The trouble with moving office for your Agency.

Why office movers are often their own worst enemy

Working in office fit-out I spend my days chatting with two types of people, those in the know and those on the outside. Those in the know are almost exclusively other functionaries in the world of commercial property be they agents, surveyors, legal eagles, networkers, other fit-out guys and a pick and mix of consultants, designers and pan-handlers. They are not the problem, the problem lies with those on the outside and the fact that these people are almost exclusively… the prospective clients.

I’m not for one moment decrying the absolute ignorance that the general public have over the rental price per square foot for an office in Soho nor the fact that most folk wouldn’t know a schedule of dilapidations if it suddenly renovated their house. Why should they? Its not their job and to those outside the industry it is a subject of mystery and mild tedium. But this ignorance can be a dangerous thing in the realm of small to medium commercial moves.

Of course when a large multi-national decides to move its HQ they have layers of management to seek out sound advice, retain one of the larger agents and go about things in a timely, orderly and well planned way. Often the move is worthy of its own press release and the new premises are spectacular, award-winning and increase the quality of life to anyone within one nautical mile. Now, for a moment lets take a few steps down the ladder of commerce and view a move from a smaller operation, an office of say one hundred souls. Lets imagine they do something reasonably vague in the warm arts and they’re looking to expand thanks to doing a roaring trade and the five extra staff they’re taking on every month. This is their second ‘proper’ office having made the leap from the managing director’s spare bedroom some ten years ago. They are settled and happy and the staff could probably make the commute in a medically induced coma if need be, but the fact remains they’re running out of space and the decision has been made.

Dealing with the move is beneath the senior management and so this poisoned chalice falls into the lap of the office manager, a bright chap on a steady career trajectory he joined the firm three years ago just after they took residence of the offices they are now looking to vacate. He is competent at stocking the stationery cupboard and organising a wicked Christmas bash but he’s never moved a company before – how hard can it be? All too often office managers still in possession of their move-virginity fall foul of several assumptions – firstly, it is easy to think that moving one’s office is akin to moving one’s home except with a bigger budget and a lot more helping hands. This goes hand-in-hand with the next assumption that its a buyer’s market – it most certainly is not. I have dealt with dozens of people in this situation who have simply told me they would like an office in ‘X’ part of town and are astonished when I tell them there are simply no offices in or around such-and-such street nor indeed in that entire postcode. Often I am simply disbelieved, true I am no commercial agent but I know one or two and have access to pretty definitive data.

The next shock that the hero of our story receives is the eye watering realisation at how much it would cost to get the ideal office in the part of town they now think befits their status. Then comes the minefield of attempting to negotiate a lease in the absence of a retained professional agent, an act of wanton foolishness that could cost the company dearly. And finally we get to my area of expertise the fit-out of their new premises, the budget see-saw can fall toward the two extremes from someone’s uncle who’s ‘a bit handy’ all the way over to a big-name fit-out company who having just finished another three floors in a landmark sky-scraper can see their way to doing an overpriced ‘small’ job which may or may not fall foul of its proposed delivery date thanks to another high profile commission.

My point, dear reader is that advice needs to be taken by those that need it and given by those of us who know it for the sake of all concerned. The consumer of course has every right to try and manage all aspects of their move themselves – it does not mean it is right to allow them to do so. Any office managers reading this may feel I’ve been somewhat unfair or condescending in my words, this really has not been my intention, I implore you to speak to someone friendly and knowledgeable, take advice, retain an agent and get yourself a reputable fit-out company that specialises in moves of your size and scale. For heaven’s sake, look (and listen) before you leap.

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