Growing up in Dunwoody, Michael Tavani would steal his dad’s video camera and film short skits to show his friends, reveling in their reactions.
“It’s the same thrill I have here with this,” Tavani, 42, said while sipping a Punch Card Coffee at the Cabbagetown location of Switchyards. “I enjoy the creative process — creating something from an idea, putting it out into the world and seeing people’s reactions.”
Tavani, now a Brookhaven resident, is founder and CEO of Switchyards, what he calls a “neighborhood work club.” It’s not a coworking venue, but a “third place” that fills a gap between the office and home. Switchyards takes a cue from the world’s great hotel lobbies, offering comfy work nooks, quiet areas for deep focus, and unlimited coffee for its members.
The concept has hit its stride during the pandemic, which has drastically changed the workplace. According to a September 2021 poll from Gallup, about 45% of all full-time U.S. employees were working remotely at least part of the time.
“The world has changed a lot in terms of work — where we work, how we work,” Tavani said. “Our original thesis was spot on … People want an inspiring place outside of the home and outside of the office to work around other people.”
Tavani has been a pioneer of Atlanta’s startup scene and was a co-founder of popular daily deals app Scoutmob. Six years ago, he opened the first location of Switchyards in downtown Atlanta, with locations following in Westside, Cabbagetown and Decatur.
Now, Tavani is gearing up to open a fifth location in Buckhead. It’s set to open Feb. 22 at Piedmont Center, a sprawling office campus off Piedmont Road.
He hopes to grow Switchyards to 10 locations in metro Atlanta. “My motivation every morning is to create something really special and pour all of my talents, energy, resources and bandwidth into Switchyards,” Tavani said.
With so much on his plate, Reporter Newspapers wondered how the busy entrepreneur spends his time. Here’s a look at his typical day:
Not a morning guy: A father of three kids, Tavani will wake up at 6:30 a.m. if he’s driving carpool that week. But other days, it’s closer to 8 a.m. “I’m normally not a morning guy,” he said. “One of my goals earlier in my life was to never set an alarm. I hate alarms.”
First thing: Before he even looks at email, Tavani checks online to see the occupancy of Switchyards. The locations have a “people reader” on the door, he said. “It’s like my dashboard for how Switchyards is doing. You can tell at any moment in time how many people are in the locations.”
Slow start: Next, he’ll pull up Pocket, a social bookmarking service, where he’s saved long-format articles. “I try to start off the morning slow by reading a few articles and getting in the right frame of mind … I try to read about adjacent industries. It’s unproductive to read about our industry as we’re trying to design a new category. I want to take adjacent industries and apply them to Switchyards.”
Making the rounds: Tavani tries to visit each Switchyards location once a week. Lately, he’s been spending most of his days at the Decatur location, which opened in early January and features “The Library of Deep Work and Focus,” a heads-down workspace. When Buckhead opens Feb. 22, he’ll pivot to get that location up and running.
Deep focus time: “I try not to schedule meetings almost at all,” Tavani said. Instead, he prefers to prioritize deep focus time. “I’m a big believer in deep work.” That means two to four-hour blocks at the downtown Switchyards, where the company has its offices. There, you’ll find Tavani with headphones in, listening to playlists. For him, a lot of deep work is simply thinking. He keeps a list of companies that inspire him, such as Rapha, a London-based cycling clothing company. “I like to look at them and get inspired by them,” Tavani said. “What are they doing well? How can we apply that to Switchyards? … I think that seeds a lot of ideas.”
Quick lunch: “I don’t want to take an hour lunch,” Tavani said. So, he brings in a frozen lunch, often from Daily Harvest, for a quick meal at his desk. “I want to get right back into it.”
Most-used app: Tavani’s go-to app is Notion, a note-taking and project management platform. “The challenge with starting a company, especially one you love, is I’m thinking about it 24/7,” he said. “Thoughts are fleeting, and there’s a lot on my mind.” He uses Notion to capture and categorize his ideas, so they are available when he needs them. “I’m constantly trying to be as an effective as I can.”
Heading home: Tavani will head home around 7 p.m. even though he likes to work late. “Every single day, when I’m about to leave, I’m doing my best work,” he said. “But kids and family are calling at that point … As I’ve gotten older, I have definitely realized this is more of a marathon, than a sprint. The hustle is overrated. I value a clear mind.”
Family time: In the evening, he enjoys spending time with his wife, Stephanie, and three kids: Jarrett (11), Hudson (8), and Gabriella (5). Lately, they’ve been playing foosball. He also likes to read the “Who was?” series of biographies to his kids. “I’m learning facts I never knew,” he said with a laugh.
Relaxing: To wind down, Tavani will take walks and listen to podcasts, make calls or catch up on Voxer messages from his former Scoutmob co-founder, Dave Payne. “It’s also my alone time,” he said.
Up late: “I’m totally a night guy,” said Tavani, who stays up until midnight or 1 a.m. “I’m always having to force myself to go to sleep.” He’ll often browse the website Newspapers.com, which features old newspaper clippings. “I’m a huge Atlanta history buff,” he said, adding he especially likes reading about businesses that failed, looking for lessons he can apply to Switchyards.
Best tip for entrepreneurs: Strive for incremental progress, he said. “Just do one thing each day that’s meaningful … I try to do things where I can provide the most high-value impact.”