Moving to a dedicated office can be a huge decision. On the one hand, it’s a significant step in the development of your business which is enormously exciting. Plus, after a while you and your family are tired of work paraphernalia dominating your living room. On the other, many people worry that it represents a significant long term financial commitment which places their fledgling company at considerable risk. Richard Smith, entrepreneur and managing director of Search Office Space (SOS), considers when it’s time for a start-up or SME to rent office space and what office solutions are available, from the shared and serviced office to the virtual.
The most important first step is research, research, research. For example, what are your priorities with respect to budget, location, company branding, and number of staff? The answers will be different for every company and lead to different solutions, of which there are many. The traditional long lease is certainly an option which must be considered but there are also serviced offices, managed offices, and shared offices to think about. Further, if you decide that renting any space at all is not suitable for your business but you would like to add a professional feel to it then you could consider a ‘virtual office’.
What does this all mean?
There are numerous options, outlined below, which you should consider when making your decision:
- Serviced Offices are fully furnished ‘ready to move into’ offices, complete with reception services and access to communal facilities. The monthly rent includes business rates, service charge, phone installation, IT and cleaning so there are no extras which you would need to budget for such as dilapidation costs or expensive initial capital expenditure on business set up costs or estate agents or solicitor’s fees. All outgoings are tax-deductible and treated as standard operating expenses. Serviced offices can be rented for short periods of time, the minimum usually being one month. They are available in a vast spectrum of buildings catering to all budgets and location requirements, ranging from economical space to corporate, executive suites in landmark buildings – worldwide. A serviced office is worth considering if you don’t want to commit to a long lease, don’t want to pay a receptionist but are keen to have this professional service for your clients, and are tied to a strict budget. They are also great for start-ups with the potential to expand or contract as desk space can be added or taken away at short notice.
- Shared offices are a great solution for small companies and professionals who are keen to be a part of a busy, vibrant office environment. Essentially, it is rented office space shared between separate businesses often in a serviced office environment. There can often be between 4-30 people in one room, often all from completely separate businesses. Some shared offices are focused on a particular sector, for example technology specialists or they can be completely random. Either way, they are great for networking and are often marketed at a reduced rental price.
- Virtual offices are a perfect solution for companies not quite ready to commit to a serviced or long lease office or which employ numerous staff working remotely from home. They provide companies with a prime, central location business address, a professional phone answering service, and postal forwarding facilities, all without having to maintain a physical, more costly office space. Companies opt for virtual offices for a variety of reasons including: the flexibility it provides those who travel constantly; the cost effective nature of the offer that means expensive leases can be dispensed with; and the professionalism the service lends any business regardless of size.
- Meeting rooms are now readily available in business centres around the country to be rented by the hour at a reasonable cost. This means that companies which haven’t leased an office or have opted for a virtual office can host meetings or meet colleagues in a professional environment, as opposed to your living room or a local coffee shop.
- Hot desks are the latest phenomenon to exist in the market and suitable for any entrepreneur or business person who needs a professional working environment while on the move. Regus, the world’s largest serviced office operator, already have a product which provides clients with a business card, providing them access to both day offices and business lounges across 1,200 worldwide locations. In London, Workspace Group have introduced ClubWorkspace, which provides work and meeting areas for entrepreneurs and small businesses for a flat monthly fee.
There is a huge variety and volume of office solutions now available to suit all budgets and needs. This means that there is a solution for every business whether it is a start-up or huge corporate enterprise. This volume of choice should make the decision to move out of your living room or 'go virtual' feel less like a leap of faith and more like a measured step change. Just remember, research is key.
The key is to find the best office solution which mitigates against the risk and adds value to your business. It can certainly be daunting but the benefits can be significant.
Further, if you decide that renting any space at all is not suitable for your business but you would like to add a professional feel to it then you could consider a ‘virtual office’.