When you start a business, and particularly a Tech business, you tend to operate out of your favourite coffee shop that has power and free internet. Whilst this is a superb starting point, at some point you will need to choose an office – especially when you take on staff and this can be where the first fatal mistake of a business occurs. Whilst consulting to various companies, I noticed that more and more companies are having to relocate very soon after moving into what they thought was a perfect office.
This is becoming more and more prevalent as the new so-called-HighTech office parks are opening promising the world only to discover that they are locked into a lease agreement where there is no internet and no cell phone signal !
I spoke to Ash Brook Commercial Property’s CEO, Grant Williams, on what to consider when choosing the ideal office space and here are 5 tips to help you move for choosing your first office space:
1. The Basics – Location, location, location
Grant Williams (GW) says that “Overall, location is the most important consideration because it will determine things like monthly rental costs (which are also affected by property value, rates, and taxes), your potential clients’ perception of your business, competitiveness in your particular market, accessibility for employees and clients, and your position in the playing field. All of these consequently have a financial and conceptual consequence on how profitable and successful your business will be in the long run.“
2. IT Infrastructure
GW: There’s almost no commercial business that is conducted without IT, so IT infrastructure is a huge factor when choosing your first office space. Entrepreneurs need to check that there are available and reliable ADSL and telephone lines in the building, a good cell phone and 3G signal in the neighbourhood, an air-conditioned or climate-controlled room for servers, and that plug points in the building are surge-protected. Ensure that your ISP covers the area that your new office is in. Provide an efficient and secure WiFi network to cater to the needs of your staff as well as visitors with WiFi-enabled devices. Conference rooms need space and capability for projectors and screens; and ensure that your switchboard system has the correct capacity for the size of your business. You also need to correctly measure your requirements for floor space to ensure that your IT setup and employees have sufficient space in which to function properly.
3. Transport Infrastructure
GW: South Africa’s main business centres – Johannesburg, Pretoria, and Cape Town – are making great strides when it comes to providing reliable public transport for office workers. Public transport and mobile device usage go hand-in-hand; with 3G, 4G, and LTE Internet access allowing employees and entrepreneurs to make more efficient use of their transit time. You can check email, do research, write proposals, and even do brain storming, bookkeeping, and product development while riding the train or bus to work. To take advantage of this tech capability, it would be wise to choose an office location that is near to these public transport services.
GW: Good security is vital in today’s business environment. Not only security in the form of alarms, an armed response subscription, and business insurance, but also the perception of a secure environment of your staff as well as outsiders. Biometric access control to gated business parks is becoming the norm, especially in new commercial property developments. If your business is dependent on the protection of sensitive information and IP, you should ensure that there is provision for CCTV and that your IT security can protect you against theft of IP or industrial espionage.
5. Energy efficiency
GW: Firstly, the green building movement has seen a sharp increase in the development of energy efficient commercial property. The Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) has noted a dramatic increase in the number of applications for star-rated green star building status. The green rating of your building will determine how much carbon tax you need to pay, and while energy efficient office buildings may be more expensive to rent, this is offset by the cost savings in terms of green tax and energy consumption. Ensure that your IT systems and components are also energy efficient and that you adopt practices such as recycling paper, using energy-efficient and motion-sensitive lightbulbs, and switching off non-essentials when no one is in the office, etc. In the long run, these cost savings can be ploughed back into business investment opportunities, talent, and new technology.
*Image from ShutterStock.com