In an age when it’s never been more important to differentiate a business from its competitors, it can be all too easy for entrepreneurs and new and growing businesses to become fixated on acquiring the sole lease to a flashy office in the heart of the trendiest part of town.
Instead of splashing out on a lavish frontage and focusing on the kudos of owning a highly sought-after commercial property, the most successful start-up owners are often the ones who find a happy medium between image and practicality.
For new businesses in London, for example, it can be a genuine challenge just to get a foothold on the ladder within their respective sectors, simply due to expensive lease rates within the capital and the general demand for commercial property in London.
So what are the main factors growing businesses should consider when selecting office space to move into?
Before you sign on the dotted line for a commercial property lease it’s wise to research the community around your premises’ location. Note the success rate of businesses nearby and pick the brains of fellow business owners to get their thoughts on the area.
Admittedly this is less important for digital/online firms, but retail and service-orientated businesses may wish to conduct some competitor analysis. If there’s a chance to secure attractive office space that provides a competitive edge, this can be the tipping point in an almost-saturated market.
Be aware that you may not be able to use all of the floor space on offer to you. Most floor plans include toilet and kitchen space in the total space available. For instance, if an agent informs you of an office with 6,000 sq ft of floor space, you are unlikely to have the full amount to play with – something to bear in mind if you have a growing workforce.
Also consider the actual shape of the floor plate. This is integral because it influences the number of desks you can fit into each room or floor. An odd-shaped floor plan will almost certainly increase the overall cost per employee per square foot.
If you’re searching for your first office space, you may be unaware that you’ll have to pay business rates. These are usually separate to rent and are payable directly to the local council as contributions to local authority services. The fee is usually between £3 and £10 per sq ft each year.
With firms keen to keep their overheads low, energy efficiency has become a buzzword in many entrepreneurial quarters. Following the 2011 Energy Act, landlords increasingly have to adapt premises with energy-saving lighting, insulation, double-glazing and much more. These features are a great opportunity to implement sustainable operations, save money and reduce energy usage simultaneously.
Written by Philip Hodgkinson, manager of Club Workspace, a fast-growing network of creative co-working business clubs in London.