A good office is important to running a successful business. Unlike your prices, product lines or branding, you generally won’t have a lot of opportunity to experiment with different offices. Moving is a hassle, so finding the right fit the first time is important. Whether you’ve outgrown your current space, or you’re just looking for the right place for your start-up, here’s what you need to consider:
How Much Room Do You Need?
If you’re growing, consider how long you will continue to do so. In any case other than rapid growth, don’t get an office much bigger than you need. However, be sure to consider whether nearby space will be available in the future if you need to expand. It’s a major hindrance to put operations on hold in order to move your whole business to a new location more than once. If possible, try to negotiate the lease so you have a clause for first-dibs whenever other spaces in the building open up.
When looking at space, don’t just consider the square footage. “Rentable space” includes a portion of the lobbies, hallways, elevators and other rooms that are a benefit to you, even though you don’t occupy them. It’s important to make sure you find out how much of the space is “useable space,” meaning the amount of actual workspace you and your employees can utilize. Be sure to take note of the difference as you browse leasing opportunities, or you may pay more per square foot than you expected!
Luxury and Utility
If client visits are an important part of your business, be sure to consider the impact your office will have. Nice digs can imply that your business is successful. Certainly, you wouldn’t want clients associating your business with a dingy office, no matter how much you managed to save on the lease.
On the other hand, keep in mind that an office gilded with luxuries might make it seem like you spend frivolously. If that’s on your clients’ minds, they may question whether you’re charging them too much for their services. Try to strike a balance that’s pleasant, but professional.
Location, Location, Location
How closely do you work with other businesses? Do you pay frequent visits to a manufacturer? Where are your main clients located? These are all important things to consider as you search for an office. Don’t forget about your key team members either. If they find that you’ve added an hour to their commute by changing to the new location, you may be looking for replacements in the near future.
Cities create zoning maps to ensure that businesses and industries stay appropriately grouped to keep things harmonious. For example, you wouldn’t want a manufacturer to purchase a house in your neighborhood only to turn it into a small factory! Zoning laws prevent such conflicts. Before you make a selection, check the city’s zoning map for the area and be sure that your business will be welcome in the property. If you’re in breach of the zoning map, you’ll probably pay fines until you relocate — an expensive mistake.
Operation and Management
Before entering into negotiations or expressing too much interest in a location, try to contact current or past tenents and get an idea of what management is like. Does the landlord treat tenants fairly? Are janitorial and maintenance staff keeping things copasetic? No matter how good a property or location is, if the management is bad you should steer clear.
One last thing: Don’t forget to check out the parking situation. You’d probably rather not walk a block from your car every morning, especially when the weather turns!