Getting office space

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Dec 10, 2006 7:55 pm

Well...one of the things I've decided I am going to do for the new year is secure new office space.  I wanted some input from you folks, particularly you indy folks who have been through the process of designing and outfitting your own space.

Specifically-does location matter very much?  There are several buildings with space that are extremely convenient to my home.  This also puts me close to my kids' school and my golf club, where I do quite a bit of client entertaining and networking.  Some of these buildings are close enough that I could either walk or bike to work in decent weather, which is very attractive from a lifestyle/stress relief/exercise point of view.  However, that area is about a 15 minute drive from the major highways, so it isn't terribly convenient for folks from other parts of town to access.

On the other hand, there are some very nice class-A buildings that are a little farther away from home, which means that I would spend(waste, in my mind) more time commuting, but they are more convenient for clients from other parts of town to get to.  They are also generally more expensive.  It will also mean that when it's my turn to meet the kids when they get home from school I'll have to leave the office that much earlier to make sure I get there in time(as they are young, ages 5 and 7).

Honestly, I'm leaning towards the buildings that are closer to me, but want to make sure I'm not missing something significant in my thought process.

Secondly-how important do you folks think it is to have the office decorated in an impressive fashion?  Do you think it's better to go sleek and contemporary?  Neutral and subdued?  Traditional, old money feel, with lots of dark woods?  Is it possible that one could "over decorate", leading new clients in particular to wonder if I'm too expensive or feel intimidated?  I'm leaning a little towards contemporary, but not too trendy.  I want it to feel pleasant and non-threatening, and not like every other broker's office that they've been in.  Maybe in addition to the standard TV have a playstation so they can bring their kids along(if they have 'em) and they can occupy themselves.

How important is it when signing a lease to acquire enough space for future expansion?  I'm planning on hiring an assistant soon, at least half-time and hopefully full-time in the not too distant future.  There is one space I have the opportunity to take with a local LPL advisor, and it's a nice space at a pretty good price.  The big objection is that there is no room for me to grow if I sign on with him, simply no where for me to put a staff person.  Any suggestions as to how much space I should allow for myself, at least one or perhaps two staffers?  I want to have a large enough office for client meetings, or perhaps even a separate conference room.

Is it better to sign on with a large landlord/property company with multiple buildings?  (Figuring that it is a benefit that they will have more contacts with contractors for needed building repairs, deeper pockets, flexibility to trade up for larger space without breaking leases)  Or is it better in your experience to rent from a smaller landlord because it's less bureaucratic and you can develop a more personal relationship.

Finally, if one has to choose between leasing space in a more expensive building, and being moderate on the furnishing budget, or leasing space in a clean but less expensive "class B" building but really maxing out the "wow" factor once you get into the private office space, which would you suggest?

Thanks for reading this long post, and would appreciate any insights you can offer.....

Dec 11, 2006 9:45 am

::bump::

Ok I know it's a long post, but you guys are going to leave me here listening to the crickets chirping?  Anyone?

Dec 11, 2006 10:10 am

I wrote a reply and then didn't like it so I scrapped it.


Questions for you.... Do your clients often come in? Are you looking at adding brokers?


Mr. A

Dec 11, 2006 10:23 am
mranonymous2u:

I wrote a reply and then didn't like it so I scrapped it.


Questions for you.... Do your clients often come in? Are you looking at adding brokers?


Mr. A



My situation is unique in that I located recently and my clients are largely out of town on the East Coast.  A few times a year I go visit them.  In general, though, it would be my goal to have them come visit me in the future so as to use time efficiently, and have a more professional setting that is evocative of going to visit their doctor or lawyer.

I am entertaining the possibility of adding a few advisors, maybe 1-3, but have not decided it is worth the trouble or compliance risk.  Any thoughts you have would be welcome.

Dec 11, 2006 10:24 am

As a sole practioner myself  with a home office I believe it is a great idea to get office space. Just the energy of entering an office building and not having anything that reminds one of home is more motivating. Those darn dirty dishes distract me; and the repairmen as well as friends and family.


Being close to home and the kids schools is worth a lot.


Guess the question I would ask myself is: Where and who do I want to be in 5 years? Would you want to add more F.A's or just support staff?


My first reaction is to stay close to home; get the best building available and built out in the old money style. You must have room to expand during this time.



On the other hand if you see yourself adding more F.A's go to the prime location and set the wheels in motion for what you want to look like in the next five years.

Dec 11, 2006 10:34 am

Yah that dirty dishes phenomenon is the bane of all those who work from home, yet rarely discussed....

Dec 11, 2006 11:19 am

I worked from home for about 6 months during my transition from Jones to Indy and it really was distracting.  In fact it pretty much sucked.


My feeling is that you and your clients will perceive your business in a more professional way when you have an office.


The businesses surrounding your office are important. We all know the joke about the Subway sandwich shops and tattoo parlors near the Jones locations.  I would look for something near where the Banks, Insurance firms and reputable realtors are.  You will be displayed when people are doing other financial errands.  Someplace that has foot traffic is also nice.  You should definitely have the ability to expand for future growth and for an assistant if you don't have one now.


I think your office should look professional, tastefully expensive and be a comfortable relaxing place for you and your clients.


My office looks like this:  Cherry wood desks, lateral files and book cases where I display my degrees and licenses.  I have all of my professional books and binders arranged and a collection art deco pottery and blown glass displayed around the office. You should pick a theme for the decorating and carry it through. My other decor is mostly classic and art deco.  I found a cool set of reproduction Fortune Mag covers from the 20's and 30's. and I have other art deco travel posters in frames as artwork.  A few family photos. Lots of plants in pretty containers.  Colors other than the pottery are subdued. Sea foam green rug, sandy tan walls and cream trim doors and trim. I have french doors that lead into the conference room.  Oriental rugs in the green, tan tones on the floor.


I have a reception area, a private office area for meeting clients and a conference room with a cherry wood table, black leather chairs throughout the office. You will also want to set up a small kitchenette or something to be able to provide refreshments to your clients or to seminars.  Not to mention to make snacks for yourself and your assistant when you get one.  I have a fully stocked bar as well


I spent about 15 to 20K on the equipment, furniture, appliances and upgrades to the office area. The art and pottery I have collected over the years. It was a lot, but worth it.  One upgrade I really like is an enameled gas fireplace that looks like real logs (I'm taking that with me if I leave the space!!) very cozy and the clients really like the looks.


What I don't have that I am planning to correct soon is a wireless or other computer capability in the conference room.  I also plan to upgrade my television system in the conference room so I can connect the computer to the tv and do presentations/powerpoint etc.   I also want to upgrade my sound system so the music (I have a huge collection of MP3 files) can be piped throughout the office or isolated to just one room.   Music creates a nice ambiance for you and your clients.  I play a mix of soft jazz and oldies (I mean real oldies from the 40's through the 70's). Don't use rap music  


I would love to have a full time assistant, however, right now I just have a part timer.   If I have a chance to move after my lease is up, I might consider a group arrangement where there is a central receptionist to handle several related businesses in an office hub.

Dec 11, 2006 11:38 am

Thank you Babs! I appreciate all the detail in your description.

Do you think a tasteful contemporary theme would work?  Not avant garde, but sleek, blonde woods, glass block walls, etc.....

Dec 11, 2006 11:59 am

"My situation is unique in that I located recently and my clients are largely out of town on the East Coast.  A few times a year I go visit them.  In general, though, it would be my goal to have them come visit me in the future so as to use time efficiently, and have a more professional setting that is evocative of going to visit their doctor or lawyer."


I am not understanding you on this ,sir. Are you saying that you want your clients to fly in from the east coast to visit you? Or just that they are from out of town, say 25 minutes?


If they are used to you coming to them, then even good "B" space will be a step up from you old routine. 


Are they "A" space clients? do they work in "A" space offices, or are they small business people and farmers and retirees?


Joe Girard  wrote How To Sell Anything To Anybody  ( http://www.amazon.com/How-Sell-Anything-Anybody-Girard/dp/04 46385328 ) and his point was to make sure you were on the same field as your customers. If your customers wear flannel and Timex, you should wear JCPenny and Timex. If they wear YSL and Rolex, you do too. You office is predicated by the clientelle you serve and the direction you want to take your firm.


Lemme stop here so I can get it posted, I'm the one armed paper hanger with hives today!


Mr. A

Dec 11, 2006 12:07 pm

My conference room has a Dell projector that is attached to a TV/DVD/VCR and to my extra extra Computer so that I can have groups of 20 in for conferences (and the picture for football games is absolutely great!) The screen is 9 feet in diameter. I have the 14 foot table. All my furniture is used but top notch used (it doesn't all match so each office has it's own idiom).


The walls are painted in various complementary hues, blues, greys and greens. 


Mr. A

Dec 11, 2006 12:11 pm
mranonymous2u:

My conference room has a Dell projector that is attached to a TV/DVD/VCR and to my extra extra Computer so that I can have groups of 20 in for conferences (and the picture for football games is absolutely great!) The screen is 9 feet in diameter. I have the 14 foot table. All my furniture is used but top notch used (it doesn't all match so each office has it's own idiom).


The walls are painted in various complementary hues, blues, greys and greens. 


Mr. A



9 feet in diameter?  So it's a round screen?   (Sorry couldn't resist.)

My clients from the East Coast do not come to see me.  I go to see them.  I'm looking forward at efforts to develop future local clients.  It's one of the many reasons I need to secure office space.

Dec 11, 2006 12:24 pm

Diagonal! Good one!


I'd be embarassed if I embarassed easily. (If I had a shred of dignity.) If you knew who I am!


Mr. A (and now you know why)

Dec 11, 2006 12:35 pm
mranonymous2u:

Diagonal! Good one!


I'd be embarassed if I embarassed easily. (If I had a shred of dignity.) If you knew who I am!


Mr. A (and now you know why)



Do I know who you are?

Dec 11, 2006 12:48 pm

Rule #1:  Always secure an office location that is easy and central to your clients and not you. 


Also, yes you will want a nicely appointed office in a nice office.  Your office should be A space, B+ at worst.  Contemporary, traditional or conservative will all work.  None should be too gaudy or eccentric. 

Dec 11, 2006 1:08 pm
babbling looney:

I worked from home for about 6 months during my transition from Jones to Indy and it really was distracting.  In fact it pretty much sucked.


My feeling is that you and your clients will perceive your business in a more professional way when you have an office.


The businesses surrounding your office are important. We all know the joke about the Subway sandwich shops and tattoo parlors near the Jones locations.  I would look for something near where the Banks, Insurance firms and reputable realtors are.  You will be displayed when people are doing other financial errands.  Someplace that has foot traffic is also nice.  You should definitely have the ability to expand for future growth and for an assistant if you don't have one now.


I think your office should look professional, tastefully expensive and be a comfortable relaxing place for you and your clients.


My office looks like this:  Cherry wood desks, lateral files and book cases where I display my degrees and licenses.  I have all of my professional books and binders arranged and a collection art deco pottery and blown glass displayed around the office. You should pick a theme for the decorating and carry it through. My other decor is mostly classic and art deco.  I found a cool set of reproduction Fortune Mag covers from the 20's and 30's. and I have other art deco travel posters in frames as artwork.  A few family photos. Lots of plants in pretty containers.  Colors other than the pottery are subdued. Sea foam green rug, sandy tan walls and cream trim doors and trim. I have french doors that lead into the conference room.  Oriental rugs in the green, tan tones on the floor.


I have a reception area, a private office area for meeting clients and a conference room with a cherry wood table, black leather chairs throughout the office. You will also want to set up a small kitchenette or something to be able to provide refreshments to your clients or to seminars.  Not to mention to make snacks for yourself and your assistant when you get one.  I have a fully stocked bar as well


I spent about 15 to 20K on the equipment, furniture, appliances and upgrades to the office area. The art and pottery I have collected over the years. It was a lot, but worth it.  One upgrade I really like is an enameled gas fireplace that looks like real logs (I'm taking that with me if I leave the space!!) very cozy and the clients really like the looks.


What I don't have that I am planning to correct soon is a wireless or other computer capability in the conference room.  I also plan to upgrade my television system in the conference room so I can connect the computer to the tv and do presentations/powerpoint etc.   I also want to upgrade my sound system so the music (I have a huge collection of MP3 files) can be piped throughout the office or isolated to just one room.   Music creates a nice ambiance for you and your clients.  I play a mix of soft jazz and oldies (I mean real oldies from the 40's through the 70's). Don't use rap music  


I would love to have a full time assistant, however, right now I just have a part timer.   If I have a chance to move after my lease is up, I might consider a group arrangement where there is a central receptionist to handle several related businesses in an office hub.



Babs-do you ever wonder if you would have been better off spending some of that money on a full time assistant rather than physical accomodations?  Not judging, just that this is an issue on my mind.

Dec 11, 2006 1:46 pm

Babs-do you ever wonder if you would have been better off spending some of that money on a full time assistant rather than physical accomodations?  Not judging, just that this is an issue on my mind.


Yes and no.  I didn't need an assistant at first, especially since I was working from home and mainly transfering clients in.  I felt it was more important to get into a professional and upscale office. Other than a few upgrades and regular ongoing office expenses, I don't have any other major outlay in that area anymore.  Plus it was all a tax write off in the year of expense.  I like my office and enjoy the time I spend in it. 


Now that I have been out for several years as indy, I needed an assistant, I have some one part time to help with some of this tedious paperwork ,fill in the office when I am out on appointments or if decide to actually take a vacation day.


My ultimate goal is to bring on an associate, not an employee, who can specialize in the life and health end of the business and I can take an override on their production as well as have some sharing of office costs.  Since I am about 12 to 15 years to where I want to retire, I also am thinking about how to transition the business.

Dec 12, 2006 12:24 am

Joe, the decision on location is largely one of priority...do you care more about being close to home and the kids, or having an "A" location and setup (and potentially more income)?  Answer that, and you'll solve the location issue.


You know much of my setup as I've described it in some detail in the past.  I'm a believer in (1) sharing space with other professionals...in my case, a CPA group, (2) a traditional office furniture look.  Face it, those with money are 60+ and they appreciate cherry/mahogany, (3) spending some bucks to get the good stuff.  There's nothing like pressed wood to scream success to a prospect, and (4) an office assistant as soon as possible (answering your own phone screams success also).  I don't have any doubt that my assistant is very much responsible for a significant part of my success and I have no doubt she's paid for herself already.


Given the limited facts I have thus far, I would be inclined to get some nice space fairly close to home (family still comes first in my world and the majority of your client base doesn't care all that much about your location, provided it's not in a slum), outfitting it with some nice dark woods, and hiring an assistant at least 30 hours per week.  Hey, it all costs money, but you've got to spend it to make it, right?

Dec 12, 2006 1:00 am
Indyone:

Joe, the decision on location is largely one of priority...do you care more about being close to home and the kids, or having an "A" location and setup (and potentially more income)?  Answer that, and you'll solve the location issue.


You know much of my setup as I've described it in some detail in the past.  I'm a believer in (1) sharing space with other professionals...in my case, a CPA group, (2) a traditional office furniture look.  Face it, those with money are 60+ and they appreciate cherry/mahogany, (3) spending some bucks to get the good stuff.  There's nothing like pressed wood to scream success to a prospect, and (4) an office assistant as soon as possible (answering your own phone screams success also).  I don't have any doubt that my assistant is very much responsible for a significant part of my success and I have no doubt she's paid for herself already.


Given the limited facts I have thus far, I would be inclined to get some nice space fairly close to home (family still comes first in my world and the majority of your client base doesn't care all that much about your location, provided it's not in a slum), outfitting it with some nice dark woods, and hiring an assistant at least 30 hours per week.  Hey, it all costs money, but you've got to spend it to make it, right?



Thanks.  You hit on some key points...and honestly I think I'll make more $$ closer to home, given that I'll waste less time commuting, be happier, and can leverage the club better for client/prospect entertainment and networking.

I like the pressed wood comment.....  I guess gray steel is out of the question then?

Dec 12, 2006 9:45 am

 "I guess gray steel is out of the question then?"


YES, YES, YES



We have made your decision: 



Closer to home



Dark woods

Dec 12, 2006 9:54 am
Biasedrecruiter:

 "I guess gray steel is out of the question then?"


YES, YES, YES



We have made your decision: 



Closer to home



Dark woods



Appreciate your input.  Wasn't looking for anyone to "make my decision", just garner some input based on some thoughts I had.  This is the direction I was already leaning, but wanted to see if I was missing anything major.

As for those gray steel desks, I can probably pick up some really nice ones at the next county government surplus sale for about 30 bucks a piece.  Those things last forever!!