A space plan is a made-to-order layout of your office space. If well designed, it will be flexible enough to accommodate future changes in your organization, such as staffing additions or managerial promotions, without the need for major interior renovation.

“An efficient space plan will increase productivity, efficiency and employee morale by maximizing the capabilities of your space,” says Sam McWilliams, managing partner at SMC Consulting, LLC.

As companies grow and reorganize, space can become fragmented, which challenges departmental and personnel adjacencies.

“These are common challenges that come with organizational change and growth, but can be addressed with proper planning,” says McWilliams.

Smart Business spoke with McWilliams about how a space plan can help you get the most out of your office space.

How is a space plan developed?

Determine what your current and future needs are, then reach out to a professional space planner or designer. He or she can evaluate your existing space plan and determine whether it can be reconfigured to accommodate those needs, or requires additional space.

Architects are not always required for interior planning. By hiring a designer/space planner, you will be able to keep your professional fees to a minimum.

What should be expected from a designer?

The interior design professional should be knowledgeable about building codes and Americans with Disabilities Act requirements to ensure that your space is properly designed.

Expect the designer to conduct site surveys and perform employee interviews to identify company goals. It is important to understand what challenges employees and companies are facing with their current space to understand why a company is looking to make a change. This process is called programming and is a critical step in developing a space plan that will make the best use of the space available.

What are the next steps?

The designer will generate a space plan that reflects the compilation of details gathered from programming. Generating these drawings should be a collaborative effort between you and your designer.

Departmental adjacencies and alignments will be identified, that can create ‘neighborhoods’ of groups that need to collaborate and interact with one another on a daily basis. Workspaces will be designed to accommodate work processes that allow daily activities to be performed more efficiently. By developing a standard footprint for an open plan environment, your new space plan can promote collaboration, increase productivity and reduce real estate costs.

How much flexibility does a space plan offer?

A flexible space plan allows companies to preserve space for future use by utilizing temporary space via ‘hotelling,’ a method that allocates unassigned space for visitors, field personnel or huddle rooms for small meetings. These temporary areas can be easily converted to more permanent workspaces without interruption or loss of existing space allocations.

Incorporating an open environment in your space plan can increase space allocation. Designing workstations in modular size will allow for easy reconfiguration in the future. Workstation ‘typicals’ can be easily reconfigured using the same panels to create smaller or larger workstations depending on your needs.

How will implementing this space plan render measurable results?

By utilizing the appropriate square footage, you can reduce overhead costs and increase workplace efficiency and productivity by: 

  • Implementing company standards.  
  • Workstation and office design.  
  • Defining and improving adjacencies.  
  • Reducing or eliminating architectural fees.  
  • Proper allocation of square footage.  
  • Eliminating wasted space.  
  • Alternative work solutions.  
  • Improving IT infrastructure.

Change can be a challenging but rewarding process. Developing your space plan may take time, but the effort is worthwhile when you see the impact it has on your company.

Sam McWilliams is a managing partner at SMC Consulting, LLC. Reach her at (724) 728-8625 or sam@smcconsulting.net.

Insights Furnishings is brought to you by SMC Consulting, LLC

Published in Pittsburgh

People are approaching how they use office space differently than they have in the past, says Ronald J. Gantner, CPA, a partner with Plante Moran CRESA. And this has changed how buildings are designed and renovated.

‘The generation coming up in the work force wants more collaborative space, with fewer walls and greater technology infrastructure,” says Gantner. “Some buildings and landlords have adapted, some have yet to catch up, and others may not be able to create the environment today’s tenants are demanding.”

Finding the right building for your needs and determining which is the most affordable — and that is not necessarily the one with the lowest rent — can be challenging and time consuming. But you don’t have to go it alone. An experienced tenant representative can assist you through the process.

Smart Business spoke with Gantner about tenant representatives and how they can help you navigate the real estate market while you stay focused on your business.

How have the changing needs of businesses affected office real estate?

In the real estate business, we used to talk about price per square foot. Now buyers are looking at the cost per person or the occupancy cost per employee. This creates an opportunity to accommodate more people within more flexible spaces and reduces tenants’ demand for square footage. We’re seeing more maximization of space or greater efficiency in the way space is used, which will drive down cost.

From a landlord’s perspective, buildings need to adapt and be smarter to recapture rent. A significant cost of space build out is related to the technology that our new wireless, high-tech workers demand. Existing buildings with a strong technology backbone are going to command a higher rent as this offsets improvements that would need to be made to bring another space up to par. More flexible and collaborative space will create a higher demand. Everything from WiFi in common areas and cafeterias to flexible space with lots of parking sets the best buildings apart.

Some market areas don’t have a lot of quality buildings that can be easily retrofitted to accommodate what today’s tenants are looking for. Tenants may discover the list of great opportunities is shorter than the recent high vacancy rates may imply. Rent is only one component of your total occupancy costs. Ultimately, tenants don’t want to put much capital into a nonperforming asset. Instead, they want to invest it into their core business because it will result in a higher rate of return.

How can a tenant representative help?

A tenant representative is an advocate for the tenant. Often tenants can get hung up on a great real estate deal and fail to analyze whether it is a good business deal. A representative will show you all of the options that make sense to your business from a real estate, financial and strategic perspective. It might seem attractive to only pay $15 per square foot for the real estate, but it could cost $100 per square foot to upgrade the space to work for the client. They look at aspects beyond rent, including the cost to move and build out a space, as well as the surrounding amenities to present you with the top options based on your needs and budget.

How important is the tenant representative’s ability to be independent?

It is extremely important to work with someone who is not incentivized by a landlord to lead you in a particular direction. Using an independent tenant representative will avoid conflicts of interest and show you all the options that make sense for your business. Having an advocate sitting only in your corner is also valuable in negotiation.

What are the dangers of conducting the search for office space on your own?

Tenant representatives are involved in numerous transactions on a daily basis. They have extensive knowledge about the market and what to look for in a real estate contract, and even help ensure your lease has flexibility for expansion or contraction. Tenant representatives have learned best practices over hundreds of transactions and years of experience, while comparatively, most business owners will be learning as they go while deflecting efforts away from their business’s core functions. And if you make a mistake, it can be very costly for a long time to come.

Can working with a tenant representative lead to a better deal?

Absolutely. Tenant representatives know the market, the transactions that are happening and what capital dollars landlords are spending to entice tenants. They also know the capital structure of the landlords who own the building you’re considering.

In the past years of the economic downturn, landlords have lost buildings or remain troubled financially. Tenant representatives can educate the client on these situations, which may range from a decline of property maintenance services or even foreclosure.

Once you are into a building and the property and facilities are not tended to properly, it impacts a company’s ability to do business. So it is not only pricing, it is making sure you are in a suitable location where you can conduct your business relatively worry free.

How do you select a tenant representative?

The important thing is to begin the process early — at least two and a half years before your lease expires. Also, talk to two or three providers. Look for firms that have independence or that work only on behalf of tenants. Talk with them about their process, look at their financial capabilities and work to understand the P&L impact of these real estate transactions. You want a firm that can handle your space planning needs while working to get the best pricing for the property.



Ronald J. Gantner, CPA, is a partner with Plante Moran CRESA. Reach him at (248) 603-5257 or ron.gantner@plantemoran.com.

Insights Real Estate is brought to you by Plante Moran CRESA

Published in Detroit

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 press@gopetplan.com.

Published in Philadelphia

Your business is growing, and you need to find a new location. You may think it’s just a matter of driving around and finding a place for lease or sale. But trying to do it on your own without a real estate broker could prove costly to your business, says Eliot Kijewski, a sales associate with CRESCO Real Estate.

“The average business owner doesn’t have that market knowledge,” says Kijewski. “He or she is focused on their business, not on the availability of space and on what deals can be had in the market. A broker not only has knowledge of the market but can help you with things such as tax abatement and economic assistance programs.”

Smart Business spoke with Kijewski about how having the right representation in the real estate market can save you both time and money.

Why can’t business owners simply identify a new space on their own?

Business owners are focused on their business, not on the real estate market. It’s a broker’s job to know the market.

If you are a small manufacturer, you’re going to be focused on that. And when your business gets so large that it has to expand, you don’t have the time or the knowledge to go out and find an alternative location, or to look on the Internet, because you are so busy working with a lean staff, trying to hire more bodies to produce more product and focusing on increased profitability.

If you contact a broker and have a 20-minute conversation about what geography works for you and what kind of space you need, the broker can put that search in motion while you continue to work on your business.

How can a broker help you identify the right space?

If you’re trying to do this on your own, you may not know if a city has tax abatements or an economic assistance program to help with things as small as providing funds toward landscaping, or as large as providing funds to upgrade equipment or improve the physical structure. Tapping into these programs can add money to your bottom line.

A broker will also know about items such as day care and public transportation options. If you have to hire a work force, where are those people coming from? If you’re hiring new people at modest wages, you probably need to be close to public transportation.

A broker can also make you aware of things you may overlook, such as a perk in another building that you were unaware of as well as market trends that affect pricing.

How can business owners identify the right broker for their needs?

The first question to ask is whether that person has a specialty: office, retail or industrial. Second, ask to see a resume of the type of transactions that person has completed, and ask whether you can talk to the people involved in those deals. Also ask what extra ingredient that person can bring to the table to assist you.

Look for a broker who is loyal, who will stick with you until you’ve found the right location for your needs. It’s not just market knowledge; it’s the ability to find not just what you need but really finding the right fit. That ties in to the honesty of the broker, the ability to say, ‘This is not the right location for you, let’s not stop looking until we find the right location,’ instead of just trying to shoe horn you into a space.

Another issue is perseverance. Once a broker closes a deal, that shouldn’t mean closure of the relationship. Too many brokers, once they close the deal, move on. Or, if it’s a lease, they reappear four years into a five-year lease to discuss renewal. Your broker should be in touch at least quarterly to check on how the space is working out and to see if you have any other needs that he or she can meet.

What questions should your broker ask to help identify the right space for your needs?

The broker should ask about employees. How are you going to grow and what are your projections? One of the most important things a broker should determine is if you want just enough space for now, or enough space to grow. That means a conversation about the direction you feel the business is going.

Brokers should ask about the requirements for your business. If it’s an office space, is it a more open format, or a closed office format? If it’s an industrial space, the broker should ask about power requirements, loading, ceiling heights, etc.

Once a broker identifies potential spaces, how does the process proceed?

A good broker will come back with a list of recommendations, but a great broker will go one step further, providing commentary on each and every space. That can help a business owner see something he or she hadn’t acknowledged before.

If a company says it needs two docks and a drive-in door, the broker should look beyond that. If a space only has one dock, you could probably add a second one. Or if you’re looking for an industrial space and there’s too much office space, you can take out office space. If you’re looking for office space and there’s only 1,000 feet available and you’ll need more in the future, you may pass it by. But a broker will know that the lease on the adjacent space is coming up in a year, something that the general market may not know.

Your broker should give you every option and then explain each item on the list.

Eliot Kijewski is a sales associate with CRESCO Real Estate. Reach him at (216) 525-1487 or ekijewski@crescorealestate.com.

Published in Cleveland