cities including Atlanta, and Chicago. Now with a dozen Ovative employees in New York, that group is asking for a satellite office—so they can be together, Nitschke said. “We’re letting them pick the space.”
Ovative has added 123 employees in the last two years. Currently the firm wants to fill an additional 35 spots, Nitschke said. Lifting geographic boundaries makes it easier, especially in a tight labor market. But it hasn’t made the CEO second guess investing in headquarters. “The space helps people to understand our culture. We continue to believe that providing an amazing environment for our team and clients to brainstorm, solve hard problems, collaborate and socialize is core to our brand, our culture, our values.”
Since early 2020, Ovative has signed 25 new clients across its integrated media, measurement and consulting services. Nitschke said the pandemic pushed many reluctant senior leaders to step up their digital efforts. “Our behavior has changed, which made more companies realize they need to consider digital in a way they haven’t before.”
That focus on digital won’t end with vaccines. “It’s just accelerated our advancement and integration of digital services,” Nitschke said. But much like his confidence in the future of the office, Nitschke believes that brick and mortar stores will regain their footing along with restaurants and other in-person experiences.
“I think people will embrace joy.”