Shared office space is a smart solution for some businesses, but definitely not for all. Here are five key considerations to help you decide whether sharing office space is right for your business:
- Does everyone really need their own fax machine? When I’ve worked with organizations with limited resources, I’ve often asked why individual organizations pay for infrastructure such as photocopiers, coffee machines and even administrative staff—that are probably not being used at full capacity anyway. If you can find another company that has a similar way of delivering services and a similar approach to business, sharing office space can significantly reduce your costs.
- Sharing space leads to synergy – When people share space and resources, they might start out by thinking it’s just a cost-cutting measure, but over and over again, I’ve seen that sharing extends into knowledge and skill sharing, collaborative relationships and a synergistic environment where office-sharing partners become alliances that help each business grow.
- Bad fit – Peanut butter and bacon might be an inspired concept, but sometimes two great flavors just don’t go together at all. The same thing is true in business: you might pair up with another company only to find that your cultures clash, or that they monopolize equipment or staff time in a way that causes friction for your company. It’s important to avoid these bad fits as much as possible. Get into an office-sharing partnership only after doing your homework and figuring out whether you are compatible. Don’t just hook up with another company out of convenience and hope for the best.
- What does your space say about your brand? You know what you want your clients to think of you. In some industries, having a hole-in-the-wall office or sharing space is a non-issue, but for others that’s not the case. If the service you offer is one where you want your clients to feel that you are a mover and a shaker in your industry, think long and hard before sharing office space with another business. In this kind of business, sharing space can send a subtle message to your clients that you’re not standing on your own two feet or that you are cutting corners. Does this matter in your industry? Only you know the answer to that but if it’s important to your clients and potential clients, sharing space can damage your brand.
- Private or shared. It might depend on what you do. If you’re a divorce attorney, your clients rely on privacy. Some businesses, by the nature of what they do, just can’t share space and have to be careful about the kind of space they choose.
The bottom line is that what you need functionally and how others perceive your brand don’t always lead to the same conclusions. Be very clear about what you need functionally and what you want from outsiders looking at you—and never assume they are the same thing.