Top tips for choosing an office space for your small firm
Co-working spaces, shared offices, your own office? If your small professional firm needs a new home (or its first home) and you’re having trouble working out where to start, look no further. We’ve complied some practical tips for you to follow.
Firstly, make sure you give yourself at least 4-6 months to do your homework. Think of it like buying or renting a new home. It will cost you a lot of money and you’ll be spending lots of time there, so you want to get it right.
Before you start looking at office spaces, sit down and work out what your current and future needs are. It helps to have 2 lists. One for all the things the space must have and the other things that would be nice, but they’re not essential. As you work through these tips add any items you think of to the relevant list.
How does the space need to work for your business?
The obvious need here is to be where your clients and future clients are. True, much of our work these days is done online, but that doesn’t replace the benefits of meeting face-to-face or having your staff based on site.
If you’re in a professional services business, most of your clients will likely come from the CBD or local business hub, so you don’t want to be travelling too far for a one-hour meeting. The office also needs to be accessible and attractive for your current and future talent. For example, are there child-care facilities nearby?
Ensure the image you want to project matches the reputation of the area. For example, trendy, high-tech, or corporate verses seedy.
Are there lots of similar services in the area? Could these be your competition or possible strategic partners?
The layout of the space is one of the most important considerations as it needs function smoothly.
What does your business need the space to do now, in 6 months’ time, and in 5 years’ time?
List your needs under categories like:
· Individual offices or open areas
· Meeting/conference rooms
· Ability to customise signage and office area
· Utilities (including internet infrastructure and adequate power supply for equipment).
Get the measurements of the potential spaces and your required space, including space around furniture and equipment for convenience, service technicians and WHS. Then, map it all out on a scale plan either digitally or using good old paper, scissors and rulers. Do the pieces of the puzzle fit?
You’ll need to weigh up the cost against the value the space delivers and how affordable the monthly payments will be.
What type of lease is on offer? Long-term leases can be too risky for new businesses. Short-term or subleases might cater better for your changing needs.
Look closely at the lease clauses to see exactly what’s included. Things like public liability insurance in shared spaces, cleaning and administrative services, parking, furniture, and utilities might be great have in a package deal or you might be better off managing these yourself.
How does the space need to work for you, your staff, and your clients?
The look and feel of your office space has a huge impact on everyone that uses it, but individual needs and tastes vary, so you need to create a space that suits most of the users most of the time. An appealing space can be a big factor in staff retention rates.
Start by looking at how many people need to use the space each day. Can your work be outsourced? Do your staff work from home or other locations at times? You’ll want to ensure that your office space functions well when everyone’s there or if you are likely to employ more people soon.
Your physical environment can have a big impact on the mental health and productivity of those within it, so you’ll need to plan it very carefully.
Building access is important for both staff and clients. Consider whether things like security passes, disabled access, parking and bike storage are needed and adequate.
What about the amenities including the kitchen and bathroom facilities. Are you happy to share these with other businesses? Are there unisex, same sex, or disabled toilets?
Your ideal space needs to be comfortable, so look for things like natural light, tinted windows, spaces for fresh air, adequate heating and cooling. External and internal noise can be annoying, stimulating or calming. Some people thrive in busy and noise spaces, while others prefer smaller areas with less distraction.
You’ll likely need a combination of both. Private areas for one-on-one meetings (especially if sensitive issues are being discussed) and open areas for team meetings. If you are in a shared office or co-working space, the networking opportunities might prove invaluable.
How to find your ideal space
Be prepared to shop around and think outside the square a little. You can use traditional sources like tenancy agents or utilise your network. Ask around to see who might share an office with you. You might be able to enter some sort of barter arrangement with them. You could also consider renting a house, adding an office to your home or even looking on sites like Gumtree.
Yes, this may all seem like a lot of work, but wouldn’t you rather spend the time choosing the right office space now than regretting it in 6-months’ time?
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Many of the themes in this article came from Episode 47 What’s the best office for a small firm? presented by Paul Meissner and David Boyer. Paul & David are passionate CA's who care deeply about the accounting industry.
Paul quit his accounting day job seven years ago and now owns and runs the Melbourne-based firm, 5ways Group Chartered Accountants, and his online Freedom Accounting System firm which allows him to travel and work from anywhere.
For the last 4 years, David has worked as a Virtual CFO. At the start of 2016 he co-founded the Virtual CFO Association and in December 2016 his company, Sequel VCFO began franchising to mobilise the experienced work force of accountants in industry and bring their expertise to SMEs.
Together with their impressive list of guest presenters, Paul and David are the brave souls needed to fight through the noise and give accountants in practice the support and information they deserve.
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