How to choose your Perfect Office or Business Premises
We take a look at what businesses should consider when weighing up options for acquiring new premises.
Finding your new business premises is a lot like designing the packaging for your first product, or pressing that fitted suit to meet your first client. There’s no denying that ‘first impressions last’ feeling – that reflection of you and your company that others will see first and which lingers in their minds afterwards. You want it to look just right.
But it’s not just the image. Your office must be practical, offer a comfortable working environment, and of course be cost effective.
A lot of companies feel they have to be based in London. Whether this is an actual business need or simply a vanity thing, you have to consider that rental rates for many of central London’s boroughs are the highest in the world. In Mayfair, for example, the total annual cost (rent + business rates + service charges) is £141 per square foot. Which may leave you asking yourself ‘am I in the capital because I need to be, or because I want to be?’
As such, here are some top tips and considerations to finding your perfect office or business premises:
Timing is everything
You want the place to feel right. Remember it takes months to find a place that suits, sort out the legal particulars and move in. Finding your ideal size and layout can be a taller order than you first imagined, while paperwork and any renovation will also have to be factored into your timings. Bear this in mind if you know the lease on your current place is running out.
Location, location, location
Do you need to be in the city centre? Do you need to be in London? Do you specifically need to be near your staff, clients or suppliers (for instance, for monitoring a project or keeping in constant contact)? Have you considered your nearest transport links? And lastly if there are few competitors near you, is this an indication of a gap, or that it’s not the right place for you to be situated?
There may be complementary businesses nearby that can naturally feed you more customers. Location needs to be influenced by your target market. Remember that the further from the high street you are situated, the more you’ll have to focus your marketing on letting customers know where you are.
Bigger isn’t always better
Health and safety is of paramount importance when deciding on the size of your premises, and space to swing a cat might indeed be a legal requirement to consider. Furthermore, you cannot forget to take into account how much you may grow in resources and staff numbers, and how this will affect storage space.
Accessibility for staff and customers, as well as disabled access, are important considerations to make when considering floor space, and large alterations to the building to accommodate these may require planning permission from the local authority.
In terms of floor space, a key consideration is to decide how much space a single person would need, and whether a hot-desking system could be implemented if some roles could be done from home from time to time. An open-plan office will be most efficient for floor space, but will you need some private meeting rooms, too?
There may be ways to get around this. Some premises offer shared meeting rooms that can be booked by the hour, for example.
Is it safe?
Security is highly important especially if you’re a business that has and keeps stock, but in any case you’re likely to have expensive IT equipment on site. Ensure that external security measures are sufficient and that your insurance covers all eventualities. Moreover, if there are particular security measures you need to put in place, is the landlord willing to shoulder some of the cost?
When scoping out an area, get an idea of property prices from several sources first to see if the area itself is in budget. It’s advisable to involve your solicitor when securing lease agreements, and make sure you negotiate break clauses in your lease contract rather than a long-lease agreement you can’t leave if you no longer need the place. Remember that utilities, insurance and furniture are all further budgetary requirements on top of the cost of buying or leasing your premises.
How’s IT going?
There’s no getting away from the fact that strong IT systems and support is a major consideration to the running of your business. You may, for example, want to find out in advance if internet connection speeds are good in your prospective area.In terms of the layout of your new office, considerations need to be made for a secure server room that can be maintained at constant environmental conditions.
Moving office is a process often involving some compromise when it comes to IT, and preserving your network infrastructure is a big consideration to make when migrating all your software.
Do I buy?
Budget is key here. If you can afford the deposit and mortgage payments then buying can be a good long-term investment, as long as that’s not using budget that should be reinvested in your business. Don’t forget, however, that if you do own the premises and need to move out, you can still become a landlord yourself and license or lease your property to the next business.