While pundits might make it seem like all that you need to do in your office site selection process is to find an urban space with character, the process is actually much more nuanced. Finding the right location for your office requires you to balance many different variables.
1. Determine Your Business' Needs
The first step is to find a site that serves your business. If you need an office in the Southwest, Phoenix, Tucson or Albuquerque could all work, but Chicago won't. This might seem obvious, but it can be easy to get tempted by great offers or buzz and forget to find sites that work in your business's overall strategy. While looking at this, remember to keep your human capital in mind. A new office in the Southeast is great, but if you don't have a manager willing to relocate to run it, you could end up having to hire, train and acculturate an outsider in an isolated outpost. This is doable, but might or might not be the right challenge for you.
2. Look at the Overall Community
Once you've begun to narrow down the list in your site selection process, line communities up against each other. While there are many factors to consider, keeping these three in mind can simplify your decision making process:
Accessibility. Are you able to get in and out of the community as needed? Consider factors like flight availability and cost, location relative to your other offices and access to road, rail and public transit options.
Labor Force. Does the market offer the right mix of people to service your needs? Boston is a great place for biotech, St. Louis can be a great place to include in your site selection process for a logistics office, and Denver offers highly skilled workforces in franchise operations.
Cost. Looking at cost is much more complicated than just considering rent. Pay attention to the cost of living and cost of doing business and weigh those concerns against the quality of the labor force. San Francisco's expensive, but there are sound reasons that companies locate there.
Note that desirability isn't a factor. As of 2017, most communities that are large enough to provide a strong and diverse labor force and good accessibility have progressed to a point that you don't necessarily need to be in a high cost tier one city. After all, you don't have to be in New York City to get a good bagel any more.
3. Narrow Down a Location
Once you've focused your site selection process on a specific city or market, it's time to start looking for the right office in that city. The key here is to choose a downtown, as opposed to choosing downtown. While most urban central business districts (CBDs) are still desirable, many close in suburban communities have urbanized and created alternatives to the traditional downtown. In other words, if you're looking at Seattle, take a look at space in Bellevue, too. For many companies and many labor forces, these alternative CBDs can bridge generational gaps and provide higher convenience at lower cost.
Once you've gotten down to these submarket or neighborhood level site selection becomes a simple process of balancing these three variables:
Area amenities. The best offices are usually near places to live, play and shop with good access.
Cost. A combination of rent, efficiency and other factors all go into your total occupancy cost.
Configuration. Ultimately, if the space doesn't work, no amount of amenities or cost savings can it suitable.
By carefully balancing them, you can find an optimal office.
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