Setting up your first office

Haven’t been sharing much about my life, so I decided to add one more post to my Claud the panda Entrepreneur series. I’m sharing my experience and journey setting up our new office.

24seven's Office aka My second home
24seven's Office aka My second home

Two months ago, my team and I were struggling to keep up with the high cost of rental for the atas office with great address, great branding, great facilities and great view of the Singapore skyline from the 48th floor. That’s a dream place to be for anyone be it for an office space or a living home. Like many entrepreneur, we aim high, we over dream and under calculated. Actually I thought I’ve already over calculated our finances, but guess my timing of the whole thing isn’t that accurate afterall. So when the bank starts running dry, I panicked. Not going to let the rental drag us all down, I made an executive decision. MOVE!

After we confirmed our move out date from the old office, the team decided that if we can’t find a decent place with good rental, we will work from home for awhile till we can find a space. But I know that will hurt us in terms of client’s and partner’s trust and their thought of the company. This is something I realised when we just started out. Working from home though save us lots of operational cost, but when we meet clients and when the asked about where we are residing, the words “working from home” seems to be an omen. Those words kind of caused our first few failed pitches. The clients perhaps feel that we are some small sleezy company which don’t even have a proper space to work at. And because of the nature of our business, an office space is not an option.

During the last two weeks before we have to clear the room, I spent all my time trying to look for a location. The team was called to discuss about the possibilities we had. And just a week before we had to move, I signed and confirmed on a corner unit, 258sqf space at a retro looking (and smelling) shopping centre along Upper Serangoon Road. The space is surely bigger than our previous one, but minus all the great thing that the old one came with. But we are happy with what we have now.

We got the keys to our new office a day before we had to vacant from the previous. So on the day we collected the keys, we started setting it up already. Armed with paint cans, brushes, lots of newspaper, two big plastic mats and no light (because we thought there wasn’t any), Diana and myself with some help from couple of friends, we gave the office space new fresh paint. And then the silliest moment through our setting-office-experience was on that very same day, when Abang decided to press the power switched and THERE WAS POWER! There was actually light during the entire time we were painting in there! -___-||

Anyway, so the next day, with help from Diana’s husband and his workers, they moved everything out from the office which filled the entire lorry space, and move in to our new home. The office needed more furniture and stuff, we were planning to get them when we have spare cash, but thanks to my Dad’s ‘office-renovation-friend’ we managed to secure many old office furniture which were in very good condition! That saved us almost $1,000! Starting up isn’t easy, its great we managed to have such (free) opportunities.

Within three days, the not-so-nice office space got revamped and turned into a cosy and homely place for 24seven. I must thank Diana for her hardwork and never-say-die attitude during the move. I can never do it without her. Don’t see her small small size ok! She’s damn strong and powerful one! Don’t play play with her!

So that’s the physical part of the setting up of the office. Which was the not so pocket-painful part. Unless you want a super sexy and sleek office that cost a bomb to renovate and setup. For a startup, please, don’t do this kind of thing ok? If you’ve got huge sugar daddy or mommy backing you up, then I’ve no comments.

Here comes the pocket-painful and paperwork that I was involved in. Very useful if you’re going to set up your own office too.

After you’ve found your ideal space, and if it is within a shopping centre or a non-office building, these are (or may be) some of the things that you’ve to be prepared to do:

  1. Get in touch with the property owner or its representing agent.
  2. Check the rental rate and arrange for a viewing session.
  3. During the viewing session, ask as many questions as you have. Some questions which you might want to ask may include:
    • What does the rent include? For central-controlled aircon, usually it will come together with the rent. So you just have to pay for the electricity bill charged by PUB.
    • Who was the previous owner? What business were they running? You don’t want loan shark or what not to come banging on your door do you?
    • What is the minimum lease period and how much deposit do they need? Lease period usually is for 1 year that guarantees your rental rate during that year. For ours, we had to pay a 2 month deposit with 1st month rental upon confirmation of occupancy.
    • Check if they have a rent-free renovation period and how long it is. This will give you a week or two of rent-free period for your renovation. In our case, we had 11 days of rent free operation since we completed our “renovation” within 3 days. Some property might need you to pay an admin fee and a renovation deposit too if there’s hacking, tearing, drilling etc involved. So make sure you check before any renovation work is carried out.
    • Check when’s the rental payment date. You don’t want to miss this date!
    • will add more if I can think of any…
  4. After you’re satisfied and want to take up the space, try to negotiate for a cheaper rental.
  5. Sign a lease agreement with the property’s representing agent. This is also when your first cheque of the required deposit and first month’s rental has to come out.
  6. For shop space converting to an office space, a “Change of Use” Lodgment Submission has to be filed with URA. You’ll have to pay $300 + GST for this application. A copy of the lodgment submission have to be submitted to the representing agent you signed the lease with.
  7. Next, you’ll have to proceed to SP Services to activate your corporate utilities account. For this, a $450 deposit is needed and an activation date has to be set where you will have to be present at the office where SP Services will sent someone to “activate” the power supply.
    I’m not sure how the actual activation was supposed to be like, cause our power was already available when we moved in. The SP Services guy just came, take the meter reading and left. -_-||
  8. We didn’t need a physical phone line, so we skipped this part. If you need a phone line at the office, I think you’ll also need to activate it with Singtel. For us we use our mobile and mobile broadband in the office. Save money lah!

That’s about it. If you managed to cover all the above, you’re good to go. Just remember to pay your rental and SP bills on time! And that reminded me, I’ve got to pay ours soon!

Good luck in setting up your dream office! Perhaps our cosy office can give you some inspiration. Wahahahahaha!

9 Replies to “Setting up your first office”

  1. Inspiring post. Congrats for the move, and for the courage to make that executive decision. This reminded me of the time when I had to find a new office for my now-defunct business :)
    .-= Razlan´s last blog ..A Blogging Dilemma =-.

  2. I like this post, very useful for aspiring entrepreneurs! I used to run a cafe, and while we already had a space with subsidised rental, we had to go through the whole “change of use” thing as well. The administrative bit is a bitch, but once you settle that, you’re free to actually go and do the very thing you started the company for. I have to say that I enjoyed being an entrepreneur, eventhough it was a 24 hour, 7 days a week stressful period. Respect to you for forging ur own path! :)
    .-= Nabilah Said´s last blog ..the nabbycat speaks =-.

  3. Great post, Claudia! Very inspiring for any aspiring entrepreneurs for sure. Will miss your ridiculously awesome view, but this one looks a lot cosier than the last one. :) All the best!
    .-= Ivy´s last blog ..New Theme: Seigaiha =-.

  4. Hi Claudia,
    It’s always not an easy task for the first few years for new start up. However, plan for the next 3-5 years expansion so that you will get a better plan what to look out for in the next move. Check out our blogs to gather information on planning your next move.
    Cheers.
    http://singaporeinterior.blogspot.com/

  5. thanks for sharing your tips and experience. i’m looking to relocate to SG end of this year and not knowing much about setting up business there, this is very helpful indeed!

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