Erin Mulligan Nelson, who recently took over the top seat at Atlanta-based OfficeSpace Software, is no stranger to the CEO position. Before joining the workplace management software firm, Mulligan Nelson served as the top executive at Calytera, Bonterra, and private equity-backed Social Solutions.
Like other CEOs leading technology companies, Mulligan Nelson has seen the CEO role transform over the last three years. After navigating pandemic-related shutdowns, the Great Resignation, supply chain issues, and a general economic slowdown, CEOs are now tasked with keeping a largely hybrid workforce engaged and motivated.
“In a post-pandemic world, there’s not a single CEO I know that has a proven blueprint for optimizing their most important assets–their people and the places they work,” Mulligan Nelson told Hypepotamus.
That problem is what drew Mulligan Nelson to OfficeSpace, which she describes as a platform that provides “solutions, analytics, and tools to help the C-suite plan and optimize the way they’ll work.”
How big of a physical office footprint to have – and where to put people within that designated space – is a big topic for those focused on the future of work. OfficeSpace Software, which launched in 2004 in Alpharetta, Georgia, helps companies optimize layouts for an evolving workforce and consolidates data into a single dashboard to help those companies better understand the operating costs associated with their real estate portfolio. The platform is designed to organize everything from day-to-day room bookings to visitor logs to how employees interact with one another.
Mailchimp, Shopify, LiveNation, Harry’s, Peloton, and Fortune 100 companies are listed as some of OfficeSpace’s customers.
DIVERSITY IN THE C-SUITE
Being a three-time CEO puts Mulligan Nelson in a unique class of business leaders. Today, only 10% of all Fortune 500 companies – and less than 3% of all venture-backed startups – have a female CEO.
While those numbers are still low, Mulligan Nelson said she has seen the C-Suite environment change over the course of her professional career. And she has some advice for other employers looking to support the next generation of female leaders.
“The most impactful thing that personally happened to me early on in my career, while I was only a newly-minted Director at Dell, was I explicitly told: “You have potential, we think you can be a C-suite leader one day, and we’re putting you in a development program to foster your growth.” There was something magical about understanding the confidence my leaders and my company had in me. The development program was great too, but honestly, the confidence it inspired in me made the difference. Beyond identifying and inspiring future leaders, I’ve seen mentoring programs be incredibly effective (and mentors of women don’t have to be women).
“I’ve seen ERGs (Employee Resource Groups) be effective. The common denominator of all of these is that they are programs and spaces that allow women to grow in their confidence and abilities in a structured, methodical way,” she told Hypepotamus. “Once women are in the C-suite, I think it’s imperative for companies not to stop at one diverse person being in the room. Research shows that there is magic in the power of 3 as a tipping point–3 diverse individuals on a team. Diversity doesn’t only mean gender–it means race, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, etc: I heard this said years ago and loved it: “One is a token, two is a presence, three is a voice.”
LESSONS IN LEADERSHIP
As Mulligan Nelson steps into the OfficeSpace CEO seat, we wanted to get a sense of her leadership style and what it will mean for the company.
She said her previous work as a CEO taught her the importance of shaping the company vision, aligning the executive team, and building a strong company culture.
She broke down those leadership requirements for us here:
- The most important role for me or any CEO is to shape and evangelize the vision for our company, ensure we all have the same North Star, ensure that we each know what success looks like, how we’re going to get there, and what our role in it will be. In my last few CEO roles, I’ve spent a lot of time in the first few weeks connecting with every single employee in the company to hear what they love about today, what they dream that we’ll accomplish together in the next 5 years, and what we need to do or change to succeed in getting there. This process has proven to be really effective in defining our strategic agenda – it’s great when employees can see a vision and realize their fingerprints are on it.
- No business can be successful without a highly competent, tightly-aligned, inspired executive team that has deep, trusting relationships with each other. I learned a long time ago about how important it is to develop the concept of “Team One.” Even though each executive leads a large function, the ELT members are each other’s “Team One.” In my past few roles, I’ve employed the use of external executive coaches and a variety of tools that facilitate and foster the relationships required to drive results as a high-performing executive team.
- Great culture doesn’t just happen. I’ve learned that a CEO’s commitment to culture can have an outsized impact on how strong or weak the culture is. A CEO can provide support by ensuring that values, norms, and recognition are aligned, and drive mechanisms to measure and ensure the strength of the culture. Bi-directional communication is key here as well, and the CEO can set the tone throughout the business, formally, and informally. I’ve also learned that being accessible and transparent is critical to fostering team member relationships, understanding what’s important, and using those things to propel the way we develop our business and our culture.
Follow OfficeSpace’s Journey
Mulligan Nelson is one of several new faces joining the OfficeSpace Software C-Suite. This spring, the company also announced that Heather Larrabee will be joining as Chief Marketing Officer. She brings her experience leading marketing and growth efforts at Whole Foods Market-Amazon, GoSpotCheck, and FORM.
Want to follow along with OfficeSpace’s growth as Mulligan Nelson and Larrabee join the C-Suite? Here are some important links: