26 March 2019/ Guides

How to find a perfect office for scaling company outside of London?

It is a challenge that all successful businesses have to face at some point: how to grow without losing the things that already make you great. Successfully scaling your business takes ambition and commitment, but it also requires a lot of planning and preparation. Finding the right space for your new operations is one of the most important parts of the process. Figuring out where you want to go and why is one thing, but actually getting out there and finding the perfect office is another.

Your choice of office outside London will have a big effect on the success of your scaling efforts. Here is a guide for any company looking to expand their business outside of the capital.

 

Choosing a location

 

Where you are going to set up your new office is the first important decision you need to make. Cities like Aberdeen, Bristol and Leeds have become great places for companies looking to establish a base outside of London in the last decade. These university towns are constantly turning out ambitious, tech-literate graduates who would rather lay down roots in smaller towns than face a few years of low pay and high costs in the capital.

Enquire about the talent pool 

 

Your new office space is only going to be as good as the people that fill it. You may find a seemingly perfect space out in the Wye Valley, but you may then find that the local talent pool is much smaller than Cardiff or Bristol. Smaller cities that have a university as well as a lot of small and medium sized companies will usually be full of people looking to start their professional careers as well as those looking to progress to higher positions. You are likely to need both.

Your office is an important part of attracting the right talent. First impressions really do matter, and job applicants will be judging you by the space they walk into for their interviews. You can afford to have a smaller office with less break out space if you are going to allow your workforce to work flexibly and only come into the office when they need to. If you are going to require your employees to come in most days, the space you offer is really important. Having a big open plan office with lots of breakout spaces could be more attractive to graduates than boxed out cubicles. 

You may want to think about what other features you want your office to have. Do you want your new location to have an area to safely store bikes, or facilities to allow employees to shower after running to work? If you are going to be located in a busy town centre, offering car parking might not be feasible (and employees may not want to battle traffic every day), so making it easy for people to get to work will always be appreciated.

 

Analyse the local business environment

 

Some potential locations will be better for business than others. Enterprise zones, urban regeneration and a population of potential customers are all important, but so is the local business ecosystem. Are there local associations that can help you build contacts and connections? Are there a lot of potential local suppliers or other service providers that you can build relationships with? Starting to scale your company in a new location will be a lot easier with these relationships in place early.

If you decide to go for an office in a business park or similar kind of location, you could really benefit from having a lot of similar sized businesses in close proximity. Having a relatively easy source of networking also won’t hurt the process of building up a new client base.

 

Check out transport links

 

The key to scaling your business is removing the barriers that could hold you back or create extra costs. Making sure you are easy to find is great and it also facilitates you travelling around the country if you need to. Try to find somewhere relatively close to motorways, major train routes or airports – it will simplify your life and potentially help to lower your costs.

Your location is also important because the amount you and your staff will need to spend commuting will likely have a big impact on your ability to hire the best talent. Potential applicants will definitely be put off if you are based in an area that is only periodically accessible by public transport, or one that requires a long drive twice a day. Being able to achieve a good work/life balance is an increasingly important to people, and long commutes not only eat into their private time but can also lead to more stress in the workplace.

The office itself

 

Once you have found your location, you must think about the kind of office you want. Every building is different, and you will need to make sure you take a good look around each one. Ask a lot of questions and take a lot of notes so that you can really consider the pros and cons of your options. As with all property-related decisions, you may feel like you should be trying to move as fast as possible, but try to make sure being speedy doesn’t mean you rush into things.

Here are a few things you should think about when you are scaling your business.

 

How about a shared office?

 

If you are looking to keep your costs to a minimum while still having a good base for your operations, sharing your office with another company could be a good option. If it works out, it could help you get the perfect office for a reduced price. There is a risk, however, that you end up sharing your space with a company that isn’t suited to you. For example, if you need a quiet working environment, you won’t want to be in close proximity to sales teams that are constantly on the phone.

Research parking options 

 

Even if you and your employees won’t be driving into work, having some dedicated parking spaces could still be a good idea. Sometimes you will need to go on business trips and being able to meet at the office beforehand could be a great time saver. It will also make it easier for visiting clients or other service providers.

 

Condition and upkeep

 

This is very important. Lots of urban development projects have left gleaming new builds or smartly refurbished office buildings waiting for new occupants across the country. The last thing you need to be dealing with on top of the complexities of scaling your business is things like mould, damp, renovation or faulty appliances. Ensuring that any prospective office meets all of the necessary health and safety requirements is also one of the first things you need to find out about every property you look at.

 

Investigate building access 

 

You want to make sure that everyone will be able to get to your office. This means checking for ramps and looking at the size of the lifts. You don’t want to be caught out and left having to find alternative meeting places that cater to your visitors.

Another important aspect of ensuring access is checking with your new landlord whether there are any planned building or renovation works coming up. While some things, like burst pipes, will come out of nowhere and result in disruption to your operations, if anything major needs to be fixed you should be able to get a timetable. 

 

Calculate the financials

 

Scaling your business is inherently risky, as are many decisions expand your business. You want to get the best value for your money, especially if you’re looking to start small and work your way up. The kind of lease you choose to go for will have a big impact on how much you end up paying, and what kind of deal you need to sign up to.

Conventional leases will lock you into a contract for a set period of time, and you will be responsible for things like furniture, internet connection and facilities. A flexible lease on the other hand, could be a better option for smaller businesses looking to scale. Flexible leases typically provide businesses with furnished offices that are ready to go straight away, and operate on a monthly basis. However, this does mean that a flexible lease can work out more expensive in the long run.

Prices across the country

[The following prices are based on 2018 statistics provided by real estate advisers Colliers] 

South of England

  • Brighton – Grade A: £30.00 / Grade B: £24.00
  • Bristol – Grade A: £32.50 / Grade B: £28.50
  • Norwich – Grade A: £16.50 / Grade B: £10.00
  • Oxford – Grade A: £25.00 / Grade B: £20.00
  • Plymouth – Grade A: £17.00 / £12.00
  • Portsmouth – Grade A: £16.00 / Grade B: £12.00

 

Midlands

  • Birmingham – Grade A: £33.00 / £22.50
  • Northampton – Grade A: £14.50 / Grade B: £9.00
  • Nottingham – Grade A: £19.50 / £12.50
  • Telford – Grade A: £13.50 / £8.00

 

North of England

  • Bradford – Grade A: £14.00 / Grade B: £7.50
  • Hull – Grade A: £16.00 / Grade B: £10.00
  • Leeds – Grade A: £30.00 / Grade B: £24.00
  • Liverpool – Grade A: £22.00 / Grade B: £12.50
  • Manchester – Grade A: £35.00 / Grade B: £27.00
  • Preston – Grade A: £10.00 / Grade £7.00
  • Sheffield – Grade A: £24.00 / Grade B: £15.00
  • York – Grade A: £18.50 / Grade B: £12.50

 

North East England

  • Darlington – Grade A: £13.50 / Grade B: £8.50
  • Newcastle – Grade A: £23.50 / Grade B: £16.00
  • Sunderland – Grade A: £12.50 / Grade B: £8.00

 

Scotland

  • Aberdeen – Grade A: £28.00 / Grade B: £16.00
  • Edinburgh – Grade A: £32.50 / Grade B: £22.00
  • Glasgow – Grade A: £31.00 / Grade B: £21.00

 

Wales

  • Cardiff – Grade A: £21500 / Grade B: £18.00
  • Swansea – Grade A: 14.50 / Grade B: £10.00