Along with 'The American Experience,' and 'Mistresses,' I have to admit that 'The Office' is my favorite television show. While it's suffered noticeably in the last season or two, I've loved the latest plot twist: Michael and Pam have left Dunder Miflin ('Limitless paper for a paperless world') to start The Michael Scott Paper Company.
Michael's new business is headquartered in a broom closet wedged in-between the men's and women's rooms, respectively. Along with fellow Dunder-Miflin outcast, Ryan, Michael and Pam share 126 square feet of office space, and are constantly bumping into one another. It makes for hilarious viewing and, in my case, evokes a flood of memories from Peppercom's first year in business.
Like The Michael Scott Paper Company, Peppercom was desperate to find some kind of 'real' office space (30 days of working in Ed's apartment had pretty much ruined my entrepreneurial enthusiasm). So, like Michael Scott, we sublet the equivalent of about 126 square feet of office space from a good friend and fellow, former Hill and Knowlton employee, Jeff Moriber. Jeff and his partner, Murray Salit, occupied a small office in the cavernous Graybar Building that provided design services and sported a handsomely embossed sign on suite 1920 that read 'Salit & Moriber.'
Just like Michael Scott, who created a sign reading The Michael Scott Paper Company and scotch taped it over the existing broom closet sign, Ed and I created a small foam board that read 'Peppercom.' We stuck double-sided tape on it and, with Jeff and Murray's ok, would paste it over their sign whenever a prospect paid us a visit.
Ed and I each had our own office, which was nice. But, there was no official conference room so, whenever a client or prospect did pay us a call, we'd hastily move things around in Ed's office and, voila, we had a conference room.
In the same way Michael needed Pam and Ryan to help pitch business and add legitimacy, Ed and I had our own early cast of characters as well: Karen Cleeve, Debrah Hussey and Efrem 'Luigi' Epstein. Karen was a great account executive. Clients and prospects loved Debrah, who was our Pam Beasley. And 'F' was our version of Dwight Shrute. He was a fulltime freelance publicist, with a boatload of eccentricities that included the ability to guess the day of the week on which a person had been born ('…..June 29, 1954? Let's see, July 4th was a friday that year so, yes, you were born on a Sunday.').
This team helped establish our image and reputation in those critical early months. After we'd won a few clients and started adding employees, though, things became a bit dodgier. Sometimes, clients would arrive earlier than expected and catch us in the act of retrofitting Ed's office. Other times, we'd be escorting a client out the front door and, boom, our jerryrigged sign would fall off the door revealing a gleaming 'Salit & Moriber' plaque underneath.
Ed and I still joke about a bogus client called Cleaner Options that had hired us for a small project. We didn't get them on the cover of BusinessWeek, so they fired us. In the termination letter, they added a PS, stating, 'By the way, we know Ed's office is also your conference room.'
Those were great times and great experiences. In fact, in many ways, that first year of business was the very best one in my career. So, here's hoping The Michael Scott Paper Company succeeds. And, if I see a future episode in which Michael's office is being converted into a conference room, I'm going to call our crack lawyer, Mike Lasky, and have him sue NBC for intellectual property damage.