Having an office space for your business might seem like a trivial issue in the grand scheme of things; you just need chairs and tables for employees to sit and do work, right? Wrong. Choosing the right office location and layout is very crucial to the success of your business.
You have to find out exactly what your business needs in terms of space, accessibility, number of employees, workplace culture, and many other factors necessary to create a motivating and conducive work environment. Below are six tips on how you can create the best workspace for your business.
Get the Right Location
Your office building location is very important for all stakeholders in your business. You should make sure it’s close to public amenities like bus stops and public parking, so people in your organization can easily reach it.
An office that is too far from the city or public transportation can alienate potential employees, and your current staff would likely leave within 6-12 months because of the distance. Before settling in, don’t forget to check if the location is safe and there is security around in case employees need to leave the office late.
Get the Right Office Space
After you are certain of your office location, check out several office buildings in the area before leasing or buying space. Firstly, it should allow you to sign a long-term lease contract, as moving offices can be tedious and time-consuming. The office should also be spacious enough to allow for expansion in the future.
Before closing a deal for your office space, consider the price. Whether your business is doing well or going through a rough patch, the rental fees and utility bills stay constant, so make sure they will not be difficult to cover during the times you have low sales and revenue.
Your office space must have easily accessible bathrooms and a storage room for all your extra furniture and office supplies. Moreover, look for offices that have a space you can turn into a break room where employees can relax after a tension-filled day. You could include magazines and add a mini library as well.
Studies show that a conducive work environment can actually help reduce absenteeism, increase your staff’s productivity by 16 percent, and improves job satisfaction by 24 percent. Set up the best workspace for your company to have productive and happy employees.
Your office setup can greatly influence your company culture. When choosing a layout, keep in mind the type of business you do; for example, an advertising agency will have a more casual and creative feel while a finance management agency may have a more modern and minimalistic design.
Decide on a design concept you want to follow, but generally keep it between a traditional office and a modern-casual one. Open layout offices have gained popularity because they give a relaxed vibe, but you may still want to keep a few closed areas for confidential meetings or work that needs silence.
Purchase quality, affordable furniture that will be comfortable for your staff and would last long. It does not necessarily have to be new, as you can find great quality furniture in secondhand shops for a fraction of what a new furniture would cost.
Figure out Office Equipment and Supplies
Document all the office equipment necessary for your business. Depending on how mobile your employees are, you might buy either laptops or desktops for daily use. You will also need a centralized printing system which all computers will be connected to it.
Next, you will need office supplies like pens, sticky notes and notebooks. It is always best to buy this in bulk, which will help save money. You could also combine orders with other small business owners in your area to get even more discounts for bigger orders.
Get Excellent Internet Connection
Today, it’s almost impossible to run a business without the internet, and slow internet connection has no room in a business that wants to prosper. When choosing a location for your office, visit your prospective place and ask about the best internet connection in the area. Another option is to check your preferred service provider and find out if they have coverage in the location that you like.
Create a Customer Reception Area
If you are likely to have customers come into your office, create a reception area where they will be received before they go to your meeting room. A reception area makes your business look more organized and professional, and that is the impression you want to give to your clients.
Setting up an office space for your business is a crucial decision that you should carefully think about. Aim to create an encouraging and conducive office environment that inspires a positive atmosphere among employees. Opt for an office that is safe, accessible and would represent your company well.
Though a majority of people are interested in running their own businesses, many have no idea how to begin.
A recent survey of 1,600 adults by the University of Phoenix found that 63 percent of people under the age of 30 either owned their own business or desired to at some point.
For a lot of people, the advice of pro-entrepreneurial opinion leaders to just “jump in, make mistakes, and learn” doesn’t provide enough specifics on how to start. It also implies that business ownership is full of hidden perils.
To make this easier, instead of taking a blind, running jump into the unknown, take a gradual approach to starting your business—one that will present you with manageable challenges and impart valuable business experience.
That’s what these small and big businesses did.
From a Humble Tamale
Located a couple miles east of Dodger Stadium in Lincoln Heights, Mom’s Tamales is a thriving Mexican restaurant that has received rave reviews on radio and television (including one from “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest). The place has become a real “foodies” destination.
In late 2000, Mom’s founder, Israel Briseño, had completed three years of community college. He was getting ready to find his first job when he realized that he wasn’t prepared: “I had not learned enough about anything to really say that I could do anything for a living,” he said.
Briseño actually wanted to be his own boss, but had no idea what to do. His parents had worked in the food industry and suggested he look in that direction. After a couple days of thinking it over, he decided on tamales.
In early 2001, he borrowed $200 from his mother and purchased the equipment and ingredients to make his first batch of tamales, which he sold from the trunk of his old Honda. His first couple of sales attempts weren’t too successful, but he kept going out, keeping his tamales and his face in front of people. That Christmas, he sold 500 tamales. (Tamales are a Mexican Christmas tradition.) By the following Christmas, the popularity of his tamales had grown to the point where he couldn’t keep up with the flood of orders and had to turn customers away.
Briseño opened the restaurant in 2005.
Takeaway: As far as start-up costs go, $200 is low. The bigger hurdle for some people may be the sales end—going out in public, talking to people, and peddling your wares.
Turning a Pastime into a Payday
Delia had done artistic things for much of her life, including oil and watercolor painting, various crafts, and particularly crocheting. If you know her, you’ve probably received a crocheted hat or scarf from her for the holidays. She finds it very relaxing and so she does it often.
She’d retired a few years ago and, after living on social security for a while, she realized it wasn’t going to be nearly enough. She wondered if she could supplement her income doing what she loved.
In the 1990s, she’d given crafts classes at local craft and hobby stores in Phoenix, Arizona. She’d also worked for years as a substitute teacher and cited those experiences when she made a proposal to the community programs director at one of the local colleges to teach a beginner’s crochet class. In September 2009, they added her class to the schedule.
The pay wasn’t much, but every dollar helped. In 2010, she wrote a short book of beginner’s crochet lessons, which she sold to her students. It took about eight hours to create and costs a few dollars a copy to duplicate, and she sells it for a 400% profit.
She got her book into the local libraries and used it to start getting bookings for classes at the local craft stores, where she’s found herself in demand again, providing another boost to the business of doing what she loves.
Takeaway: People can make extra money or a substantial living doing what they love. One way to expand that business is with a book. Like the “ultimate business card,” you can use your book to establish your authority and create more business.
No one woke up one morning and found themselves suddenly at the head of a thriving business.
Tiny Market Becomes Big Business
Nick Swinmurn graduated from UC Santa Barbara in 1995 with a degree in film studies. He had a few different jobs, including working for Autoweb, an early online car-buying service. That was 1997 and everyone was talking about the internet.
In 1998, he was in the mall searching in vain for a particular kind of Airwalk shoes when he got the idea for an online shoe store.
E-commerce was still in its infancy and he wasn’t sure it would work. So, he went to a local Bay Area shoe store and took pictures of various shoes. He told the owners that he was going to put them online and that if he made any sales, he would buy the shoes from them for full price.
He got some sales.
Swinmurn called his company Shoesite.com, but later changed it to Zappos.
By emphasizing the fact that shoes are a $40 billion-a-year business and that 5% of that came from catalog sales, Swinmurn was able attract interest in and funding for Zappos.
The company went through a long period during which they become wildly popular, but were barely profitable. Eventually, Zappos was purchased by Amazon.com.
Takeaway: It’s sometimes necessary to survey in order to verify if there really is a need or want for your product or service. In the case of Shoesite, it only required building a small website and the legwork of taking pictures and uploading them. Your business survey might even require less than that.
You don’t have to jump in all at once. Dip your toe in the water. Start cheaply and observe your results. Little steps, like the ones described above, involve risk but it’s manageable risk and it will provide you with valuable business experience with which to make your next move.
For companies that offer tangible products, the need for a production plan is not just important; it’s imperative. Even if you offer online products like software or training materials, following a clear and directive production plan will guide you from conception to completion. Essentially, a production plan is a medium-range planning strategy succeeding long-range planning.
The Small and Medium-sized Enterprise Toolkit defines a production plan as, “the authorization of your manufacturing department to produce the items at a rate consistent with your company’s overall corporate plan.”
The Purpose of a Plan
In order to maximize productivity, it’s essential that companies make use of an effective plan. Production plans are a crucial segment of your wider business plan and will enable you to outline a schedule of production while allowing you to keep checks on each step of a product’s journey.
Since the central purpose of a production plans is to determine the output of the manufacturing department at each stage of the production process, it would be best to involve your operations team in the creation of the plan.
Advantages of a Plan
The main advantage of an effective plan is to help your company realize its production objectives while reducing costs and increasing functionality in a range of areas, including:
- Minimizing labor expenses by enhancing the process flow and avoiding unproductive work time
- Minimizing inventory costs, reducing the need for safety stocks and unnecessary work-in-process inventories
- Optimizing the use of equipment and increasing capacity
- Improving the rate of product and service deliverables
Understand Important Factors
There are a few areas and activities that will have a direct impact on the production process and it’s important to be aware them. They include:
Understanding the current market conditions is essential to effective planning. You’ll need to make reliable estimations on projected sales figures and, although you may not have a definite set of figures to use, you can predict future sales by evaluating market trends and analysing historical sales data.
The inventory levels that feed the pipeline need to be distinguished. Ensure that you have a good inventory system and strategy in place in order to create an accurate plan.
Human Resources and Equipment
In business speak, “open time” is the period of time that is allowed between processes to ensure that orders run smoothly within your production line. A production plan can help you effectively manage your open time and avoid any potential delays.
According to the Business Development Bank of Canada, a point worth noting is that planning should help to maximize your operational capacity, but not go beyond it. Be sure not to plan for full capacity so that there is enough room available for unexpected changes.
Take Note of Each Step
The best way to determine each step in production is to map the processes in the order in which they occur and then note the average time it takes for the work to be completed. Once the process map is completed, you can analyse the time it takes to complete the whole process.
However, when there is duplicated work, it’s important to standardize the time and work involved. Make note of any comparable occurrences and use them as a baseline to distinguish future times and routings. You’ll notice a significant increase in the speed of your planning process.
Identify the Risk Factors
During the process mapping stage, you may come across “waste” or “excess items.” Evaluate these factors by looking at historical data that shows the time and materials involved, and various failures that were encountered.
If there are significant risks, you could conduct an FMEA (failure mode effect analysis) and then take the necessary action to minimize them.
Although this is more common in assembly businesses and manufacturing, you could take a similar approach to your business by using the FMEA template as a guide.
Internal and External Factors
There may be a number of internal reasons that could influence the level of demand for your company’s products: marketing, product design, customer service, price, and product quality.
Additionally, marketplace factors like industry competition, consumer perception, and consumer behavior could impact the accuracy of demand forecasts.
Managing Changes in Demand
Your company can address demand fluctuations through the following three basic production-planning strategies*:
Demand Chase Strategy
This strategy matches the demand (order) rate with the production rate through employee turnover as the order rate changes.
Level Production Strategy
This strategy helps maintain a steady workforce that works at a consistent production rate with the deficiencies and excesses absorbed by any of the below:
- Modifying inventory levels
- Permitting order backlogs (guaranteeing the customer that you will deliver the product at a later date)
- Adopting marketing activities
This strategy could include a combination of the following:
- Maintaining a steady workforce, but adopting variable hours: various shift patterns, flex-hours, or overtime
- Outsourcing work
- Modifying inventory levels
Monitor the Effectiveness of Your Production Plan
You can monitor the efficacy of your production plan through three key areas: systems and procedures, production planning, and production control. There are a few things within each area that you should consider in order to evaluate how effective your plan is.
Ask yourself the following questions within each one:
Systems and Procedures
- Is current documentation of the production plan, control systems, and procedures present? Have you communicated this to all persons involved?
- Does the planning and control plan contain a proper monitoring system that will maintain and update the master scheduling accounts?
- Is there a proper, sufficient system between sales forecasts, which can be detailed thoroughly so that they can be converted into specific production plans?
- Does control and production planning formulate a master production schedule with each time allocation and production assignment?
- Do the schedules allow for sufficient planning of inventory levels and purchases?
- Are there any indications of low employee productivity or wasted time? If so, are the numbers significant?
- Can the work in process or order status be determined efficiently?
- Are actual levels of production significantly different to planned schedules?
- Are order shipments in accordance with the schedule?
- Are important records (production control and reports) maintained in order to cover potential and present production loads?
Production plans are not cast in stone. It’s important to remember that workplace changes are a daily occurrence, so you must alter your plan in response to those changes.
When such changes occur, make it a point to communicate all details of the revised plan with all departments involved. After all, the production plan is everyone’s road map to producing a successful, final product.
*Source: Dilworth, James B. Production and Operations Management: Manufacturing and Services. Fifth Edition. McGraw-Hill, Inc. 1993
Lean start-up is a phrase that’s been around for a few years now in entrepreneurial and business circles, but is it just a new buzzword for an old concept or is it something new that your business can benefit from?
A Microcosmic Example
It was a cloudless 98-degree August day when 8-year-old Debbie Ann set up her lemonade stand on the corner.
With a supply of 5-ounce plastic tumblers and an old cooler full of melting ice cubes underneath a small folding table, she served cup after cup of instant lemonade for $0.25 each.
Roughly half of the people who pulled over for a drink said something to her about iced tea.
The following Sunday, the banner on the table read “Lemonade or Iced Tea 25¢.” That day, she sold twice as much tea as lemonade. More than half of her customers mentioned they’d gladly pay more for a bigger glass.
The Sunday after, Debbie Ann was on the corner again, this time with 20-ounce tumblers. The banner now read, “Big Iced Tea $1.00.” She could barely keep up with the traffic. Before the day was half-over, her mother had to go buy more ice and cups.
On the next street over, 12-year-old David was working on his “Be Cool Hat,” a baseball cap lined with blue ice packets that you put in the freezer overnight and wear on hot days to keep you cool.
He’d worked on the hat for several years, making the packets thinner and smaller, optimizing the comfort and cooling range. No one, except his family, knew about it. He managed to convince his rich uncle to fund a production run of the hats, which he had manufactured in China.
David also used some of the money to run ads in the local newspaper and got a couple of sales. He took the hats to the local flea market and sold one or two. There was very little interest. People said it was too heavy and uncomfortable. He discovered that the general audience for baseball caps was actually pretty small. He even refunded one of his sales when the customer complained that the hat gave him a headache.
David sank years of his life and a couple thousand dollars of someone else’s money into what he realized too late was a failed product.
David approached his start-up the way many entrepreneurs have: going forward with what they believe is a good idea and developing it in “stealth mode,” without feedback from potential customers or even ascertaining if their idea is attractive to any audience. They invest money in production and promotion, but the product, when finally launched, fails to gain traction.
On the other hand, Debbie Ann approached her business as a lean start-up would: taking her idea of “cold drink on a hot day” directly to the streets. In doing so, she found customers and listened to them. From their feedback, she was able to pivot slightly in her product offering. By continuing to listen to them, she was able to deliver exactly what they wanted and found success.
Lean Start-Up Methodology
Entrepreneur and author Eric Reis proposed the lean start-up philosophy in 2008. He had been involved in two start-ups that ultimately failed.
In both cases, he realized that the main reason was a failure to accurately understand their customers’ needs and wants. Both start-ups began “working forward from the technology instead of working backward from the business results you’re trying to achieve,” Reis said in the Xconomy.com blog.
Like any entrepreneurial endeavor, the lean start-up begins with a product idea. Rather than formulating a business plan to obtain funding so that you can begin building a team, developing and launching your product (as conventional start-ups have been doing since time immemorial), the lean start-up puts a “minimum valuable product” (MVP) into the hands of customers, known as “early adopters,” in order to obtain as much feedback as possible.
This feedback is called “validated learning” and its purpose is to find out as early and with as little effort and funding, if you’re producing a product or service that people actually want. That’s the “results you’re trying to achieve” that Reis referred to. It’s validated because it comes directly from customers rather than from anyone’s assumptions.
Lean start-up methodology is scientific in that it begins with a hypothesis about a product or service that a particular audience wants and then, by putting an MVP out there, proceeds to discover if that hypothesis is correct … or not.
By listening to early adopter feedback, the lean start-up can optimize its offering to be more of what’s needed and wanted. However, when the hypothesis proves to be weak, a lean start-up may still collect feedback and discover a new need or want. In such a scenario, the lean start-up may decide to “pivot” from their initial hypothesis to a new one, and provide an MVP that conforms to that newly-discovered need.
This entire cycle is summed up in the lean start-up concept, “Build-Measure-Learn,” which emphasizes the speed of developing a MVP, measuring customer response to the MVP, and learning from the “experiment” whether to proceed with the product or pivot to something else.
There are indications that the lean start-up methodology has been adapted for use by large, thriving businesses to pilot new initiatives and even by offices of the U.S. Government, such as Data.gov and the Department of Health and Human Services, as Reis describes in his blog, Startup Lessons Learned.
Not Everyone Agrees
Despite the seemingly sensible approach of a lean start-up, it has its critics, some of whom insist that not all early adopters have an interest in helping improve a product, but just wanted a finished product to begin with. (This is particularly true of software products.)
Yet, even Reis does not insist that lean start-up methodology should be swallowed whole, but should be the subject of validated learning by the user, in much the same way early adopters give feedback on an MVP.
The entire process and how to implement it is described in Reis’ book, The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses.