I have worked on many office relocations, be they new openings of a few hundred square feet to merging businesses together in one supercentre of many tens of thousands square feet and I’m never surprised to hear senior management saying “we want to be in, in the next 4 weeks!”
Now I’m sure this is just a motivation strategy to ensure the project doesn’t stumble along, but to any business who doesn’t normally perform this activity, there is always a surprising lack of understanding at just how much time, resource and disruption to the business a new office opening can take and even more when relocating an existing office.
Below are some tips to help you understand your responsibilities:
- Get a Business Plan. All good businesses have business plans that they are working towards. Within this ensure you have a section detailing your expansion plans and identify the offices in which you expect to hit capacity and roughly at what point. This will help you discuss the plans with the Finance Director and if everything is on track, be able to start planning early. It will also enable you to communicate your plans with the relevant people at the relevant time.
- Be clear on your brief and location. It is very exciting looking for new offices, but ensure you have a very clear brief so your appointed estate agent only shows you what’s relevant. It’s also very easy to get carried away. How many staff will you be looking to grow into? What is your budget? Where are your competitors? What are transport links like? What are the on-going costs and service charges for the term of the contract? Will you be attracting the right sort of employee to this location?
- Get the right team together. A Board Sponsor should appoint a project manager who has time to proactively manage this critical and expensive project and who has experience, contacts and communication skills to ensure the project runs smoothly. Don’t dump it on your PA or office manager; they are normally already really busy and may not have the experience of dealing with a multitude of different suppliers. Ensure the Project Manager assembles an internal team who delegates responsibility for their specific parts of the plan and ensures all contracts are assessed by the PM and Board Sponsor. In an ideal world the Board Sponsor should sign all contracts.
- Plan, Communicate and Plan again. The detail is all in the planning. Without a detailed plan early on there will only be one result – confusion! The plan needs to detail what needs to be done, by whom and when it will be completed. This needs to be communicated and transparent to the team at all times. The Project Manager’s role is to ensure everyone is achieving their objectives, budgets are on target (or ideally under) and the management are briefed and everyone is happy.
- Get quotes early. You want to be moving into your new offices as close to signing the contract as is feasibly possible. Finding suppliers once a contract has been signed will lead to considerable delays. You want trusted suppliers who will deliver the goods to as high a standard as you expect and at the price you want to pay and work wants to start the moment you get the keys. This task takes time – panic buying due to time constraints often leads to higher spends and stressful implementation.