When you are starting a business that requires an office outside the home (not a store), the beginning expenses can be somewhat overwhelming. You’ll need all the office equipment, computers, and furniture. If you’d rather use your resources for marketing than for equipment, consider starting your small office in an executive-suites environment. This type of office space is usually small—one to four rooms—and is sometimes furnished. You’ll probably need your own computer, but most other equipment will be available (for a fee, of course).
Such office suites usually provide a receptionist and a reception area that is used by all tenants. There should also be a conference room available for use on a reservation basis. This is where you’ll want to talk to customers and prospective clients. Reserve it far enough in advance that there’s no conflict with other tenants.
Make sure that the main door to the building is open and available when you need to work. Normally, you should have access to your office 24/7, but the reception area may only be open during normal business hours. Ask questions like these before you sign a lease.
Many such suites will also provide free coffee, a refrigerator, a microwave, and a break room with vending machines. There will also be a mailbox in the general area for your suite and a place for outgoing mail. Cleaning services and energy costs should also be part of the lease. Normally, you can get a lease as short as six months or one year, but anything is negotiable. Rent will be somewhat higher than for regular office space because of the services provided.
It’s a good idea to talk to a few other tenants in the building before you sign a lease to see whether they’re experiencing any problems, such as noise from neighboring suites. Generally, the only drawback to this type of setup is that you have little or no control over the receptionist or building personnel; they are not your employees, and they take orders from the building management only. So you’ll have to learn to live with the rules until you’re ready to move to a larger office.
When it’s time to move to a bigger office, consider an older but well-kept building, because rent will be more reasonable than rent for an office in a brand-new building. Many such buildings will offer a common conference room, which can save you from paying for more space. You’ll want to negotiate cleaning services to be included in your lease, which will normally run from two to five years. The longer the lease you sign, the more perks and better rates that can be negotiated into your lease.
Whatever you agree on will be in force for the term of the lease, even if the current owner sells the building. You likely will be asked for a one-month security deposit in addition to the first month’s rent. If the building owner asks for more than a onemonth deposit, I advise you to look elsewhere; you just can’t affo to tie up that much money. Also, if you’re not moving in right away, you can suggest that you’ll pay the security deposit when you sign the lease and the first month’s rent 10 days before you take occupancy.
You can also ask how long it will take to get your security deposit back at the end of the lease. And always ask for a right-to-sublease clause in your lease, in case you sell your business or want to move out early. If this is your first business lease, you may want to have a local lawyer review it and point out any technical information or fine print you need to consider. The normal fee for reviewing a lease for a small office should not exceed about $150, and if you’re not familiar with reading a business lease, a lawyer may save you thousands in the future.