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Don’t bet your house on it – Why market uncertainty is causing businesses to turn their backs on the risk of traditional office leases

Philip Sugden

By Philip Sugden, Operations Director at Portal Group UK

While the uncertain impact of volatile market conditions, and of course Brexit, remain to be seen, businesses of all sizes are having to adapt to become more flexible than ever before. Even the most well-established businesses with enough capital to sustain sudden expenses, are reviewing what were previously assured and predictable growth plans.

A business’s property profile is one of the most costly financial investments to be made and over the years the associated fixed rental rates are amongst the standard steps taken in establishing a solid presence for your business.

That cost certainty however, came at a price of the flexibility that is now critical in the modern and reactionary market place.

New businesses are growing at an entirely unpredictable rate while some large established businesses are seeking the autonomy to customize a workspace to better respond to supply and demand. However, with office space at a premium, both large and SME businesses are finding it harder to find a premises that can fill their present and future without breaking the bank.

The possibility that you might need to expand, reduce, reallocate or relocate your workforce at the speed required, particularly for example in the contact centre environment, is extremely costly and entirely impractical under the traditional office lease.

Whether a business is expanding or simply relocating due to success or commercial needs, budgets can no longer be front-loaded into capital expenditure laden construction or leasing of properties.

When considering the growing need to balance financial flexibility with cost certainty in the UK, it’s also interesting to note that our leasing habits differ vastly from the norm abroad. For example, while companies here have traditionally committed to the surety of long 10, 15 or even 20 year leases, the average is closer to three years in the US or India.

While these short-term lets would be at odds with the business growth plans of most UK businesses, more and more businesses of all sizes are increasingly exploring more flexible yet capex-free models.

The likes of managed office solutions (MOS) financial packages, which combine property acquisition, workspace design, fit out, facilities management and supporting services, reflect the emphasis now being placed on financial flexibility and the more expansive use of fluid operating costs (opex).

With simple, streamlined systems and structured terms, business owners can invest their time, effort and money into their businesses, not bricks and mortar.

Simply put, the new wave of shared offices options are allowing start-ups and multinational businesses alike to not only access all the amenities they need at a cost-certain price, but to work within a flexible financial model that fosters their own unique growth and culture.

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