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By: Shelby Reno Company Aug, 19 2015

Square Footage: What do you need?

CWD showing some of their Haworth Compose work stations. Courtesy of Haworth.

Are you approaching decision time to acquire office space, perhaps due to growth or launching your first business? Take it from us, if you spend a little time on the front end asking questions and getting answers, you will save a lot of time and prevent a self-induced migraine later. Simply choosing a broker earlier in the process rather than later translates to saved hours you can’t get back (unless you’re skilled at turning back time).
All of these scenarios require that next inevitable question: How much square footage do I need or want? Selecting space to begin touring viable options is oftentimes the biggest mental hurdle in the process because clients have to be ready to talk in finite terms about the size of space they need now. Further, it requires them to be a little clairvoyant and envision a point in the future. A tripping point, yes, but it doesn’t have to send you tumbling, thanks to options.
Answering these questions and taking some solid advice from the pros (us!) will certainly create a solid outline for your agent to get you the best space at the right terms and price to make the next phase of your business journey a positive one!

The Inevitable Question: How much square footage do I need?

Questions to ask yourself. Don’t be vague! Give it some thought, get as specific as you can, and you’ll save yourself time at the next step and beyond:

  1. How many private offices—if any—do you really need? More private offices mean more walls, hence more square footage. This includes video conference booths or other compact enclosed space.
  2. How many private offices—if any—do you think you’ll need in the last year or two of your lease term? Don’t have a crystal ball? You may want to look at spaces that offer shorter-term leases. Don’t waste time with traditional options which require 5- to 10-year terms. Removing these right away will keep the process moving along at a good pace.
  3. What type of meeting space do you need? This includes space for training and any type of meeting where privacy or gathering around a table is necessary? Always inquire if buildings you’ll be touring offer common areas to reserve for meetings or trainings. I can think of several in town with traditional conference rooms available for reservation on a first-come, first-served basis.
  4. What type of collaborative area(s) do you envision? How many people and what type of furniture matches your vision and budget? This is important because a bench-style piece can pack in the team but individual “cube” workstations sometimes cannot achieve material density.
  5. What part of the city do you want to set up shop? Downtown is a sexy proposition, but it’s nearly impossible to find buildings with free parking. You and your team must have an appetite for paying to park in a lot or ramp. Do you expect your people to pay for their own? Be sure to have that discussion before you begin visiting space.

Some advice to help you solve the square footage you might think you need down the road:

  • Poise for reasonable growth. It’s a big decision, and we often hear, “We’re concerned about outgrowing it before the lease term is up.” Luckily, options today are plenty, and you don’t need a crystal ball. You do need a good broker who will present flexible listings, and be able to negotiate creative terms not inherent in the written listing.
  • Break out the calculator. Ensure your broker gives you a quick lesson on how office space is priced, from the dollars per square foot, what is included in a modified gross lease, a triple net lease, and a gross or full-service lease. These all mean something very different which will change the amount you’ll spend over the term of the lease big time. Knowing your math sooner than later means the process pace maintains a good clip.
  • Keep an open mind. A mix of commercial real estate in Grand Rapids could require you to keep a more open mind relative to what you ultimately choose. If you have a vision of hip neighbors, exposed brick and duct work, ambient lighting, and a mid-Century Modern feel, you might find yourself disappointed with the options that come back after a search of current listings. With all of the growth and redevelopment in town, however, you might get just what you desire.

In our next blog, we’ll explore the must-have items for your first office.

Haworth Neocon 2013
Haworth’s Intuity benching system, taken in Haworth’s showroom at Neocon 2013. Courtesy of Haworth.

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