How Cobb Strecker Dunphy & Zimmermann Transformed their Work Space After 30 Years

October 30, 2017  |  BY Ann Hansen

CSDZ work space downtown Minneapolis

The way employees work at most companies has changed a lot in the past 30 years. Leaders at Cobb Strecker Dunphy & Zimmermann, a Minneapolis-based insurance agency, were ready to make a big change after more than three decades in the same office space. They turned to Cresa for help defining what they needed, finding a new space, and helping employees understand the big changes ahead.

I talked to CSDZ CFO Steve Gfroerer about why the company made the move, what it was like working with Cresa, and what impact the real estate change has made on the business.

Building a Better Way to Work

The company had been based at Fifth Street Towers in downtown Minneapolis for years, but leaders knew they needed to make a change. “Our work environment didn’t fit how we were working anymore,” Gfroerer says. The space was set up like most traditional professional services firms, with private offices on the exterior and workspaces on the interior. But that setup no longer made sense, as many of the private offices were reserved for salespeople who were rarely onsite. On many days the offices were dark and not being utilized.

Plus, all of the workstations were very large, left over from the days when CSDZ was a paper-based company and employees needed room for files. “Now we’re paperless, so we didn’t need such large desks and offices,” he says.

Finally, many employees were looking for more flexible schedules and workspaces. Leaders wanted to introduce the concept of “hoteling” — desks that could be reserved by salespeople and others who only needed an in-office workspace a few days a week.

Leaders also wanted to better utilize the common areas set aside for meetings, employee breaks, and training to provide adequate collaborative space without driving up costs.

Finding the Right Space

More than two years before CSDZ leaders wanted to move, they started working with Cresa to define their needs and challenges. Our Cresa team took Gfroerer and other company leaders on tours of three spaces to show them other Cresa clients’ more modern offices.

“It can be hard to visualize how a new layout is going to work,” Hansen says. “But once you show someone how the change could look in the end, and connect them to other companies to ask questions, they get excited about the possibilities.”

CSDZ decided on a new building, Capella Tower. “As soon as we walked into the building we fell in love with the energy and vibe,” Gfroerer says. The company’s leaders were drawn to the building’s shared conference rooms and meeting spaces, first-floor coffee bar, gym, proximity to public transit, and other amenities. “It felt like a destination, not just a place you pass through,” he says.

Communicating with Employees

Even when an upcoming change is exciting and positive, any change can make employees apprehensive. CSDZ addressed employees’ concerns by putting together a comprehensive communication plan about the move. CSDZ worked with Cresa, plus two Cresa partners (an architect and a furniture company), to give employees continuous updates about what the future space would look like. Also, the furniture vendor created a mockup of a new workstation that employees could see and touch, and a 3D model that employees could virtually walk through to visualize the new floor layout.

The Results

The company made its big move this summer, and the results have been overwhelmingly positive. In the new space each team sits together, improving collaboration and removing barriers. Workstations are more flexible, with sit-stand options and monitors off the desks on retractable arms. The breakroom and meeting space is more functional and appealing, encouraging people to get together more often. And leaders have now incorporated a much-desired work-from-home policy as well, giving employees flexibility in their schedules.

Gfroerer says the new office will help CSDZ recruit and retain top talent and meet employee needs for years to come. “We designed the space to be flexible, so our office will continue to fit our workstyles as things change down the road,” he says.


Cobb Strecker Dunphy & Zimmermann is an independent insurance and surety agency established in 1919. Throughout its history, CSDZ has focused on providing customized insurance, surety and risk management solutions to its clients and is one of the nation’s largest independent specialty agencies with almost a century of dedicated focus in the Energy, Transportation, Design, Healthcare and Professional industries.

Learn more about Cobb Strecker Dunphy & Zimmermann at its website.