Office sharing: how to make it work

Sharing an office with another company can be worthwhile, but not just for cost reasons. talks to three companies that do it.

Andy Eymond, CEO of marketing company Madano Partnership has been office sharing for some five years. While companies are often attracted by the chance of slashing their rental costs, Eymond saw sharing with other companies in the creative sector as a gateway to many additional opportunities and benefits.

‘When you have like-minded people in the place you tend to get a better culture, with more ideas and dialogue,’ he says. ‘As we’ve shared bigger spaces and grown that’s continued to ring true.’

The businesses within the office help out by recommending clients to each other. Adds Eymond, ‘From the perspective of the client, having their suppliers working in the same office space means such suppliers have a better understanding of their customer’s needs and the customer benefits from a more seamless service.’

Eymond says that when there are a number of companies in the same office trying to operate in a collegiate way, there has to be flexibility. If things aren’t working for some of the sharers, he reckons, there should be a forum where they can raise these issues and get them dealt with.

He adds, ‘The key is make sure the chemistry is right. It’s like sharing a flat; you’ve all got to get on, so don’t just do it for financial convenience because then you lose the benefits of the social and collegiate approach. Cost savings shouldn’t be the driver.’

Cost considerations

While cost isn’t the be-all and end-all, it is obviously an important consideration. But going low-cost and shared doesn’t necessarily mean early-stage companies have to slum it. Yakub Zolynski, founder of recruitment company Market Mavens, was surprised by the value of shared offices available, both in terms of favourable areas and desirable interiors. He searched for shared offices through agents, rental websites and friends, and now pays just £375 per month for a riverside location near Bermondsey in London, after viewing unshared properties of £650 and upwards for less appealing spaces.

‘I ended up finding some of the best office spaces for a very reasonable rate,’ he says. ‘Previously I had been looking at serviced offices but so often they’re soulless and have no real atmosphere because different people come in every day.

‘Here though, you can build relationships with people but keep the costs down.’

Zolynski shares his floor with an SEO company, a graphic design business and a software operator, but the open-plan structure allows him access to more companies on the floor below. ‘Everyone scratches each other’s back and passes on leads. For example, I’m speaking to you today on a lead from the PR company downstairs.’

Flexibility of contract is another good reason to office share. Zolynski says that every shared office contract he has been on has taken the form of a rolling monthly contract. ‘It takes the noose of a 12-month contract off your neck,’ he says. Also, Zolynski has a bank of four desks ready in the space, but doesn’t have to pay for them until he has filled them.

Overall: ‘It’s professional to look like you’re not doing this from your bedroom but at the same time you’re not paying the cost of the corporate world. I don’t see myself changing this system until I have a ten-person team.’

Sub-letting an office

Xanthe Vaughan Williams, CEO of Fourth Day Public Relations, sub-lets her office to a corporate finance company and a couple of charities. She also has two other operations that office share, one in Paris and one in Manchester. ‘You get to see another company’s approach to business and the ones we share with have a few things in common,’ she says. Fourth Day has clients in the sectors of the companies it shares with and is also helping out one of the charities with marketing a competition it is running.

It’s not all plain sailing to get in on an office share arrangement though. Zolynski says that he was interviewed and asked to spend time socialising in the pub with fellow tenants to ensure they got on. Vaughan Williams also adds that it can be difficult to find a landlord willing to accommodate the idea of sub-letting. ‘But if you do find a landlord prepared to let it happen there are almost no downsides.’

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Office space

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