Getting Bigger On A Budget

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Guillermo Rotman, CEO of The Regus Group, has a few words of advice for small companies looking to expand without blowing their budgets.

Growth is good.  But only if it doesn’t cost you more than it’s worth.  Some small businesses take steps to add staff and move into a larger office, only to find out later that the overhead and extra expenses drag them under.

What many small business owners don’t realise is that there is a middle ground between doing everything yourself from home and hiring staff to work in a pricey office.  Today there are a wide array of alternatives that allow small and mid-sized firms to compete at the same level as the major players in their industry, at a fraction of the cost.  How you use the tools to your advantage is up to you.  Here are four ideas: 

Masterful meetings 

Hosting free educational seminars to attract potential clients has always been a popular strategy for small business owners.  But most sessions are wrought with two recurring problems: cost and control.  It can cost too much to rent hotel meeting rooms that are only available in half-day blocks.  And there can be a lack of quality control when you invite prospects to meet at a local restaurant.

There is another option.  One rather well-kept secret (for now) is the availability of by-the-hour meeting rooms at conveniently located business centres in larger cities and suburbs.  For about 20-30 per cent less than the average hotel meeting room, you can secure a conference room in a prestigious high-rise, get on-site technical and administrative support, and have catering arranged for your group.

A home away from home 

The technology revolution has made working from home more feasible for many small business owners.  But when it’s time to take your business to the next level, barking dogs, rowdy kids, and sheer isolation may hamper your growth plans.  It might also be nice to invite your clients to visit your office once in a while.

If a more professional workplace is what your firm needs to take off, you don’t necessarily have to cut the cord to home altogether.  Starting at around a few hundred dollars a month, part-time, drop-in offices are a less costly alternative to leasing and outfitting your own space.  These “on-demand” offices come fully furnished and equipped, and provide access to “big-company” amenities like high-powered copiers and videoconferencing.  

The incredible elastic office 

If you want to build your small shop into the next industry powerhouse, you’ll need more office space to bring on new team members.  Deciding how much extra space is needed is the tricky part.  Not enough square footage could make for cramped quarters if business booms.  Worse, you may have to swallow the costs of moving all over again.  On the other hand, overestimating your staffing needs could leave you paying for empty space you don’t need.

Thankfully, you don’t have to guess.  Placing your headquarters in a fully furnished and equipped business centre can cost up to 60 per cent less than leasing and filling out empty office space.  And you can add more offices as your firm grows, without the expense of changing the lease or moving twice. 

Consider the case of one financial services firm that grew from two to 10 employees in a single year, never moved, and never once paid for office space or services they weren’t using.  The same scenario would have been nearly impossible with a traditional real estate lease.

Virtual expansion 

Growing small businesses may dream of opening a second office, maybe in another city, but there are risks attached.  First there’s the cost of building out the new office – furnishings, equipment, connectivity, and more.  Then there’s the long-term lease that you have to pay even if you don’t bring in additional business.  Instead of diving in headlong, try dipping a toe in the water first with a “virtual office.” 

A virtual office allows you to establish an immediate presence and test-drive a new location without taking on significant expenses.  With a virtual office, you get a permanent address and phone number in a prestigious business district in the city of your choice, and a receptionist to answer and direct calls in your firm’s name.  Some virtual office providers even include part-time office space at the virtual location, so you can drop by for a meeting when necessary.  The power of perception is yours for as little as $99 a month. 

With so many low-cost options, it is possible for small firms to project a professional image and enjoy the amenities that high-quality office space can provide.  And by escaping long-term contracts and hefty overhead expenses, small business owners can help set their organisation on a fast track to growth. 

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Guillermo Rotman is CEO of The Regus Group Americas.  Regus offers a full range of fully furnished and equipped offices, meeting rooms, business lounges, videoconferencing facilities, and supporting services.  Visit or call 1-800- OFFICES for more information.



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