Interviews

Thinking creatively to make an office move cheaper

6 min read

09 November 2016

When Moneypenny headquarters began bursting at the seams, Ed Reeves decided the time was right for an office move – and made clever use of his 500 staff.

We’re finally in our new building. Phew! It’s been two long years of hard graft, battling with builders, architects and pretty much everyone else in a hard hat. Culminating with the final office move this month – all the while keeping an eye on Moneypenny. It was worth it, I hope. Time will tell.

Some 500 people – and all of their computers, telephones and equipment – were moved into our brand new, bespoke £15m offices. I’ll admit, it is just down the road from our old place, but it was no small job. I had to find an answer to the question “how do you move 500 people into a new office in a short space of time?” The same way you’d eat an elephant, with fear, trepidation, and expecting a bad bout of indigestion.

Now that we’re in, I can honestly say it’s been a good office move, with very few snags on the list. Everyone is enjoying the new place, which was exactly what we wanted. But there have certainly been some lessons learnt during the big move.

First of all, moving is expensive. Really expensive. If you’re not careful you can find yourself at the mercy of big burly men in lorries charging you a moderate fortune. We did a bit of back-of-a-fag-packet maths and worked out that it would cost £800 per employee to move them literally half a mile up the road. And, panic! That works out at£400,000, which is an insane figure. We could buy new PCs for the entire office for less than a removals company cost – so we had to go back to the drawing board. Fast.

An office move with a 500-strong team takes a feat of strength, so why not use the strength of their feet – they could move themselves. Did we give them a trolley to walk down the road? It was a contender for a while. The eventual answer was giving each member of staff a Moneypenny Bag For Life which they take home one night and appear with in the new office the following day.

We were brutal too. We hired a skip which sat in the car park and told everyone “if it doesn’t fit in the bag, bin it”. We saved £390,000. For the IT move, we employed two blokes for three weeks, and hired a transit van. Brilliant.

Now that we’re in, and I can lean against the bar in our own pub with a glass of something and take stock, I’ve drawn on perhaps the biggest lesson of all. A stunning learning from this time, which was completely unexpected, yet is going to have an enormous impact on Moneypenny going forward. A lesson that every single business person knows extremely well, but that we allow to be diluted over time.

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The lesson is this: as a business owner or entrepreneur (or whatever the vogue description is at the time), we excel when we challenge the norm. And it’s not just that our business benefits – we benefit too. It’s what gets us out of bed in the morning. It’s what makes us tick.

This is what led to the building in the first place. We had to provide more space, enough space to add another 500 staff – and we needed it quickly. There wasn’t the appropriate office space locally. We should really have leased another building, but the one we had currently leased was a ball and chain. Leasing kills flexibility. It’s so much harder to offload a lease that it is bricks and mortar.

Since the big office move I’ve felt more ready than ever for what we will be doing next at Moneypenny, and it’s because of the exhilaration of having to think on my feet throughout the new office build and move-in. It’s only when you’ve really got your back to the wall are you at your most creative and challenging. After this past month, I’ll absolutely stand by this proclamation.

This article is part of a wider campaign called Founders Diaries, a section of Real Business that brings together 20 inspiring business builders to share their stories. Bringing together companies from a wide variety of sectors and geographies, each columnist produces a diary entry each month. Visit the Founders Diaries section to find out more.