Your business is ready for a change, and when the addition of a new potted plant and a motivation poster just doesn't t seem like enough anymore, it’s time to consider new premises.
Whether you’re a solo operator who no longer wants to work from home, or a thriving enterprise at the breach of a major expansion, every business owner has a similar checklist when it comes to their business’ new home.
As well established commercial property agents in London, we understand just what goes in to checking each of those boxes, and we’ve seen the same key themes come up for people, time and time again. We pride ourselves on our ability to find the perfect commercial premises for our clients, whatever business they are in, and in this article, we’ll take a look at each of their key themes in more detail.
Whether it’s a one man office, a warehousing facility, an office block or a retail shop, arguably the most important factor when assessing potential commercial premises is location.
Many business owners choose locations that are close to their own homes. After a period of commuting, either as employees or as their own bosses, they’d like the opportunity to get to and from work in the shortest amount of time possible.
Naturally this is not always practical, which is why the people at the forefront of the mind of the business owners are their customers, and this is particularly relevant when looking at a retail store.
First and foremost, can your customers actually reach you? If you’re a store selling smaller items such as clothing, it makes sense to position yourself where the majority of pedestrian traffic will be in that area. Shopping centres are the obvious choice here, although there are plenty of stores on the high street offering goods and services which might appear out of place inside such a centre – does that apply to you?
If you’re selling larger items, then people will need to get to you by car. Is the unit close to major road routes and is there adequate parking on site (we’ll take a look at layout a little later on).
It’s no secret that the high street has suffered due to the explosive growth of online shopping. If your business is more in that arena, then you’ll need warehousing facilities with the same goods access to road links to get your products to your customers as quickly as possible.
You may well be reading this and feeling that, as the owner and operator of an office, that these criteria don’t really apply to you. Whilst it’s true that your customers are unlikely to be visiting your offices on a daily basis, you do have the needs of your staff to consider.
Many of them will be commuters who prefer the use of public transport over several hours behind a wheel every day, so your proximity to rail links will be important. Thereafter, if the property is more than, say, one mile from the nearest station, then it would be best if it’s served by a local bus service as well.
You’ll also want to consider the welfare of your staff whilst they’re working for you, so try to find a commercial property that’s within less than a mile of places where your staff can find a place for lunch or a social drink after work.
Location also ties in neatly with infrastructure. Does the building have access to high speed data connections? How strong are the mobile phone networks’ signals? These may well seem like simple questions but if you’re in a sales office that can’t reach its customers quickly, you will lose business to the competition, so it’s important to check these things out.
Many commercial sites are presented as completely blank canvasses. In offices, all furniture will have been removed and, in some cases, all temporary partition walls removed to leave nothing but one large empty room.
Of course, you’ll be viewing this property with an eye for its potential and not its current aesthetic. If, like many, you struggle to see beyond the four walls with which you’re being presented, then it could be prudent to bring along an architect, interior designer, or both, to help you see the bigger picture.
The size of the property itself is important from a legal perspective. In the UK, employers of office staff are required, by law, to provide 11 cubic metres per active member of staff. Commercial buildings with other classifications do vary, but this figure serves as a good guide across the board.
If you’re moving because your business is at the cusp of an expansion programme, then it’s very important to take this figure into account at the earliest stages. More enterprising firms often invest in space that they will not need for at least two years and then sublet that space to other businesses. Of course this usually only applies to those firms who are buying the commercial property as opposed to renting it. Subletting is possible for many tenants and permission to do so is expressly given or denied in the terms and conditions of the lease, so it’s important to check first.
Layout for retail stores work in a different way, as many stores will be part of a nationwide chain who aims to offer a similar aesthetic across all of its branches. This can actually prove to be an incredible time saver for the would-be purchaser of a new commercial unit. There will be a set of brand guidelines to which all stores need to adhere, hence it will be very easy to take a look at a unit and decide if it’s going to be able to meet all of the brand’s criteria. There’s usually little room for error here, so if the commercial property is not perfect, it’s best to move on and look elsewhere.
If you’re interested in looking at more ways to optimise the space in a commercial property, we’ve produced a guide here about how to best design your shop once you’ve been handed the keys.
Commercial property comes with a classification for which types of business can operate there. These classifications run from A to D and there are sub categories within each of those.
A generally applies to retail, with A1 for shops, A2 for professional services like banks, A3 for restaurants and A4 for pubs. B is for general business, C is for hotels, hostels and dwelling houses and D is for non residential institutions such as churches and schools.
A commercial property’s classification can be changed, but this is a costly and time consuming affair. That’s why if, for example, a restaurant closes down in the high street, another restaurant will open up in its place.
There are instances when an entire national chain of stores closes down and where owners will want to maximise the potential to sell or rent their commercial property units as quickly as possible. At this stage, they may well factor in the cost of a classification change into the price of the property, which will instantly make it a more attractive proposition to a greater number of potential buyers.
It's important to consider just how the property will be used once you move in. Let’s say that you have been running a successful consultancy practice working from home. The business is ready to expand and you’re looking to take on a PA, and within a year your hopes are to have at least one more consultant on the payroll.
You find a unit which houses an open plan office, two private offices and a conference room. However, within the same geographical area, you find an open plan office with space to create 5 well apportioned work areas, except here, there is no conference room. However, this second property’s rent is lower as a result.
Is this a problem?
Chances are that it might not be. After all, your business has been working perfectly well without any premises at all. Whenever you’ve met with clients, it’s always been at their offices and that ties in with your style of consultancy very well. If you’re being truly honest with yourself, you don’t actually need a conference room at all. Yes, it would be nice to welcome clients to your premises but up until this point you have not needed to, so why would that change now?
All of which brings us neatly on to everyone’s primary concern – price.
The excitement of moving into new, and in many cases, one’s first business premises is an exciting one, but it’s very important to be conservative.
Property ownership comes with a wealth of additional expenses that it’s easy to overlook when the idea of moving first comes along. Business rates need to be taken into consideration, various insurance policies put in place, compliance audits carried out for anything from simple PAT testing of all electrical equipment to a complete health and safety audit.
The most modern and well equipped unit may well tick every single box, but it’s important to look at a range of properties across the entire spectrum of your available budget. You don’t have to opt for the most expensive premises, but you don’t have to go for the cheapest either.
All of these points are ones we will be able to help you consider at Prideview Properties. We are expert commercial property agents in London and can guide you through every stage of the process. If you would like help finding the perfect space for your business, please get in touch with us today.