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20 Years of Office Reality…

Design, Office design May 16th 2024
20 Years of Office Reality...

We have made it through two decades in business and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics our company is one of only 25% of new businesses that have made it to 15 years or more, a statistic that hasn’t changed very much since the 1990's.

So where did it all begin?

Having previously worked in office furniture manufacturing and commercial interior design, Paul Seddon (MD) had office furniture running through his veins for 20 + years. He came to recognise the importance of transparent commercial interior design, fit - out and office furniture supply that had to be backed up with a professional, national furniture installation service.

The early days:

The first consideration was to build a website displaying office furniture at a competitive price point. The idea was for the website to be a reference point for architects and designers who often work out of hours to budget cost commercial interior projects. Paul spent a lot of time during the early days visiting clients to specify office furniture solutions. It was hardly the digital age back then, so viewing a website on mobile just wasn’t an option. Enter the ring binder… The ring binder was an actual printed copy of the website that acted as Paul’s bible whilst taking website enquiry calls while travelling, and he was always travelling! During the Autumn of 2004, Paul drove to the Orkney Islands to carryout a delivery and installation of office desks, office screens and operator chairs single handed. The ‘national furniture installation service’ wasn’t in place at that time!

Shooting 2012
Bristol 2015

2005 saw the arrival of Office Reality’s first employee. Aside from a degree in graphic design, a necessary skill for the role he was to fulfil, this guy also possessed a great sense of humour which was a bonus at the time because business life was just manic and often reactive, but always fun!

Over the coming years, Office Reality flourished and a second rental unit was acquired, next door to the existing one, to accommodate the growing workforce. With our factory supply partners, a design team, a national installation service firmly in place and the website now able to be viewed on mobile it was time for an additional website (www.cafereality.co.uk) Café Reality was, and still is, our route to suppling commercial interior design services and contract furniture to the Hospitality and Leisure sectors. We had dipped our toe into the digital age but of course, there was still paperwork and filing to be done!

In the middle:

2010 was of particular note for Office Reality. We designed and fitted out the empty shell of our own building. We installed a mezzanine floor to separate the vertical space which created two levels. We then added solid and glazed partitions, electrics, data, IT, air conditioning, suspended ceilings, lighting, flooring, washrooms and kitchenettes to both floors, a shelved loading bay completed the fit-out. The office furniture, meeting room furniture, breakout furniture and storage (with feature graphics applied) were installed.

During the autumn of 2010 we were ready to move to our stunning new space, which was a far cry from the existing two, rather scruffy, rental units over the road. There still had to be printers and a fax machine of course. Some clients were still faxing orders and there was still filing to be done. Our space in Wellington remains our home today.

Westpark 1
Kayaking

We got out during 2012! We visited Shaldon Shooting School, as a team, where we took our chances with guns shooting at clay pigeons and with varying amount of skill. It wasn’t really obvious if there was an overall winner but lunch was served in a local pub and a good day had by all. The Company Day was born!

2013 saw the launch of www.onlinereality.co.uk our ecommerce website with a shopping cart. Edu-quip followed and is our education website that was the last to be built.

During 2014 we celebrated our 10th year of trading with a trip to Mansell Raceway (now known as Dunkeswell Raceway) and a cake! All competing on the track had a seriously fun day. The winners took up their righteous positions to receive their well-deserved medals.

Our 2015 Company Day took place at ACF events. Activities included tank driving, Segway riding, go-cart racing and falconry. Wine tasting finished off the day perfectly.

The 2016 Company Day was held at Ashcombe Events. We took place in a quad safari, drove off road type go carts and had a buffet lunch brought into a marquee that we organised for the day.

Our 2017 Company Day was organised by Somerset Adventures. The day commenced with kayaking a stretch of the river Tone, followed with lunch prepared by The Hot Sausage Company and served from their mobile kitchen. The afternoon was made up of woodland skills, archery and laser shooting. Another great day was had by all.

In recent years:  

2018 was our most recent Company Day. We visited Escort Park. Activities included a treasure hunt, shooting, segway and lunch was enjoyed in the main house.

We took a place in two challenges over the years: The Watchet to Minehead Raft Race during which the raft sank and the Portishead Soapbox challenge during which our driver crashed in a spectacular fashion!

It wasn’t all about Company Days and challenges though. We made considerable investments into Sage 200 which replaced Sage 50 and integrated Salesforce to improve efficiency within our sales and operations teams.

Our websites have now been migrated to an open source platform and our ‘in house’ developers maintain and improve their functionality on a daily basis. 

By March 23rd 2020 Covid – 19 had rocked everybody's world and we were no exception. Measures were put into place to allow us to work from home. Our Finance Manager was instrumental in ensuring everything worked as it should do and in a super quick time frame. Some would say he would have had us in bunkers if that were possible! Zoom, Teams and Google meet all became the norm and now we were truly digital at last!

Falcon

Joking aside, the furlough scheme was announced and everybody except for five of us were furloughed and it was tough.

Not to be put off by Covid or furlough, Paul saw an opportunity to supply acrylic desk mounted and floor standing screens. He persuaded one of our factory partners to reinstate the workforce to cope with what he believed to be a huge demand. And there was. So much so that Acrylic supply was depleted in a matter of months and so entered glass versions which were heavier and more susceptible to damage but, they did the right job.

April 2024 was a truly special birthday for us. Many of us are proud to have been on the twenty-year journey or most of it!

If there is only one word I can use to sum up my twenty year journey, it has to be fun :)

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