Natasha Ashton: Office space is a critical factor for your business

Natasha Ashton

Natasha Ashton, co-CEO, Petplan

Whether your business is just getting started or just hitting its stride, finding the right office space is one of the most important decisions a CEO can make. And not just because office space is one of the biggest fixed costs for a company — or, for that matter, because the average CEO spends one third of their waking life in their workspace.

The truth is, your office is much more than just space. It can affect what talent you attract, which vendors you’ll do business with, which mentors you’ll gain access to and just how effectively you’ll transform your customers into fans.

As a young business in the midst of explosive growth, with a workforce that has more than doubled in the past two years, discussions about office space are a near-daily occurrence at Petplan. As a result, we’ve learned a few critical points to consider when choosing office space:
Location, location, location

Legendary actor and comedian Bob Hope once said, “I’ve always been in the right place and time. Of course, I steered myself there.” The location you choose for your business — whether it is your corporate headquarters, regional offices, customer care center or brick-and-mortar retail outlets — will, quite simply, impact every other aspect of your business.

If you’re getting started, your office location will impact the employees you’ll attract, the suppliers you can use and the customers you’ll win over with your competitive advantage — all of which are critical to the pace you’ll set for your business and the successes you’ll achieve.

If you’re already established and are considering a move to accommodate future growth, location becomes an even more critical part of your decision-making process. The right location is an opportunity to reinvigorate your teams, advance productivity and increase employee satisfaction. The wrong location has potential to turn a minor disruption into an HR crisis. When considering potential office space, place the most importance on its location.

Culture cultivator

A close second to location in terms of importance is culture. What kind of culture do you want to create with your organization? Do you really need individual offices? How can the space be optimized for collaboration and productivity? For Petplan, culture is king. We strive to maintain the classic “start-up culture” — an open culture in which everyone is a hands-on contributor and shares ideas and opinions. So for our office, we prefer an open floor plan that promotes interaction across all employees, including staff, managers and executives alike.

 Your office space is more than a place to work. Consider how it can solve the needs of both your business and your employees. Does the building have adequate parking? Access to ground transportation? Proximity to rail or air transport? Are there facilities, such as restaurants, shops, dry cleaners and overnight couriers on site or nearby? Is it safe? Does it allow pets (obviously, an important one for us)? Seek space that answers questions critical to the needs of your business.

One to grow on

Just as you wouldn’t seek a technology solution that merely answered today’s needs without any consideration for the future, seek space that allows you to be nimble. Is there contiguous space available? Is the landlord willing to work with you as you grow? Picture your business 24 months from now — does the space support your needs? Can the building provide additional solutions?

Make a good impression

Your office is an extension of your brand. If your office is dull and disheveled, chances are your business will follow suit. Choose a space that reflects your brand’s personality, and will allow your team to communicate that personality, and your business’ core values, to the world at large.

Natasha Ashton is the co-CEO and co-founder of Petplan pet insurance and its quarterly glossy pet health magazine, Fetch! — both headquartered in Philadelphia. Originally from the U.K., she holds an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business. She can be reached at [email protected]

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