As your business grows, you need to consider how to use the resources you have: do you stretch them or do you upgrade? One decision not to be taken lightly is whether to move into bigger premises. Here are some considerations to make before you move.
Whether it's because you have more staff, or need more space to host equipment or meetings, moving to bigger premises is an important decision. First of all, consider your needs. If most of the time everything runs under capacity, but there are just some periods of spillover, perhaps all you need is space to take the temporary overflow. Many businesses have an office where employees work and have areas such as meeting rooms elsewhere, for example. Alternative arrangements such as hot-desking, working from home or hiring contractors could be an option.
Reconfiguring the office to reduce wasted space is also a possibility. With clever design, you may be able to get away with what you have. You could also look to repurpose space. For example, many businesses move their servers off-site, or sometimes a good clean-up of your office supplies area – making sure the printer and stationery cupboard take no more room than they need to – is enough to gain some ground.
When you need to move to bigger premises
If you've decided to make the move to bigger premises, you'll have other questions to consider:
How quickly are you growing? Develop a best-case scenario with your fastest likely growth and a worst-case scenario with the slowest. Weigh up the cost of the worst case if you move to premises that are too big versus the cost of best case – that is, moving again should your new premises not be big enough (remember moving costs are as much about disruption as they are about the financial cost). Find a balance you're comfortable with.
How important is location? Many employees and clients make decisions about whether to work for/patronise a business due to its location, so consider whether you should stay in the area or if there may be a better area for you. If you like where you are, it may be possible to take over another business's space on the floor if this is available.
How important are amenities? What do you need in your new premises? What is the security and maintenance like? Do you have after-hours access if you need it? Do you need more parking, or would you prefer a bike rack and a shower? Gather suggestions from staff so they have buy-in to the process.
Should you buy or rent? Businesses buy premises for all sorts of reasons: as an asset, for stability, because it can be more cost effective than renting. Some businesses prefer to lease for flexibility, others find it more cost effective to rent. Things to consider include whether your business can sustain a mortgage, whether you can change the interior if you rent and what services/amenities you're entitled to when you buy versus rent.
What can you negotiate? It depends on whether there's a high or low demand for the premises, but generally you can negotiate on rent, the term of the lease and on extras such as maintenance fees. Possible scenarios include obtaining a discount for upfront or early payment, or waiving of fees for longer terms. It doesn't hurt to ask.
The office still remains a key place of collaboration and socialisation. Keeping the needs of your business and staff in mind when you move to bigger premises will ensure more effective operations well into the future.
This article represents the views of the author only and not those of American Express.
Adeline Teoh is the director of WriterType, a communications agency in Sydney, and publisher of ProjectManager.com.au. She specialises in writing about business, particularly small business and startups, education and project management and has previously held senior roles with magazines such as Dynamic Business/Dynamic Export.