Choosing an office space for your startup is one of the most important early decisions you will make. The solution will, of course, depend on the nature of your business.
Often, the wrong location could lead to loss of clients or employees. Or could stifle the growth of your business.
To think clearly through the process of finding an office space, here are nine factors you should consider:
1. Business type
If yours is a retail outfit, it may be imperative to find a town center location with high footfall. If you don’t need this kind of high street presence, you may be able to save costs by being outside the center of town.
If you have a large volume of goods delivered or collected, easy access and suitable loading facilities will be a top priority.
Consider how closely you may be to your customers and what bearing this may have on your business. Do the same for your suppliers and competitors.
You also need to consider other businesses nearby. Are the other firms in the vicinity in direct competition with you? How will this affect your business? In most instances, locating your business too close to your competitors isn’t wise. Before deciding on premises, find out how much competition will be on your doorstep and what potential customers think of your proposed location.
Think about appearance, because this will affect perceptions of your business. This is important for both customers and suppliers. You want to appear professional, so a ramshackle office or retail outlet could harm your reputation.
If customers won’t be visiting your premises, this is less of an issue. However, you don’t want to keep your team in an unclean, untidy, unsafe or old-fashioned premises. It will have an effect it can have on staff morale.
A pleasant environment will mean better business. Research shows that a properly lit working environment can lead to increased productivity, and obviously, lots of noise can be distracting.
Also, how will the area in question affect your business image? What are the neighbors like? What will your customers think when they visit you?
You need to consider how easy to reach your premises. If you’re looking to find an office or warehouse space, how good are local public transport links? Does the premises need good access for pedestrians? To be near to bus stop? Excellent Delivery facilities? Access for people living with disabilities? All of these have to be considered based on the nature of your business.
Commercial premises or industrial units in more remote areas might be cheaper, but that’s no good if customers and employees can’t reach you.
If you’ll be relying on footfall, location is critical, of course. Even in busy places, some areas are more popular than others, but there are cost implications, too. Prime locations usually come with prime price tags – particularly if you’re looking to open a retail business.
Look carefully at what’s included in the price. Does it include business rates, utility bills, and cleaning? Does it include some business support? If it doesn’t, these items can add up significantly so make sure you know what you’re taking on.
Renting or leasing might include additional monthly costs for which you hadn’t budgeted. Find out the cost of business rates and buildings insurance, because these can add significantly to your overheads.
Set a monthly premises budget and search accordingly.
8. Services and facilities
What would you like already-installed?
You need to think about partitions/fittings, telephone/ISDN line, burglar alarms, lighting/electricity points, air conditioning/ventilation, cooking/refrigeration, computer network.
9. Legal requirements
Seek professional advice before signing any agreement and walk away from contracts whose terms are weighted unfairly in the landlord’s favor. If possible, find clauses that allow you to vacate the premises early.
Also for minor changes to building interiors, legal permission is not necessary but for more significant alterations, you might likely require planning permission, so check with your town council first. All the key work must conform to building regulations. You could require planning permission to use your home as premises if this fundamentally alters how the building is used or affects the surrounding area.
In summary, avoid overstretching yourself on your first business premise. You can always upgrade when you scale up.
Keep your premises as small as you reasonably can, while trying to plan for your future needs if you have to commit for an extended period. But while this is all sound cost-saving advice, don’t be tempted to leap into the cheapest property you can find.