What should a newly hatched consultancy consider when new offices are in the offing? These are the five top issues:
Access to facilities
Designers tend to seek economical, open-plan office spaces on the fringes of city areas. The essential element is light, and new consultancies have a tendency to choose buildings which have “a creative touch”, rather than a standard office building, according to Michael Boardman of chartered surveyor Cotton Thompson Cole.
A flexible lease is desirable. “It’s best to get one with a break option or an option to determine,” says Boardman. This is a lease where the tenant or landlord can give a period of notice. If you’re starting a new consultancy the ideal lease length is now around five years, whereas it used to be around 15 years. Rent increases can also be severe. “It’s crucial to build this option into the terms of transaction, though it can be a long process as landlords resist,” he explains.
Service charges can be a trap. The normal tenancy agreement is contracted on a full repairing and insuring basis, meaning the tenant is responsible for the maintenance of the building. In a multi-tenanted building the landlord will usually pay for repairs and set up a service charge. It’s vital to check that the service charge is well distributed at the start of the tenancy, focusing on areas such as the roof, lift and central heating system maintenance.
Graphics consultancy Attik Design has been well established in Huddersfield for more than ten years, but it broke new ground when it started up an office 18 months ago in Harrow. It’s now poised to move to Chiswick.
“Northerners like myself think Harrow is practically central London,” jokes managing director Simon Needham. “But Londoners have a prejudiced attitude to the 40 minute journey.”
Emperor Design Consultants opened in May, halfway between the City of London and Clerkenwell. “The central location was important,” says director Stephen Kemp. Amalgam, an umbrella group for 12 designers, chose Clerkenwell premises for the same reason.
Emperor does not have much office space, but hopes for expansion. “We’re open with clients and we tell them. I do think it’s important what you look like,” says Kemp.
Emperor puts facilities high on its priority list. “Print back-up was the main criterion, our work needs to be run off very fast,” explains Kemp. The consultancy set up in a studio adjacent to long-time associates 15/27, a typesetting firm with a 24-hour production facility. And Amalgam designers benefit from access to a meeting room, show room and photocopier.
Attik puts client impressions high on its priority list. “It’s nice, clean and respectable and has parking facilities,” says Needham, adding “it’s important that a client feels comfortable”.