Jason Kulpa is the CEO of Underground Elephant, a performance-based provider of Internet marketing technology and customer acquisition solutions based in San Diego. Kulpa's business services multiple industries, including auto insurance, post-secondary education, health insurance and home services. The system Kulpa uses for Underground Elephant is cloud-based SaaS marketing technology and platforms to deliver qualified calls, clicks and inquiries to his clients.
Imagine your company's sales are through the roof, your team is growing by the day and morale is at an all-time high. In fact, your company is doing so well that it's about to bust through the walls and onto the streets. This is a great problem to have -- an entrepreneur's dream, really.
However, when business development is top of mind, it's easy to forget the importance of your environment. Increasing business bandwidth means scaling both your team and your office space. But finding the right spot can be harder than you think.
During past office relocations, I discovered that an ounce of early prevention can save you a ton of headache. If you're about to relocate, here are six lessons that will save you time, money and momentum.
1. Tap into your network.
If you don't have a board of advisers, you have a bigger problem than office space. Running through relocation scenarios with trusted friends, advisers and civic leaders can expedite the research and deliberation process and optimize your outcome before you sign a commercial real estate contract.
Our contacts in commercial real estate city administration and community leadership helped us find and secure our newest location in downtown San Diego. They added another level of transparency to the process, and this broad grassroots support proved invaluable in scoring a great location that many thought was out of reach. (You can read our own example here.)
2. Align the design with your brand and culture.
While expanding to a new area, you have the unique opportunity to mesh your brand with your physical surroundings. Consider searching for innovative office designers to ensure that your new space reflects both your company's culture and the neighborhood's history. This will amplify your team's overall sense of pride and connection to the community, as well as strengthen your recruitment efforts.
In contrast, our current office has an elevator shaft running down the middle, fragmenting our workspace and culture. For our new location, we hired Paul Basile to create a mix of collaborative spaces, semiprivate workstations and large conference rooms to maximize flow. We hope to capture Harvard Business Review's productive balance of "me" and "we."
3. Thoroughly inspect the neighborhood.
Interior design shouldn't be your only concern. Investigate the neighborhood's projected growth; see if there's construction planned in or around your proposed office.
For example, moving our company to the East Village in San Diego is perfect for our millennial team. However, when we moved from our first office, we soon realized our new location was in developmental flux. The business below was being remodeled, and the constant jackhammering made it impossible to concentrate without headphones. I don't know how our sales team was able to perform so well on the phones with the clamoring background noise.
4. Look for out-of-state incentives.
If you're dreaming, you might as well dream big. Spend time dissecting incentives for relocation so you understand all of the options, whether they're a few blocks or a few states away. The economic development agencies for each state will eagerly help you, making this homework quick and painless.
Researching new locations helps you gain perspective on the types of benefits available for relocation, enabling you to make an informed decision based on a cost-benefit analysis. We initially considered relocating to Colorado but ended up moving to the other side of town. Thanks to letters of support from our local community, the California Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development awarded us a substantial tax credit for our contributions.
5. Put your "zones and permits" hat on.
At a local level, look at where the enterprise zones are drawn to reap the most benefits for your company. For example, can you earn R&D tax credits for purchasing new equipment? You need to understand the permits associated with the new location so you can move in (and design) your space legally.
Because our building was originally designed for retail, we needed to secure a conditional use permit. Be prepared for these types of roadblocks -- they can delay your move-in date and cost you considerably.
6. Negotiate your lease with a bird's-eye view.
Don't just secure a location that will work for the next six months to a year; visualize where your company will be in three to five years, and base your decision on that. If a long-term lease (or purchase) isn't right for you, set up shorter leases of a few months that allow you to iterate.
In any case, make sure your lease terms have a release valve so you can move to another location if your business runs hotter than expected and you need to add staff rapidly.
As your business grows, you have to make room for it. But that shouldn't come at the expense of precious time and productivity. Commit to research and planning so you can relocate your office without headaches. Your team's productivity levels -- and eardrums -- will thank you.