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Last Update: Thursday September 23, 2021

Key Idea: Create Space that Inspires Quality

After leasing space for years and spending plenty of money to upgrade it to his standards, Steve's CPA told him it was time for him to own his own building.

Key Question:


Make a statement with your office space.  After leasing space for years and spending plenty of money to upgrade it to his standards, Steve's CPA told him it was time for him to own his own building.

We know that creating high quality operating space matters to every business owner we have studied here, however, Modern Postcard stands out because the leadership places a high value on beauty, ambiance and aura. As a photographer of real estate since 1976, Steve has seen world-class architecture and world-class locations.

What did you learn from Jim about how this building came to be what we see today?

A:  Jim was put in charge of the project. Jim is not an architect, he left his job as a designer for an advertising agency to join Steve in 1986 and the two have proven to be a powerful team. Steve says in the complete interview that they fill in each other's weaknesses. While Steve is a great photographer who appreciates light and space, Jim is an artist. Jim's goal for the building first was to guarantee light and a view to every employee.

The building was positioned so that everyone can enjoy a view of a small man-made lake and the Pacific Ocean. Most all of the public space is walled with glass. This means most every meeting and dining experience is full of sunshine. Executive offices are on the outside parameter of the building but the interior walls of these offices are glass so that employees who don't have a ring-side seat can still enjoy the view.

The employees running machinery are in a space with a solid wall, however, they can raise large doors to fill much of their areas with sun. After Jim achieved the sunshine goal, he went after an artful feel. He chose materials that are timeless and aesthetically pleasing. At the entrance, the hardwood floor is warm in contrast to the concrete and stainless steel railing.

The grand staircase invites everyone who walks through the door and having two stories means most people never get into an elevator. The palette is neutral. We find only gray and black with clear glass lantern-like light fixtures. There is nothing hanging on any wall because each wall is a sculpture itself. Jim designed the concrete slabs individually and of course the glass walls let the art be nature. Jim chose all of the fixtures and furniture and told us he stayed on budget. This means that good taste and a fabulous space doesn't have to cost more than a building that is not a great place to work.

It took plenty of brain-power and love for Jim to achieve the result everyone enjoys today. Jim said that everyone is working with very colorful images and everyone can do what they want inside their own space. He simply wants a unifying look for Modern Postcard and he wants that look to be both stimulating and relaxing.

Jim probably doesn't know about the time Dr. Jonas Salk was struggling with his idea to find a cure for polio. Dr. Salk went on a retreat to Italy and stayed at the Abbey of Assisi. In a speech he made to the American Institute of Architects in the early 1990s, Dr. Salk said he came up with his vaccine at the Abbey and was convinced that the architecture had something to do with his mind being unlocked in some new way by the inspiration of the Abbey's architecture.

In 2003, the American Institute of Architects announced the establishment of the Academy on Neuroscience for Architecture. Architects and Moms know that people behave differently in different environments. The challenge for all of us who ask people to work a long, productive day is to create the space that is most conducive for it.

Think about it

Take an inventory of your work place. How does it make you feel? Are you proud of it? Do you feel more energy or less energy when you walk in the door? Ask the people who work with you to tell you how they think the workspace affects them emotionally. What action can you take to create a place worthy of 1/3 of a person's life?

Clip from: Modern Postcard

From 16 to 250+ employees

Carlsbad, California: Can an entire industry, the business of performance management, be reduced to a postcard? Can the deep study of kaizen and the work of business gurus like Peter Drucker be reduced to a link?  The quick answer is, "Yes." Visit Modern Postcard and meet Steve Hoffman and his team  producing over 100 million postcards a year for some 150,000 customers.

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Modern Postcard, Inc.

Steve Hoffman, CEO

1675 Faraday
Carlsbad, CA 92008

Visit our web site:

Office: 7604317084

Business Classification:
Printing, publishing

Year Founded: 1996

Create Space that Inspires Quality

HATTIE: (Voiceover) With thousands of happy customers and a great team of employees, Steve can take time now to enjoy his home which sits on the Pacific Ocean. He, his wife and son love to get out on the beach just a few steps from their own front door.

STEVE: (Reading at home) Suddenly, there was a loud crash. The little kitten had fallen right through the roof...

(Voiceover) Back at the office, Steve can be found just about anywhere in the company's 75,000-square-foot headquarters in Carlsbad, California. After outgrowing one leased space after another, and on the advice of his CPA, Steve decided to build this building, and he put Jim in charge.

JIM: It was a great opportunity that I was able to come in here and to design this building using, kind of, my skill set, my creative background.

(Voiceover) And the approach was to come in here and create a very minimalist look, to use textures in here like you can see with the stainless steel. You can see the concrete that's in here, you know, the wood. The exercise here was to create an environment that was very open. I mean, we have an awesome view here of the ocean. We have a small lake here. To be able to get that sunlight that comes in here, but yet, still, it has a design motif in it, and it's very simple and very minimal.

STEVE: As spectacular as the building is, the thing that I'm the most proud of is the people that are in it, not the building itself. When people look at the building, it's a sign of success, but this building is 1/20th, 1/30th of the cost of the people that are housed by it, so we never look at it as though we should be cheapening their environment, because they're going to be spending a third of their life in it.

JIM: I mean, our business is very creative. And as you have, you know, kind of experienced it all throughout the day here, you know, people are dealing with images all day long, and these are creative people. They're young. They're psyched. I mean, they do a lot of different things, and this environment was built and designed so it would stimulate them.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) This place doesn't just look good, it's a smart building. High-speed communication lines running through conduits in the concrete floors. No dropped wires down poles, just clean sleek lines. The place, the people and the product are all positioned for even more growth.

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