Finding the right office space can be one of the biggest challenges for any business, but the problem seems exponentially harder for a young, growing company.
Landlords generally prefer five- to seven-year lease terms. That doesn't exactly bode well with early-stage companies. Most young companies that are just graduating from the startup phase or from a co-working space don’t know where they will be or how many employees they will have just six months down the road, much less five years in the future.
So what is a newly-minted founder to do? Fortunately, there are several options available to entrepreneurs, but the key is to find the office most tailored to your specific situation. Do you need a distraction-free workplace or more open, collaborative environments? Do you feel confident in signing a long-term lease or should your company consider a sublease?
There are always questions and depending on the growth of your company, you need to be ready to make sure your office needs align with your business strategy.
Consider these factors when you start thinking about office space.
Time. Especially with newer, smaller companies, it’s important to make sure you don’t get locked into a lease that’s longer than you need. You may have only 10 employees now, but you could have 60 in six months. Generally speaking, you should never sign a lease that doesn’t work for your long-term business plan.
Ask questions and make sure you’ve fully explored your alternatives. Options like subleases may fit more into your timeline and flexibility, but there are other factors -- like consent from the space’s prime landlord -- that might limit your options down the line. Make certain your space meets, or could meet, your timeline.
Layout. If you’re a technology or creative company, you’ll likely want an open space, as ideas grow from collaboration. On the other hand, if you’re a small law firm, you might want something more office-focused. Clients want to discuss sensitive matters behind closed doors.
Make sure the layout of the space you choose is conducive to the type of work you’ll do in it. Also, explore options that share conference rooms or kitchens. If your company is comfortable in that sort of space, you may find “like-minded companies” that share your values or work on complementary initiatives and ideas.
Amenities. Amentities can make or break an office space, so make sure a location aligns with your needs. Does the space have a conference room? How does the kitchen fit your needs and how many food options will your employees have in the immediate area? Do the bathrooms work? Does it have enough outlets to accommodate your technology equipment? What is the parking ratio?
Make two lists: one of amenities your company “needs to have” and another of the ones you’d “like to have.” Use these to guide your search. It will become helpful when deciding between the fully-furnished kitchen and the sand volleyball court.
Price. When determining how much you’re willing to spend, shy away from calculating price per person and instead focus on how much you’re willing to spend monthly, all-in, for your team. And don't forget to calculate the hidden costs like utilities, furniture and other office fees. (When you’re starting from scratch, these things can add up.)
Keep in mind that a number of factors -- particularly price, availability and variety of spaces on the market -- will vary depending on the location in which you’re searching. However, no matter the location, you’ll want to start planning at least three-to-four months before you’re ready to make a move.
Finding the right office is no small task, and you should plan on allotting plenty of time and resources to find the best space for your business. After all, the last thing any startup wants is to sign a five-year lease, only to realize 12 months in that the space doesn’t actually meet your company’s needs.