Ask the Experts

PwC Partner Chris Leatham – March 2015

My small business is growing and I am taking on new employees. I need a dedicated office space, but I am wary of taking on an expensive property commitment. What options do I have?

Moving into your first premises is a big step for any business and there are a number of areas to think about. The first question you need to ask yourself is, are you sure you need to take on premises? Advances in technology mean that businesses can operate successfully remotely until a much later stage, with the flexibility to conduct meetings in cafés and hired meeting rooms. Communication and collaboration tools such as video conferencing, shared documents and smartphones make keeping in touch much more manageable and help you to work successfully in a remote environment. A common concern in remote businesses is the lack of face time resulting in lower staff performance. However, poor performance is much more noticeable in a smaller team; regardless of if the team is working on site or remotely, and this issue can be effectively managed with strong leadership.

Some businesses, however, do need a physical space and if this is the case, it’s a good idea to consider shared or temporary workspaces. Sharing a workspace with another like-minded company will not only help to keep costs down but through your combined buying power it can also help you gain a better location. A temporary workspace allows a business to trial the benefits of having a dedicated space, while not committing to long-term fixed costs.

Eventually, if you continue to grow, you’ll need to move into your own premises, for both practical reasons, like confidential meetings, and to allow the culture of your business to develop within your own space. For most businesses, the time to move to permanent premises is when you have around 15-20 staff.

The location of your premises is important; if you’re a retailer you need foot traffic, or if you’re a startup IT business, an area surrounded by similar businesses can be a good start. The choice of premises is relatively long term, so you’ll need to think carefully about practical considerations including accessibility (both for customers and staff), price and size.

Finally, although the property industry can be complex and intimidating; an expert can help guide your business through this next stage.

As published by Fairfax in March 2015.

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