So you’ve decided the time is nigh. You need a new office. Nice one, onwards and upwards!
Where to begin? Can you do it by yourself? Who do you turn to for help?
Is renting an office the same as renting a residential property...?
Well, yes and no.
In some ways, it’s similar. Feeling lucky? You can go direct to the landlord or office provider, just like you can find a flat on Craigslist or Gumtree, and take a chance that you’ll find your way. Or you can use a real estate agent to guide you through the uncharted territory.
In other ways, it’s different. Renting an office tends to be more complicated and take longer.
Why? Because the costs are usually higher, so there’s more at stake. There are usually more parties involved behind the scenes, and there may be quite a few people to keep happy at your end too. There’s usually more stuff to negotiate. And if you go for a leased office, there are reinstatement provisions (putting the space back to a certain standard at the end) and alienation rights (whether you can or can’t sublet it) to be agreed as well... which means lawyers. And lawyers means legalese for you to interpret. Phew!
Some people choose to go it alone. And they might even nail it, especially if they already have an in-house real estate team on hand. Others prefer to loop in a company that can offer support and expertise along the way.
Searching for an office: the DIY approach
You’ve probably spotted signs on buildings that say “office to let”? These signs tend to give details for a real estate broker, either the landlord’s (if it’s a lease) or the office provider’s (if it’s a fully-managed flexible space). Occasionally they may give details for the office provider directly too.
When you see a place that looks promising, get in touch via the details on the sign, or do an internet search for more information. Then you’ll need to call the landlord’s or office provider’s agent to book in and view the space.
You’ll need to view the office, grill the representative who shows you around, then negotiate on price and terms. They might have some other offices or buildings in their portfolio for you to consider as well.
Hand on heart: if you have experts in-house, and you’re convinced that the place you’ve got your eye on ticks all the boxes, the DIY approach might be the best route for you. There’s a chance you’ll save money on the broker fee (though these don’t apply 100% of the time) and you don’t necessarily need the extra expertise and handholding you’d get when you loop in a broker yourself.
Searching for an office: the supported approach
Rather not go it alone? You don’t have to suffer a to-do-list meltdown when searching for a place where your team can do their best work. There are plenty of people (like us here at Kontor, hi!) who can help you find and secure the right office for you.
The main benefit of this route is that you’ll have the opportunity to discover buildings and spaces you didn’t know existed and to explore alternative (and potentially better) options that haven’t occurred to you. You’re no longer limited to signs you’ve spotted outside the font door… which are only a fractions of the options out there that could work for you.
Either way, there are 3 rules to remember
1. Start earlier than you think you need to
Seriously. Much, much earlier. You MIGHT be sorted within weeks, or it could take 6 months or more, depending what type of office you want and need.
For example, an off-plan office that’s still being built could be a brilliant option in some cases, because you can influence the configuration, design and fit-out, but you need to get ahead of the game.
2. Make sure the company you go on viewings is in a position to give you unbiased advice
Some brokers work directly for the landlord or the fully-managed flexible office provider, which means - understandably - despite best intentions - they might struggle to take an objective view on your requirements.
So when someone tells you they “cover the whole market”, you’ll want to be absolutely sure they can deliver on this.
Two reasons why:
Firstly (and it’s pretty obvious), because then you get to see everything that’s available, meaning you have a better chance of getting the space you need and want at the right price.
Secondly, because you’re more likely to get advice that’s as close to unbiased as humanly possible. Which means you’re less likely to find yourself nudged towards an option that isn’t quite the gem you’ve been looking for.
A couple of useful questions to have up your sleeve if you’re concerned about conflict of interest are “How are you getting paid?” and “Who do you work for?”. (We welcome these questions ourselves and are happy to be open and honest with you.)
3. Get as much clarity on your brief from the decision makers as possible
Imagine you’ve spent weeks viewing offices and think you’ve found the one, and then an unexpected person pops up and vetoes the location. “Frustrating” doesn’t even cut it.
We’ve found that signing off on a new office rarely comes down to just one person. This means you need to know who’ll be involved in the decision and get input from them, even if they don’t come to every viewing.
You don’t have to have ALL your requirements set in stone from the outset (after all, some questions and answers only become clear once you’ve viewed a couple of options) but to avoid you wasting time, it really helps to know about any dealbreakers upfront.
If the supported approach to finding a new office sounds like the right route for you, we’re here to help. But whichever way you choose to go about it, good luck, and enjoy the journey!