It is easy to take for granted the space you work in every day. Some of us spend more time in the office than we do at home and after almost a decade of working for Summit it sometimes takes a little nudge for me to look around with fresh eyes and think about how unique the space I work in is.
Summit started as a project being run inside a prison in a gnome making workshop. It was a humble beginning for CEO Hedley Aylott and his mother and Co-founder Marion Aylott, giving inmates a chance to learn valuable skills and break into the emerging market of digital advertising.
Based on the success of the work within the prison, Hedley soon had cause to set up Summit’s first external office in the grounds of his polo club, accommodating the growing business and the expanding team of non-inmate staff. Between York and Hull in the Yorkshire countryside, it was part of a converted stable block that filled and then overflowed into a pair of portacabins which froze in winter, baked in summer and brought us all closer together as a company. We shared BBQs and picnics, took polo lessons, and played games of football and cricket during lunch breaks, chasing escaped pigs and dealing with unruly chickens.
At the same time, we expanded into Europe, and Summit’s sister office in the Czech Republic started life as a handful of people in a shop front in Prague.
A burgeoning business
We soon opened a third office in London and the Prague team moved to a bigger and better space, and it didn’t take Summit Yorkshire long to outgrow its home, as well. We were knee to knee and elbow to elbow by the time our new home, and the current HQ of Summit, was ready for occupation.
Over Christmas 2012/13 the polo club-based offices we called ‘the farm’ were packed up and moved lock stock and barrel to the Mill House at Albion Mills in Willerby. A few of us worked through Christmas, in the office on Boxing day alongside electricians, decorators and carpenters adding finishing touches and setting up the infrastructure needed for Summit to hit the ground running on the first working day of January. One of the last things put out were cards welcoming us to our new home, signed by Hedley and Marion.
In the years since the move to Albion Mills, two new buildings have been erected on the same site as the Mill House, each time just keeping up with Summit’s growing demand for space as the company moves as fast as the industry it is in.
The HQ currently comprises three linked buildings set in well maintained gardens and accommodating something in the region of 100 staff and visitors with room to grow. It has everything you would expect of a modern office; a library, drawing room, music room, great hall and tree house. If I’m starting to sound a little mad perhaps you would like to join me for a meeting in the Alice room; one of our many themed meeting rooms, it is based on Lewis Carroll’s classic novel, Alice in Wonderland, and contains painted roses growing from the garden on the ceiling and a cuckoo clock that doesn’t quite keep time.
This eclectic and sometimes eccentric office space recently won an award in Prolific North’s Inspired Spaces. It’s part of a vision to make the offices a home for the Summit family, a challenge that has been risen to time and again as Summit has outgrown its home and gone in search of another. Each part of it reflects the personality of the business, from the great hall, a space we can all eat breakfast and lunch together and hold our largest meetings in, to the drawing room, where we can scrawl ideas on the walls, and the wardrobe of Narnia where we can go to get a little space.
It’s a pleasure to work in such a lively environment, which encourages collaboration and teamwork while simultaneously offering quiet spaces for reflection and individual work. We love showing guests around our home and their reaction is sometimes the best barometer for how different it really is.
You can even take the tour yourself now on Google Maps, but I would be quick about it if I were you, because Summit is always changing and there is always something just around the corner. Our London team is just about to move to their largest setting yet, with plans to grow the teams housed there and to match it up to the feel of the Yorkshire and Prague offices. Thanks to our acquisition by TCC we are also looking further afield, and it is not a matter of if, but when, new Summit offices will spring up in far flung corners of the world. Watch this space to find out where we set up our next unique, vibrant home.