And no, this is not an office love story. Although, it could be called an office ‘really-fond-of’ story.
The story starts with a brand new business. The joy and excitement of setting up on your own, or with partners, and giving shape to your new creation. But, where to work from, that is the question?
Well, for the sake of the story and because it is my story and I can take liberties, we are going to assume this business is being conducted out of one or more back bedrooms, study’s, garages or sheds.
This is all fine and economic and sensible, but a problem often experienced at this point is missed calls – the business owner(s) is(are) too busy or tied up to get every call that comes in.
Now it may surprise you to learn that most business centres offer virtual office facilities too. And one of the basic services is telephone answering.
Let us suppose for a moment that the business only has one person and they are tied up with a client. What happens if another client rings? Or a prospect? They get an answer phone message which at best is inefficient and at worst will make them feel that they are not being taken seriously.
Even if there are two or three people in the business, there could still be similar issues, because you won’t have one person dedicated to telephone answering, particularly if you are each working in your own bedroom, study, garage, etc.
So you buy a virtual reception and now your phone can be answered all the time. Granted the caller still could not be put through to you when you are busy, but the phone is now being answered by a human, who can take a message, make the caller feel special and be assured of receiving the return call.
This service has the added benefit of ensuring you don’t get unwanted calls – how much more time could we spend on our business if we had no more calls from telecoms, recruitment, debt consolidation companies? Unless, of course, you have briefed your provider that you want to receive these calls, you can now concentrate on your business.
And this will cost you from around £20.00 (for a very basic messaging service) to £100.00 monthly for full reception facilities.
Now, everything is hunky dory, and the business feels more organised, but what about that home address. Does it look very professional? The business owner knows their service is good but do their prospects?
Despite there being no justification whatsoever, people sometimes set more store by an official business address. My argument is that you can be just as incompetent in an office as you can at home, but perception is important and a business address can get more attention.
Well, to improve credibility and raise profile a little, they can take out a mailing address. An address in the centre or outskirts, to suit the business, will look good in directories, gives a professional image to match that of the business and ensures you will not be overlooked on address alone.
This will usually cost £50 to £100.00 per month.
So the story continues. The business is growing, but there are a lot of distractions at home: kids, tv, washing lines, the mistress or toy boy won’t stop phoning, etc.
Sometimes, the owner may think that a little more space would be useful – maybe not all the time, but occasionally. Perhaps a meeting room to talk professionally with clients or suppliers. Perhaps a desk might be useful for the odd day, where you can get more done.
Well, it just so happens that these services are also available from your local business centre: meeting rooms by the hour, workstations by the day, space to do whatever is needed, when you need it.
But it gets better. Maybe the virtual services and some hard work have helped make the business successful. With growth can come more staff and space requirements.
The same business centre can now provide the necessary space – a dedicated office form one to 20+ workstations. The service is still the same and all the above benefits would still apply.
Average workstation cost in the south west is around £260.00 per month. Terms are very flexible, with monthly rental available and the ability to quickly change to meet business demand. The license is simple, easy to set up and – equally important – easy to terminate.
I have to be honest – if serviced offices didn’t already exist, someone would have to invent them.
So, now you’re thinking, but what if the business had grown significantly and the owners had already taken office space on a conventional lease? Well, it could be the right thing to do for the business and that is fine. But I would say that the serviced office option could compare favourably to a lease in terms of cost without any loss of credibility.
If alternatives were being looked at one drawback might be that the business is tied to the terms of the lease – this being one of the disadvantages of conventional leases.
For a comparison, let’s take a look at some examples.
Let’s take a two person office of around 200 sq ft (we will ignore the fact that you would be unlikely to get this small a space on a lease).
The rent we will say is £5.00 psf – this is really cheap, even in the current economic climate. Rates and service charge will amount to another £10.00 psf. Then you have utility bills, maintenance, IT and telecoms, furniture, legal fees, building insurance, refuse and dilapidations. Conservatively you will be looking at £18-20,000 per annum.
With serviced accommodation, this same space would cost around £7-9,000. pa.
Let’s get bigger and work it out on 10 – 12 workstations in around 1,000 sq ft. If we keep the rental the same and increase the on-costs pro rata – the annual total for this space would be around £32,000.
In a serviced office it is more likely to be around £25-30,000 per annum.
And I haven’t even included equipment like copiers, faxes and printers, which you don’t need when you rent serviced accommodation. Or the reception and support services, which save on staff and, therefore, space requirements. Or, indeed, the final frontier of cloud computing – perhaps we will look at that another time.
Serviced office providers are growing in number as more and more businesses become aware of the flexibility and adaptability of this type of accommodation and all its’ associated support services.
So, as we leave our story, with the success of the business assured, thanks to the choices available in the modern world, we may not have fallen in love with our serviced office, but we may well have grown fond of it.
Truly, a success story of the technological age.