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Serviced Offices

More and more SMB owners are moving into serviced offices, search saving themselves time, energy and money that’s better spent on growing their business.

There comes a time in the lifecycle of any successful small business when – like a teenager yearning for freedom – you’ll need to ‘move out of home’. However, for thousands of small business owners, it’s just not that simple.

The ongoing costs of renting and securing your own premises can be a major overhead, with the distinct possibility that the new-found expense could be the catalyst for financial issues down the track. Similarly, there are some small businesses that never get to the stage where a dedicated business premises is feasible – but whose owners do need somewhere to go to get their business done. Add to that the burden of trying to expand your business interstate without setting up another shop… and it becomes fairly clear that getting your own office set up can be a lengthy, expensive task. If this sounds like you, we have some good news.

There is an option that many small business owners often overlook when it comes time to expand operations – and that is to secure what’s known as a ‘serviced office’. To an outsider, it looks for all intents and purposes like your own place of business – and, depending on how much you’re looking to outlay, they can come with all the trimmings that you’d expect from a major corporate environment – or a much larger business. Nett spoke to several experts in the serviced office industry, and got the good oil on why they’re rapidly becoming the avenue of choice for expanding small businesses around Australia.

Big Benefits Arguably the major benefit of using
a serviced office to keep your business growing is that a lot of the hard yards involved in getting an office space set up have already been done. “A serviced office allows small business owners to move in and plug in on the same day with the majority of costs included in one flat rate monthly amount,” says Hayley Davis, Operations Manager for Asian Pacific Serviced Offices.

For that, Hayley says, tenants can expect to get themselves a fully furnished office, professional reception service with overflow telephone answering and message handling. Asian Pacific Serviced Offices also include Complimentary tea, coffee and water for clients and visitors and office maintenance and weekly housekeeping in its fees, and you’ll never need to worry about electricity bills, Body Corporate rates, Council rates or Water rates either – as they are all covered in the monthly rates, too. As an added sweetener, Asian Pacific Serviced Offices 24 hour access to the building including the Gym.

There are, of course, considerable cost savings to be found by using a serviced office, says Jennifer Miller, General Manager of Clarence Professional Offices (CPO). “Up to 80 percent savings can be realized if a small business (usually less than six people) uses CPO instead of traditional space,” Jennifer says. “The savings are largely in the resources, CPO will provide a receptionist to greet your clients and answer your calls so you don’t have the expense of a full-time employee.”

The savings extend well beyond staffing costs, Jennifer adds. “There is no dead space in the leasing of meeting, kitchen and reception areas as these are provided by CPO and shared. You only pay for your private office space, yet benefit from an expansive reception and open space area.”

Jennifer also points out that a benefit to using a shared space that many small business owners simply don’t consider when looking at the options for a new business premises – and that is the fact that within a serviced office environment, you could be working closely with a number of other small business owners at similar stages of business growth.

Having business neighbours so close by provides “networking, interaction, business support, motivation and therefore the potential for referrals,” Jennifer says. “It is much more motivating to be surrounded by successful business professionals in an office environment than working in your kitchen alone.”

What to look for
In the same way your small business is unique, so are the requirements that you’re likely to have when it comes to getting the office space you want. There are, however, a number of basics that the experts all agree should be high on your list when it comes time to enquire about renting a serviced office yourself.

Top of that list of questions should be “what flexibility do you offer in terms of my ability to upgrade my office?”, says Hayley Davis. Flexibility to deal with growth of your business is something that every small business should be looking to embrace. After all, there’s nothing worse than being on the cusp of a major breakthrough with your small business, only to be held back at the crucial moment by inadequate premises to cope with any new members of the team.

Naturally, you should also be finding out what’s included in your monthly payment. The list of inclusions should be made available to you, and – as with anything business-related – should be checked thoroughly to make sure that the arrangement will suit you and your business needs. Other costs to consider, and which should be made very clear before you sign on the dotted line, are any up-front or start-up costs – and you should also be clear on what happens once your initial term is concluded.

Check whether there’s a roll-over clause in the agreement, which would allow you to move to a more flexible month-to-month arrangement if you desire – or whether you would need to sign up to another fixed-term agreement. “Don’t be afraid to ask around to find out what other clients think of the serviced office arrangements,” says Jennifer Miller. “Plus you should enquire about the networking and business development services that the company might offer as well.”

IT on deck!
One of the major benefits of most serviced office offerings is access to sophisticated IT and office solutions, many of which would be otherwise out of reach of the average small business. “We have Fibre into our building providing us with incredibly fast internet. Clients can use a cable or connect via the wi-fi anywhere in the floor,” Jennifer says. “We also have a full-time IT person on-site and he is definitely the most popular team member. Additionally, we provide VPN setup, Data Backup and Recovery Solutions, Server and Hosting Solutions, Website Design and Development.”

It’s not just connectivity benefits that arise from a shared office space. It is often the case that top-shelf, high-performance office equipment is beyond the reach of the average small business. However, in a shared space, the opportunity exists – and, in many cases, it’s totally necessary – to make sure that the day-to-day equipment such as printers and copiers are up to scratch, and able to service the volume of work sent their way. The benefit to each client in the shared office is that they will find themselves utilising much better equipment than they might be able to install in their own small office.

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