4th July 2019
My Office is a Squash and a Squeeze!
Ever read the Julia Donaldson book "A Squash and a Squeeze" to your kids? No? In it, an old woman complains about living in a tiny house. She meets an old man, who tells her to take in a different animal every day. Before long, there's a goat chewing the tablecloth and a cow dancing on the table.
I think you can tell where this is going. Once she clears the animals out, the old lady realises the house is “weeny for five, but gigantic for one”. Then she starts dancing about, presumably atop the remains of her tablecloth.
If you’ll pardon the animalistic analogy, this has been Cargo for the past year or so. About that long ago, we reached the conclusion that we needed a bigger premises. We had grown from a team of 5 to 9 and the existing office was starting to become pretty cramped.
Moving a few desks into the back room didn’t really help, and I never caught a dev dancing a jig in the main studio in my absence. “A Squash and a Squeeze” rhymes nicely and has a solid moral component to it but it doesn’t really ring true when space is truly needed.
Anyway, I somehow ended up volunteering myself to manage this whole “find a new office” malarkey, and a year or so later, I wanted to share what I’ve learned, and bring attention to my five big learning curves. If you’re considering moving offices, entering into your first commercial lease, or teetering over whether you really need the space – this blog post is for you.
1 – Check your current lease and start looking for your new space as early as you can.
Listen, the moving process is going to take a lot longer than you expect it to – I certainly never anticipated it taking over a year for us to get to where we are now.
You need to factor in time for a billion different things – from simply searching for a premises, to viewings, to actually moving, as well as any refurbishment work that might need doing. Trying to juggle this and work can be difficult, so make sure you have the flexibility to manage both or you’re going to struggle!
2 – Look anywhere and everywhere… Don’t be picky.
You need space, and you never know who might be coming to the end of their lease or downsizing into a merged office. Speak to everyone you know and let them know you’re on the lookout for new premises.
Register with all the property websites but be aware of the numerous marketing calls you will get. And don’t be afraid to look into council buildings! Rent is cheaper and you might find somewhere more central than you’d get otherwise.
3 – Do your preparation.
Work out the exact size you need (taking into consideration how the business is projected to change), the area you want to be in, the length of lease you would be prepared to take, and most importantly – the type of space you need and want.
Do you want an open plan office or smaller multiple areas? Do you need a meeting room? A separate board room? A staff room? What kind of storage space are you looking at?
I found when viewing properties that although some spaces were advertised at a particular size it very much depended on the shape and type of space as to whether they were truly big enough – lots of places had loads of unusable space.
4 – On that note… be prepared to view lots and lots of places, and don’t underestimate the time this is going to take!
This was completely new to me, so I viewed everything from serviced offices to warehouse spaces. Once I’d seen a few, it really helped me visualise and confirm what we wanted.
5 – Don’t rule out spaces that require a bit of refurbishment and TLC.
Our new office had been empty for a number of years before we moved in, and was subsequently in desperate need of refurbishment.
Walking in now, you really couldn’t tell! We looked beyond what was a dirty and outdated space and envisioned what it could be. We also had an excellent refurbishment company and electrician who carried out all of the work for us to make the space what it is now and we couldn’t be happier with the results.
And it wasn’t nearly as much hassle as I thought it would be – seeing our vision come to life day by day was an incredible experience and we now have a space that is bright, airy, and somewhere we are proud to show and receive our clients.
So, if you’re looking for new office space, remember my five learning curves. And remember – if your office is a “squash and a squeeze”, you don’t need to bring a cow in. You need to move.