The space you use is an overhead that needs to pay for itself in the overall big picture of your business; but it is also a factor that can improve indirectly other aspects of your operation – or of course, hold you back. Here are seven tips for choosing your commercial property.
(1) Use an agent
An agent will have a wealth of information available, including financial aspects such as rents and rates, and emerging patterns in costs; and location information such as where the competition is based, and which buildings might be becoming available.
They can also point you in the right direction in terms of planning considerations and refurbishment options. If you haven’t already got a checklist, speaking to an agent will help you narrow down your requirements and help you prioritise one need over another.
(2) Consider accessibility
If you have employees now – or if you might in the future – will they easily be able to get to the office? This is particularly significant if you are moving offices, in which case you may need to consider whether transport links are going to make things more difficult for your staff to get to and from work.
If this is the case, but you are certain the property is the one for you, consider offering flexible working arrangements so as not to lose your valuable employees. Also consider how your staff get to work. If some of them cycle to the office, can you provide safe storage for their bikes, and shower arrangements as part of the office move?
You also need to consider everyone else who needs to get to and from your office. If you are expecting clients to visit the premises, then appearance, location, parking and internal accessibility need to be a priority. If you regularly have deliveries, there should be adequate space for trucks to stop and unload, meaning that a purpose-built out-of-town site may be better than a central London street.
(3) Take advantage of flexibility
There has never been a better time to look for commercial office space in terms of choice. The recent acceleration in numbers of serviced office providers means that the expensive, long-term commitment of a lease is no longer the only option for those looking for space. Serviced offices require few up-front costs, if any (some even offer rent-free periods), while equipment such as phone lines, and even phones and computers can be provided; they also allow you to increase and decrease space easily, and to cut costs by sharing facilities such as meeting rooms, break-out areas and bathrooms with other occupiers.
Shared insurance and staff costs (such as cleaners and receptionists) mean that you can concentrate your time and your money where it matters: on the business. While the lump-sum monthly costs of serviced offices on the fact of it can appear more than a traditional lease rental, when all inclusive facilities are taken into account, it’s a very viable option for a start-up or growing business, or even a large business that is testing out a new branch or is between sites for a time.
Read more about relocating:
- The 15 hidden costs of moving offices
- How to find an eco-friendly (and cost-effective) office
- Important considerations when moving offices internationally
(4) Don’t ignore technology
As all businesses become increasingly reliant on technology, any office space needs to know that this technology is failsafe. A brand new office tower block will have it all in place, and will be easily adaptable for future technological developments. A converted Georgian mansion, however, or a quirky Victorian terrace, may be a different matter.
Where technology and the equipment has had to be retrofitted, check it works to the extent you will need it to. Is the internet fast enough? Can additional capacity be added? Are there visible cables trailing down walls and across floors? Who fixes the server if it goes down? If you’re the only tenant in the building, it may be harder to get things like this fixed than if you are one of a number of tenants, all demanding the same result.
(5) Work within your budget
Your meeting with an agent should have helped you think about the costs involved in finding a commercial property – as well as the ongoing costs of occupation.
Refurbishment is a major expense, essential to some businesses and unnecessary for others. You will need to consider at the outset whether your budget includes adapting the property you choose, to fit the style and needs of your business. These costs can soon escalate, especially as landlord’s consent will be needed, and such negotiations cost money as well as time.
(6) Find a good solicitor
And involve them from the outset. When you and/or your agent are negotiating heads of terms with the landlord, a good solicitor will be able to provide initial advice, which saves time in the long run. Ask your agent for any recommendations, or ask contacts who they have used. It is advisable to use a specialist commercial property solicitor who is experienced in handling commercial lease transactions.
There are likely to be documents other than a lease to be negotiated: landlords often require a rent deposit, so a “rent deposit deed” will need to be drafted, as will any formal permission for changes to be made to the property. Try to obtain a fixed price for the work from your solicitor, so that you can manage your budget, but don’t necessarily go for the cheapest quote.
(7) Leave yourself enough time
The choice of office space is a major factor in the running of a business and ought not to be rushed. All of the above choices will take time to investigate and conclude, especially when a potential move is being orchestrated at the same time as running the business itself. Research every aspect, and prepare budgets for both money and timescales. Ensure that you know your priorities and apply them to each property in your shortlist. Taking your time will allow you to take additional steps such as speaking to current occupiers, or trying out the route to and from the site on public transport. The work put in at the outset will more than pay for itself once the office becomes yours.
Ahmed Al-Ansari is media manager at Morgan Pryce Commercial Offices in London.
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