Moving to a new office can be daunting if you are a start-up and do not have much experience in real estate. It take your focus and time away from your work. Here are some tips we learnt from our recent move.Maggie Inbamuthiah
Congratulations! Your start-up has gotten big enough to move from your garage/ home office to requiring its own space. So how do you start and go about it?
If you have a lot of funds, you can hire an architect who will jazz up the place for you and set it all up. All you have to do is move in, throw a party, take pictures and splash it on social media.
But when you are short on funds and time, the activities needed to move and set up can be mind boggling, especially in a country like India where real estate and furniture are not really well organized markets. Having gone through our own move recently, here are some things to keep in mind when you are moving.
This is the number one and the most expensive proposition when it comes to moving. If you are operating out of a home office, you will suddenly be hit by a huge investment for the rental advance and the need to account for rent month on month. Besides the finances, you also need to make sure that the place you choose in the right area, has an attractive address and is convenient for you and your employees to reach. So how do you go about it?
The traditional way is to go through a real estate agent, who will have the on-the-ground knowledge of which properties are available and also help you with the negotiations if needed. While they can save you the trouble of running around and looking for the right place, they also come with a cost, usually one month's rent.
The second option is to go online. The advantage is you get to see a picture of the place before you physically go see it and get a good idea of its location and other amenities. However when we tried the sites, every location we found led to a real estate agent and not to the actual property. So this was not any better than option 1.
What worked for us finally was that, we drove around the area where we wanted our office to be and found many office buildings that advertised vacancy along with the contact number of the property owner. So we directly contacted the property office and finalized the deal. It saved us the entire Real estate agent fee. It took us a couple of hours, but it was well worth it.
Once you have zeroed in on the place, met the property owners and negotiated the rent amount, you will have to sign the contract. In your venture you would have gone through many contracts and this is as important as any. Look out for
- any hidden costs (one contract asked us to deposit two months of Electricity bill estimate costs)
- clauses that point to increase in charges. The rent usually increases 5-10% every year. But look out for anything else that comes with an annual increase. You ideally should not have any.
- Exit clause. You do not want to see yourself having to look for another place before you are ready. Ensure there is enough notice time built in.
- look for clarity on who is responsible for what. We were surprised to see that the maintenance of AC units was not included in the maintenance charges.
- Ensure you have a list of actual physical items you are taking over along with the property and the actual condition they are in.
- Understand how Electricity, back up electricity and water usage is going to be billed and how they will be split across the different tenants in the building
Does the list already feel long? You have only covered the basics. The office you rent can come in one of two shapes. You would either get a warm shell which is nothing but a space with a roof and flooring and pillars. The other option is a plug and play space which comes with work stations and chairs.
If the workstations look practical enough and are not far off from your idea of how your office should be, I recommend you go for the plug and play option. It helps you move and settle in much faster and saves you the hassle of shopping for and setting up your space. It will be slightly more expensive than the warm shell. But it evens out when you consider the effort you would otherwise have to put in.
If that is not an option or you don't find a suitable place, you will have to work with a warm shell. Read on in that case.
A warm shell allows your imagination to run wild and can leave you befuddled with a huge number of options. But keep in mind that all the basic furniture you need to start working are chairs and tables. And yes, a coffee machine.
Again, if you can afford an Interior design firm, then you can take this off your plate and just keep the funds ready. If you cannot, then you need to buy the basic stuff to start with and save the interior design for another day.
Furniture is a huge market where you will find a wide range of options that can be quite confusing. For instance office chairs cost anywhere from Rs. 2000 to Rs. 20,000. And it is not just an easy choice based on your pocket size. Chairs and work tables are items you do not want to compromise on as your work gets delivered using these and good ergonomic options go a long way in keeping your teams healthy and productive.
On the bottom end you have the non-branded shops, pretty much assembling and selling their own furniture. You can also find dealers selling refurbished used chairs. In Bangalore you can find them on Infantry road. These vendors offer very affordable prices and can be very tempting. But the issue here is quality of the furniture and delivery timing. You will typically need someone to be on the phone and constantly check the status and inspect the pieces delivered to ensure you have what you need.
On the high end you have Featherlite and other branded furniture. These look good, feel good and can also be expensive. (Featherlite chairs start at Rs.4500). It is not easy to get discounts with these brands.
On the mid-range, there are dealers who can supply pretty decent furniture. These dealers usually do not have websites or a great online presence. So you have to take a trip to the furniture market area in your city and check out the showrooms. In Bangalore, Banaswadi offered a few options.
We ended with a mix. We ordered chairs from a mid-range dealer at Rs. 3500 a piece and picked up individual make shift tables from low end make-your-own shops. Our office space came with work tables, so we could save on that for the time being.
We did check out the online portals that sell furniture. Either the prices were too high or the delivery times did not work for us.
Once we had places to sit and work on, the next things we had to quickly plan and procure were basic necessities and accessories. White boards, Dining tables, Coffee machine, Refrigerator, Microwave, Biometric reader for the office door, Calling bell.. you get the idea.
This list varies from team to team. But most of these can be managed after you move in and you can buy these as your budget permits.
There are only two things you need to ensure before you move in. Electric supply and Internet! We got these checked out and working a week before we moved in to ensure there would be no hiccups when we started.
Equally important are water supply and back up power. Back up power options vary during office hours and after-office hours. It is important to understand those options and plan for what you need. Based on your business needs you might have servers on-site in your office that need uninterrupted supply of power. If you are 100% on the cloud, then this is not an issue. You might still need a UPS for the bio-metric access, as by default when there is no power supply, the biometric machines are programmed to leave the doors open.
We invested in a UPS and inverter as our after-hours back up power support is not reliable.
Now that you have moved and settled in with the basics, all you need to do is focus on your team and work, hit the big bucks and build that cool, functional office you had dreamed off. All the best!
Hope this was helpful. I am happy to help with any questions.