EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 22, 2009

When evaluating location, review 'SPACE'

By Bruce Freeman

First-time small-business owners, or those looking to relocate to increase space or save money, will find that now is a great time to be in the market for office space.

Some landlords have more available space right now due to the sluggish economy, which means they may be more willing to make a deal.

That's excellent news for prospective tenants, since office space is typically the second largest business expense behind employee salaries.

But, according to Sande Golart, an office expert with Regus, a worldwide company that provides flexible office solutions to more than 400,000 people daily, cost is only one factor to consider when evaluating office space.

Golart encourages business owners to review their "SPACE" — savings, productivity, address, clauses and expansion — to help ensure they're getting the right office space.

First, Golart says, look for ways to save.

If a traditional lease, which typically lasts five to 10 years, makes sense, negotiate a smaller up-front deposit, which usually consists of six months of rent or up to half of the total cost of the lease. Businesses also can save up to 60 percent on office space costs by using ready-to-work space that includes furnishings, most office equipment and maintenance.

Next, consider productivity, Golart advises.

Many business owners want employees to work in the same place at the same time, but the best office space helps employees be productive — which may mean not working in an office at all. Review which employees have to be at a physical office, and who can telecommute from home or a shared office space location. This can help save on overhead by reducing the amount of space needed.

Third, Golart says, think about your address.

A Park Avenue address in New York adds a level of prestige to your business that's hard to calculate in dollars. But leasing traditional space in those key business districts may be cost-prohibitive. Consider using a virtual office instead to obtain a Pennsylvania Avenue address in Washington, D.C., or an "office" in Rockefeller center.

Another important step is to read your contract clauses, Golart advises.

Not understanding the fine print in your leasing contract could mean unwelcome and unexpected fees at a later date. Clauses can dictate everything from when rent is due, to limitations of use, and your maintenance obligations. Be sure you read and understand all clauses before signing on the dotted line.

Finally, Golart says, don't forget about expansion.

If your business changes drastically, will your space change with you? Ask your potential landlord about what options exist to expand, or shrink, your space should the need arise. Depending on the answer, you may want to explore other leasing options, such as subleasing or shared spaces.

Bruce Freeman is president of ProLine Communications, a marketing and public relations firm in Livingston, N.J.