Welcome to Miami (¡Bienvenidos a Miami!)

by Ian Campbell August 30, 2021

In June of 2020, Nucleus Research opened an office in Miami, with almost all our staff making the permanent move by September. COVID was a driver of the decision, but it wasn’t a difficult sales pitch to convince the team to forgo the Boston weather for the Miami sunshine.

A year later, what did we learn? And would we do it again? The short answer is yes, but it was a bigger change than I expected. To be clear, the incredible things about Miami far outweigh the challenges, but I’m a Boston guy: Good-natured griping is practically in our DNA.

Plus, talking about the downsides just makes for better copy. So let’s dive right in…

A unique approach to driving
When you talk to a Miami local (loosely defined as someone who has lived here more than a year), they usually complain about the drivers. Now I’m a Boston guy, so I have a high tolerance for some of the world’s worst drivers. Take a tenured Harvard professor and put them in a Volvo hybrid on the Mass Pike blasting NPR, and they instantly turn into a road-rager leaning on their horn and gesturing to anyone not adhering their specific rules of the road. Simply dealing with that on a daily basis in Boston has given me the skills to hold my own from the streets of NYC to the Autobahn.

But Miami… that’s a different story.

If you put an inattentive squirrel behind the wheel of a luxury car, you’d be well on your way to replicating many of the drivers in Miami. You know what’s somewhat normal here? Cutting across four lanes of traffic to make an exit noticed at the last minute because the driver was busy texting. Or constantly changing lanes without any regard for the fundamental rule of physics that says no two objects can occupy the same space at the same time.

I have passed more serious accidents on 95 in the past six months than my entire lifetime in Massachusetts. That road is absolutely littered with broken car parts.

But true to Miami’s nature, there is also a bright side: You can reach a Zen-like state when driving, and few people seem to get upset with other drivers’ antics. I rarely hear an angry horn. Unlike Boston on a typical day, I do not hear a single car horn from my office. I also haven’t experienced a single gesture of displeasure. (Of course, that may be because anyone can purchase a gun here. You never know if the other driver is armed, so it’s much smarter to let minor infractions slide.)

Overall, the vibe on the road is nice — even if it is at times bewildering in an Instagram-friendly way.

(Sur)real estate
Real estate prices in Miami are going through the roof, so choosing an office location that offers housing opportunities for everyone on staff is a top consideration. It’s not just the price of real estate that factors into things. Real estate agents themselves can be a challenge, as I’ve witnessed some extremely low levels of ethical integrity.

After a year of house-hunting, I have plenty of stories. In one case, I watched a house sell only to be immediately relisted at twice the price. That’s not abnormal, but what was curious was that within days of relisting, the houses on either side of that house were listed at a slightly higher price. Once the middle house sold (at over $8M by the way), both neighboring houses were removed from the listings, having not sold and spending fewer than 60 days on the market.

To my eyes, it looks very much like some real estate agent “manufactured” comps to justify the doubled price of the house they were selling. Be careful.

The absurd world of building permits
Do not, under any circumstances, undertake an office build-out. Either have the landlord manage the build-out or rent something you can use as-is. Please, allow me to explain.

When we were looking at office space, I had a few landlords quietly tell me they have their own crews who can make modifications to the space to suit our needs without the need for permitting. I managed our office renovation in Boston, so how hard can permitting and a build-out be?

I say that as I’m sitting in the unfinished construction zone of our office. I’ve already paid an absurd amount in permit fees, and I’ll be forced to threaten to sue my contractor if he doesn’t complete the job in the next 30 days. But wait, there’s more…

The City of Miami’s building department claims they have come to our office each of the past three days to perform final inspections, and they insist the office was closed. This is blatantly untrue, as I’ve been sitting here with the builder the entire time. That’s Miami’s building department, I guess. Trust me, look for something turnkey.

Okay, okay, let’s look at the bright side of Miami (pun intended). Because there’s plenty to love.

The actual climate is fantastic
It’s nice just about every day of the year here, and that translates into higher morale and lower golf scores. Yes, it’s hot in the summer but it’s not unbearable. It sure beats jumping over slush puddles in downtown Boston in the winter. Having a bad day? Pour a drink and hang out at the pool or beach. You absolutely cannot be unhappy here.

The business climate is equally fantastic
There’s an energy in the air that supports an entrepreneurial environment that drives growth. I’ve met dozens of entrepreneurs starting companies, from tech to manufacturing to food products. My wife was so encouraged by the environment here that she left her Massachusetts-based company to start a spirits brand — more on that later.

Ultimately, the state of Florida loves business, and my experience has found Florida nothing but overwhelmingly supportive as I established a presence and started hiring. A special thank you to the Miami Downtown Development Authority (DDA) for their support – make sure to reach out to them.

Rather than the surly government workers I’m used to from my Boston days, my interactions with state employees have been met with friendly southern kindness. When I changed my driver’s license, I was directed to a nice lady at the DMV (those are five words that have never been put in that order in Massachusetts), and she actually welcomed me to Florida. I needed to call the Secretary of State’s office about a business issue, and I swear I think their call center is at The Villages. The elderly lady on the phone was wonderful: After quickly finding my paperwork, she told me everything looked fine, and she also made a note to check on it the next day to be sure.

The people are great
I’d describe Miami as a northern city with southern hospitality and wonderfully diverse influences. Diversity is woven into the core fabric of the city. It’s the engine that drives an overwhelming variety of events, restaurants, and nightlife. You can dine at a different phenomenal restaurant every night of the year, and there’s something exciting in every direction (Art Basel, Miami International Boat Show, Ultra Music Festival, Miami Fashion Week). Miami is simply a world-class city filled with a world-class population.

There’s a well of talent from good local schools
We’ve had good luck hiring, but we’ve also had a few missteps. Like anywhere, you need to be critical of the resume and carefully check past employers. If you do, you’ll find plenty of great candidates — although with increasing demand, you should plan to pay a premium salary.

So, would we still move the office to Miami? Absolutely. But if you plan to move here, make sure you drive a substantial SUV and be chill when the person in front of you is still on Twitter when the light changes to green. That’s just a Miami thing. It’s a small price to pay for less stress, more excitement, a permanent tan, and shorts as daily office wear.

Wait… what did I just write? No, stay away. Don’t come here.