‘We were two guys just starting a recruitment business and we had an absolute nightmare trying to find suitable space for the right price,’ he says. ‘It was then we thought there was a niche in the market. Years later we changed our line of business based on that experience.’
When they started out, the pair were clients of Regus, the serviced office company. Then in 2002 Regus suggested that Venables and Hayward should go into business as brokers between small businesses and the array of companies that run the UK’s business centres.
OVERHEADS UNDER PRESSURE
Venables says that businesses looking for serviced office accommodation face an array of dilemmas. Many will want to keep start-up costs down and will often have no experience of looking for office accommodation.
‘A lot of the time we are talking about one- or two-man bands who have to keep their overheads to a minimum,’ says Venables. ‘They are like Andy and I were. We did not know what represented a good deal in serviced offices and what things we should be insisting on for our money.
‘When you are starting a business, which most people looking for serviced office accommodation are, it can be a very daunting prospect that can have a big impact on your bottom line if you get it wrong.’
Venables says that occupiers should consider a short-term and flexible notice period that will allow them to take the space they need but with the option to expand if necessary.
They should also find out whether services such as access to meeting rooms and administration support for video-conferencing are included in the rental price or treated as extras that are paid for on an ad hoc basis.
In addition, prospective tenants should consider public transport links, local amenities, leisure facilities and car parking provision. This can be particularly important when clients are visiting the offices.
‘Instead of jumping in feet first and taking the first available office space, it is important to make sure that the location is right. It is things like that which will make or break a business,’ says Venables. ‘Take your time and do your research.’
However, this can sometimes provide problems for the business centre managers. Venables has had to entertain some unusual requests from tenants who demand the perfect specification for their business.
These have included:
- a music industry mogul who requested diamond-studded toilet seats for a demanding diva client
- a company that said it would only take space in a building that had attractive receptionists
- a managing director with a keen interest in taxidermy who wanted a gallery adjoining his office to display his collection of stuffed animals
- an IT company that insisted there were to be no bars or outlets selling alcohol within walking distance of the office.
‘We try to accommodate as much as we can,’ says Venables. ‘But we had to point out to the company that wanted attractive receptionists that it was not really for us to judge.’
Research by officebroker.com shows that London, the Home Counties, Birmingham and Manchester remain the most popular commercial locations, but there are some more surprising serviced office hot spots in the UK.
Darlington, Aberdeen, Derby, Stockport, Falkirk and Newport have emerged as towns where there is growing demand for serviced offices, according to research carried out over the last 12 months.
Trudy Hind, who oversees enquiries at Evans Easyspace for a business centre in Darlington, says the town has many advantages.
‘As well as being highly accessible, Darlington is popular because it is in the north-east, which is an area renowned for supporting business start-ups,’ she says.
In terms of percentage revenue, Reading took the number one spot as the most popular destination, followed by west London, the City of London, central London, Uxbridge and Birmingham
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