Work smart

Increased costs in running a business and real estate means small businesses must be more efficient.

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By  Administrator Published  May 19, 2008

With increased costs in running a business and real estate coming at a premium, the region's SMBs need to operate more efficiently than ever before. What better place could there be, than starting at the office?

Read on as The Advisor list out the challenges involved in setting up and running a smart office.

With so many people wanting to start up in business today, getting the right advice and guidance can be the difference between success and failure. It is true that many small businesses fail within the first three years because they did not plan ahead - as the saying goes, "failing to plan, is planning to fail.

Setting up an office for your small business is important to stay ahead of the competition - you really don't want your clients meeting you in your living room or your kitchen. And hence, planning it all out effectively is crucial, too.

Maintenance companies exist. So ensure that you fully understand what they offer in terms of response rates and that they are certified by the vendor.

Setting up an office from scratch can be quite overwhelming for many - especially if you haven't gone through the entire process at all in your life. Also, not everyone has a big budget for outfitting a small business office and few people can pay to have a professional space planner come into their office to design an efficient and smart office space.

That however shouldn't stop you from choosing the best for your office. There are lots of ways to create a good space for a small office set-up without spending a fortune. One of the challenges of planning and getting your office off the ground is to estimate your start-up costs.

At best, it's going to be a stab in the dark or a wild guess, but there are some specific steps you can take to calculate your costs more realistically.

According to John Ross, general manager for Middle East, India and North East Africa at OKI Printing Solutions, a number of factors come into play when setting up an office for your small business.

In no particular order I would say location - since it is not easy to find a good place with easy access and within the budget. Staff, which is becoming a real problem in the region, it is very hard to find the suitable talented and experienced people.

Also, the latest surveys done in the region showed that because of the expensive lifestyle it is hard to attract the right people to come and work here.

Another challenge would be communication infrastructure. Based on business needs, SMBs can decide on the most suitable means of communications to use," adds Ross.

"The budget of course is one of the major challenges; SMBs are limited with a modest budget which can be very challenging trying to get the best equipment, materials and machines without stepping out of your limits. Finally I would say perception and capabilities which brings us back to the staff problem.

Calculate the costs

A variety of factors need to be considered when setting up an office. Some of the key costs you will have to cover include office rent, equipment, fixtures and fittings, installation, interior decoration, and furniture, among others.

Budgeting is indeed quite tricky. A lot depends on the location of your proposed office, which will determine the rents," explains Ross.

Furniture can be anything from US$1000 to US$5500 per workspace plus the associated mechanical, electrical and power issues, which can also be several thousands of dollars for a small office.

Ross further adds that the IT investment will depend on what is needed for the office.

These can include servers, backup solutions for disaster recovery, printers, cabling or secure wireless network, mobile phones, remote access to the e-mail system, security solutions and so on, which can cost anything from US$800 to US$5000 per person.

Maintenance companies exist. So ensure that you fully understand what they offer in terms of response rates and that they are certified by the vendor. Also, recruitment of staff can be a costly affair.

You will have to find an agency that recruits the type of people you are looking for, and fit into the budget you have set for each individual at your office. Visas and associated legal issues will also have to be dealt with," says Ross.

Bootstrapping is a way of life for many in the small business office setting. With no corporate chief financial officer (CFO) to pay for the tools and hardware needed to run the business, cutting costs - without cutting corners - can help stretch the balance sheet.

Between start-up and daily operations, launching and sustaining a small business can be a constant battle. Look for savings by looking at everyday items to nip and tuck.

From procuring hardware to getting the best telephone services at the right price, slice fractions off existing bills to lower the monthly overheads.

Used office furniture stores or office equipment leasing companies often have quality desks to sell at reduced prices; quality filing cabinets might be more difficult to find. Shop around for price and quality. Visit the local thrift or consignment shop and read the classified ads for sales, auctions and liquidations. Know anyone in a business?

Sometimes businesses preparing to upgrade their furniture would part with it cheaply. No matter the savings, don't buy your chair used. A good - and reasonably priced - ergonomic chair can be found at the office superstore or even a warehouse club for less than US$200. Your body - and health insurer - will thank you with reduced strain and fewer visits to the orthopedist or chiropractor.

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