This is one of the key decisions you’ll have to make right at the start: where is the best place for you to locate your business? There are a number of things to consider before you get carried away with excitement and sign your first lease.
Your decision should be based largely on the nature of your business. If you’re operating as a one man band working mostly over the internet, you can happily do this from home and make more money. But of course a retail shop or manufacturing operation needs premises and a good location.
Working from home is doubtlessly the cheapest option. But because there’s no travelling to and from work, be aware that people who work from home tend to work longer hours, finding it hard to switch off (literally!).
Similarly, if you use your residential line for business calls, you could be receiving calls well after your official working hours and at weekends. Is it always going to be you who answers the phone, or will your children have a go? Will you always be in professional mode, even on a Friday night after a couple of glasses of Shiraz Cabernet?
You can use the facilities offered by a virtual office to keep your business looking professional while still working from home. They will provide you with a business address, a personalised telephone answering service, virtual receptionist, post handling and forwarding service. And in some instances, you may also have access to private offices and boardrooms on an ad hoc basis.
Some people find working from home difficult, mostly because they don’t have an office environment and colleagues to motivate them and keep them in a routine. This is when a serviced office can come in handy.
You can move in for a day, a month, or a year, and generally leases are made to suit you, offering a low-risk option for your start-up business.
You get everything you’d expect in terms of basic office equipment, plus secretarial support and other support services. Facilities typically include part or fully-furnished offices, access to telephone and voice mail systems, broadband, reception and customised telephone answering, meeting room and boardrooms, kitchens and possibly catering services, mail franking and collection, fax and photocopying, office cleaning and car parking.
Serviced offices are often in sought-after city and town centre locations with a prestigious address, where the full-time, long-term rent would be out of reach for a young venture. It’s usually all-inclusive cost-wise, including use of the building, heating and lighting, reception, security, maintenance, redecoration, refurbishment, and cleaning charges.
A serviced office means it’s easier to expand as it suits you, taking on a bigger office and more staff as you need them.
If you are fairly certain about your business growth over the next few years, you may be better off renting or buying premises.
As a small business, you’d be best to seek professional advice before committing yourself. However, this solution does tend to offer the best price per desk for larger-scale requirements and it also means you can customise your own office to fit in with your branding and operations.
However, unlike the serviced office option, not all your costs are fixed and included, such as business rates, service charges and buildings and contents insurance. You will therefore need to budget accordingly.
Once you’ve decided on office type, fix your budget, remembering to include costs such as any equipment you may need. You may decide to rent certain items to start off with, until you have some more serious capital behind you.
Your chosen business premises location will need to fit the needs of you and any employees you are taking on. For example, you may need to be close to good public transport links, or shops and facilities for your staff. If your business requires frequent deliveries, choose somewhere accessible to good road and motorway networks.
Find answers to the following question before committing:
- How many people do you need to accommodate?
- What are your likely growth plans over the next three to five years?
- How will you occupy the space – individual offices or open plan?
- What meeting facilities will you need?
- Do you need a specific size or layout?
- Any special structural requirements, such as high ceilings or wooden floors?
- Are the facilities good enough for employees and visitors – lighting, toilets, kitchen facilities?
- Do you need any kind of planning permission to run your business from these premises?
- How is the access and parking space for deliveries or customers, including disabled customers?
- Do you have or need the flexibility to alter or expand the premises?
- Are the premises are suitable for your long-term needs or just for the short-term?
In order to help you find the perfect space for you, you may decide to employ the services of a commercial property agent. As always with professional advisers, get an estimate of costs before starting work.
For in-depth legal articles, visit our Premises section.