So, you want to open up a London office.
Whether you already have offices elsewhere in the UK or not, setting up shop in London is a huge decision. Rents are high, commutes are long and working 9-5 is virtually unheard of in a city full of young professionals looking to work hard and play hard.
Luckily, you would also be opening an office in a city that’s currently the top financial centre in the world. An office in London means rubbing shoulders with some of the world’s biggest and most successful companies, with the turnover of the city’s private sector business economy estimated at around £1.1 trillion.
Finding your business’s place in the capital can be a challenge, so here are four things you should keep in mind while searching for that all-important London space.
Office space is highly competitive
Finding the perfect office space in London without a fight is somewhat akin to a golden goose wandering unannounced into your living room.
It is important to go into the process armed equally with knowledge, scepticism and realism. Compromises will be made, promises might be broken and if a workspace looks too good to be true then it probably is.
Rushing into an office can be as risky as dawdling too long on a decision over a property that seems like it might be the one. A good tactic might be to set up shop in a serviced office while you hunt for appropriate permanent space for your employees.
Not only will you gain an insight into how your business copes while your employees are working in an unfamiliar place, you will also get to test-run the move into your eventual permanent office.
Serviced offices have experienced a rapid rate of growth over the past decade. Some, such as EasyOffices, have even ventured into the mythical business no-man’s land that is South East London.
Don’t focus on the ‘it’ location
For SMEs in particular, a move to London might symbolise a move into one of the city’s trendy, up and coming areas. Finally, you might think, a chance to skateboard to my office wearing cut-off jeans without fear of judgement.
In recent years Shoreditch has come to epitomise the alternative office scene for many in the capital. But, as this passionately written Telegraph article puts it: “Shoreditch is a formula, a brand. It’s as much a part of mainstream consumer culture as iPhones and Sky TV and as global as Starbucks.”
If you’re serious about your business then you want it to last, long beyond the fleeting London-wide obsession with hipsters, soy lattes and being ironic ironically.
Take time to look at the facts of any potential office spaces. Look at how convenient it will be for your employees and how much you might be asking them to pay for travel (particularly if you choose a location further afield than Zone 1 and Zone 2).
Look at the measurements, the facilities in and around the building and consider any work that you might need to carry out before the business can be up and running.
Once the practical considerations have been well and truly chewed over, then it’s time to worry about the cultural perception of the area. Location is important, but it isn’t everything.
Leave room for expansion
One of the practical considerations that should remain first and foremost in your mind should be the potential for expansion in the spaces you view.
This doesn’t mean buying a 10,000sqm warehouse for a company with four employees, but it can be expedient to have room to accommodate new team members if the need arises.
Whether you’re moving your business to London, opening up a new office or opening an office for the first time, you wouldn’t be making the commitment if you didn’t hope and expect your business to grow.
Size isn’t everything
Standing in the shadow of Canary Wharf skyscrapers is enough to make any employer feel slightly intimidated.
While it may feel like London is jam-packed with business behemoths – it does have its fair share – it’s also important to remember that 98 per cent of the city’s businesses are SMEs.
With the explosion in tech companies and tech-savvy companies in the city (one fifth of the UK’s tech companies are based in London), most businesses can punch well above their weight in the national and international sphere.
Ultimately, wherever your business chooses to set down roots in London, what matters most is what happens within the four walls of the workspace you’ve chosen to call home.