Is Your Place of Business Holding Back Your Business?

I generally advocate for saving money when it comes to something as simple as office space. But I’ve gotten a number of letters about this, and I want to present a more nuanced perspective. In general I think it’s important to invest in your business in the areas that matter, especially if you’re getting your start. So much of your early success depends on being able to overdeliver. It doesn’t matter if your office’s fluorescent lights flicker and you have to sit on a milk crate (at least, not for awhile). But I also understand that sooner or later, you’ve got invest in a better place to work. Here are the considerations I have when making a decision like this.

  • Will We Be More Productive? Sure, some great businesses were started in garages, but they didn’t stay in garages. Eventually, and especially if you have employees, you will start to get depressed if your place of business is janky. Make your workers and yourself feel appreciated and valuable enough to invest in a comfortable and attractive workspace. Don’t go overboard with this. There are plenty of businesses that spend six figures on a conference room table, when really they could have spent only four. Make sure that your office doesn’t become a vanity project. But also don’t let it be a dump. People don’t realize how cluttered, ugly surroundings hamper their future growth.
  • Will It Help Our Reputation? By this I mean, will other people in the industry take us more seriously as a result of our new digs? There are limits on how much you should spend for this, as well. But it’s kind of like the real estate agent with the old, junky car. If clients are regularly meeting you in your office, or if your business has a growing profile, you’ve got to have an appropriately outfitted office to appear as professional as I know you are. The same goes for your website. Look at your competitors. Also look at the competitors you want to have, if you were to grow enough. Where do they go to work?
  • Can You Find a Compromise? A lot of the work I do is as a one-man operation, and I don’t often have meetings in my office space. On several occasions I have had great success using a service to put important meetings in the right setting. Then I can go home to my cheap office and no one is the wiser. Sooner or later, I’ll grow out of this middle way, but it has come through for me in big ways on more than one occasion. A lot of business is inherently social, and it pays to make the right venue impression, even if you’re not actually paying the rent.

A lot of business is about doing a good job, looking good doing it, and saving as much as you can along the way. In the search for the ideal office, I hope you are able to find the perfect balance of these three factors. Don’t overspend for a fancy place you don’t need, but don’t hold on to a dumpy workplace just because it saves you a little money. Both will hold you back in ways you may not even notice.