After a hiring spree in 2019 to meet its expanding business needs, Zulu Alpha Kilo was, quite literally, bursting at the seams. The agency had to take out new space.
To accommodate its expanding workforce, Zulu secured an additional 10,000 square feet at the Ontario Design Centre, increasing its footprint at the ‘Zulu campus’ to five floors across the Design Centre’s three office buildings. The agency now occupies a total of 27,000 square feet. As a result, everyone gets their daily quota of 10,000 steps.
While the emphasis of the new space is on the future, the space also includes a nod to the agency’s past with a tribute to the original ThinkBox used in launching the agency 11 years ago. When visitors walk through the new space, it’s the first thing they experience by walking through a re-creation of the ThinkBox experiment. Launched in 2008, the ThinkBox placed eight interdisciplinary thinkers in a box to solve problems on the spot at Yonge Dundas square. It’s also a reflection of the agency’s creative philosophy of ‘inside the box thinking.’ The idea that creating parameters around a problem often leads to more creative experimentation and original thinking.
If you look closely, there’s also a nod to Zulu’s unconventional website. Far above the ceiling is a door to an office for fictional agency founder Frank Zulu who represents all the flaws of the old way of running an agency. A bottle of scotch can be seen with a sign that reads, ‘Do Not Enter without taking a stiff drink first.’ It’s actually the door to another company the next floor up that’s locked on both sides. The agency used this odd door placement to its advantage and applied its signature wry sense of humour.
In building out the new space, the agency focused on ensuring more natural light in work areas and creating more breakout spaces while also introducing quiet areas. The agency also added shareable stand-up desks on each of its floors for staff who want to stretch out and avoid sitting for too long. The original first floor that the agency moved into in 2008 now houses the Zuligan Lounge and auditorium for all-staffs. The space has a warm, cosy, café-style vibe where teams can work, eat their lunch, hangout, or host an impromptu karaoke session.
“We wanted our space to foster innovative thinking,” said founder & CCO/CEO Zak Mroueh. “We believe it’s our responsibility to create a culture and environment where creativity flourishes.”
Zulu has also made technology and communication enhancements to support their workplace vision. The agency’s network infrastructure was upgraded to allow for greater coverage and better performance throughout Zulu’s sprawling creative environment.
This attention to detail and the thinking behind the office redesign is in keeping with the Zulu’s operational approach. The agency devotes a lot of time and energy into ensuring its culture and management practices put people first in order to allow creativity to flourish. It seems to have all paid off. Today, the agency was featured in the National Post and named one of Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures. Founded by Waterstone Human Capital, this national program annually recognises best-in-class Canadian organisations for having cultures that enhance performance and sustain a competitive advantage.
“At Waterstone we believe corporate culture drives performance and that it’s an organisation's greatest asset,” said Marty Parker, president and chief executive officer of Waterstone Human Capital and Chair of Canada’s Most Admired CEO Awards. “What’s remarkable about this year’s group of winning organisations is their commitment to corporate culture and their success in leveraging that culture as a competitive advantage. They each set a high bar when it comes to building great, high performance cultures that ultimately drive organisational growth and power the performance of their teams.”
Earlier in 2019, Zulu was named to the list of Canada’s Best Managed Companies list for the second consecutive year. The annual awards programs, run by Deloitte, recognises 'Canadian-owned and managed companies for fearless leadership, relentless innovation, and world-class business practices'.
“We’re proud to have built a strong culture that attracts top talent and keeps them engaged and performing at their creative best,” said Jamie Murphy, director of Talent & Culture.
Johnson Chou Inc. designed the build out and worked closely with Zulu’s design team on some of the creative touches to the office.