Your business plan, budget, as well as your customers’ needs will determine how your organisation will operate, how you want it to grow and ultimately what type of office will best suit.
Business or home office?
If you’re starting up, a home-based office is a cost-effective option. You just need to think about whether your home is the best location for your business – can you conduct business there under local council regulations? Can you get a good work-life balance?
If you’ve outgrown your home with the addition of a few employees, or have clients who'd prefer to meet you at business premises, you’ll need to rent or buy space. When looking, consider the need for a reception area, meeting room, a central location, parking, handicap access and proximity to public transport.
If budget is an issue, a cost-effective alternative is sharing commercial space:
- Co-working spaces – be part of a community with like-minded start-ups where facilities may include meeting rooms
- A virtual office centre – the fee generally covers having an office address, phone-answering service and use of meeting rooms.
Price per square metre changes from suburb to suburb. In general, budget for at least six to seven square metres per person for desk and cubicle areas. Check utilities and facilities such as rest rooms, parking and reliable access to broadband internet. And consider whether the site is easily accessible for employees and clients.
Consult an expert
Since most office space will require a real-estate agent in order to lease, a prudent next step is to contact a commercial broker who is local to the area where you’re looking and who understands the location well.
Before you start operating in your new commercial premises or in your home, ensure the business is legally allowed to work there by doing your due diligence on zoning regulations. Read all lease, sale and relevant council documentation thoroughly and have a solicitor go over these with you.
Fitting out office equipment for your business is more exciting than crunching the numbers, but this is an area where costs can escalate.
Consider leasing as much office equipment as possible if you’re in your start-up stage. Include computers, copiers, scanners and a phone system. Consider opting for all-in-one options that print, copy and scan to reduce costs and optimise your space.
Think about whether you need a business overdraft to help manage your business’ cash flow. You only use the extra cash when you need it.
If staff are meeting customers out of the office and need to do offsite tasks like online product demonstrations or working from home, then you may want to go with laptops. You can create a desktop experience for them when in the office by providing a docking station with the laptop.
The downside of laptops is that they're generally more expensive than desktop computers, harder to upgrade and cost more to fix when there’s a problem. So if you don’t need to use computers out of the office, then desktops may be a more affordable option.
A business may be able to negotiate a new fitout in its lease terms, however this tends to be mostly offered to large, long-term tenants. Alternatively, work stations can be bought online or from office furniture stores. Check local newspapers for any businesses that are closing as they may be selling their furniture and supplies.
While setting up a new office, certainty over your cash flow is key. Mobile merchant services can provide facilities and devices for you to take payments anywhere, which ensures you’re paid fast and reliably.
Don’t overlook insurance cover in your overheads budget. A commercial lease often requires the tenant to take out and maintain insurance. Compare policies specifically designed for a small- and medium-sized business and look for comprehensive cover of contents, burglary, money, glass and public and products liability. It’s also worth knowing that running a business from home carries risks that aren’t necessarily covered under your home and contents policy, so you may need business-specific insurance.