Looking to save money on your office rent? Look no further. CEO and Founder of Hubble, Tushar Agarwal, gives his top tips on how to save money when renting an office. Watch the video below.
Hi guys, I’m Tushar, the founder of Hubble and our mission in life is to help you love where you work. So who am I? Well I’m just like you guys. I’m overworked and underpaid and I spend over 80 hours a week in the office. I’m a jack of all trades, I have to be the founder, CEO, CMO, COO, HR accountant and office manager – which means that I’m juggling 8-10 different roles at any given time.
I’m always concerned about how my business is growing and how that affects my quality of life, but also my employee’s quality of life. This is particularly personal because we started Hubble with just 2 people in 2014 and we’ve now grown to 20 people in 2 years. For us that’s really awesome because we’ve gone from office to office to office.
We’ve had to save money, we’ve had to think about how we make sure the team sticks together, how we build a culture and how we hire a new person every single month whilst making sure that they feel at home and that they love where they work.
One thing that we’ve thought about a lot is office space and how that determines success. I’m the founder of Hubble, for those of you who don’t know, we are a website that’s an AirBnB for office space. We aggregate all of the flexible offices in London and we help small businesses, medium sized businesses and freelancers to find them online.
That’s important because before we arrived, if you were a small or medium sized business, you had to commit to long term leases, say 10 year commitments and huge up front costs. Now, because we exist, you can actually pay-as-you-go and access lots of flexible space at your fingertips.
We not only deal with startups but we deal with creative agencies, growing startups, bigger businesses and office providers. We’ve helped the likes of Jaguar, startups like Songkick and even new banking monsters like Monzo.
So, why are we so obsessed with office space? Well, that’s mainly because we’re in a such amazing time where the entire way that businesses are being run is completely changing.
Firstly, 83% of businesses that we’ve surveyed so for, have counted office space as their second biggest cost after staff. That makes sense because for every single person that you’re hiring, your required cost will increase and the facilities too that surrounds them.
Not only that, but people are having to commit to 10 year terms. So when you first start up as a business founder, how do you know how long your business is going to last? How big you’ll be? How much money you’ll make and how many people you’ll have? And also, how you do you know whether you’ll even need more space than the space that you’re working in right now? Especially with technology changing as rapidly as it is.
Office spaces are really expensive and the average spend for office space for a medium sized businesses is $45,000 a year. What we’re trying to do is we’re trying to help businesses overcome these huge barriers to their success which is to do with cost, which is to do with commitment, which is to do with inflexibility – which leads to being detrimental to the businesses themselves.
I’d like to share with some hacks with you that we’ve used as we’ve grown from 2 to 20 people in the last two years, to cut down our office costs but also make sure that we’re happy in the place that we work.
Tip 1 – Flexible contracts before leases
The number one tip I’ve got for you is to take flexible contracts and not take long term leases. There are lots of office spaces out there which are professional providers such WeWork and Regus, but there are also plenty of businesses out there who have an extra spare 5 – 10 desks sitting in their office that they aree renting out on a monthly basis – kind of like a gym membership. This way you don’t have to think about finding furniture, you don’t have to think about getting in touch with Virgin Media and setting up the infrastructure – everything is plug and play.
The other benefit of flexible office space is you can change your office as your grow go up and down. So, if suddenly you’re John Lewis and you’re making theJohn Lewis Christmas advert you can scale up your agency team, your branding team, your sales team, for 3-4 months before the Christmas period. Take on office space just to pay for that and scale all the way back down afterwards. Typically this was impossible before technology arrived because you had to have provisions for the space before you got started on that journey.
Furterhmore, as we operate business on a global, and also local scale, it means that actually having a physical presence all around the globe is possible virtually. But, people confer to have physical presence because we love to do business in person. Having a flexible office means that you can move whenever you want but you can also be in many locations at the same time. You can be in Central London, Birmingham and Manchester – it’s as easy as a gym membership: all inclusive, pay as you go.
Tip 2 – Share your office
The other way that you can save money is sharing your office. We’re at the advent of the sharing economy at the moment. People are sharing homes on AirBnb, people are sharing cars on Lift and Uber and I think people are realizing that there’s no sense in spending a lot of money, buying things up front and then not actually utilizing that to the full effect rather than sharing it with other people. You can charge people for access and you can make quite a bit of money to offset your own cost.
Also, you get a lot of benefits from sharing office – you get to meet a whole new community of people that inject a fresh perspective in your business and really energize your business environment. We have big financial banks like Barclay’s and NatWest utilizing this. We have small design agencies who are sharing their space with small technology businesses and startups and we have FinTech companies who are sharing space with finance companies. One of the best things about this is, you get to offset your own cost. A lot of people that we know are paying next to no rent for their space themselves because they are sharing and that is completely offsetting the entire rent for them.
Tip 3 – The Smoke Model
Another crack to call solution is the Hubble smoke model. The Hubble smoke model is essentially where you have your core team who need to be in an office, in a central location where your clients and your investors get to them easily. This is normally a sales function or a marketing or client facing function. And then you have the rest of the team working remotely. We have many businesses who have a very smart office in the middle of London but their development team will be working somewhere in Croydon, their back office team will be working somewhere in Richmond or even actually spread all over the world.
This means that you can pay for the premium space but only take a little bit of it in the beginning and you can get the cheap space for all of your staff that are not so location sensitive and are not so customer facing.
The other aspect of the smoke model is that you can have one office and then utilize coworking spaces. We’ve got companies where they have an office for 20 people and 80 people are given co-working options. So essentially this is an all access pass to lots of different office spaces all across the world. They can come in, use the WiFi, use the facilities and work from there. This works really well because it gives them the flexibility to move around but you save cost too.
Tip 4 – Non-traditional space
Another interesting aspect is actually using non-traditional office space. If you think about what your office space is at the moment – it’s actually you yourself, your laptop, your mobile devices, some notepads and perhaps some stationary. What that means is that the traditional infrastructure that was needed in office buildings and that was built into the buildings when first developed, is no longer needed. All you need is the space itself and a WiFi connection. This means you can utlize other types of spaces, not originally intended for office work, that are a lot cheaper. They are located all around the town and they have a lot of character. This is great for a particular sort of brand or company that are after a sense of uniqueness. Having a bit of a different space to invite your clients and investors to can really give them a real sense of your personality and your business rather than just being in a normal office like everyone else.
What we’ve seen on the Hubble platform so far has varied from shipping containers to garden sheds, people using their garages – of course, you have the stories from people like Steve Jobs starting off in his garage.
Empty restaurants during the day, you can go there. You can probably have a subsidized meal and they probably also have wifi. Church halls, if you’re feeling fancy. Even rooftop bars, you can drink a martini all day long and get your work done if you really want to. We have even had people living on and renting out that house for workspace during the day. This is a very Dutch thing to do but it’s actually coming into London very slowly.
Tip 5 – Skill swap
Another way is to not pay for office space at all. You can barter your way on to a desk if you’re a service provider. Say you’re a designer and a lot of time you’re trying to win business from larger clients. You can offer your design services for free in exchange for having a really smart professional workspace to invite your clients to and what that means is that not only are the people with spare space getting tremendous value from you, you are getting access to an amazing space to build your portfolio in and having the brand and identity you want for your space without paying a single penny.
What’s even more interesting is that much larger businesses are really interested in how startups work, their way of operating, their new frame of mind and how to tap into the younger demographic. They are actually willing to not only give you free space but actually invest in your company, give you access, give you advice and incubate your company to help it grow.
What’s in it for them? Well, they get access to fresh ideas. They get access to other industries, people that they would’ve never met in business or even personally and sometimes they even get a small equity in your business which means that if you succeed they also succeed.
Tip 6 – Recycle furniture
Another great way to save money is to recycle your furniture to create a new space. This is actually one of the spaces that we worked in and one of the things that these guys are really proud of is that they didn’t buy a single piece of furniture. They actually found it in car boot sales. They went around and asked people in their hometown, people who were recycling and throwing out old stuff and with a bit of imagination, they managed to convert it into what I think is a pretty cool living room vibe with a full-on bar!
If you look at some other pictured of this space, they even had a bathtub, they had a big swan and pretty much anything that they could find! All it really took was an empty building, some imagination and a bit of hustle to go and find some quirky bit of furniture. Not only is this good for you as you save money it’s also good for the environment.
Tip 7 – Utilise break out areas and open plan
Another really nice way of doing this is actually thinking about how people are working. We used to dedicate huge amounts of floor space, giving each individual person a big desk and a big workspace but if you look at how people are working, people are increasingly using mobile. They’re using mobile devices to go to meetings, they’re doing more and more of collaborative meetings and most of the work that can used to happen at a desk, they’re actually doing it in another environment.
Big companies, people like the Telegraph and the Guardian, large banks like Lloyds, they’ve actually reduced the amount of things and desks that they gave to their staff and they’ve created much more open communal areas where they can socialize, they can grab a bean bag or a chair or all sit in a café. This is a mock-up of what I believe is one of coolest offices in London where they’ve really minimized it. They’ve actually created an entire indoor garden facility inside the office! They could have created more and more private space and more desk space but they just decided not to do that because they’ve realized that people work in a completely different way now. You’re actually driving huge cost efficiency savings as a result because you’re getting many more people in a much smaller amount of space but actually, the overall benefit is that they’re much happier at work.
So whilst it’s amazing to save money with office space so that you can dedicate that money to other things that your business could be doing, there should be other considerations too.
Believe us when we say that it’s important to love where you work and it’s actually really important to think about your office space, your culture, the location, what feelings it drives within your staff – because all that will impact the success of your business. Like I said, we’ve grown from 2 people to 20 people in 2 years and we’ve done some things wrong and some things right but I fundamentally believe that one of the things that we have got right most of the time is that we’ve created a work environment for everyone to be happy, for everyone to be productive, for everyone to stick around and actually tell all the people about it.
They’re [the Hubble team] really proud to bring buyers and investors into our office. They have started building a brand, an identity around who we are and that’s really shaped by the surroundings. So I wouldn’t look at the office space as a necessary evil, something that you’re trying to get rid of as much as possible. Rather it is something to embrace and something that has tangible ROI associated with it as well.
And finally, if you’d like to check out us working, we’re at stand 930 around the corner. We’ve got free workspace, we’ve got wifi, free coffee, chargers – because I know that a lot of you are at the end of your day right now and actually our job is to help you calm down.
So please come and see us at booth 930. I’ll be there with a lot of my colleagues. You can ask us any questions you have. Thank you.