Office leasing sucks
I'll never forget it.
I was ten years old and the day had already dragged on forever.
Earlier that Saturday morning in 1984, every second had seemed like an hour waiting for Songs of Glory to finish before the cartoons started at 8am. But that afternoon, Dad finally handed me $20 to do whatever I wanted with that night at the Royal Adelaide Show. Showbag nirvana. Rides galore.
For most SME’s, the prospect of moving office is the antitheses of that glorious moment.
Over the past 25 years, I’ve seen thousands of tenants do what our fictional friend Brian did below.
His accounting firm, Ledgers ‘r’ Us, had 10 staff and had been in a 125sqm office for 10 years.
They had the opportunity to move at the expiry of their initial 5-year term, but the owner, Brian Beancounter, was flat chat at the time. His lovely wife, Bev, had just had their third child and the shit was hitting the fan, literally and figuratively. So, Brian exercised his option and put it in the draw for another 5 years.
Anyway, his second 5-year term was coming to an end, and their three kids, Bevan, Bonnie & Beatrice were now at school. Homelife for Brian & Bev had moved into its next phase: the parental taxi service.
Meanwhile, the business was booming at Ledgers ‘r’ Us. Looking forward, he reckoned he’d need another 3-4 staff over the next 3 years. Because he was an accountant, he knew numbers.
He found some offices of 150-200sqm for lease on the internet, rang a few agents and squeezed in a few inspections in between his raison-d’etre, straight-lining, along with his least favourite task, accruals.
He found a 190sqm office where the landlord had just done a brand-new fitout for 14 staff around 45 mins drive from home. “It’s probably a little bit big, but it’s got enough desks for growth and those 3 meeting rooms I've always wanted”, Brian mused to himself.
He didn’t have the time to mess around any longer. Besides, he would save a fortune on not having to do a fitout.
Brian then signed the lease at the newly fitted office and gave his managing agent of 10-years notice. "I’ll show you for not fixing those lifts after asking 14 times!", he laughed. (Brian loved the small wins).
After the excruciating ordeal of getting Telstra to connect the internet, Brian’s business eventually moved in, and all his staff were loving their swanky new office. It had all the space they needed for then and the future, and Friday night drinks were so much better now they were just outside the city.
Brian got to satisfy his penchant for karaoke at the bar underneath the new office. His drive to work took a lot longer, especially with the constant roadworks on the Freeway, but overall he was as happy as Larry.
Time passed and the world was a great place. Ledgers grew from 10 -14 staff in that first year.
Brian's happy. Bev’s happy. The staff were happy. Everyone’s happy. At Ledgers ‘r’ Us, it was like the Prime Ministers church on Sunday.
And then, out of the blue, there was an economic downturn of pandemic proportions, and Brian was forced to reduce staff numbers back to 10.
They were in 190sqm with another 3 years to go on the lease. Real estate costs were double what the reduced business's revenue could support.
In sliding doors moment before signing that lease, Brian had considered a vacant 110sqm property 5-minute walk from the family home in Suburban Hills. Bev had pushed hard for it.
But it wasn’t fitted and was smaller than the office he’d spent the previous 10 years in. Previous experiences with fitout contractors had been, well, hell. This space was subsequently dismissed.
Which brings our little fantasy to now.
The economic downturn, a business being crippled by real estate expenses, and a whole heap of stress for him, Bev & the kids.
Imagine if that 110sqm office around the corner from the Beancounters had been fully fitted for 10 people.
The workstations design and their layout didn't have to be retrofitted with makeshift stickers and awkward procedures to be COVID-19 friendly. It only had the meeting spaces Brian's business actually needed, not what he thought he needed.
It looked really cool. And then came the two cherries on top.
It was around the same rent as an unfitted space of the same size. And at any time during the lease, the landlord would also supply & install 4 new workstations, at no cost or rent increase.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, this is no fantasy.
This is a Cucumber Office.