Lou Hoffman, CEO, The Hoffman Agency

When The China International Trust and Investment Corporation (CITIC) building in Beijing flung open its doors in 1985, its 29 floors qualified it as the tallest building in town.

Even 15 years later when we entered China, the address still carried prestige though it had long ago lost its title as tallest building in Beijing.

The photo above depicts a site inspection in 1999 before the buildout for our office space commenced. The woman in the foreground is Zhong Li, who started our Beijing office.

I’m eyeing the ceiling to give the impression that I actually understand the HVAC duct and fittings. I also remember being irritated that they couldn’t find a plastic hard hat — if there was ever an oxymoron — that fit my head.

It was an exciting time when we officially moved into what the locals called the “Chocolate Building” in 2000.

Unfortunately, the building started to fray at the edges (to be kind) over the years. I’m not privy to the operational budget for the building, but the owners clearly went on an austerity kick believing carpet should last “forever” and a fussy Internet came with the territory.

Finally, after 15 years of residing in the Chocolate Building, we found a new Beijing home in the China World Office, a spiffy building and one I suspect the owners will maintain befitting the luxury brands that line the ground-level retail.

It’s a good omen that I did NOT conduct a site inspection.

With that said, things are never easy in China. In the midst of our buildout, a Military Parade took place which grinded all construction projects to a stop for 10 days. We also learned that the building management was sensitive to noise from any construction, meaning our renovation crew could only work after 8 p.m. and on weekends, and could only use hammers with heads covered in felt to pound nails (joking on the last point). Kudos to our internal buildout team, Wendy Mao, Davin So, Jenny Chan and Lydia Lau, who also worked unconventional hours to make it happen.

Here’s a shot of our Beijing team and a few “visitors” in the new digs.

Hoffman Agency Beijing group photo

Back row: Jenny Chan, Vivi Wang, Yuan Ye, Ada Song, Lou, Scarlett Liu, Celia Wang, Li Duan, Janice Wang
Front row: Lydia Lau, Cass Cheong, Irina Li, Cathy Han

Of course, it’s the people who create a culture and give energy to a company.

Still, there’s no question that a cool and professional space puts some extra bounce in the staff’s step.

I’ve yet to meet someone who prefers worn carpeting.