Today, location plays less of a role in the success of a business than it used to. New technology offers flexibility that can give businesses a better degree of competitiveness and facilitate collaboration on a global scale. That’s great news for startups and small businesses who are increasingly being priced out of prime London city-centre locations.
But while office location no longer matters so much to your workforce, it does to your clients. Though customers can be reached any time of day via email, text, video and voice, where you locate your business still matters considerably, and can determine whether you succeed or fail.
Here’s why location still matters to your business, and what you should bear in mind when deciding where to set up shop in London.
Location says a lot about your brand
No matter how arbitrary it may seem, where your office is located says a lot about the kind of business you are. In the crudest terms, offices that occupy prime city-centre residences are typically perceived to be more successful. That’s because owing to the sky-high rental and purchase costs of centrally located office space, the occupants are likely to be either highly profitable or have been operating from that location for decades past.
In other ways, your business location says a lot about what it is you do. Physical location may be a redundant concept these days, but there are still certain stereotypes associated with business locations the world over. Tech startups are generally associated with California’s Silicon Valley or London’s Silicon Roundabout, while financial businesses congregate on New York’s Wall Street and in London’s Square Mile.
It’s also about your business culture. Your straight down the line investment consultancy is unlikely to experiment with a retro-fitted warehouse location in London’s ‘hipster’ East End, but that’s perhaps just the location you’d expect an avant-garde design agency to operate. In much the same way, a liberal non-profit committed to divesting from fossil fuels would seem out of place in a luxury Mayfair office.
If your employees work remotely, virtual offices offer a practical business solution
As pressure on space in larger cities intensifies, and sky high property costs in business hubs like London and New York across both the rental and owned sectors, more and more workforces are opting to live in satellite areas and commute. Others simply aren’t commuting at all, with more than 4.2 million Britons choosing to work remotely.
As the popular concept of flexible working or remote working from home gains traction, driven largely by technology and more practical team management techniques, small businesses in particular are increasingly looking to virtual offices. That’s because virtual offices negate the “perception problems” associated with remote workers who are seen to be “removed from the ‘real’ world of business.”
As London virtual office and serviced office providers i2Office explain, a virtual office is a cost-effective way to secure a prestigious address for your business when you don’t actually have an office. That’s where virtual offices are better than a PO box: virtual offices typically come with the option to hire a meeting room or conference room in such locations as Shoreditch, Mayfair or Canary Wharf. Even within the city, location is still everything, given that certain sectors concentrate in certain areas of prestige.
Considering face-to-face meetings are still important for fostering productive and effective customer relationships (particularly within the creative industries that have more remote workers than any other sector), it’s certainly handy to make the virtual office ‘real’ in order to fulfil the location requirement of your business.
If you need an office, choose a location with like-minded businesses
Once upon a time, a newspaper publisher couldn’t hope to get a start in any location other than the tightly-knit network of alleys and backstreets around London’s Fleet Street. Notorious as much for its bustling offices as it was for its lively pubs and coffee houses occupied by hacks seeking the latest scoop, it was synonymous with British journalism and the hub for nearly all the UK’s printing press.
Now, it’s less about competition, and more about collaboration. In fact, that’s led to the proliferation of some of the most renowned business hubs, famous for their concentration of industry-specific start-up incubators. Vodafone is just one example committed to opening an incubation centre in East London’s Tech City, providing capital investment as well as technical expertise.
And despite expansion out of these concentrated areas in recent years, startup clusters are still considered beneficial to business. “Start-ups benefit from being near one another as well as their customers and peers”, Tom Watson, co-founder of Hubble told City AM. As business strategist Peter Cohan explains: “Think of these locations as ‘Start-up Commons,’ a modern adaptation of an idea from rural economics.” That’s because these ‘hubs’ are fertile ground for investments and highly-skilled human capital too.