This article was originally published in the December 14-20, 2007 edition of The Puget Sound Business Journal

When your business has outgrown its current facilities or the lease is due to expire, it’s time to move. A new resource for facilitating this move has emerged — one that provides the needed help for planning and executing a move to new facilities.

This new resource is the commercial real estate broker.

That’s right — the person helping you find the perfect location for your business operation is also educating you and working as an advocate on your behalf. In larger commercial real estate markets like Chicago, Dallas and New York, it is not uncommon for business owners and corporate facility management teams to rely on broker-facilitated relocation logistics services. This is an emerging trend in the Puget Sound region.

Understanding this enhanced relationship between business and commercial real estate brokers brings value to both parties.

Many brokers are beginning to understand the value of serving not only as the “deal mare” but also as a “resource partner.” Being a resource partner differentiates them from the competition and strengthens their client relationships. More importantly, stepping into this role pays dividends in repeat business and referrals for years to come.

For the broker’s resource partnership to succeed, relocation planning and project management must start early in the process of qualifying buildings and sites. Most brokers will assist the client with “strategic” planning for facility requirements during the discovery process by analyzing business objectives and goals. Brokers will then identify space alternatives to create a “short list” of buildings/sites that meet the requirements.

Evaluating Choices

The next step is when the broker and client evaluate prospective properties. Unfortunately this is also where most mistakes are made. By not implementing a sound project-management and relocation-planning process, the true “cost” of the relocation is generally not determined before negotiating the lease.

There are five basic cost components to planning a corporate relocation: space planning, communication infrastructure, furniture, relocation/installation and space decommissioning.

By accurately assessing these components before negotiating a long-term lease, the customer will potentially avoid cost overruns down the road. These five components, which account for 30 percent to 40 percent of the relocation budget, have long-lasting facility management consequences if not property evaluated before negotiating the lease:

  • Space planning — Evaluate work flow, growth and company culture to create a new office space environment
  • Communications infrastructure — Establish the voice and data technology requirements nd determine the cabling infrastructure required to support it.
  • Furniture analysis — Evaluate existing furniture and assess new, used or refurbished options.
  • Relocation/installation — Tabulate the costs associated with moving the furniture, equipment and contents to the new facility.
  • Space decommissioning — Costs will be incurred preparing the old space for return to the landlord. these may include light construction and/or the removal of cabling.

All too frequently, the budget has been blown well before it is time for the actual move. Properly planning and allocating funds will result in a successful relocation. The goal is to prevent long-term facility management problems that result from poor decisions made during the project analysis phase.

A clear understanding and accurate assessment of all costs are absolutely necessary before entering into negotiations. Knowing the costs is the only way to allocate for tenant improvements and to secure appropriate lease terms. By being properly prepared by the broker’s project-management resource team, the client will be able to clearly express their needs. The property owner and client will more likely arrive at mutually satisfactory terms and conditions.

Implementation

The implementation process will be made easier because of the time spent assessing the client’s needs early in the process. Once the lease is signed, construction plans can be drawn and permit applications filed. Space plans are turned into action plans and then fine-tuned. New furnishings are ordered, installation begins, and the remaining equipment and contents moved with precision and timing. The final decommissioning will return the previous space to the landlord and a new phase of the client’s corporate growth will begin.

Successful brokers and their firms, both small and large, are becoming more involved in the move process. By taking the steps necessary to make certain clients achieve success and maximum value from their newly leased property, brokers increase their credibility and reputation in the marketplace.

By becoming resource partners, brokers can stay in the forefront of a competitive commercial real estate marketplace and establish a legacy of service excellence.

MATT WATSON is vice president of sales and marketing at Apex Facility Resources, which provides office furniture, project planning and design, off-site storage and inventory management, and relocation services. He can be reached at 206.686.3357 or [email protected]