Curtis Knapp – Ryan
An old saying says death and taxes are the only things guaranteed in life. The latter means there will always be a place for a company like Ryan, a global tax services and software provider. And if people need what Ryan has, there will be a need for a place for the company to deliver its products and services.
Enter Curtis Knapp, Ryan’s director of real estate and office development, whose main goals are to reduce the company’s rent costs while providing the best office experience to employees and customers.
“Finding the best use of our spaces around the world has been a big part of my job since coming to Ryan in November 2021,” Knapp tells Blueprint during an interview on a cool late fall morning.
Saving money isn’t priority No. 1, but he says any opportunity to enhance the employee experience while bringing dollars back to the company is welcome.
After he joined the company, Knapp helped shed 54 locations from the company’s real estate portfolio—understanding the best location for offices is crucial, Knapp explains. In Washington, DC, Ryan had five offices, and since closing four and bringing all personnel under one roof, the company hasn’t missed a beat.
“And we saved about $2 million in annual rent in Washington, D.C. That’s why we always look hard at our offices everywhere. The savings add up,” he explains.
While a global firm, about 75 percent of the company’s offices are in North America. Saving money in real estate-related costs allows Ryan to invest in other areas, including the office experience. For the past few years, Knapp has worked hard to make that experience the best it can be for all Ryan employees.
Investing in comfort
Ryan was way ahead of the game when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020—the company had been working in a hybrid environment since 2015. Knapp says that most employees participated in Ryan’s remote work program at least one day per week before the pandemic. When Ryan’s offices re-opened when the pandemic eased, most people working full-time from home decided to stay remote at least three days per week, if not all five workdays.
“We want our employees to work where they are the most productive and efficient. For some, that means an office; for others, that means working from home or other location,” Knapp says.
Understanding the importance of office services even in a remote work environment, the real estate group helps ensure employees have access to the necessary supplies. They provide a box of office supplies that can be easily replaced through online ordering, which are then conveniently delivered directly to their houses. Mailing and shipping services are also digitized to streamline the process, allowing employees to print labels, stamps and other necessary documents electronically. Employees also receive a stipend they can use to set up their home office with comfortable and functional equipment like large monitors and sit/stand desks and chairs.
One of the unique aspects of Ryan’s remote work program is its focus on the client experience. The company understands the importance of tight management and effective client communication—they never compel anyone to come into the office for the sake of effectiveness. Instead, the company strived to provide the best remote work experience possible, ensuring that the client interactions are seamless and professional.
Additionally, Ryan offers flexibility and freedom of choice regarding office space. Fully remote employees enjoy the option of reserving flex spaces when they need to come into the office. Knapp believes in listening to the people who use the space, as they are the ones who understand their needs best. This user-centric approach was carefully considered by the company’s leadership, who aimed to marry the needs of employees with the desired brand image and experience.
“The result is a polished and welcoming environment that reflects the high standards of professionalism and excellence Ryan seeks to deliver to clients and employees,” Knapp explains.
Business continuity and security
To further support remote work, Ryan offers a business continuity expense to employees to offset costs like internet and cell phone services. The company’s electronic phone service allows employees to receive calls on laptops or cell phones, ensuring continuity in communication. From a real estate perspective, maintaining the main phone number centrally provides stability and security, emphasizing the company’s commitment to client experience and security protocols, Knapp says.
While embracing remote work, Ryan has focused on maintaining high-quality office spaces. The company continually invests in modern workplace amenities and functionalities, ensuring that even older spaces are updated to meet contemporary standards.
“It is important to provide options, including private offices and flex spaces, to cater to individual preferences and work requirements,” Knapp says.
Ryan’s approach to client interactions is disciplined, with stringent security protocols in place. Knapp says that Ryan doesn’t compromise on acoustic and visual privacy, recognizing the importance of concentration and focus. This commitment reflects a balance between creating a polished, client-friendly image and ensuring the well-being and productivity of employees.
“Coming up with solutions and ways to make everyone more productive and efficient is a fun part of my job,” Knapp says. “I enjoy being creative and figuring things out.”
Creating and innovating
Creativity and innovation have always been at the top of Knapp’s mind. He earned a degree in landscape architecture from Texas A&M University, and despite an interest in creating environments, he wouldn’t have imagined his career taking the tract it has.
Knapp says every job he’s held over the past 20 years has intentionally focused on creating employee or client experiences in a work environment. Whether working for a real estate company, design firm or inside a corporation, the mission has been to deliver a quality, comfortable and technologically enabled user experience.
“As a service provider, I got tired of doing projects for clients, proposing these ideas and then moving on to the next client,” Knapp says. “There is a different feeling with his current role.”
With Ryan, Knapp says he can create an experience, oversee its implementation and evaluate the fruits of his labor. He says there is more fulfillment in owning a project from start to finish and a greater sense of pride when seeing people enjoy the spaces he created.
As a company, Ryan has grown by about 1,000 employees in the past few years—expansion into Europe, India and the Asia-Pacific region accounting for much of that. Knapp has years of experience working outside the U.S., and he says that as long as Ryan continues its growth, there will be challenges for Knapp to tackle.
“At this point in my career, those challenges and unique opportunities are exactly what I’m looking for,” Knapp says. “The legacy I want to leave behind is that people, no matter where they worked, enjoyed their office experience.”
View this feature in the Blueprint Vol. II 2024 Edition here.
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