Startup Diaries: The Key To Finding The Right Space For Your Business
Adele Woodthorpe explains what to consider when deciding on the most cost-effective and practical office space for your business and shares her own experiences of the choices and compromises she has made for her PR Company, Woodthorpe Comms.
For many small businesses, whether making the transition from working from the kitchen table to having a proper office, or merely upgrading their current office space, this is generally one of the biggest hurdles to tackle and one of the main overheads to consider. Obviously, there are quite a few elements to bear in mind when deciding on the ideal office space for your business, so I’ve listed a few which I feel are key.
How important is location for your business? This must be your first question; it will have an effect on all other factors. For Woodthorpe Comms, it was always going to be important to be both central and close to publishing houses so being in, or within walking distance of, London’s W1 was key.
However, more and more PR agencies are moving further out from Central London, suggesting that it’s obviously not so vital for some companies, so consider how vital proximity to your clients and contacts is to you. Also, think about the importance of being close to good transport links. Do your clients or suppliers need to visit your offices often? Do you require lots of space? If so, then perhaps being situated somewhere like an industrial estate would benefit you better than a central location.
Identifying these core needs of your business from the beginning will definitely help you make your choices.
Location is normally the factor which most dictates price. You should already have an idea of what you can afford, but unfortunately this doesn’t always equate to the cost of the type of office you might desire! If this is the case, and you can’t find a way to bridge the gap between what you ideally want and what you can afford, then you’ll have to figure out which aspects you can compromise on in order to best accommodate your business. Being based in Central London, this is my area of experience, so I’ve added some options to consider below.
This will depend on the number of staff and the amount of storage space you need. Some experts state that there exists an average amount of space that should be allowed per team member. However, small or growing business don’t always have that luxury! Even giants like Facebook continually outgrew their available space in the early days, with staff piled almost on top of each other until the company was able to move.
Other factors to consider include whether you’ll require space for a meeting room, a breakout area, a reception area, etc., and whether you’ll need your own kitchen and bathroom space, or even space for an office dog!
There are many different set-ups available, so focus on what you actually need and what you really want.
Is a meeting room truly necessary, or can you use the hotel lobby over the road? Be realistic about what you need; after all, if you hardly ever have people visiting the office, there’s really no need to worry about having a cool sofa and coffee table. It’s natural to want these types of things, but if they’re not truly required then save the space for something more productive, like precious extra desk space.
To Share Or Not To share?
If you are working to a tight budget, office sharing can be a great solution. You might find a business looking for an office share, or you may want to rent out some of your office, but either way it's a way to save on your overheads and a way for both businesses to benefit.
Often when starting out, businesses work from a home office.
For the first five months of my business’s life I worked from my spare room, which made sense as it was just me and was a great way to save on outgoings.
It's also worth bearing in mind that there are tax benefits to working from home as well!
London offers a lot of these to choose from, ranging from very corporate to extremely creative, with all sorts of benefits. Often flexible about contracts, they offer a desk or desks to rent on a monthly fee. You’ll find yourself working amongst other businesses who are renting, which can provide a great source of inspiration as you share ideas and contacts, though some people can find them lacking in privacy and overly expensive compared with other types of office renting.
Choosing the best space for your business isn’t just a financial decision, but often a personal one also, so investigate options like this before making your decision.
Most serviced offices offer a 'virtual office', simply an address with an accompanying phone answering/PA service, with the use of their meeting/conference rooms as an optional extra. These are usually employed to make it seem as though your business is based in a Central London office, when in fact you may be elsewhere. Prices vary, but you can usually find examples in Central London from around £350 a month.
I think these are a great idea as they aren't too costly, you can have your meetings there and you can use it a little like hot desking. I wouldn't recommend having your team working from a members’ club, but if it's just you and one other, the space can be used very successfully. As my business doesn’t have a meeting room in our offices, I’ve joined a Central London members’ club, which often comes in very useful for meeting clients and contacts.
It might be a media industry thing, but I find that suggesting meeting in a members’ club always goes down well with clients!
Memberships can range from around £400 plus VAT per year upwards.
Quite a few of these have popped up over the past 5-10 years, ranging from one or two aimed exclusively at women in business to highly corporate ones, usually in very smart areas. These essentially work in a similar way to members’ clubs, except they’re solely dedicated to business and usually have a much more serious 'working' environment. They include working pods, breakout areas, meeting rooms and free tea and coffee.
Working remotely these days is very economical and can be easy, as long as you work in an industry where it’s deemed acceptable!
Using products like Skype, Dropbox and Google Docs can allow you and your team to work on projects without having to be in the same place or even the same country.
Although many prefer to work closely and face-to-face with their colleagues (myself included), this can be a very viable and successful method of working.
Serviced offices can work very well for growing businesses. They have every requirement covered and they do it all for you, with their manned receptions, receptionist services, meeting spaces, serviced kitchens, breakout areas, shower facilities, etc. You will have 24-hour access to your office and 24-hour security. Personally, I’ve never particularly liked serviced offices as they can feel soulless and are usually expensive, but there’s no denying that they offer everything your business could need whilst being very flexible on space.
Renting from Private Landlords
I think this can work very well for small businesses; the cost is usually lower than that of a serviced office and the space itself can have a lot more personality. Ultimately, though, it’s a personal choice - consider what your business needs, along with your budget, and then figure out what works best for you.
My business is currently based in a serviced office building whilst we find our ideal space; it’s not perfect for our needs just now, but it certainly ticks enough of our boxes to be a great compromise for this stage of our business growth.
To recap then; it’s vital to be clear from the outset on what you need, what budget you have and what exactly you’ll be using your office space for. Once you have these questions answered, you can start the hunt!
A Final Tip
Always read your contract closely! It’s easy to be caught out, as many contracts can include provisions for things you may neither want nor need. Take note of notice periods, rates, what's included and what's not and make sure you know what, if any, extras you may have to pay for.
Picture courtesy of Master isolated images/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Adele Woodthorpe is the MD and founder of Woodthorpe Comms, the London-based luxury and lifestyle PR agency with an offering of targeted and strategic PR campaigns, social and digital media consulting and brand ambassador engagement. Adele graduated from The Surrey Institute of Art and Design with a BA Hons in Fashion Promotion and Illustration. Passionate about brands and PR, nine years on she is running her own agency, with a team of five, based in Central London.
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