How to set up office space for a small business


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Selecting suitable accommodation is an important decision when starting out in small business. To save cash, you may want to operate from home. However, working from a kitchen table, spare bedroom or garage may not be appropriate for all businesses.

Home-based business

Nearly 1 million people operate from home, according to the Australian government website, so it is big business.

Setting up a small business space office

A home-based business can make a whole lot of sense, as you won't need to lock into a commercial lease so can reduce start-up costs. If you already own a desktop computer or laptop, you won't need to buy or lease equipment.

However, be sure to examine the regulations that may apply in your municipality, especially if you are hiring staff or meeting clients. If you do plan to be an employer and conduct face-to-face meetings, you may need to provide off-street parking or a separate entrance.

As a home-based business you need to make sure you have insurance to protect yourself, your business and your home. Standard homeowner policies do not generally provide cover for home-based business activities.

You'll require public liability, for example, to cover visiting customers and suppliers, as well as workers' compensation for employees working from your home and professional indemnity insurance if you're in a service industry. You might need extra contents cover to insure your tools of trade.

Angus Raine, the executive chairman of Raine & Horne Commercial, says working from home can save money but it won't stack up if you have a young family.

"Some entrepreneurs will find it difficult to work with the distractions of family nearby."

Commercial space

A commercial property lease is a legally binding contract and, whether it's a shop, office space or industrial unit, it's important to understand the terms and conditions before making a commitment. Check if outgoings - water, electricity and parking - are included in the lease.

Commercial real estate groups post properties for lease on their corporate websites, while a commercial real estate portal such as is worth checking as part of your research.

The commercial location you choose will also be dictated by the nature of your business, Raine says.

"If you're starting a law firm, retail business, real estate office or manufacturing business, operating from home probably won't be an option," he says.

For television set designer and event manager Karen Orr, who launched Miss Kizzy's, a florist in Ettalong on the NSW Central Coast, this year, a commercial space was a no-brainer.

"I need the passing foot traffic for my business and the shop doubles as an efficient workspace for arranging the flowers," says Orr.

"Flowers are a highly visual commodity and people like to look and smell before they buy. This isn't possible if I'm working from home."

Raine questions whether a home-based business presents the right image. "A business operating from a commercial space sends a message that you're a robust and sound business, which is important when you are pitching for new business," he says. "A great location can help improve sales and productivity, attract the right kind of clients and good employees."

Another option is serviced offices through the likes of Servcorp, Regus and WOTSO WorkSpace. You get a workspace, access to boardrooms and meeting rooms, as well as administration and reception support staff.

Servcorp says an office for one person in the prestigious MLC Centre in Sydney's Martin Place, including telephone handset, phone number, phone calls, internet, reception and mail handling, currently costs $600 a week.

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Anthony O'Brien is a small business and personal finance writer with 20-plus years' experience in the communication industry.
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