Looks are important in business. Everyone understands this simple fact. But how important are looks with regard to office space? Is the aesthetic value of an office a tangible thing?
Companies live and die by branding and image. If you’ve got clients coming to your reception area and rolling their eyes at the décor, you’re not going to survive. The same could be said for potential employees – the top talent isn’t going to want to work in a dull space.
Therefore, it’s important to take the time to make your office more than just a row of desks. The key is to do so without spending a fortune, and this is often difficult. Upgrades cost money, so it’s good to know shortcuts and what pitfalls to avoid.
Upgrading Space on a Budget
Simply put, your office design should motivate you and your employees. Colors need to pop, furniture has to look relatively new, and there should be enough space for everyone to have their own personal areas. You can adequately outfit a space without breaking the bank, and the first place to save is on the actual physical property.
Generally speaking, you want to build up equity before making any significant purchases in terms of retail space or properties. Once you’ve established a profitable business, then you can begin to look to actually invest in some real estate. Until then, sit down and examine what type of space would work for your company.
Starting with a bare bones space isn’t ideal, but living on the cheap for a couple of years will really open up the possibilities down the line. If you plan on requiring some warehouse space early on, try and find a property that has room for growth or open floor plans. Older properties can often accommodate such a layout, so look into properties that have seen better days. You can also rehab these spaces with relative ease – having a low bar for improvement is one of the best ways to feel good about your office! Find an old warehouse located in a cool and upcoming area, put some work in, and you will have a great space in no time.
Location, Location, Location
Does your business require employees that are more likely to live in a city? If you need coders, developers, or highly regarded account people, you’re going to have to pay a little extra and locate the business near the city center or at least near a transportation hub. The best talent is going to congregate near the downtown area of any major city, so you’re going to have to sit down with a map and rule out anywhere that’s not within a quick commute.
If your office is accessible by public transportation, your company should be able to attract top talent. Millennials often don’t have cars (relative to other population segments), but they frequent bus and train lines. If you can get a better and cheaper spot 20 minutes outside of the center of the city, and it’s accessible by public transportation, you should be all set!
If your workforce isn’t as specialized, you can find low-end help in most areas, and you won’t need to splurge on a top-shelf location. Try to find a middle ground, as you should be able to find a bargain outside of the city without locating all the way out in the sticks.
Some of the cheaper offices are located in areas with chaotic surroundings, and others may have landlords or realty companies that lack any semblance of professionalism or standards. You don’t want to work next to a construction site, so be sure to visit the spot several times before making any decision. You need to strike a balance between comfort and practicality – if you can live with some noise and a slight hassle, take the cheaper spot that’s got thin walls and audible hammering.
Be Your Own Contractor
With a rare exception, keeping the overhead costs down is more important than finding prime office space. Sure, you want a great spot, but it’s better to find a cheap space and build it into something great. If you don’t have the money to do so, energy and time can make up for any lack of capital. Elbow grease goes a long way. Spend a weekend scraping and painting, or tear up the old rug and bring a little color into the space.
You don’t want to be the cheapest CEO of all time, however. If you are installing a new carpet, make sure it’s nice enough to last a couple of years. You don’t want to have more duct tape visible than the actual carpet! Also, don’t consider bringing furniture in from home! Although it may look nice, most home furniture isn’t designed to handle the rough and tumble office environment. Go to an auction – here you can find great deals and still get sturdy and purposeful products!
It’s possible to do most of the design and construction work yourself in your office. The only room that you may need a professional for is the reception area – a poorly decorated or maintained reception area can be a HUGE turn off to clients and prospects.
The same could be said for the space that’s set aside for higher-end or highly stressed employees. Your salespeople are going to bat for you and facing constant rejection – you should carve out an upbeat area for them.
Remember, as a small business owner, you’re going to be at the office… A LOT. Make it your home. Put some time and effort into making it cozy, and enlist the help of your employees. Making everyone do some manual labor around the office could be a great teambuilding exercise, and a welcome break from daily tasks.
Bob Adams is a serial entrepreneur and the founder of BusinessTown.com.