The business impact of your startup office

When you’re setting up in business the luxury of expensive and decadent office space is sometimes out of reach, but you got to start somewhere even if its metal garages – but what impact does that have on your employees? Your clients? Or your overall brand image? There are lots of things specific to your choice of office that will have an impact on your business – you’ve just got to decide what’s important to you.

From the postal address to the colour of the walls, you might be surprised at quite how much your choice of workplace says about you.

What kind of operation are you?

Have you got a feel for how your business is going to operate? You might think that ‘business is business’ – but the recent trend in internet startups has proved that what some people might look at as a bunch of slacker students with laptops and a foosball table in a room – can actually be the beginning of a multi-million-pound business.

That said, if you’re a high-end management consultancy company, a dilapidated workshop with beanbags as chairs probably isn’t going to suit your style of operation, so think about what is.

There’s more at stake here than just how you decorate and choose your wall-art – the way you operate is going to influence the image that your workplace gives off.

Who’s going to be using your business?

Depending on the industry that you’re in, people being on your site might be a daily event – then again, it might be that you’re operating entirely online and you never see a non-work human! Thinking about what’s likely for you is where location becomes important.

You might be able to find cheaper premises on the outskirts of town – but what’s that going to do to your footfall? Are clients going to be as happy to come and see you if you’re off the beaten track? There’s no certain answer to this – but be sure to think about what location could do to people’s desire to come to your site (and whether you want them there at all!)

If you’re a retail setup – it’s also really important to think about your demographics. How many local people are there that’ll be interested in what you’re doing? Dig into the numbers here, the greatest location on the planet is only any good to you if there are people nearby who want your products.

Accessibility and parking

Attached to location is travel logistics – how will people be getting to you? What’s your proximity to trains, planes and car parking? They might not all apply – but if people need to get to you you’ll want to consider how they’re going to do it. The same applies to your staff – if you want to attract good people you’ll need to make sure their potential commute doesn’t put them off applying…

What does your address say about you?

You’d be amazed at the amount of people that will make a judgement about your business or service based on where you’re located. If you’re a tech startup with a hot Silicon Valley address then people are likely to assume you’re the next big thing – if you’re working from a basement in a little UK village you might not attract the same kind of excitement.

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That’s not to say this attitude is correct, massive multi-billion pound companies have come from garden sheds – and Silicon Valley sees daily closures of startups – we’re just talking about perception here. If it’s important to your brand that people think you’re providing an exclusive high-end service, think about finding an address and office space that reflects that!

Then again, if your portfolio of work needs no fancy address to back it up – why bother with the expensive location? You could save a small fortune if you opt for a less desirable postcode.

What is your décor doing to do to your workforce?

So – you’ve found the right address, decided on an appropriate tone for your brand – now it’s time to kit the office out. Are you tempted to replicate those quirky Google style offices with comfy sofas, interesting wall murals and day beds for your staff to take their daily brain-rejuvenating nap? Or do you want the clean business-like lines and edges you’d expect to see in a Wall Street hedge fund office?

There’s more to these decisions than taste. We’ve already talked about creating the kind of space that reflects the ethos of your company – now you’re going to need to balance that with the need to create an office that inspires work productivity.

Some of this decision is going to be dictated by the type of manager you are – do you mind seeing your team lounging on beanbags? Or does the idea of it instantly make you order people to their workstations? The best companies foster a kind of ‘family’ culture – where understanding and communication are at the forefront of everything that’s done. Like it or not, you’re the head of this family – so you’re going to want to lead by example in a setting that’s comfortable for you.

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What does your décor say to visiting clients?

While most people are going to be willing to overlook your postal address if your service seems right – very few clients will overlook an office that’s got hints of an unprofessional service. No matter how laidback and cool you want your product to appear, someone’s going to be giving you money to deliver a product – keep that at the front of your mind when you’re looking at creating your workspace.

If you’re going for the shabby-chic coffee shop vibe with Chesterfield sofas, taxidermy horns and a strict Converse and jeans dress code – make sure it’s well presented, the office is clean, bins are empty and workstations are in use. Again, looking for the sharp corporate office vibe? There’s nothing that says you’re blagging it like a sky-high pile of folders with their contents spilling out all over your desk!

Avoid risks!

The underlying message is this – your office can be anything you want it to be, but there are fundamentals that people expect to see if they’re going to be spending their hard-earned cash with you. Perhaps some people won’t mind – but lots will, why take any risks?

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