If you’ve visited our office in Palm Harbor, Florida, you know we work in a charming Key West style building on stilts. It was built this way because of our close proximity to the Gulf of Mexico and related flooding regulations. It’s actually a cozy office offering comfortable quarters for us. There is only one problem with it, nobody can find us from the street. In front of our office, is a small drainage ditch which parallels the highway. It’s actually more than your typical ditch as it runs into a nearby estuary connected to the Gulf. This means we can watch the tides go in and out during the day. It also means we have some rather interesting plant life growing in and around the ditch, namely mangroves.

A mangrove is not a particularly attractive tree. In fact, it is a rather unassuming scrub tree of medium-height (about twenty feet) that grows in saline coastal sediment habitats. It’s a very evasive jungle-like plant with a tangled root structure. Because of our climate, Florida is one of the few areas in the country supporting the species which causes environmentalists to become sensitive about their protection. Regrettably, mangroves took up residence in our ditch before we moved into our office and grew rather prolifically. So much so, you cannot see the street from our property which is a good thing in one regard (by offering privacy and muffling highway noise), but it also conceals our property, making it difficult for customers and vendors to locate us. In fact our office is only visible from the driveway which means if you blink your eyes as you travel down the road, you will likely miss our office, as many people do. Even the post office, who should in theory know all of the routes to deliver mail, frequently have trouble locating our office. Consequently, we rented a post office box as opposed to depending on mail finding its way to our door.

Obviously, this is cause for concern as we want people to easily see our office from the street, not only to locate us, but also to promote our business. Our first inclination was to cut back the mangroves to a more reasonable height, such as five or six feet. We certainly did not want to eliminate them as they offer us some privacy, we just wanted them cut back a bit to make our office more inviting from the street. We then contacted the county to try and determine what regulations were required for such a job. After spending considerable time traversing the county’s bureaucracy, we finally located the gentleman in charge of the mangroves who made it clear, obnoxiously so I might add, the trees were not to be touched for any reason. In fact, he was extremely irritated we would even entertain cutting the mangroves. We tried to patiently explain our dilemma and intentions but to no avail, the county would not allow anyone to touch them except county workers which, as I was led to believe, would be when hell froze over.

We then began to consider alternatives. First, we brushed up our corporate sign in front of our building to make it more eye-catching. Unfortunately, the mangroves blocked it in such a manner as it could only be seen when traveling in one direction on the street, not both ways, and in the blink of an eye. Next, we painted the office an attractive shade of yellow which we figured would attract attention. The idea was good, but the mangroves still camouflaged the building. Finally, we tried some simple stick signs towards the front of our driveway to let people know we were in here. This idea worked at first but was quickly snuffed out by the county who said our signs were not allowed as they were too close to the road. Maybe we should try a loud 50′ Las Vegas neon flashing sign. Then again, there probably is a county regulation against that as well.

What is perhaps most frustrating is it appears there is nobody in the county willing to help us find a solution to our problem, but they sure are quick to take our taxes. I don’t know who we angered, but the county bureaucrats sure seem bent on burying us.

So, here we sit, hidden behind those damn mangroves. Every now and then we see a car flash by on the street. Just as a reminder, if you’re looking for our office, don’t dive too fast on Bayshore Boulevard (aka, US Alternate 19). You’ll probably miss us.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at [email protected]

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Copyright © 2011 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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