Congratulations. Your company is ready to graduate from the incubator or that humble office space on the other side of town. You’re ready to create an office space that stimulates collaboration, reflects your culture and maximizes work flow. But before you set your sights on space, take our advice: The entire process, from the real estate search to construction, can be challenging if you lack a plan or fail to engage the right people from the start. We’ve seen many growing companies make great decisions and take major missteps. Here’s some advice on what to avoid and how to have a successful and less stressful project.
Do know the future of your business, and don’t assume until you do your research.When it comes to creating a new office space, your intuition is not enough to drive an effective plan. One of the most helpful tools that will drive your success is a business plan. Why? A business plan will force you to think about your company’s potential in quantitative terms and will discourage you from making assumptions or emotional decisions. Think about your business model, consider your culture and don’t be afraid to make some revenue projections. You might come to realize that you need more private meeting areas and collaborative space; or less open space and shorter lease terms than you originally thought.
It’s smart to engage others early.Finding, designing and constructing a great new office space that considers your culture and operational processes is hard work, especially when you have a conservative budget. When you’re engaging partners, look for real estate professionals who have a high-level understanding of the process who can negotiate contract terms on your behalf. Aim to hire a design and construction team early, and look for chemistry and commitment. A good team will leave egos at the door and focus on value. Creating a new creative and budget-conscious workplace doesn’t just happen—it takes heavy collaboration, lots of cost estimating, multiple tradeoffs and many late nights.
Brace yourself for change.Contrary to what some might think, the planning, design and construction process is not linear. That’s why communication, collaboration and flexibility will ultimately make or break your project. It’s probable that your project team will need to accommodate a scope change even during construction. Remember that change in the construction industry can cost you, so make sure your general contractor has a process for communicating time lines and informing you of when the last responsible moment for making decisions is throughout construction. A savvy and proactive general contractor will be ready for change—and they’ll work with the architect and suppliers to give you flexibility without impacting your budget.
Know that hard wires are not always obsolete.A wired telephone system seems nearly obsolete these days, as many incubators and startups are solely relying on wireless. Unless your new building is equipped with a digital antennae system and holds a contract with multiple service providers, you can expect your employees to spend their valuable time asking “Can you hear me now?” instead of executing their work. Nothing is more frustrating than bad reception. Your new building should also have the infrastructure to support fast, reliable Wi-Fi. If it doesn’t, you might need to look elsewhere.
Don’t leave money on the table.If you’re not vigilant, it’s easy to leave money on the table. You could choose to convert an old warehouse into an office space and not consider the cost of code upgrades. You might forego investigating existing conditions before you remove carpet in favor of concrete flooring, and uncover asbestos. You might be inspired by the raw look of concrete floors and exposed ceilings, but you might not consider the importance of acoustics. All of these choices have the potential to greatly impact your bottom line. Great project partners will walk you through your options and care about your bottom line.
Some final thoughts.Remember, if you plan and engage project partners early, you’ll create more value. Giving yourself a little more time will allow you to explore multiple options and budget iterations. Having a limited budget does not have to stifle creativity, it can actually inspire creativity among your team.
By Andrew MacGregor and Clayton Edwards, Skender Construction
As seen on builtinchicago.com