Location, Location, Location: finding the right office space for your business

Hi all, this is my first post for Business Heroes, but as someone who heads up a business centre operator and manager business  with over 2,000 SMEs located at our centres, we get a good insight into small business issues so hopefully can provide some advice and thought provoking posts over the coming months.

Firstly, before we get completely consumed in election fever (and to take a respite from erupting volcanoes), I’d like to discuss business rates relief, which recently came up in the Budget, and for those who rent managed office space, is particularly significant.  Most of the bigger players in the managed office space sector offer inclusive rent schemes, with business rates included.    We recently changed our all inclusive license fee to one excluding business rates, having realised that the majority of our customers could be eligible to take advantage of the Government’s Small Business Rate Relief Scheme, so the Budget has given our licensees a fantastic boost to their finances by allowing further reductions in costs.

We envisage a wave of new licensees moving away from traditional business centres with inclusive rent schemes, and into those with rate exclusive schemes. This brings us to the wider subject of flexibility in managed office space, and what you should expect or look out for in renting office space.  Here are some of my tips of things to look out for – I hope you find them useful!

  • Ask the rates question, inclusive or exclusive? Given recent rate changes, it may be much more financially beneficial to be exclusive, particularly after October 2010
  • Understand what (if any) the stealth taxes are, e.g. costs for parking, use of reception, phone answering, etc. These soon add up and the headline rate can soon pale into insignificance behind the additional charges!
  • Check the telecoms pricing – are call costs less than BT? They should be! What’s the minimum billing charge, per minute/per second?
  • Make sure you have the access you require – 24/7 is always best as you will undoubtedly want something at some stage from the office, normally out of usual office hours.
  • Check that the broadband package is of business quality; so many companies use cheap lines with poor or nonexistent Service Level Agreements (SLA’s) that can leave you without the internet and email for days. Given that in many companies, this is business critical, it’s an essential check. It is also worth asking if they have back up lines for resilience!