Five reasons why SMEs should ditch the office (and try the club)

Doing business overseas

By James Layfield, CEO and founder of Central Working

As any entrepreneur will tell you: the world is against us.

Everything is harder, slower and just crappier in every way for you than it needs to be when you are creating, running, and most importantly growing your own business.

The world is just not set up to help start, fund, grow and connect your business. It is a world of forms, credit checks, long-term commitments and inflexibility.

Nowhere is this truer than the frankly archaic world of property - a trap that catches and even breaks many an entrepreneur.

So often, it’s the default setting on the road to establishing your company to sign a lease for office space in a buzzing city centre to attract staff and make profitable networking connections.

In fact, ‘finding the right office’ can be top of the agenda for growing businesses, and so cloud their focus on getting the business right.

But increasingly, business owners are opening up new possibilities by thinking beyond the traditional office space.

Among a variety of options available to young and fast-growing small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are membership-based business clubs and serviced office space. These are provided by operators such as Workspace, Work Hubs, Regus and my own business, Central Working (see more in box-out below).

Here are my top five reasons for ditching the conventional landlord’s lease and considering other options:

1. You need FLEXIBILITY

You are trying to grow, but you don’t want to stretch yourself financially. You expect to double your size in 12 months and double it again 12 months after that. Now marry that rapid growth with a traditional lease, and we’ve got problems. How can you tie yourself in for three years when you don’t know for sure what you’ll need in six months, and why would you spunk your hard-earned cash on space you don’t need? Inflexibility can cripple your growth.

2. CONNECTIONS are crucial

The old adage ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’, is as relevant now in the digital age as it has ever been. Your business relies on you getting your face out and about to find new contracts or new employees. Sitting in your own office may be great for focus, but it is downright rubbish for connections. You’re already busy enough, so wouldn’t it be wonderful if the connections you need already walk right in your door? And connections come from networking. As growing businesses, how often do we have the time to attend networking events or find other opportunities to put our work in front of the right people? Not very often. Also, as a growing business, collaboration with the right partners is crucial – and how can you collaborate without connections?

3. You need to FOCUS

You are a tight, lean, keen, focused business. So why the hell would you want to spend even 10 minutes a week on office management? A traditional office space requires a dedicated office manager, it comes with in-built faff and constant niggles, such as supervising the cleaning. Focusing on your growth means not having to worry about who is going to empty your bins!

4. Get the right ENVIRONMENT

Growth takes place in the right environment. And let’s face it, unless you are Google, you will have a very little of your precious profit to spend on how and what your new office looks like. You require interiors to create a stimulating and buzzing place to work, and a layout to enable people to work either as individuals or collaborators. A great-looking workspace matters - it retains staff, impresses clients and best of all creates that all-important buzz.

5. It’s the FUTURE

Today, entrepreneurs are going from zero to hero very quickly. Small businesses are suddenly becoming global businesses – and this level of growth can’t be managed within the confines of traditional office space. The force of digital is transforming how businesses work – gone are the times when rooms and rooms of files held business materials. The cloud has enabled businesses to become increasingly efficient at storing important data, eradicating the need for a permanent office setup. Your business is where your laptop is. Investing in technology, not concrete, is working smart - and it’s the way to go.

Interested? Here are a few options…

Business clubs tend to offer a working experience quite different to what is experienced in a traditional office space – and this is primarily tied into a wide array of options being available to growing businesses to choose from.

Workspace, for instance, provides commercial property to let throughout London including offices, serviced offices, light industrial, warehouse and workshop space.

Work Hubs, on the other hand, have combined a physical co-working space with business critical support services and a member community.

In addition to office space, some working clubs offer meeting rooms and venues for professional events as well - Regus being one of them.

Certain clubs, like my business Central Working, may be more partnership oriented, with a focus on teaming up with their clients to help them with multiple aspects of growing their businesses, depending on their individual needs.

Serial entrepreneur James Layfield is founder and CEO of Central Working, the membership-based business club with locations in Shoreditch, Bloomsbury and Whitechapel in London, and a new club in Manchester

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