Emerging Team

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Mastering the hunt for your first office

Tara Howard

Operations Manager

Finding your first office is something akin to finding your first house. It’s a mammoth task, both in planning and delivery. If you’ve never had to go through the process before you’d be forgiven if it struck you with a sense of dread, but with the right approach a great place to call your own is within reach.

There’s no sure fire way to ensure it’ll be 100% perfect and that’s purely down to the fact that, as a startup, you’ll constantly be changing. However, with a little bit of foresight and some digging around you should find yourself somewhere that feels like ‘home’. This guide aims to help you in finding those first digs.

Key Takeaways:

  • Focus on practicality over features

  • Make sure the space compliments the present and future of the business

  • Use your connections - there’s always a deal to be done

Who’s gonna tell Mum that the baby’s not that cute?

You’ve thought about it over and over and the reel of mental images regarding your new office space promises industrial features, bike up to your desk hallways and a built in barista coffee bar. All very chic, but be wary of getting caught up in the ‘features’ instead of the practicality. Extra perks are great and an awesome selling point, but if staff have to walk three floors to go to the toilet and you don’t have windows- it’s time to re-think. Sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to get caught up in the ‘what’ instead of the ‘how’, especially if you’ve just successfully raised cash and it’s starting to burn a hole in your pocket. The result; a seemingly cool office but unhappy employees, longer processes and an impractical space.

If it’s a blank canvas, make sure you scope out the extra costs for outsourcing the installation or build of necessities. If it’s serviced/co-working, try to assess how much those inclusive features are actually costing in comparison to sourcing them yourself. Take the time to walk through your day-to-day operations, work out the route and how that would fit into the space. If it’s missing something or over complicates processes, cross it off the list.  

Forecast: ‘Sunny with a chance of financial downpours’

It’s pretty much a given with any deal that the longer you sign up for, the less you’ll pay monthly. But don’t jump in too quickly without having forecasted your growth financially and strategically.  It’s all very well getting a discount, but having signed a four year tenancy only to realise you’ve outgrown the space in one, leaves you in quite a predicament. Termination and moving fees are hefty, so think carefully about where you’ll be. Let’s not forget it works both ways, outgrowing your space would be the lesser of two evils. Should you need to downsize, being tied in could leave you feeling the sting. (Note: This also applies to ongoing contracts like internet and phones. If you already have providers, make sure it can be transferred. If you’re going in fresh, test services before committing. You’ll be surprised how the quality of a service can be impacted by a build and design of a space)

Location, location, location?

Controversially, having a ‘Silicon Roundabout’ postcode is not essential. Or even Zone 1 for that matter. Sure, it looks cool at the bottom of your web page but you’ll certainly be paying for it. There are loads of coworking and private office rentals outside of Zone 1 that will give you exactly what you’re looking for at a more competitive price. So if being central isn’t essential, give it a look.

One thing to bear in mind is what your location says to your customers and employees- it may be cheap or really close to your flat, but will your customers & employees feel safe walking around the area after hours? If people don’t feel safe or happy, you’ll limit your recruitment & custom potential.

99 Problems

Know the ins and outs of the space before committing to it. Who deals with repairs? Are there maintenance costs? Where’s the heating controlled? Is there someone on-site 24hrs? Are you contractually obliged to use certain providers? Without knowing the full details you’re sure to set yourself up for hidden costs and wasted man hours.

If you’re not in a serviced office, it’s really important that you have someone responsible for managing all this inside the company. Otherwise, when something goes wrong you’ll all be looking at each other in search of answers.

Love thy Neighbour

Who better to give you the down-low on your potential new office than the people who already reside there? They’re in the same boat and unlikely to have any fierce loyalties so ask if you can take them for a coffee and scout out everything you want to know (but couldn’t ask the estates people). You’ll be surprised by both the positive and negative things that will surface.

Get someone else to do the hard work

The most obvious step for this would be to go to a commercial real estate agent, who, although knowledgeable, will charge you fees. Instead, use your network of business contacts and friends for free. Ask around and do a bit of research on their office locations & providers, more often than not there’ll be a referral process in place that could benefit you both. Finding suitable spaces that are currently available is probably the most time consuming aspect,so why not use platforms and services that’ll search for spaces for you. Platforms like HubbleHQ are really simple to use and don’t charge you for their services.

Bag yourself a bargain

Don’t be British about it, everyone loves a discount. So haggle, haggle, haggle! Here at Forward Partners we have partnerships with co-working spaces that offer our portfolio teams discounts. So if you come from  a VC/ incubator/ accelerator platform, check to see if they’ve made any partnerships and if you could benefit from it.

Further reading

Where to move your business in London by HubbleHQ


Co-Working vs Leased Office Space: Which is really cheaper?


The Future of the Office



Tara Howard

Operations Manager

Before joining Forward Partners, Tara worked in Operations across various Start Ups and SME’s. Most recently coming from events based start up Hire Space. She’s also spent the last 5 years as a professional actor, but decided to leave behind the glitz and glamour to focus on her career in Ops.

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