The Entrepreneur’s Corner

Finding the right office space for your business
Moving your business stinks. It’s difficult, it’s expensive, and every step of the process takes a lot of time. But sometimes, and more often than not, the right space can make the business in the same way the right handshake can win the job.

There are so many options for business of all sizes. Even though Metro Richmond is a relatively small commercial market, there’s still every type of space imaginable. Making the wrong decision can actually hurt your business, so it makes sense to tackle it head-on. Think Gandhi with a little sprinkle of Bobby Knight – patience and grit pay off. And you should start by asking a lot of questions:

• Find a leader – Who will lead this effort within your organization? It’s a daunting task indeed, and it deserves a dedicated decision-maker willing to work through the pitfalls.

• Determine your space needs – Is your existing space too large? Too small? Inefficient? Too far from your clients? Outdated? Overpriced? Find your motivation and take action.

• Assess your business environment – How would you describe your office environment? Are you a big fan of collaboration, frequent dialogue, and teaming? If so you might prefer an open work environment rather than private offices. Do you rely on walk-in traffic or have frequent visitors throughout the day? If so, focus on high visibility locations, ample parking and a large enough reception area.

• Warm up your calculator – What is your budget? Be realistic and be honest with yourself about the company’s budget. Use the web to research how much commercial space costs in your desired locations, and don’t be afraid to call around to different broker professionals for their input.

Once you’ve completed the first phase, it’s time to get yourself aligned with a broker who can represent you in the process. Alternatively, you can represent yourself through the next steps, which include touring properties, developing a short list of your top two or three spaces, gathering offers (commonly referred to as Letters of Intent), negotiating and signing a lease.

While a few businesses choose to go without broker representation, most prefer the advantages of having an experienced professional to help them through each step.

This is usually when the Bobby Knight-like personality comes out in people. Negotiations have complex layers and it helps to have an expert broker working on your behalf to take the emotional, chair-throwing tendencies out of the process. If you do decide to take on the task yourself, here are a few things to keep in mind:

• Size does matter – Negotiating power is directly proportionate to the size of your office in relation to the size of the building. A small tenant in a large office building won’t have too much leverage over the ownership. That same tenant in a smaller office building, however, could get a better deal.

• Turn “deal-breakers” into negotiable points – For example, the ownership’s lease calls for a 5 percent annual escalation and you know the market escalation is 3 percent (which it is, by the way). That escalation rate seems like a deal breaker to you, but it is likely a negotiable point for the owner. If ownership insists on 5 percent, find another way around it – maybe ask for an increase in the tenant improvement allowance, or a reduction in the first year rental rate.

• Don’t be afraid to walk away.

• Ask questions until you get answers.

• Get everything in writing and make sure you and the ownership sign the same lease document.

Suzanne White is an associate who specializes in corporate real estate services, including office and industrial sales and leasing, with Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer. Contact her at (804) 697-3478 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).
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