The grass isn’t always greener

Lee McQueen, founder of the Raw Talent Academy
Lee McQueen, founder of the Raw Talent Academy

Lee McQueen, founder of the Raw Talent Academy and season-four winner of the BBC’s The Apprentice, says it’s important to take your time when it comes to looking for a new lease.

A lease for your business is usually one of your biggest overheads – but you need to consider more than just its financial implications.

When you sign a lease, you are committing to a specific workplace for a fixed period. Finding the right place is as much about getting the right environment as it is about cost.

Using a football analogy, it’s a bit like when a club moves to a new stadium. Arsenal used to play at Highbury, which was an old ground with a great atmosphere, but now they’ve moved to the Emirates. There’s no doubt that the Emirates is fantastic – it’s bigger, newer and shinier – but it also has a completely different environment. Because of that, some fans still miss Highbury.

If you’ve got a sales floor in your business, how will that be impacted when you move? Will you be breaking up a strong working environment? Will a move be detrimental to your staff? Think about this before signing a new lease.

Also think about things such as having an on-site cafeteria or being near shops. These little things can be the difference between people being happy at work or just being okay.

There are also the financial implications, of course. If you sign a five-year lease but then have a difficult period, you could get stuck with a lease that you can’t manage.

On the other hand, if you do very well and decide to sell your business, you won’t want to have a long-term agreement hanging over you, because it won’t be very attractive to potential buyers.

It can be a bit of a gamble because you never know for sure where your business will be in a few years’ time. So I think the biggest piece of advice I’d give is try to maximise your current space for as long as possible. It can be tough to stay put until you are at bursting point, but it’s important not to move to a new base before you need to.

That’s the situation I find myself in with my business at the moment. Because we have grown so much, we are thinking about moving somewhere bigger, but I have decided to stay put for another few months.

When we do move, we’ll try to negotiate. Landlords can be flexible, and there are deals to be done. Property is at a premium, but there are a lot of empty offices, and that means landlords are not getting rent from their properties.

If they’ve got blocks that can house several businesses, they will be keen to get at least one tenant in so it’s more attractive for others to follow. There is scope to negotiate when looking for a new lease – although quite how good I’ll be at it is a different matter!