Richard Yeo, Sales Director at Applied Workplace, outlines the top ten considerations for your start-up’s first office space.
It’s likely that your start-up began life in your front room, a shared workspace or even your parent’s garage. But as it grows into a sustainable small business, you’re going to start feeling the squeeze.
Finding the right office space is a challenge for any company, but it can seem like a particularly big hurdle for early-stage businesses.
The problem is, the most cost-effective decisions are usually those that will suit you for a number of years – and most companies graduating from the start-up phase aren’t sure how many employees they’ll need in six months, let alone five years down the line.
Fortunately, while there is no one-size-fits-all solution, you can minimise the risks by carefully considering these 10 essential factors.
Getting locked into a lease that’s longer than you need is a real danger for young businesses. Start-ups often change rapidly and can experience exponential growth over short periods of time. You might have 10 employees now, but in a year you could have 50.
Never sign a lease that doesn’t fit in with your long-term business plan and look at all the options – you might find that subleases are more flexible.
To rent or buy?
Generally speaking, purchasing a commercial property is only recommended if you’re confident that it will suit your needs on a long-term basis. However, as mentioned above, start-ups are changeable by their very nature, and likely to experience client and employee fluctuations.
Renting, therefore, is usually the most cost-effective solution for young businesses, as they need to be flexible – something that’s impossible if you’re tied to a particular space.
A side effect of the changeable nature of young businesses is that it can be difficult to realistically determine how much space you’ll need. While you need to account for future growth, it’s important not to take on a lot more space than you need, as this will push up rental costs.
Calculating space is by no means an exact science, but you can typically estimate around 175-250 square feet per employee.
Before making a decision, it’s important to calculate all of the costs relating to the space, including rent, utilities and moving expenses. Try to think of any costs that might not be obvious, or that you simply haven’t thought of. It’s recommended that you hire a professional broker to help you determine your total outlay.
Design & layout
From sleeping pods to hammocks and from open plan to well-defined spaces, the latest office design trends are ever-changing. However, what works for one company may not work for another.
It’s important to choose a design that’s conducive to the type of work you do. For example, a creative company may need lots of open spaces for sharing ideas, while a small law firm will need lots of private spaces.
Research also shows that autonomy is key, with employees performing better when they can control their environment.
This might seem obvious, but it’s surprising how many companies get it wrong, particularly when they’re tempted by low out-of-town rental prices. Make sure you consider factors such as:
- Will the office be easy for key employees and customers to get to?
- How much local competition is there? Will it have an impact on your revenue?
They might not seem like a big deal, but considerations such as “are there plenty of toilets?” can make or break the suitability of an office space. Key questions to ask include:
- Is there enough parking?
- Will the kitchen suit your needs, particularly if the business grows?
- How many food options will employees have in the immediate area?
- Are there enough outlets for technology equipment?
The building itself
It’s not just the office space and the location you need to think about, it’s the building itself. Make sure you consider:
- What are the building’s acoustics like? It’s worth visiting at different times of the day to assess noise levels
- Is the building well-maintained and who’s responsible for this?
- Are there likely to be any major renovations?
Aside from the security of your business, you need to make sure your employees won’t be at risk. Consider factors such as whether there are plenty of cameras, a security guard and a well-lit car park.
Lastly, it’s important to consider the future and where you want your business to be in five years’ time. Do you expect to have lots of employees? Will they be working remotely? Answering questions like these can help you to pick the right space for you – and one that can help you get to where you want to be.
Finding your first office space can be stressful, but you can minimise the risk with these 10 considerations.