The process of finding workspace can be a minefield, especially in a competitive city like London. Clipper runs you through the steps needed to find your next office.
1. Search the Web
The start of any search for space, whether it’s for living or working, should always start on the web. There are some great property portals out there that will let you get a feel for prices, the standard of offices, transport links and business rates.
Begin with a wide net across London on a property listing portal like Zoopla, Rightmove or Realla. All of them have a separate “commercial” listings engine on them. Continue by making a quick spreadsheet of what matters most to you so that you can hone in on an area.
If there’s anything that jumps out at you, there should be some contact details on the listing so give them a ring. You might be able to avoid any further action and fees by getting in touch with the owners of the space directly!
2. Choose a Location
Once you’ve got a feel for the different areas in London and have set yourself a rough budget, you’ll want to choose a location or neighbourhood (or a few) to begin your search in. A good first step might be to look at where your major clients are located and get hunting an easy tube journey or walk away from them. There’s no use in having to travel for hours to get to every meeting.
Other useful things to think about include working out where the bulk of your team live and the proximity of the office site to the transport network.
A strategy that we always finds works well is to engage with your employees. Mock up a quick survey in Google Forms and share it around the team to let people voice their opinions on what works for them for travel in the morning.
3. Go on a Walkabout
Whilst searching the web might give you a good feel for an area, nothing can compare with beating the pavement. Make a day of it and go for a walk around the locations that you have chosen. Make sure that you see the streets throughout the day as there will definitely be a different vibe at lunchtime and the evening. Plus – you might spot some future snack spots and the best places to go for an after-work pint.
Make sure you take pictures or note down the details of the “to-let” boards. This will come in handy in the next step as you will get a feel for who the major agents are in the area.
4. Get a Commercial Agent
Hopefully, your walking tour will have given you a good idea of who the major agents are in your search area. With this in hand, you now need to start ringing or emailing to secure a commercial lettings agent willing to search on your behalf.
Especially in London, the search for office space can be a bit of a closed off process – agents rely on a club portal where they can post your requirement and other agents who have space can let them know about it. You’ll find it very hard to access this information and secure the best spaces without them.
Your agent will organise viewings on your behalf and give you further information on what sort of space is available within your price range. They will also be the key to negotiations on your space. If you’re unhappy with the way that the space is arranged, for example, they may be able to twist the arm of landlords to get a wall knocked down or a break-out area installed.
5. Put Out Feelers
The next thing to do is to get the message out there within your network that you’re looking for space. Social Media is designed for this sort of thing and a well-timed post to Linkedin or Twitter may hit somebody that’s looking to “buddy-up” for space or knows of some availability in their building.
Whilst your agent will have access to a considerable network of other agents in the city and can often find you spaces that are not listed online, they won’t know where the future hub for your niche is. It’s your network that’s going to help to find it.
Plus, the very act of looking for new workspace is a great signal to potential investors that you’re a healthy company looking to expand. Who knows if your next round of funding might come alongside a move into a new office?
6. Get Your Affairs in Order
You will then need to make sure that all of your financial records are in order.
Get your accountant on the case as soon as possible as it’s unlikely that anybody will take you seriously if they think you might go bust. The more information you can give a prospective landlord about the financial health of your company, the less likely they are to demand a sizeable deposit.
Much like you when you might have had to provide references and bank statements when renting a flat or apartment, landlords are increasingly interested in seeing what they term – a “strong covenant”. This basically means setting out the financial history and forecasts for your business to let them know that you are unlikely to go insolvent during your tenancy.
7. Find a Meanwhile Space
The search for your perfect office takes time and it’s very rare to find something that ticks all the boxes. You can’t let this get in the way of your business operations though.
Most of the big co-working spaces in the city will give you a desk for a couple of months and hopefully you’ll be able to leave before your trial period ends!
If shared offices don’t sound like the right way to go for your business, we’ve also got a handy guide for finding affordable space in London that might give you some more ideas.
Clipper Magazine is produced for Republic by Courier Media.
Article Last Updated: May 18, 2019