15 Smart Office Space Questions to Ask

15 Smart Office Space Questions to Ask

15 Smart Office Space Questions to Ask

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Today I am speaking to the 15 Smart Office Space Questions to Ask (Link) before you make that final decision on your next office space. There are often long time gaps between changing office locations, so we forget a lot. Today may be the first time that you have rented office space. You may be unsure as to what key questions you should ask both yourself, your team and the new landlord.

In my article 5 Smart Business Office Space Ideas (Link), I spoke to the five smart business office space ideas you should be choosing between before you make your final decision on which type of office space is right for you at this stage of your company. Read this article for a complete picture of making the best decision on your next office space.

Why is Your Business Office Space So Important?

Choosing the right location to “go to work” each day can have a significant impact on the success of your business. If you make the wrong choice, you may:

  • Spend too much money
  • Lose productivity
  • Impact your ability to attract and retain Key Employees
  • Impact your ability to attract Key Customers
  • Not appear professional to Client
  • Make it hard to attract employees
  • Be too Big or too Small for your Needs
  • … and so much more!

I want to help you make the best decision you can, and that starts with 15 Smart Office Space Questions to Ask. Let’s get started!

Question #1: What is the Right Space for our Business Stage?

I coach that there are 4 Stages to every successful Business. The Idea Stage. The Build Stage. The Launch Stage. The Growth Stage. Each of these successful business stages has a different set of office space needs.

In the Idea Stage of your business typically only one to a few people are involved and likely part-time. Working from your homes and meeting in coffee shops will be all you need.

In the Build Stage of your business typically only a few people are involved and likely part-time. Again, working from your homes and meeting in coffee shops will be all you need in most cases.

In the Launch Stage of your business, you typically have a small team. Several will soon or have converted to full-time team members. Working from your homes and meeting in coffee shops is no longer working for you and your team. You need a committed space to work. If you are a retail business, then this is the stage when you open your doors to clients.

In the Growth Stage of your business, you typically have a full-time team, an office location that may be getting too small for your needs and a growing list of paying clients.

Related: 5 Smart Business Office Space Ideas (Link)

Question #2. Is this the Right Location for my Key Employees?

Attracting and retaining a great team is a big challenge for most company leaders. Working out of a spare bedroom, kitchen table, or coffee shop is not a great way to attract top talent. Neither is leasing a run-down space in a seedy part of town.

Top talent wants to feel positive about the company space they work in 8+ hours a day. High ceilings, good (and free) parking, great desks and chairs are a big deal.

If you want top employees, you need to have a great office space for them to work.

Related: 5 Smart Business Office Space Ideas (Link)

Question #3.  Is this the Right Location for my Clients?

Attracting great clients (non-retail) or lots of customers (retail) is key to every successful business. You are not sending the right message if you have to meet clients in a coffee shop or sell them your goods out of the trunk of your car.

Also, if most of your clients or customers are local, you want to have your business location as centric to them as possible. No client or customer wants to drive into a seedy part of town or a run-down building. No client or customer wants to go where there is limited parking. They don’t want to feel unsafe getting out of their autos because they see deadbeats hanging around abandoned buildings.

Pick an office space that fits the business impression you want to start every meeting off with – a smile!

Related: 5 Smart Business Office Space Ideas (Link)

Question #4. Does this Office Send the Right Signals?

My business experience is in starting and running high-technology companies. Not only did I have to choose my office space to meet the expectations of my Employees and Clients, but I also had to send the right signals to my Investors.

It would have been a mistake for me, and for most of you, to have an office space that was out of place, cost wise, to their expectations. If my Investors or Clients walked into our offices and saw $2500 chairs, $5000 desks and fancy art on the walls, they would not feel good about how we were spending their money.

No client wants to feel like their paying for your Porche or next home. Pick a business office space that sends the right signals to your customers, your employees and your investors.

Related: 5 Smart Business Office Space Ideas (Link)

Question #5. Does the Lease Term Match my Growth Expectations

Office space lease terms come in two common forms. Month-to-Month and multi-year leases.

If your company is not profitable, then find a space with a month-to-month lease or a lease term of 6-months or less, if possible. If the company runs out of money, the business owner is most likely personally responsible for continuing to pay the lease in full. I’ve seen many personal bankruptcies because of someone with a young company signing a multi-year lease.

If your company is one that may need to grow its space rapidly, then you also want a short-term (< 1-year) lease. You don’t want to be stuck paying for a business space that you have to leave when you outgrow it. This issue can be mitigated if you work with a building owner of many larger buildings that open up frequently and will include an out-clause allowing you to move into another one of their spaces on a 90-180 day written notice, or let you out of your current lease without penalty.

A long-term lease (1+ year) is a good deal if you know you will not need more space and the commercial market in your area is tight on space. Lease pricing in these tight supply market is likely to rise rapidly, and you don’t want to be priced out of your space when you lease comes up for renewal. Many leases contain annual price escalation clauses. Be careful with these clauses because they can lock you into 5+% annual increases even in a falling rental market.

Related: 5 Smart Business Office Space Ideas (Link)

Question #6. Would I consider sharing an office?

One overlooked office space opportunity that is overlooked by most solopreneurs and small teams is shared office space. A commonly overlooked office space might be a co-working office center. Another overlooked office space might be excess space that a bigger business is not using. Larger companies have excess offices that they would be opening to renting out on a month-to-month or longer-term basis. Most companies have never been asked if they are open to subletting office space, so they’ve never considered it.

If there is a business in an area of town that you like reach out and ask, you can use LinkedIn or simply walk up to the front door and ask to speak to the CFO or VP of Finance. CTFO’s are usually in charge of facilities and bringing in a few extra dollars a month is often an easy sell.

You often also get the upside of electricity, water, gas, maintenance, and internet all included in the monthly cost.

Related: 5 Smart Business Office Space Ideas (Link)

Question #7. Does the Parking meet the Needs of Both my Employees and Customers?

Parking is a key office space issue that is overlooked when searching for your office space. If you are in a crowded city, a single parking spot monthly rental can often equal a car payment!

Find out if your landlord will commit to some number of parking spots that will be included in your lease, especially if you are retail. Also, find out if these spaces will be painted with the name of your business so that your customers have a place to park.

For employees, try to get free or discounted parking near the office. If an employee has to pay to park to work for you, they are going to want 100% reimbursement or a higher pay rate to compensate for their parking costs. You might consider a bus, rail or subway pass that is heavily subsidized by your business as an alternative to mitigate parking issues.

Related: 5 Smart Business Office Space Ideas (Link)

Question #8.  Is the office ADA compliant?

Nothing looks or feels worse than having a client, a customer or employee who has an American with Disability Act (Link) condition face difficulties in accessing anything in your place of business. Not only is it embarrassing to most business owners and their employees, but you are also likely to face a lawsuit which you will most assuredly lose. Read the link in this section, but also make sure that a city business inspector inspects the business for compliance before you sign the lease. Get the compliance proof in writing from the city inspector so that should you still be sued. You want to have evidence that you cared enough to get a city inspection and passed. Also, check your lease and be sure insert a clause that the building owner is solely responsible for all ADA Compliance and that you are reimbursed should a lawsuit be brought against your business for a building-specific ADA Compliance issue.

Related: 5 Smart Business Office Space Ideas (Link)

Question #9. How am I Protected Against Lease Rate Increases?

Being protected against lease rate increases is another often overlooked issue in building leases. Typically if you sign a multi-year contract, there will be added language that defines the maximum and often the minimum annual lease rate increases. A sneaky way for a landlord to offer you a below-market first-year rate to close the deal while increasing the lease rate dramatically in years 2 through the end of the lease term.

Make sure that the following year rate make sense and you are not being suckered into signing a lease that you may not be able to afford in later years.

Related: 5 Smart Business Office Space Ideas (Link)

Question #10. Is Everything Discussed Included in Writing in the Lease?

Often office space leasing agents will say almost anything during the sales and negotiation process to close the deal. However, unless whatever they “promised” is written into the lease, they are not legally bound to anything they said. Virtually every lease has a paragraph dedicated to this fact.

Any promises that were given verbally I recommend the following method to make sure that they get into the written lease.

First, before the agent sends you a lease, send them an email. In the email have a numbered lists of each item they told you verbally or in other emails would be “in the lease”. Tell them that any lease they send you for review needs to have each numbered item in your email circled with a matching number in the lease they send and that neither you or your lawyer will review any lease that is not marked up manually in this manner. I have found that this will force them to add an addendum to the lease that lists all of their commitments or to come back to you to negotiate. I also find it helps to tell them up front that anything they tell you verbally is “part of the lease” you will hold them to by requiring an addendum in the lease you sign specifying each point. This tends to keep most agents more honest in what they tell you.

Related: 5 Smart Business Office Space Ideas (Link)

Question #11. Is Furniture Included in the Lease?

We’ve all been by the example office that as a model home is fully furnished. We may love the way it looks but will the office space we get look the same? Usually no. Most office space is bare of any furniture. But there is the worst situation.

The office space may come “fully furnished”. However, the furnishing in the office space your lease may be different and not to your tastes. Or, the furnishing may look good but not fit your needs over the term of the lease. What do you do if you need to bring in your furnishings? Often, you will find that your lease specifies (1) the furnishings may not be removed for any reason, or (2) you must pay extra to remove and store any furnishings the landlord provided. Union labor may be required to remove something a simple as a desk or bookcase and cost hundreds of dollars. The labor cost could possibly be more than the cost of the furniture.

Make sure that any furnishing you are shown it is spelled out whether your office space will have the same or not. Be sure that if you need to remove any furniture that the landlord is responsible for storage.

Related: 5 Smart Business Office Space Ideas (Link)

Question #12. Who Handles and Pays for Repairs and Maintenance?

You move into your new office space, and a week later the bathroom toilet overflows and floods part of your office space. Or perhaps the lights go out and resetting the breakers does not turn them back on. Who pays for repairs and maintenance?

In most cases, the answer is the tenant. Business insurance may cover some issues so speak with your business insurance agent in advance to find out what is covered and if there is added coverage you can buy for a fair price.

Also be sure to set aside a budget for simple things like light bulbs, bathroom items, clogged toilets and similar. Find a good local handyman who can handle all of these issues when they arrive and put them on your speed dial and make sure your office staff knows to call this person when you are out of the office.

Related: 5 Smart Business Office Space Ideas (Link)

Question #13. What if I sell my company during the lease?

Congratulations! You’ve had your big payday! Maybe. Did you make sure that your lease doesn’t contain a right to your landlord to “agree to a change in ownership”?

Yes, it is true. In some cases, there have been standard leases that have inserted a clause that gives the right to your landlord to agree to a “Change in Ownership” before the lease can be transferred to another entity. If your company is being absorbed into another company via you selling it, that clause will be triggered.

This clause was likely intended to prevent unscrupulous business owners from selling their company to a shell company after sucking out all of the valuable assets, then declaring bankruptcy. Yeah, people do that sort of stuff.

So, what can you do if the lease proposal in front of you has that clause in it? Negotiate. Yeah, even if you sell your company, you still have to pay for the lease. Here is where your real estate lawyer earns their keep. They can provide you with wording that neuters this clause with an addendum clause that only requires the acquirer to meet predefined creditworthiness standards and to sign the lease as the responsible party as part of your acquisition documents. Of course, the business’s new owners have to provide proof of business insurance and any other materials you had to provide the landlord when you originally signed the lease.

One important thing to not forget. If you signed a personal responsibility clause stating you were legally liable for the lease payments if the company did not pay, be sure that the resigned documents remove that personal obligation from the lease. The last thing you want to happen is to have your credit damaged or have to make lease payments on a building for a company that you no longer own, just because the acquiring company did not may a lease payment, or made a late payment.

Related: 5 Smart Business Office Space Ideas (Link)

Question #14. How Many Cars Drive by the Location? (Retail)

This issue is mostly related to retail businesses. If your business relies on a certain percentage of drive-by traffic, it is essential for you to know how much drive-by traffic there is for the office space location. If the traffic is light or non-existent, your business will suffer.

To find out these numbers, check with the city department of traffic. Each city maintains this information for a variety of purposes. One key reason is to determine how often a road will need to be resurfaced. Heavy trafficked roads require more frequent resurfacing. Lightly trafficked roads require less frequent resurfacing.

Related: 5 Smart Business Office Space Ideas (Link)

Question #15. What Happens if the Location becomes Uninhabitable

Fire, roof leaks, broken furnaces or air-conditioners. Damage from a runaway automobile. Lightning strike. Power loss. Any of these things can cause your office location to be uninhabitable. Who pays and what is the landlord responsible for doing to maintain an inhabitable building?

Who is responsible is a broad legal question? Sadly, it happens more frequently than you might think. If your employees can’t do their work or your customers don’t have ingress/egress to your business, you’re losing money. What should you do?

Step one is to be sure your lease spells out what your landlord is responsible for and what they are not. The latter part of this list you are liable for handling. In general, anything structural, excluding interior plumbing and lighting, your landlord will generally be responsible. So, if the roof leaks, the landlord will get the roof fixed and cleaned any carpet or flooring related damage. If the roof leak damages your furniture or electronics, your business insurance will cover those issues. Your business insurance may go after the landlord for reimbursement for those damages, but you are out of the picture on those background issues.

Step two is to contact your landlord by phone, email and by registered letter and let them know there is a problem as soon as you are aware of an issue. If this an experienced and good landlord, they will immediately take action to handle anything that their lawyers have previously told them they are responsible for handling. If you have an unscrupulous landlord, this is where your business insurance representative and real estate attorney will come to your aid.

Related: 5 Smart Business Office Space Ideas (Link)

Conclusion:

Whatever your decision, be sure to revisit my two articles 15 Smart Office Space Questions to Ask (Link) and 5 Smart Business Office Space Ideas (Link) whenever there is a change in your business. The wrong business space can be very costly in ways that exceed the direct cost of the space. Make sure you have the correct business space for your needs at all times.

For me, with a two-person company that does Executive Coaching, Website Design, Development, Maintenance, Security and Hosting, plus I am writing a series of books, I chose a Business Club as my correct decision. If you consider a Business Club a viable choice for your business, I encourage you to check out Club Corp (Link). Club Corp has over 300 clubs worldwide so no matter where you are, there is likely a Club Corp property nearby that you can use, even when traveling.


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Learn More About Me: https://linkedin.com/in/kennethervinyoung (Link)

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