When it comes to planning an office move, no matter what size of company you are, it always pays to give yourself as much time as possible. The old adage of being able to have two of good, cheap or fast, but never all three, holds true in commercial property– if you expect it fast, you’ll either be sacrificing price or quality. It’s not unheard of to be able to complete an office relocation within a month of starting a search, but it’s not something we’d advise. Where possible, we recommend a minimum of three months, but ideally six -9, from deciding to make the move to getting the keys. For most organisations, that means working back from the end of the lease on their current office.
But why does it take that long? It’s a question we’re often asked. The short answer is that, broadly speaking, there are sixteen steps to take. The longer answer is that the market for commercial property leases bears little resemblance to its residential cousin, which is most people’s frame of reference.
Before you get to that stage, however, you need to understand each step of the way. Those 16 steps can be grouped into three phases – brief and search, lease negotiations and fit out and move.
Brief and search
It all starts with the brief – what do you want, how big do you want it, and where do you want it. Be clear on why you’re looking for an office, and what your prerequisites are, whilst keeping an open mind that your desirables may not be feasible at a price you’d like.
Next, it’s time to compile a list of suitable options, based on your brief. That requires a variety of means and methods including knowing the market, combing through databases, speaking to landlords, using agent contacts and simply having your ear to the ground.
Once you have your list it is time for viewings. This will be an initial tour of all the offices that meet your requirements in some shape or form. Very quickly, you’ll get a feel for the offices that have potential and the ones that aren’t fit for your purposes. That then leads to the second viewing of the prime candidates – you’re aiming to end up with two or three spaces which you could see yourself working in.
Time required for all of this? About six weeks.
Notice that we’ve moved on to the negotiation stage whilst still having multiple candidates. You need to have the choice because obstacles can still appear as you start negotiating – from the extent to which you can fit out the space to the situation regarding broadband access, different issues can pop up which weren’t immediately apparent. As you progress with the negotiations, you’ll soon find one or two of your choices fall away, until you’re left with the one that is likely to end up being your new office.
Then it starts to get technical – we negotiate with the landlord to agree Heads of Terms and go through all the minute details to make sure you aren’t left with any nasty surprises months or even years into the lease. There can be as many as 10+ legal documents to agree, and knowing how to negotiate and when to agree to certain elements can be a tricky balancing act. Time to celebrate once you have an agreed, signed lease? Not quite yet – there’s still up to ten weeks left before you can move in.
Fit out and move
As the lease negotiations come to an end, your attention needs to turn to fit out. It’s advisable to agree what you can and can’t do with the space as early as possible – this gives you more time to find and appoint a contractor to carry out the work and, if the size of the job demands it, appoint a project manager. You won’t be able to start anything until the lease is agreed, but it’s always best to have as much agreed ahead of time as possible.
Once you’ve signed for everything, then your contractor can get to work. As with any building work, projects can overrun, but ideally, you’d be looking at up to two months of work. In that time, you’ll need to be working on your office move.
Finally, as the work completes, you can book in your removal team and start closing your previous office, if required. Then it’s time for the physical office move, installing your staff and being ready to go from day one.
Ready to start?
Obviously, these timings are just guides – you might find the perfect office at the right budget with an accommodating landlord. In our experience, however, it’s best to overestimate how much time you’ll need. It might seem a bit contradictory, but carefully planning an office move can actually save you time once it’s all done – if everything has been properly prepared and thought through, not only will the search, negotiations and move be as seamless as possible, but you’ll save time after all is complete trying to fix problems or make the best of a bad situation that could have been avoided in the first place.
With you every step of the way
This may sound complex, but it doesn’t need to be. We work with businesses to take away the pain of finding and securing new office space by advising them at every stage, from initial brief and negotiations to collecting the keys.