As your start-up business begins to take off, working from a home office may no longer be an option, and you require professional office space. You know that you need enough space for you and your current employees, but you might need a little more for a few additional staffers that may be full-time or part-time.
1. Location, location, location? Just where is the office space you are considering located? Is it a convenient location that your staff and customers can easily get to? (see our blog on office location) You need to know if it is close to mass transit and accessible by local buses and if there are bicycle routes nearby. Why the bicycle routes? Statistics show that more and more people in major centres are commuting by bicycle – and cities like Toronto are putting a lot of money into developing dedicated bicycle lanes and paths to accommodate this growing need.
2. What office and nearby amenities are available? If you are considering a serviced office, there may be some amenities that will save you time, money and stress. Not having to worry about keeping up with printer and photocopier maintenance, while only having to pay for what you use, is a major benefit. But what else does serviced office provide? Are the offices furnished, internet-ready and connected to a central phone system? Is there free coffee and tea, as well as a refrigerator to keep your lunch or snacks or a microwave to heat them up? Besides office amenities, what is nearby? You will want to know about local restaurants, coffee shops and maybe pubs, so that you and your staff can grab lunch or maybe entertain a client. Other amenities you might also want to know about are local hotels, attractions and airports for out-of-town client visits. (Telsec is across the road from the Harbor Castle Weston, there are plenty of restaurants along the harbourfront, and the Billy Bishop Airport is a 10-minute taxi ride away).
3. What’s the lease term of the office? Not knowing if you are gong to have growth or a reduced need for the amount of space you are initially renting, you want to make sure that you are not locked into a five-year or ten-year lease that is not flexible. This is more reason to consider renting serviced office space at a business centre that does not require a lease, but month-to-month renting. If you find you need more space, they will be able to offer you additional offices or a larger team space, without having to change your address or telephone number.
4. Can I terminate the lease? If you do go with a traditional office space lease and you outgrow or need to downsize, you need to know if you can get out of the lease, or if you can sub-lease it to another company. Finding this out before you sign that long-term lease is very important. If you can get out of the lease, what are the penalties and what are the conditions that you need to get the space back to before vacating? If you are able to sub-let, you are still on the hook for the rent and any damages that your tenant causes.
5. What security deposits or corporate guarantees are required to get started? It is not uncommon for commercial landlords to require office-space deposits that are equal to the amount of rent that would be paid for a number of months, thus tying up cash that you could be using to run your business. You can sometimes get a letter of credit from your bank for a deposit, but this also ties up the amount of credit that your lender can offer you.
6. How flexible is the office space? Your need for more office space or less office space may change within a year of taking that space, but you do not want to make a major move or relocate. You need to know if there are available options within the same floor or building to add additional space or to relocate when needed. Again, with an office business centre (where you have a short-term rental agreement and not a lease), there are often plenty of options to move within the facility to various sized and configured office spaces, without having to change your business address.
7. What is the parking and bicycle rack situation? You, your staff or your visiting clients may not take public transportation and may require parking for a car. So knowing the availability on-site is important. Whether the car parking is on-site or nearby, be sure to ask about the daily and monthly fees. More an more commercial office buildings are increasing the amount of bicycle racks they have, but many struggle to keep up with the demand created by my more people commuting by bicycle. Another important thing about bicycle racks is the security of their location. You may want to ask if there are security cameras monitoring the bicycle racks. What if your staff or guests do not own their bicycles or cars, but use bicycle and car-share programs? You should ask where the nearest stations are. With Telsec being at 1 Yonge Street, there are a few Car2go locations within walking distance – and a Bicycle Share Toronto rack is only a few hundred metres from the building.
8. What are the office layout options? You will most likely want to know the various configurations of space – both to maximize the number of staff the space can accommodate and to check the flexibility of changing the layout. What options that are the best fit for your budget? Are their less expensive interior offices available? Maybe you need some private or semi-private offices for management and some additional team space for collaborative employees? Can you get both types of office spaces at the same facility?
9. What is the security situation for the building? Does the building have around-the-clock security, or does it just have security guards during regular business hours? Do you have 24-hour access 7 days a week to your office space, whether it be by security guard granting access or a card/fob method? Most buildings with card/fob access also restrict the floor that the elevator stops at during non-business hours. You may also want to know if the security guards are able to walk female staff to their cars if they are working late and there are fewer people around. Ask the agent how many CCTV cameras are monitored by the building security staff.
10. How clean and well maintained is the building? Are janitorial services included with the rent, or will you need to hire an outside company to take out the garbage and vacuum the carpets? More importantly, do they only allow you to use their preferred cleaning company? What about the climate controls within the office space? Do you have your own controls of heating and air conditioning? How often is the HVAC system serviced and cleaned? When a maintenance problem does occur, who is responsible to fix it and how long will it take to get a response? The last thing you need is to have an electrical problem in part of your office. The longer it will take to get action, the more potential money it could cost your start-up business.
Conclusions. While these questions are important and some may be obvious, do not be afraid to ask more in-depth questions. There are never any wrong questions to ask! Because if it is something that has you wondering, you should get answers for it. The agent you deal with may not have the answer, but take it as a good sign if they say they will look into it and get back to you right away.