Location, Location, Location. A hugely popular television programme where the property expert presenters help homeowners find the perfect balance between the space they need, in the right place and at a price they can afford. And this dilemma of finding the perfect environment in a good location at the right price applies equally to commercial property. In times of uncertainty, when businesses, in particular start up and sole traders must watch every pound of expenditure, the very thought of taking on a long lease or even a mortgage could be a step too far or at the very least a daunting prospect.
The cost of renting offices, particularly for the very smallest companies can be prohibitive, whilst the need to maintain a professional working environment is absolutely essential for most companies. Let’s just be clear who we are talking about here. We are referring to businesses that employ less than 9 staff (micro businesses) – start-ups, owner-managed, sole traders and the self-employed. According to Tony Robinson OBE, owner of 3 businesses, 2 social enterprises and champion of the micro business, 95% of all UK enterprises are micro enterprises, there are 4.6 million of them, one in seven adults in the workforce owns and runs one of them and these micro enterprises provide a third of all UK employment.
The good news is that there is an option available to help reduce your office overhead: serviced offices. Creating the perception of a larger operation or more prestigious presence, many serviced, or managed office providers deliver friendly administrative professionals, fully furnished and decorated offices, high-tech conference rooms, IT/Network facilities, stationery, photocopying, toilets and kitchens and breakout areas.
If the shared office environment offered by providers such as Regus, who have 1,500 locations worldwide, is viable for you, here are a few tips to make the most of this unique work environment:
Where are you?
As we began, as with all property, whether residential or commercial, the most important consideration is its location. In this instance, that factor applies both externally and internally within the building.
Managed office providers typically locate themselves in city centre locations (or near motorway links/airports), eliminating the time and headache of an exhaustive office search. With the general office user in mind, they consider the location’s more general attributes: prestige, accessibility and proximity.
However, your space within the floor plan is entirely up to you. With offices available in a wide range of sizes from a plush corner office to a window-less interior room, consider the perception you wish to convey. If your business will benefit from ‘passing’ traffic from fellow tenants, consider a location near reception or breakout area.
Many service providers have both a receptionist and an on-site manager. Going out of your way to make these people happy can only benefit you for two important reasons: 1) They are the points of contact for the entire operation and word of mouth is a powerful tool; and 2) Lease constraints may well be exercised at their discretion!
As ruler of the roost, both the on-site manager and the receptionist walk the fine line between providing the utmost level of service and tenant retention on a daily basis. This internal struggle forces them to make judgement calls on what is permissible and what is unacceptable. A friendly relationship will not only make their decisions a little easier, it will also allow you to push the limitations a little more. For instance, it may be frowned upon to distribute promotional literature in the reception area; however, if a relationship is established, you may be able to provide the reception desk with printed pens or add promotional mugs to the kitchen cupboard.
Think of this shared office environment as a unique small business networking opportunity. Get to know the other companies in the complex and their businesses. To facilitate this networking, consider providing breakfast or lunch for the office – complete with coffee, paper plates, napkins and coasters that they could later take away with them! The goal is to build relationships, awareness and good will – the foundation of a good word of mouth campaign.
Signage and displays
Unfortunately it may not be possible (or allowed) to erect external signage; however, if your window has a fair amount of visibility consider displaying a few printed roller banners that show your logo, say what you do & feature your contact details.
From the inside, you can utilise your office as a marketing tool. The other tenants will undoubtedly have visitors, giving you another opportunity for visibility. Leaving your door open could well trigger a chat. For example, quirky conversation items, like a bowl of brightly coloured stress balls can make your business appear approachable.
In firms where the entrepreneur wears many hats, serviced offices can alleviate some of the stress and help minimise the risks and costs of operations, allowing you to get down to business.