Start-Up Tips: 4 Essential Things to Know When Looking for an Office Space

Choosing an office space is a major decision. Here are 4 tips to avoid the common pitfalls and make your life easier.

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CPAs are usually wearers of many hats when working at a start-up, and finding the next office space often ends up being one of the more perplexing tasks.

We sat down with David Cairns, VP of Corporate Real Estate at CBRE Canada, who has worked with many scaling technology companies, and leads partnerships with OneEleven and the Deloitte Technology Fast50 program. Here are David’s top four tips for finding your next office space.

  1. Don’t react to your real estate needs. Plan for it.

The biggest mistake I’ve seen start-ups make is reacting to their real estate needs at the last minute. This leaves them short on time, stressed out, and forces them to take a space they don’t want.

The entire search process involves evaluating options in the market, touring, negotiating, executing a lease, furniture considerations, IT, and renovations—which takes anywhere from 2-8 months.

To speed this up, I strongly advise looking for an office space with lease improvements such as offices, a kitchen, and furniture (if possible) already in place. The layout won’t always be ideal, but this will help meet timing and budgetary constraints.

  1. Instead of having multiple agents work for you, carefully choose one.

There’s often a perception that you want as many people as possible looking around for you, but start-ups eventually learn that this leads to bad experiences.

Availability data is accessible to all commercial real estate providers, meaning you won’t miss any opportunities so long as you have a competent agent. Therefore, carefully interview agents and choose a good, trustworthy one. What do you want: five agents you have a loose affiliation with, or one who really wants you to succeed?

  1. Flexible lease terms and an agile workspace are SO IMPORTANT!

Start-up growth is unpredictable and non-linear. It is important to work with an agent who understands these dynamics—an agent who makes every effort to find you a space with flexible lease terms (where possible) and can be densified to accommodate increased headcount.

However, in tight markets like Toronto (i.e. not a lot of available space), landlords are in the driver’s seat and will often force you to lease a space for longer than you want.

  1. Consider the benefits that being proactive about your real estate has on your employees and your culture as you grow.

There is a war for talent out there. Start-ups compete with large firms like Amazon and Google, who have the luxury of massive office budgets. As a start-up, it’s important to not underestimate the impact of creating an environment that excites your employees and puts a smile their faces.

How can you do this on 30 days notice? What I want to convey is this:

Even when start-ups don’t have an office space requirement, it is ABSOLUTELY in their best interests to consider their potential real estate needs. Inform a good agent of your growth trajectory, so they can proactively think of you while you focus on scaling the business.


David has launched a platform that shares the stories of the fastest growing, most forward-thinking companies in Canada called CBREForward – www.cbreforward.com. To discuss how your company can be profiled here in the future, get in touch with David at david.cairns@cbre.com or 416-847-3272.

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