The first thing to ask yourself: where should your business be situated?
There are a number of things that should be taken into account before answering this question. Accessibility and convenience, for example. The impression your potential new base of operations will make shouldn’t be underestimated, either.
If you have the flexibility, moving to a different part of the UK could save you quite a bit of money in the long term, on both a personal and professional level. Of course, familiarity with an area is beneficial but, with sufficient research, relocation to somewhere completely new is always a viable option.
Does the building come with parking spaces? If so, are they free for staff to use? If not, how much will it cost to park all day? If spaces aren’t available onsite, are there parking places nearby? Guaranteed, and preferably free, parking spaces are a useful recruitment tool and advantageous when it comes to maintaining team morale.
Are there places nearby where it’s possible to pick up supplies, such as A4 paper, pens, tea, milk, toilet paper, etc? Will you or your staff be able to nip out and buy something for lunch? Is there somewhere you can dine with clients? Your office’s position in relation to other businesses is definitely something to think about.
Signing a new lease is always a big moment, especially for a fledgling business. It’s a serious commitment, tying you to a place for years to come.
Which makes it all the more important to know exactly what you’re signing for before you put your name on the dotted line. Do you know when the next rent review is? What payment conditions is the landlord asking for? And if you do need to get out of the lease early, what sort of break clause is there?
We’ve prepared a few tips to help guide you through the process.
Once you have found an office or retail unit or warehouse that suits you, in the right location, the right size and with good transport links, the next step is to take a closer look at the details of the property itself.
First of all, you need to know what commercial classification has been assigned to the building to make sure that it is suitable for your type of business. This should be obvious from the listing, but is worth checking. There are numerous classifications and sub-classifications. For example A1 covers most typical retail businesses, such as a clothes shop, a hairdresser, or a newsagent, while a B1 lease is assigned to commercial buildings apt for use as an office, studio or research facility.
Even after all this, the important work is still ahead of you. The terms of the lease make all the difference, and need going over with a fine-toothed comb. The best way to do this with confidence is to hire a commercial property lawyer to unpack the complex legalese in the contract for you, so you don’t fall into any technical traps. There could be major advantages as well – for example you might be able to negotiate a rent-free period from your future landlord.
The rent is probably the first thing you’d look at. You will already have an idea in your mind about what you can afford, and for how long. But bear in mind that this can change – the lease will have details about the frequency of what’s known as a ‘rent review’, which invariably only goes one way, up. This is guaranteed if the lease contains an ‘upward only rent review’ clause.
There are still more crucial things to be clear about: landlords will have their own terms of payment conditions, and will expect something as a guarantee that a tenant will be able to honour their rent commitments, in the same way that a home-owner needs a guarantor. This varies, and you will need to know what you can offer.
You probably don’t want to think about a worst-case scenario where you need to get out of a contract, but it’s important you do prepare for this by studying what’s known as the ‘break clause’. And this works both ways: a break clause is also there to protect you from a property owner asking you to leave without a good reason.
Where business often get a nasty surprise is when they look at the business rates. Rates should be well below your rental costs, but these can be out of sync. In some cases rates can be almost as much as rent, which some businesses simply can’t afford. Another cost that some people don’t think about until later is the service charge on a building – get a clear picture of this from the start.
You’ve got a great idea for a business, got a great team together, and are all ready to go out there and make things happen. The next step is finding a base; your HQ.
Sadly this is the point at which many start-ups really struggle. Costs, especially in London, can be prohibitively high, when you factor it all in: services, facilities, heating, water and business rates. One solution is to go with a serviced-office operator, where all of that is taken care of for you. But what if you want to have something a bit more permanent, a home for your business?
We’ve prepared a short guide on how to get office space on a budget.
One option that saves you a lot of hassle and cost is to split an office down the middle and share with another company. Immediately everything becomes half as expensive, and if you spend plenty of time researching you could end up sharing with a like-minded company in the same sector to bounce your ideas off. It means you don’t get total privacy, but an office with a breakaway meeting room offers a compromise option for when you need to have a confidential chat.
Similar to sharing but with more control for you, sub-letting a desk or two within your office is an increasingly popular way to mitigate costs. Especially if the space you’ve rented is just a little too large for you at the moment. Sub-letting on a short-term basis means you retain the office and the extra space is there when you need it, but isn’t going to waste in the meantime.
Sometimes it’s best to wait and carry on working remotely, or from home, before committing to an office. But then what do you do about client meetings? A potential client is going to be less than impressed by the offer of a cup of tea and a biscuit over the kitchen table, and a coffee shop isn’t much better. But there is a compromise: a whole new generation of hybrid meeting spaces/serviced office buildings in which you can rent meeting rooms, even spaces to hold a seminar or social do. And these days most of them do great coffee as well.
Rents in big UK cities like London, Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow have reached such high levels that being right in the heart of things can come at a cost that puts many off. But with demand from a new generation of start-ups and small businesses being so high, office owners everywhere have had to up their game. Which means that even in the less popular areas of any city you’ll find top quality, modern space kitted out with high-tech facilities and flexible lease terms to suit any budget.
For years the trend has been towards big open-plan offices. Landlords and tenants love them because they maximise the use of the space, and for staff members they provide an open space that’s good for socializing and mixing with their colleagues.
But there are plenty of good reasons why a company would be better off in a smaller, private office, or an office that includes cubicles and private rooms. We take a look at the benefits of taking a private office.
The office market has diversified, with conventional offices, serviced offices, shared workspace facilities and hybrid models now on offer in most big cities. A private office could just be a small single-room space for a small company, a private space within a larger serviced office building, or a larger open-plan that has been divided up by cubicles or individual executive suites. But what they all have in common is the luxury of privacy and confidentiality: no sharing with other companies, no big open-plan environment and the noise and bustle that can bring.
It depends on what option you take, but generally to get private space will cost more. For example, an office which is divided up by cubicles will fit fewer people per square foot, so you will need a larger space. A small company can cut costs by sharing a single office with another business of the same size, but this takes away the element of privacy.
A compromise can be to rent space within a larger serviced office building: there are plenty of options in London, within buildings which offer shared workspace, hot-desking facilities, alongside private rented offices on a lease. This has the added advantage of coming with existing facilities such as wifi, electricity, toilets, often a café and kitchens, already in place.
The diversification of office spaces has naturally led to an increase in the number of different leases, reflecting the spectrum of different options for tenants. Unlike taking ‘pay as you go’ desk space in a serviced office or shared workspace, private offices tend to require more of a commitment – typically around 12 months. But with such high demand for flexibility – particularly in London where there are so many young start-up companies and an increasing number of serviced office players – over time landlords are having to offer more favorable terms to be competitive.
Realla has hundreds of great offices listed on its search pages, with a huge range of options for private office space, to suit all tastes and budgets. Check out this page to see the full range, get a better idea of what’s out there, and find out what type of leases are on offer. We currently have over 350 private offices in central London alone. The search engine includes powerful tools to help you refine your search, showing you private offices by area, price and size and facilities, alongside in-depth guides to individual areas in our Market Data section.