To be in business you need an office. This may be a spare room in your apartment or house, a leased office space in an industrial complex, or even a separate room in a building on property you own. How does your office affect you and your business?
When we first started more than two decades ago, we ran out of a spare bedroom. It was great! The first symbol of entrepreneurism, my own office! Fortunately for me, it was at my grandparents’ house, so I didn’t officially live at work (although many days it seemed I did). At first, we had just a few trailers in the driveway, but before long it was evident more space was needed -- and needed fast, too.
So, we moved to a leased yard with an old office trailer. While this worked for the equipment, it didn’t provide the best office environment for growth, so soon we were on the move again. We landed in a mixed-use warehouse/office/yard combo and have been here ever since. It provides a nice office space to represent our growing company, a secure yard to store our large equipment, and best of all, an indoor warehouse to store smaller equipment and tools and maintain equipment.
While you may not think an office space affects your business, it surely can. As you grow, you want to represent your company well -- and there is a point where your clients might not view working from home in the best light. It's not that they will say, “Oh, you work from home. We don't trust you.” It’s more the implied message that you may be sending that you are still small and/or not growing -- so perhaps you’re not capable of doing their bigger work. It's unfortunate that we can be viewed in that kind of light, but it happens.
A separate company office (or bigger office) not only affects the perceived value of your operation to clients but to employees as well. As you grow, you want your employees to be proud of the place they work. But running your company from your dashboard in your truck doesn’t give employees a sense of confidence and doesn’t create an environment where employees want to be for the long haul.
Growing your place of business is not specific to just the office; maybe you just add yard space or a warehouse. This in itself can offer a more professional look, demonstrate growth to clients and employees, enable you to buy and store materials in bulk, and provide space to work on and maintain equipment. (And whenever you do expand, make sure to let everyone know through local newspapers, your social media accounts, and maybe even a direct-mail promotion!)
But be careful when expanding your facility, whether for your office or your yard. Growing too big, too fast can contribute to uncontrolled growth of your whole company. By adding the expense of a bigger, nicer office, you have increased your overhead. That means you might need to adjust your pricing, and that ultimately can affect your sales goals.
Some guys will lease ̶̶̶̶̶̶̶̶̶-- as we have -- and some will buy. We decided to lease because leasing made the numbers work for us: Our pricing could remain competitive while we remained profitable. Had we bought property or spent more than we have, our overhead would have risen enough that we couldn’t be near as profitable. The flip side, of course, is that those that buy now may enjoy the ownership factor down the road at retirement time -- when they have a valuable asset in their pockets.
Bottom line to your office and you: Get a space that meets your needs now and into the future but one that is within your budget. You don’t want to knock your overhead so far out of control that you enter the realm of uncontrolled growth.