London: Finding affordable office space
We look at how to find premises that are both cost-effective and allow scope for growth
Regardless of where you choose to locate your business, one of the biggest headaches can be finding office space that is both affordable sufficient for your requirements in terms of floor space and facilities.
This can be a particular problem for young businesses. Grow fast and it may not be too long before you need bigger premises. On the other hand, if you've planned to increase your headcount by 30% over two years and accordingly rent space that is suitably capacious, if revenues fall short you could well find yourself paying over the odds for offices that are too big. You can move of course, but that can be a tricky business if you have a long lease.
According to Rod McInnes, marketing manager of commercial company MLS Group, it's a problem that be solved by moving into short or flexible lease serviced offices. “Start up businesses can't really afford to take five or 10-year leases,” he says. “It is much more practical to move into an office that has a short lease. That way you can move easily if circumstances change.”
MLS Group specialises in this sector of the commercial property market, offering accommodation on leases as short as three months, and according to McInnes,flexibility is the key. “You can move into a small space to get the business growing,” he says. “As you grow, we can provide more space.”
It's an approach that worked for Balkan Dreams,a property company located in an MLS-supplied office in the Canary Wharf area. “ When we started operating on the UK market, it was difficult to estimate how quickly the number of our staff would increase,” said Eugene Petrove, UK operations director. “When we first moved to the building we were only a small team. The flexible renting terms of MLS have helped us initially to rent a small office, and expand as we needed to.
Another key feature of serviced office accommodation is that telecoms and IT infrastructure – phones, internet access, internal networking, etc – are typically provided to order. McInnines says ease of use should be the order of the day. “What we aim to do is provide all the telecoms and networking on a plug in and play basis.”
There are other facilities to take into consideration. Typically, small serviced offices will not include their own conference/meeting rooms, so you should expect providers to have that kind of space available, albeit shared with other tenants.
According to McInnes, the serviced office option is one that is more widely available in London and the South East than elsewhere in the country. “There's a lot more awareness of the serviced office model around London and it's relatively easy to find space wherever you want to locate, whether the city or the West End. You're likely to find it more difficult when you look beyond the South East. However, half of MLS's portfolio is outside London and McInnes stresses that MLS can locate and provide serviced office space all over the UK.