Overcoming Hurdles In Business

Hire great people not empty desks: Grow faster
I lost everything 11 years ago due to a combination of mistakes; the biggest (literally) being an eight-storey building in Mayfair which made sense when we were flying, but as a fixed cost of £34,000 a month, it helped take us down when the market changed. It’s an extreme example but the biggest two costs of most small companies are people and the desk they sit at.

Since that day, I’ve been looking for ways to reduce wastage, making every minute and pound count. I hate seeing hours and passion that could be spent on a proposal, lost to commuting. Money that could be spent on another person, lost to an empty desk.

How do you get the best talent?
The people you want to work with have choices; you want the best people doing their best work. So let them. You might not be able to pay the most, but you can give them the best working environment.

37Signals are a world-class business making millions with a tiny team. Millions a month that is and they’re literally spread across the world.

Make productivity an on-going, open conversation; how and where do you individually get more done? There are obviously practical considerations – you can’t be a Barista from home.
One small agency I know has three staff -the founder is not sure which country the other two are in, and doesn’t care as long as they deliver while they travel the world for a year. Can you imagine how many amazing CVs you would get for a job like that? What could be possible in your business if you made flexible working really flexible?

How to maximise productivity – especially alone
The temptation of home is obvious; it’s free and needs zero travel. I’ve tried working from home, I love it – for a bit! It’s perfect for a few extra hours, but if I spend too much time at home I get sad, lonely and less productive. I found that I was “working” from 8am until 11pm but never quite working and never quite relaxed.

I now believe you need a range of options and people have different priorities. Alternatives include coffee shops, which are fine for an hour or so but losing your table every time you go to the toilet and having no control over background noise didn’t work for me. One “trick” that often works for me is going to the “wrong” place. Go to a night-club or a bar at 10am and because it’s non-obvious (who goes to a bar to work at 10am?) most are wonderfully empty, keen to look after you and happy for you to stay longer.

That’s how I started being a fan of co-working spaces; places designed for working, quiet enough to work, enough like-minded people to get feedback over a coffee, and you can stay for hours without outstaying your welcome. NearDesk was created out of my desire to use these places “by the hour”.

The need to collaborate with co-founders
There comes a day when you have co-founders or a team, and suddenly want somewhere to be together, not just to meet but to work alongside each other. Traditionally this means renting an office, which I did just a few years ago. It was frustrating paying for our large cupboard knowing that the two of us would only be there some of the time, both of us very rarely, but it gave us a way to be together and bounce ideas around.

I am seeing more and more companies join co-working spaces like DeskLodge at Kings Cross in London, for a fraction of the price of an office whilst giving a more productive base. When only one person is in, they are still surrounded by “colleagues” from other companies. They can put their head down when they want to get work done, but are able to have a quick chat over a coffee when stuck or in need a break.

There are lots of these co-working spaces in East London, and they are now spreading around the country.

How to make the most of a proper office
I’ve been bitten by the hidden costs on both sides. Running an office yourself costs much more than rent + service charge + rates, the cost of sorting your own internet, the coffee machine and never having the right amount of space as you grow. Equally, I’ve overpaid for serviced office space by not checking the costs of extras such as the internet and phone calls.

If and when you do get a “proper” office, I believe it’s the perfect opportunity to display your branding. For example, a company targeting garages with a meeting room set-up as a garage.

Do you need a desk each? A friend had an eight person IT company, he saved so much money by getting a smaller office and working remotely that they’ve hired two more staff. On top of this they all get more done and enjoy work more.

What are your tips? I’m passionate about finding the best ways to cut these costs, increase collaboration and help companies grow faster and safer.