February 1, 1998

Lessons learned from moving offices three different times

Here at The Business Report, we’re getting ready for our third office move in the past 11 years. “Ready,” of course, means there are about 500 cardboard boxes around everyone’s desks — few of which are filled yet.

The movers were due to haul us over to our new building at 3180 Sterling Circle at the end of January, but then the word came that U S West had yet to run phone cables to the building. Oops. Now the move is planned on Feb. 7. We’ll see.

Personally, I’d rather walk barefoot on hot coals than pack up my files, many of which contain such critically important documents that I haven’t opened them in four or five years. I took the basketball that’s been under my desk home last night — no hoops at the new place. But I’ll keep my “Born to Fish, Forced to Work” sign that hangs near my computer.

If you run a small business like I do, and have never moved your company, I’ve got a few tips for you. If you’re a larger firm, no doubt you’ve got a cadre of executive “facilities” types that handle all of this for you. You’re lucky.

* First, when you see stats that Boulder or other county locations have an office vacancy rate of 7 or 8 percent, don’t think you just call up a broker and lease some space the next day. Good space, particularly if you’re trying to get in for under $14 or so a square foot, continues to be tight

Our business, which has important customers throughout the county, was founded in Boulder and always has been here. My partner and I hoped to keep it here. So we started our search with a year left on our lease. Trust me, give yourself at least that much time.

* Next, find a good broker you’re comfortable working with, but read the classifieds or watch for vacancy signs when you’re driving around.

I found the space we moved to years ago in Riverbend Office Park two days before we were to sign on another deal. We were facing some build out — a chore I wasn’t looking forward to since my skill with a hammer is pretty much limited to hanging up a fishing picture or two. Then, driving down Arapahoe, I saw a for-lease sign. It had just gone on the market, and we eventually moved in.

Growth in the local economy is a good thing, but realizing you’ll be signing bigger rent checks for new space is not.

Our new office is the first time we’ve actually designed our own space. And that’s been fun. A second-floor deck, with views of the Flatirons, helped cinch the deal.

* My final point is, simply realize you can negotiate. Your broker should be the go-between, but if you’re willing to make the financial commitment to a building owner for three or five years or even longer, stick up for what you want.

With our three-year lease running out, our landlords hoped to increase our rent a fair amount. But if we were going to pay more, we decided to find space that better fit our needs. After weeks of negotiating on our new space, a lower-priced offer came back to us to stay put. But by that time, we had made up our minds.

I think there’s a lesson there for building owners as well. If you’ve got a good tenant and want to keep them, treat them with respect. Don’t wait until the last minute to make your “real” offer.

Our new stationery is at the printer, we know some of our mail will get lost, but we’re just about on our way. Our company is still in Boulder, but next time around, if rents continue to escalate, I’m not sure we will be.

I hope our new city council understands the importance of allowing some “affordable” space for small businesses.

Here at The Business Report, we’re getting ready for our third office move in the past 11 years. “Ready,” of course, means there are about 500 cardboard boxes around everyone’s desks — few of which are filled yet.

The movers were due to haul us over to our new building at 3180 Sterling Circle at the end of January, but then the word came that U S West had yet to run phone cables to the building. Oops. Now the move is planned on Feb. 7. We’ll see.

Personally, I’d rather walk…

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