Elan AmiravElan Amirav

Five things about searching for a new office that you didn’t know you need to know

January 29, 2020
  • Share This Article

Five things about searching for a new office that you didn't know you need to know

Say you are getting into a cab in a freezing morning in Midtown Manhattan on your way to meet the real estate agent and visit a few vacant locations in search for a suitable new office… You’re not an architect and often not very familiar with the local scenery. Regardless, your existing space is totally full, your lease is up and you have many other issues to untangle and targets to accomplish… Oh, and all of the above have to be sorted just about right now!. Your cell is constantly attached to your face…. Panic everywhere… I’ve seen this situation gravitates towards a big messy end more than once!

Beware.. You are about to make an expensive mistake on an issue that goes far beyond “right now”. Picking the right office space in which your cool startup is going to dwell and flourish for the next five years. 

After handling dozens of such projects, it is interesting to note that my following advice applies for any location on the globe. From LA through NYC to Tel Aviv and all the way to Bangkok… Always the same issues, always the same conflicts of interests! So.. here are five things to keep in mind when you start hunting for your new workspace.

Real estate people are not as cute as you tech guys...

It’s a totally different culture.. The landlord and the agent will hug you and admire your awesome company. They will say every good thing you want to hear about the space, show you the coolest presentations and tell you how easy it will be for you just to slide in. They may even tell you about a bunch of other potential tenants lining up against the door of their office…

When they’ll tell you “Don’t worry”… Worry. Always wonder… What’s in it for each one of the folks sitting around this table. High-Tech dudes are the worst poker players. Never tell them that you don’t have time! When they’ll ask you about schedule, be calm, smile and say “Whatever it takes until I’ll find the best spot”. If they’ll tell you that another company may grab the space if you hesitate, smile again and tell them “What’s meant to be…”. Try to come equipped with your own agent, in case you have one that you really trust and always take your architect with you to the meeting.

A few years back I went with my client to check a space on Broadway. We couldn’t enter a row of some 12 rooms. They were locked. The landlord and real estate guy (who was, BTW, my client’s long-time agent) claimed that these rooms belong to people that left valuable stuff inside. Later when we’ve got the contract signed and started with demolition we discovered that only this row of offices didn’t have any windows.. What a spectacular coincidence!! 

In another case in London my client went (by himself…) to see a space (oops…. again, with his long-time loyal real estate agent). The office was great and well located above Euston Square Station and my client signed immediately. His agent and the landlord just forgot to tell him that this building is going to be demolished in less than two years!

Avoid package deals and put together your own planning and construction team.

When the landlord will tell you “Don’t worry about construction, we will take care of it, we have a Dream Team”… Worry. In most of the cases it’s their way to make an extra buck on you and much more importantly, gain control over the process according to their interest, which is always, by default, not the same as yours! Even if it doesn’t make sense in the beginning, eventually you may end up spending substantially more budget and not getting what you wished for. When the landlord puts their constructor on the project it immediately defines an un-balanced power alignment where you and your architect want them to do “A” but their boss, the landlord, says “Do B” (which is obviously always cheaper).. When the landlord will tell you that they want to “save” you the headache rest assured that headache will meet you big time later. Tell them that your construction uncle will take care of it, come up with something…. It’s OK, assume that you’re probably the most honest person sitting around this table. Insist on doing the project by your people and make it a mandatory issue in your contract. Try not to be the first one who blinks… In case you don’t have a good team you can always fall back to their conditions. In any case insist on being the one who hires and pays for the landlord’s “Dream Team”… 

Own the construction process!

Get a pre-made 'ideal' layout and an agile architect before the space hunt begins.

It’s always the same story… The CFO and the CEO are going to see a vacant space. It looks big enough and they want to make a closure on the spot. They need to know “right now” if it can contain our project. Here’s how it worked for us and was very successful. Before we’ve even started with the space hunt we have formed a planning team consisted of the CEO, the R&D chief, the HR and myself and through a short design process we’ve put together the “ideal layout” incorporating all the required ingredients.  The right amount of space for offices, open work halls, conference rooms, fun zones, etc. At this point, when the CFO went to shop for vacant offices he’s sent my office plans of potential spaces and I first tried to contain the pre-meditated layout with all the required rooms and size of teams established and taken into consideration for this phase and for a future expansion. Sometimes the space looks big but it’s not and sometimes it is too big. Within hours I could send them a rough layout and tell them “Forget it” or “It looks interesting” or “we can fit in this much and that many” or “Wow.. Grab it, I’m booking a flight…”. 

When I’m looking at the floor plan I see things that my clients will never see. My site analysis puts together ingredients such as the ratio between windowed exterior walls to floor square footage, sun and view directions, lobbies, reception and elevators, the number of toilets and their location. I apply all that and much more into my site analysis so to let my client appreciate the magnitude of the required compromise (there is always some compromise…). Even if eventually the layout will look totally different from the first sketch, it’s OK. The main target of the first quick analysis is just to see if we can or cannot get in there. Architecture is totally about shades of grey. Normally it’s not a go-no go issue but more of a “Yes we can, but it will cost us roughly that much and will take this long to build”.

Create your own ``buyers' market`` then sit back and entertain a few realty suitors!.

When we are able to quickly establish how relevant is the proposed spot through a quick site analysis combined with our pre-established “ideal layout”, we can have a variety of some 3-4 potentially fit properties. Then we are the kings…Why? 

Because we have created our own little “buyers’ market”.  

From this convenient position, having more time and confidence, while the CFO negotiates the best deal out of them I have enough time to expand my research and consider lots of other factors. What’s the state of the infrastructure, mechanical, communication and electrical and their ability to support our office requirements with minimum modifications? What is the general state of the structure including partitions, exterior walls and glass? 

Two other major aspects are location related. Location in the greater urban scale and in the immediate vicinity. When I say “Location”, it doesn’t necessarily imply that we have to have the coolest spot in town. Sometimes it is about accessibility and traffic, train lines, etc. However, the coolness factor of the immediate surroundings is nonetheless crucial! Do not forget… your assembly line is made out of very young people. These guys don’t go to work in the morning and then back to their homes in the suburbs… This is their life, they come to be there and have fun! At some point later in the evening they would go back to crush in their micro-apartments in the East Village. My friends, a lot of research is made on the working culture of the millennials and we must keep in mind that it is nothing short of an unprecedented human revolution. So, what’s the building hospitality profile in terms of food, a safe bicycle parking lot and in-house showers? Is there a gym in the building?

More about location and the coolness factor

And of course, it is imperative to send an expedition and learn about the habits of the local ‘tribes’. How far are the best happy-hour spots and what’s up with the local restaurants and grocery shops. I know it may sound odd but I wouldn’t take it lightly! 

A successful young tech company can flourish only within the right urban context. 

It is about food and drinks as well as about good spots to hang out, do shopping and have fun. In that sense three of the best spots I’ve designed are located in Central London on Goodge Street corner of Tottenham Court Road, on 23rd Street corner with 5th Avenue in NYC and in Bangkok off-Sukomvit on Soi23. In all cases the urban context was electrifying! 

A constant stream of thousands of tourists by day and night, major train stations nearby, an abundance of hotels, shops and restaurants and bars of all colors and shapes, green parks and lots of entertainment. 

My long time clients often say “What are you talking about… we are trying to establish a place of business, not a night club”… 

Well, are you sure?… Not exactly! However, on this I will be happy to elaborate in my next article! 

I think I’m going to call it “Why is it so important to locate a grand piano in your new reception lobby”

Say you are getting into a cab in a freezing morning in Midtown Manhattan on your way to meet the real estate agent and visit a few vacant locations in search for a suitable new office… You’re not an architect and often not very familiar with the local scenery. Regardless, your existing space is totally full, your lease is up and you have many other issues to untangle and targets to accomplish… Oh, and all of the above have to be sorted just about right now!. Your cell is constantly attached to your face…. Panic everywhere… I’ve seen this situation gravitates towards a big messy end more than once!

Beware.. You are about to make an expensive mistake on an issue that goes far beyond “right now”. Picking the right office space in which your cool startup is going to dwell and flourish for the next five years. 

After handling dozens of such projects, it is interesting to note that my following advice applies for any location on the globe. From LA through NYC to Tel Aviv and all the way to Bangkok… Always the same issues, always the same conflicts of interests! So.. here are five things to keep in mind when you start hunting for your new workspace.

 

Real estate people are not as cute as you tech guys…

It’s a totally different culture.. The landlord and the agent will hug you and admire your awesome company. They will say every good thing you want to hear about the space, show you the coolest presentations and tell you how easy it will be for you just to slide in. They may even tell you about a bunch of other potential tenants lining up against the door of their office…

When they’ll tell you “Don’t worry”… Worry. Always wonder… What’s in it for each one of the folks sitting around this table. High-Tech dudes are the worst poker players. Never tell them that you don’t have time! When they’ll ask you about schedule, be calm, smile and say “Whatever it takes until I’ll find the best spot”. If they’ll tell you that another company may grab the space if you hesitate, smile again and tell them “What’s meant to be…”. Try to come equipped with your own agent, in case you have one that you really trust and always take your architect with you to the meeting.

A few years back I went with my client to check a space on Broadway. We couldn’t enter a row of some 12 rooms. They were locked. The landlord and real estate guy (who was, BTW, my client’s long-time agent) claimed that these rooms belong to people that left valuable stuff inside. Later when we’ve got the contract signed and started with demolition we discovered that only this row of offices didn’t have any windows.. What a spectacular coincidence!! 

In another case in London my client went (by himself…) to see a space (oops…. again, with his long-time loyal real estate agent). The office was great and well located above Euston Square Station and my client signed immediately. His agent and the landlord just forgot to tell him that this building is going to be demolished in less than two years!

 

Avoid package deals and put together your own planning and construction team.

When the landlord will tell you “Don’t worry about construction, we will take care of it, we have a Dream Team”… Worry. In most of the cases it’s their way to make an extra buck on you and much more importantly, gain control over the process according to their interest, which is always, by default, not the same as yours! Even if it doesn’t make sense in the beginning, eventually you may end up spending substantially more budget and not getting what you wished for. When the landlord puts their constructor on the project it immediately defines an un-balanced power alignment where you and your architect want them to do “A” but their boss, the landlord, says “Do B” (which is obviously always cheaper).. When the landlord will tell you that they want to “save” you the headache rest assured that headache will meet you big time later. Tell them that your construction uncle will take care of it, come up with something…. It’s OK, assume that you’re probably the most honest person sitting around this table. Insist on doing the project by your people and make it a mandatory issue in your contract. Try not to be the first one who blinks… In case you don’t have a good team you can always fall back to their conditions. In any case insist on being the one who hires and pays for the landlord’s “Dream Team”… 

Own the construction process!

 

Get a pre-made ‘ideal’ layout and an agile architect before the space hunt begins.

It’s always the same story… The CFO and the CEO are going to see a vacant space. It looks big enough and they want to make a closure on the spot. They need to know “right now” if it can contain our project. Here’s how it worked for us and was very successful. Before we’ve even started with the space hunt we have formed a planning team consisted of the CEO, the R&D chief, the HR and myself and through a short design process we’ve put together the “ideal layout” incorporating all the required ingredients.  The right amount of space for offices, open work halls, conference rooms, fun zones, etc. At this point, when the CFO went to shop for vacant offices he’s sent my office plans of potential spaces and I first tried to contain the pre-meditated layout with all the required rooms and size of teams established and taken into consideration for this phase and for a future expansion. Sometimes the space looks big but it’s not and sometimes it is too big. Within hours I could send them a rough layout and tell them “Forget it” or “It looks interesting” or “we can fit in this much and that many” or “Wow.. Grab it, I’m booking a flight…”. 

When I’m looking at the floor plan I see things that my clients will never see. My site analysis puts together ingredients such as the ratio between windowed exterior walls to floor square footage, sun and view directions, lobbies, reception and elevators, the number of toilets and their location. I apply all that and much more into my site analysis so to let my client appreciate the magnitude of the required compromise (there is always some compromise…). Even if eventually the layout will look totally different from the first sketch, it’s OK. The main target of the first quick analysis is just to see if we can or cannot get in there. Architecture is totally about shades of grey. Normally it’s not a go-no go issue but more of a “Yes we can, but it will cost us roughly that much and will take this long to build”.

 

Create your own “buyers’ market” then sit back and entertain a few realty suitors!.

When we are able to quickly establish how relevant is the proposed spot through a quick site analysis combined with our pre-established “ideal layout”, we can have a variety of some 3-4 potentially fit properties. Then we are the kings…Why? 

Because we have created our own little “buyers’ market”.  

From this convenient position, having more time and confidence, while the CFO negotiates the best deal out of them I have enough time to expand my research and consider lots of other factors. What’s the state of the infrastructure, mechanical, communication and electrical and their ability to support our office requirements with minimum modifications? What is the general state of the structure including partitions, exterior walls and glass? 

Two other major aspects are location related. Location in the greater urban scale and in the immediate vicinity. When I say “Location”, it doesn’t necessarily imply that we have to have the coolest spot in town. Sometimes it is about accessibility and traffic, train lines, etc. However, the coolness factor of the immediate surroundings is nonetheless crucial! Do not forget… your assembly line is made out of very young people. These guys don’t go to work in the morning and then back to their homes in the suburbs… This is their life, they come to be there and have fun! At some point later in the evening they would go back to crush in their micro-apartments in the East Village. My friends, a lot of research is made on the working culture of the millennials and we must keep in mind that it is nothing short of an unprecedented human revolution. So, what’s the building hospitality profile in terms of food, a safe bicycle parking lot and in-house showers? Is there a gym in the building?

 

More about location and the coolness factor

And of course, it is imperative to send an expedition and learn about the habits of the local ‘tribes’. How far are the best happy-hour spots and what’s up with the local restaurants and grocery shops. I know it may sound odd but I wouldn’t take it lightly! 

A successful young tech company can flourish only within the right urban context. 

It is about food and drinks as well as about good spots to hang out, do shopping and have fun. In that sense three of the best spots I’ve designed are located in Central London on Goodge Street corner of Tottenham Court Road, on 23rd Street corner with 5th Avenue in NYC and in Bangkok off-Sukomvit on Soi23. In all cases the urban context was electrifying! 

A constant stream of thousands of tourists by day and night, major train stations nearby, an abundance of hotels, shops and restaurants and bars of all colors and shapes, green parks and lots of entertainment. 

My long time clients often say “What are you talking about… we are trying to establish a place of business, not a night club”… 

Well, are you sure?… Not exactly! However, on this I will be happy to elaborate in my next article! 

I think I’m going to call it “Why is it so important to locate a grand piano in your new reception lobby”

Get in touch. Let's talk about your projects!

    Previous

    Place Making For the New Work Life

    Skip to content