Selecting office space can get as emotional as buying a car. The trick is to start by separating what you need from what you want. This doesn’t have to be extreme, for instance we could all get by with a Yugo, but that doesn’t mean our legitimate needs might go further than that. How much time do you spend in your car, do you carry passengers often or is your passion music and you require a top of the line sound system. You might say the last is not really a need, but I would say save the emotional label for things like my neighbor just bought a Maserati and if I drive in with a Yugo I’ll never hear the end of it. Or, my neighbor just put solar panels on the roof, if I don’t get a Prius, he’ll never speak to me again.
Office space is the same, there are needs and wants. My idea of a decent office would be valet parking, to be personally delivered to my office in a sedan chair and a person standing at my side all day to see to my every need. None of these come close to my needs and are strictly wants. Very nice and desirable wants, but, nevertheless, wants and not needs. Besides, I blew my wants budget on my car. Here is a list of three fundamental needs that drive the office selection decision based on many surveys I’ve taken over the years. They have remained constant and don’t vary from year to year.
- Location, location, location
- Conference rooms and meeting rooms
- Other amenities like parking, phone and internet
By far the highest rank factor in determining what office space to select. People will make do with the other factors if the location is correct. Proximity to home, convenience to clients and other visitors and an appropriate setting. Find the place with these three factors correct and chances are you’ve found your office.
You’re going to make this trip a couple of times per day so take care of 1# first. The shorter and more enjoyable your drive, the more productive you will be. You can stay up later and sleep in longer. You can work longer hours while not sacrificing family time. Studies have shown that the chances of going postal at the office are directly related to drive time. Do us all a favor and locate close to home, it’s also the green thing to do.
Don’t forget your clients. There may need to be a compromise in the future. After all, you have to pay for your office and that usually involves clients. Maybe your clients don’t visit you and in that case you’re in the clear. If you do have clients visit your office frequently it should be reasonable close and very accessible.
Other factors you might include in your location decision are the proximity to restaurants and shopping. You’ll want to be near fast food and decent places to take clients. You’ll save a lot of good work time that way. Proximity to shopping can also save a lot of time by being able to run errands at lunch or on the way home without investing a lot of your precious time.
One-mile in the suburbs or one-block in the city can easily amount to another entire work week or two in additional time spent driving over the course of a year. Think about it, five additional minutes each way would equal 43 hours per year. Location, location, location.
Conference Rooms and Meeting Rooms
Most people do use conference and meeting rooms frequently. Even the ones that tell me when they first come through that they don’t anticipate using conference rooms because all of their clients are remote. Low and behold they realize that clients aren’t the only people you meet with. Suppliers, friends, collaborators, affiliates, partners, investors, charitable and not for profit boards and the list goes on. Sometimes you just need a bigger table to spread your “stuff” out on.
Conference rooms and meeting rooms always turn out to be one of the most appreciated or maligned feature of a business center or executive suite facility. You’ll want to look into how many conference rooms there are, how big are they, what do the look like, what services and equipment is available and how busy are they. Be bold and ask to see the schedule.
The conference rooms will set the impression for your clients. Nice, but not too nice. Your clients aren’t stupid; they know they’re paying for the room they’re sitting in. How many times have gone for a first visit to a lawyer, doctor or web designer and been in awe of their offices until you realized that you were going to be expected to pay for that overhead.
Beware of business centers that have cut cost by cutting conference rooms. Remember, there’s a tendency to want to turn conference rooms into more revenue generating space. How much will your office be worth to you if you can’t get a conference room when you need it?
Parking can be a huge issue, particularly on the eastside of Seattle, nestled against the foothills of the Cascade Mountains like we are in Issaquah, Washington. It has been known to rain a bit here and if parking isn’t adequate, you’ll pay for it big time and so will your visitors. Is there adequate visitor parking, how about the rest of the parking lot, are there open spaces, how far from an entrance are they?
How’s the phone system? Are they managing it or is it done remotely? Remote means delay and cost to any changes you want to make. How about the service? Is voice over internet? Great way for the business center to save money on long distance service and equally great way for you to sound like an unintelligible cheapskate if it's not done right.
Internet service is another way many centers save money. Ask about bandwidth. I have 30 times the bandwidth than the center had when I acquired it six years ago. My clients have an insatiable appetite for bandwidth. I’m told that the 800 pound gorilla in the business center industry, a very large international chain, for a center my size has one-sixth the bandwidth in centers my size to half again as big. That’s carrying both voice and data; I have a separate T-1 for voice. I’d be hanging from a streetlamp in the parking lot if I tried that.
Check to see if you’ll be throttled, choked or extorted from for additional bandwidth use. The need for bandwidth will continue to grow. If the business center views bandwidth as a cost to be minimized and not a service to be maximized, you’re in for a rough ride.
Oh, did I forget to mention price? Yeah, that comes up too. All centers are going to be competitive on office space. Location has value and it will be reflected in the price. But don’t forget about those others things. Are you going to pay extra to use the conference rooms? Will you have to pay for parking or will your clients have to pay for parking? The list goes on and at some office business centers, goes on and on and on.
If you happen to be located on Seattle’s Eastside, please stop by Meadow Creek Business Center in Issaquah and we can show you how it should be done.