Location, Location, Location – as the mantra goes. It’s become a cliché, but as with most clichés, it’s usually true! London is a large, diverse city, each area having a distinct identity as well as individual strengths and weaknesses. Your business will also have specific needs that will make it better suited to one part of London than another. Different strokes for different folks, to quote another cliché.
There are five questions you should ask yourself before deciding which part of London will suit your business best:
- Your current location – where are your offices now (if you have one)?
- Who needs to get to your offices, and where are they coming from?
- What’s the nature of your business? For example, are you a media company, or are you in financial services?
- What image do you want to portray?
- Cost – how do office rents and other expenses compare across London?
1. Where is your existing office?
What are the pros and cons of your current location – if you have one? What has prompted the proposed move? Are you relocating to London from outside or are you already based here? And – if your offices are already in London – do you really need to relocate? Many businesses prefer to stay where they are, maybe simply because their clients and employees are used to it; or because they are in the correct commercial district for their sector; or their location may be a critical part of their hard-won reputation and image. Make sure you analyse the strengths and weaknesses of your current office location – and your reasons for being there – before you decide on a move.
2. Who regularly visits your office and how do they get there?
Communications are fundamental to your choice of location. So who exactly needs to visit your office on a regular basis? Employees, certainly; clients, probably; and, depending on the nature of your business, suppliers may need access. And, importantly, where are they coming from?
Tubes, Buses, Trains, DLR and Crossrail
Fortunately, in London, you are rarely more than a few hundred yards from a tube station. There is also the vastly improved bus service, and in East London, there is the Docklands Light Railway (DLR). You may want to be located near to a mainline terminus (e.g. Waterloo, Euston, Victoria). Crossrail is at an advanced stage of development – with services to be phased in over the next 4 years. Crossrail will transform travelling times from the outskirts of London and beyond (12 minutes from Ealing Broadway to Tottenham Court Road), so there will be considerable commercial advantages in locating close to one of the new stations.
Cars and Bikes
Using a car in London is more of an issue, as car parking is limited and expensive; there is also the Congestion Charge to consider. However, there are parking facilities in London, if you are prepared to pay the premium.
Challenges also remain for cyclists in London, despite the growth of dedicated cycle lanes and planned improvements in the form of superhighways, cycle quietways and redesigned cycle-friendly traffic junctions. Since the introduction of Boris’s Bikes in 2010, we have had clients asking about offices close to cycle docking stations, so clearly that is now a consideration for some businesses. The scheme has been a great success and there are plans to add 1000 more docking stations.
If you have clients regularly arriving from abroad or flying from other parts of the UK, you will need to ensure good connections to the appropriate airport. London City Airport is to the east of Canary Wharf and is connected to the Docklands Light Railway(DLR). For Heathrow Airport, the Heathrow Express runs to and from Paddington in just 15 minutes every half an hour. Crossrail will also be running Heathrow services from 2018. For Gatwick Airport, the Gatwick Express operates from London Victoria. For Stansted Airport, the Stansted Express runs from Liverpool Street in the City.
Analyse who needs to get to your offices, where they are coming from, which connections they will need and how moving to a new location may affect them.
3. What is the nature of your business?
Is it important for you to be geographically close to your clients and suppliers? Some businesses even want to be close to their competitors, or companies offering complementary and supporting services. For this reason, companies in particular commercial sectors have historically tended to cluster together in the same London area. So much so that certain parts of London are now synonymous with particular industries.
For example, Soho has long been associated with media-related business, including advertising and television production. Supporting services, such as audio and video post-production studios also tend to be located in Soho, for obvious reasons. In recent years, pressure on rents in the West End have led to the growth of newer media hubs in Clerkenwell and Shoreditch.
Banking & Financial Services
The Banks and the ‘money institutions’ are located in the City and/or Canary Wharf, where you will also find related ‘money companies’ – such as insurance – nearby. Financial Services – particularly private wealth advisors, or hedge fund managers – are concentrated in Mayfair.
In recent years, Silicon Roundabout in Shoreditch has become London’s hub for technology companies – particularly popular with startups. With support from both the UK Government and the big players from California – Google, Apple, Facebook, Intel, Cisco and the like – this area looks set to grow quickly.
Where are your clients and competitors? Is your type of business associated with a particular area of London?
4. Image is Everything! How do you want to present your business?
Fourthly, what sort of image do you want to portray? This is often underestimated, but it is an important consideration. First impressions in business – and life in general – are critical.
When James Caan – of Dragons’ Den fame – started his recruitment business Alexander Mann back in the mid–1980’s, he believed image was everything, and decided that a Pall Mall address was essential for his organisation’s appearance, even though his ‘organisation’ at that point was a one-man-band! He could only afford a ‘shoe box’ of an office in Pall Mall. When his client arrived, he would go down to the foyer to meet them, explain that they were very busy upstairs and that all the meeting rooms were in use. “Would you mind if we have our meeting over tea at the Ritz? It’s only a short walk,” he would ask. Over the following 15 years, James Caan turned his one-man recruitment firm into a multi-million pound empire, and the rest is history. Clearly making the right first impression was a very important factor in getting his business off the ground.
What sort of image do you want to project? What will your clients and employees expect? Does a particular address or location match that expectation?
5. How much are you prepared to spend?
Last, but not least, cost is also an essential factor in deciding the best location. Rental values for office space vary dramatically across Central London. Mayfair and St James’s are the most expensive areas in London; Waterloo, Silicon Roundabout and Clerkenwell are the least expensive. Rental value is also, of course, indicative of the distribution of wealth across London – important information for some businesses. We have an authoritative rental guide for office space in London – illustrating the varying cost of office space across Central London.
If you want to find out more about establishing what you can afford, I will be returning to the subject of office rent and ancillary costs in more detail in my next instalment: What is your London office budget?
Where should your new London office be?
So, in summary, there are five factors that will allow you to decide where your new office should be: the pros and cons of your current location, communications and logistics, the nature of your business, your desired image and cost.
Coming up next: What is your London office budget?
Establish what you can afford, and what you get for your money. Break down and understand the costs of London office space. Understand that different types of office space have different cost implications. Discover ways to minimise your office space costs.