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Corner Office

Share space and reduce costs.

Is the cost of leasing office space giving you major start-up pains? No wonder:Besides monthly lease payments, you're responsible for utilities, phoneservice, parking, equipment rental and insurance. If you need a full- orpart-time assistant to answer the phones, type reports and take care of themail, add salary and payroll taxes.

Fortunately, there's a lower-cost alternative: a shared-office facility. Yourent space in an executive business center, and pay for any support servicesyou use.

"In many cities, it's hard to get into an office space without paying a hugeoverhead," says Erik Emanuele, general manager of Columbus Corporate Center, ashared-office environment in Hartford, Connecticut, that houses 30 businesses,including a software consulting firm and a human resources consulting firm. "Ashared-office facility is a low-cost way to get in, get established and growfrom there."

A shared-office facility provides many workspace solutions. You can rent spaceon a full-time or as-needed basis. It can be a small cubicle or a corner officewith a window. At the Columbus Corporate Center, a small cubicle rents for $300a month. A 10-foot-by-12-foot windowed office costs you $800 a month. Yourpayment includes a workspace, a phone line, a receptionist, furniture andparking. On a "pay-for-what-you-use" basis, you're billed for support servicessuch as secretarial help, toll-free phone lines, Internet access, computer andgraphic services, use of a conference room, furniture rental and parking.

"You're not burdened with out-of-pocket expenses for furniture, equipment andsalaries, and you can work in an office environment that offers a full array ofservices," Emanuele explains. In addition, your costs for office space andsupport services are deductible as a business expense.

Concerned about conflicts? "Only twice in three years have we had a conflictwhere two tenants wanted to use the conference room at the same time," saysEmanuele. "We've experienced no other problems."

How do you select the shared-office facility that's best for you? Considerthese factors:

Costs: The package price for a shared-office facility covers your basicneeds--generally, your workspace, phone line and receptionist. Add to that thecost of any other services you may use, such as voice mail, secretarialsupport, mailing services, conference facilities, furniture and the use of thecopy and fax machines. "Since such support services are [priced] a la carte,make sure the costs are competitive and not excessively marked up," suggestsEmanuele. Since you'll pay extra for these services, make sure the facility youselect is equipped with state-of-the-art computers, fax machines, copiers and avoice-mail system.

Parking: For convenience and security, select a facility with on-site,monitored parking.

Location: Look for a shared-office facility with a well-known andreputable business address. Your site should be close to customers and easilyaccessible to major streets and highways.

Support staff: Choose a facility run by a full-time, on-site manager.Interview the people who will greet your customers and answer your phone. Thesepeople may not work for you, but they set the tone for your business.

Furnishings: You'll either have to buy your own desk, chairs, bookcases,lamps and filing cabinets; rent your own; or pay a monthly fee to use furniturefurnished by the business center.

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