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Is your small business a candidate for flexible, shared office space?


April 8, 2015

Whether you’re a sole proprietor or owner of a business with less than 25 employees, you’ve likely considered renting flexible, shared office space. More than just a bottom-line issue, leasing office space from either an executive center or within another firm’s co-working environment requires careful consideration and planning.
The days of everyone needing their own dedicated office space are in the past, as many firms today are riding the trend of sharing office space in one form or another. But depending on the business you’re in, your commercial office space needs could require you to go one way or the other. Much of this decision comes down to the issues of privacy and security.
Law firm office space and medical facilities are two examples of industries where privacy and security standards must meet or exceed industry regulations. This typically entails creating physical separation in the form of permanent walls and locked doors, among other security-related safeguards. Executive center office space offers this as standard fare, but space leased from another firm’s office will require the landlord to construct such barriers. As with most things in life, the economics of the build-out (i.e. rent amount, lease term, type of business, etc.) will determine whether it pays for the landlord to absorb the cost of the construction.
It’s also essential that you maintain a completely separate identity in terms of signage and communication materials. And as obvious as this sounds, you will never want to co-mingle funds or billing. While it is common practice in all businesses for one firm to recommend another, it should never be implied that two separate firms operating from the same physical address are passing customers/clients back-and-forth. Integrity must be maintained.
For firms with medium to low security concerns, such as graphic designers, public relations firms, web designers or small advertising agencies, the co-working environment can work easily and quite seamlessly. The main benefit of such an arrangement are the savings associated with shared services, such as access to a receptionist and usage of conference rooms. In addition, a small business operating from the office of a larger business typically translates to a much more prestigious building and amenity list than would have been possible with a small space renter.
But whether you’re at the high security or low security end of the spectrum, the primary benefit of co-working spaces is the potential for business synergy to occur. Typically, when two non-competitive, industry-compatible firms rent office space together, a relationship evolves, as each are exposed to the other firm’s expertise. An internist sharing space with a plastic surgeon, for example, may serve the same patient base, but do not compete against each other. A web designer sharing space with a public relations firm. Or a graphic designer and media buying service. These and many more industry groupings are examples of how two companies leasing space in the same office can actually grow their business through referrals, networking and collaboration.

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