Facility Planning: The Next Step
If you followed the initial planning process described in a previous chapter, you should be about halfway through the tunnel, but not quite seeing the light yet. You've hired a broker who is working diligently on your behalf. He has helped you establish a timeline, analyzed your present obligations, helped you to clarify your goals and objectives from a real estate perspective, and you have provided him with a list of key personnel he will be interfacing with. Now, the fun begins.
What's a Business Plan?
We’re always amazed how many clients never have a written business plan. Lawyers are the worst (sorry guys), but we do understand that most smaller companies have a "vision" of what they want, rather than a plan for achieving it. That may be OK, but the important thing to do is write down that vision or plan. Your real estate will say a lot about your company. It will provide a place for your company to live and grow. For many of your employees, they will spend as much time there as they do at home.
By writing down a summary of your plan, you can refer back to it at each stage of the process. We remember one law firm that had a vision of producing high quality work while also giving their attorneys and employees an opportunity to enjoy the California lifestyle. Their real estate reflected that vision. Their space was in an upscale building centrally located between three distinct business districts and was accessible to planes, trains, and freeways. The building had a large conference room for seminars, and their space had a gym and locker room. The idea of the locker room was not only for noon workouts—lawyers who worked late often showered and changed at the office before having their wives, husbands, or significant others meet them there to rush off to a show or dinner party.
The building afforded them the opportunity to grow and their relationship with the landlord enabled them the contract during hard times.
This may actually be part of your business plan—actually, it should be. Chart both your organization now and how you think it will change over the next 3-5 years—simple and straightforward.
Talk to all your employees. Many company presidents or partnerships tend to make real estate decisions based on the personal agenda of one or two executives or a small partnership committee. This approach is both wrong and right. What do we mean by that?
Obviously, someone has to make the final decision and yes, it will be swayed one way or the other by the people up top, but you should ask your employees what they think. You may be surprised that the staff may want the same thing the president wants, but for different reasons.
In taking our clients through the ten-step planning and implementation process, we have developed a questionnaire that we distribute to all employees (most of our clients range from five to fifty employees). We ask a wide range of questions related to both their present facility and their vision for the new facility. Topics range from location to image, amenities to size of the workspace. (Drop us an e-mail and we'll send you a copy).
One of our clients was located near the beach in Newport Beach, California—tough life. Actually, their office was an old World War II boathouse. Everyone both loved and hated the place, and for different reasons. It was amazing what the questionnaire came back with. Bottom line—they stayed where they were.
Executives liked the location because it was near their homes. Employees loved lunch on the beach and because there was no hassle at noon, they appeared more productive—no racing around looking for restaurants at noon. Everyone had certain problems with the building, so those concerns were addressed through both our comparison property search and negotiations with their present landlord.
Putting it all Together
You have your plan, you asked your employees what they liked and disliked about the present space, now you're ready to rock and roll. What you are going to do is calculate the actual space you need for the next three-five years. Most clients I meet for the first time are quick to simply tell me how much space they need. That calculation is arrived at by taking the present space and figuring out how many additional offices are needed or warehouse space is required. Wrong—that's guessing, not planning.
Take your business plan, goals and objectives, and staff surveys, and extract the following:
What are the job descriptions of the people presently employed and will they remain the same for the foreseeable future?
What common use areas, such as conference rooms, storage, copy areas, reception spaces, etc. do you anticipate needing?
How much space does each job description need and how much space is needed for each common area?
How will those numbers change over the next 3-5 years?