Amanda Lim has helped to find businesses of all sizes their ideal office spaces – she knows everything there is to know about getting a productive search underway. Here, she talks us through the top questions she asks clients when they’re in the early stages of seeking new space.
How long can you commit for?
I want to know all about your business plan. Do you think you can forecast headcount for the next 12-24 months? What about even further than that? This is really important because if you can confidently forecast headcount for five years, we’ll recommend you look at a traditional space – it’ll be cheaper in the long run. If you can commit to a traditional space, we’re all for it – we’re not going to try and force flexible space if it’s not right for you. That’s the beauty of being able to draw on the wider expertise of Knight Frank. If commitment is an issue, your headcount is changeable and you can’t accurately and confidently write a business plan beyond two years, then yes: let’s go flexible.
We tend to help clients narrow down what kind of space they’re looking for by getting to know a bit about their culture
How many desks do you need?
We always specify desks rather than people because lots of companies allow agile working. We want to know the maximum number of people that will be in the office at any one time, rather than the total headcount. Think about whether having a dedicated desk for each person is really important. If it isn’t, you’ll cut costs; if it is, at least you’ve considered it in advance.
Where do you want to be?
It’s fine to keep an open mind about your location but it really does help to have a preference or two. Our area guides will really help if you’re still in the process of narrowing it down.
Some things to think about: Where do your colleagues commute from? Where are your meetings usually held? If they’re held at your place, where are your clients based? You don’t want to habitually ask people to travel a long way. Then there’s the big north-south divide to consider – do you flat-out refuse to go north or south of the river? That’s fine – any kind of preference will help us target your search.
What's your budget?
How much have you allocated? It doesn’t matter whether you measure it per annum, per month, per desk, or whatever, it just helps to have a number in your head. If you really don’t want to budget in advance because you want to see what’s out there, that’s fine, but then you definitely need an area preference (as above), or you’ll be overwhelmed with options.
We occasionally have startups coming from overseas who aren’t sure where they want to be or how much they want to spend, in which case we recommend our area guides and we have some extra information we can share, too. Generally, people quickly see that – although London is very spread out these days – if they’re a financial company they might want to be in Canary Wharf or the City, if they’re a hedge fund they might want Mayfair, and if they’re tech-based they might choose Farringdon, Shoreditch or Soho.
What's your office culture like?
Every company has a culture, even if you’re not particularly aware of it. We tend to help clients narrow down what kind of space they’re looking for by getting to know a bit about their culture – this helps us determine which of our providers will be the best fit.
For instance, we find that more mature businesses often need privacy and might not view the idea of collaboration as fundamental to success. Family offices tend to want to be in Mayfair because prestige is important. And creative agencies need creative environments, with break-out spaces, winding staircases and room to showcase what they do.