Week 40: Hunting for office space
Finding an office seems doable at first and everyone immediately gets excited … but then you realize there’s more to it than meets the eye. 😳
Bonjour mes amis, this is Harry again, summarizing the 40th week of our adventures at diesdas.digital, a still fairly young product development and branding studio from Berlin. I was on holidays for two weeks and my colleague Lorenz did an excellent job covering what happened while I was hiking through the British countryside. On Tuesday I was back in the office and even though this was a short week, things got rather intense. Let’s see what we have in store this time! 👀
Office space… it’s complicated!
Back when we started our company in January we were very short on money, so we decided not to rent any office space of our own from the start and instead arranged a deal with some friends at häberlein & mauerer to share their new space with us. In hindsight this was the best decision we could possibly make: we got access to a very prestigious office in Berlin Mitte, including meeting rooms and didn’t have to buy much furniture apart from two stools, saving a lot of money. In these first couple of months we were only 3–4 people, so we weren’t a major annoyance either and even did joint projects with häberlein & mauerer. Win-win. We’ll always be super grateful that they decided to help us get through this first year, supporting us with very inexpensive office space. 👏
To refresh your memory, here’s Lorenz during these first days in January 2016:
Things have changed quite a bit since then. 😅
So clearly the situation is a lot different now. We have grown to be six, soon even seven people, including full employees and so it doesn’t exactly feel appropriate anymore to sublet a few desks.
After all we seem to be a legit company now.
(Saying this still feels absolutely un-frickin-believable, to be honest.)
Anyhow. Some thoughts frequently running through our heads:
- Goes without saying that the office space you work in has a tremendous influence on the productivity and mood of the whole team, because you can adjust furniture, table layout, etc freely to your own needs. We are a bit constrained right now in that regard.
- Being able to choose your own furniture, materials, colors is obviously important for the identity and character of the company.
- We feel tremendously honored that Sharon and Nicolás decided to join us full-time, even though we neither pay the highest salaries, nor have the fanciest projects. So having a nice office space feels like the least we have to provide to make their time with us worthwhile.
- Being able to listen to music together while working would be really nice, too.
Makes sense? Of course it does. So what’s the catch?
Your own office is an investment which naturally comes with a risk!
Obviously it all starts with browsing the usual websites for finding empty office space in Berlin. That’s the easy part: You look at lots of numbers, photos, square meters, floor plans and of course prices. Originally we wanted to stay in the district of Mitte, but quickly realized that there’s a Mitte tax, which we are not willing to pay. So we looked at Friedrichshain, Kreuzberg, Prenzlauer Berg and quickly found a few interesting leads. So you make a list and subsequently narrow it down to a handful. All the excitement. Then things start to get tricky: you call the real estate agents and from then a couple of things happen:
- Some of them immediately reject you because your company is too young. Under a year is usually a red flag. (Our first birthday is coming up in December.)
- Some aren’t immediately scared off, but ask whether we have investors and tons of capital. (We don’t.)
- If the conversation is still going, they usually want a business plan at this point. (We have a rough one, but heavy financial fluctuation is in the nature of our service-based business.)
If you make it through all this (or strategically leave out those bits of information at first) then you might go take a tour of the property. Sometimes you wait outside, peeking through a window and immediately know that this is not gonna work out. 😒
Sometimes you look at one and think “this could be it”, but you don’t quite feel it. 😕
But rarely you walk in and just know “hell yes, it’s utterly perfect”. 😍
Which is precisely what happened on Friday when we opened the door to this gem:
It’s got everything we need:
- one big open space that can be separated by a glass wall
- a large meeting room
- it’s spacious enough to support way more seats than we initially need, possibly for subletting
- located in Kreuzberg and easy to reach
Also, unsurprisingly, it’s rather expensive. 😐 #downer
And this is where we get to the risky part: It’s easy to get excited about all the potential and the good times we could have there, but if we can’t finance it, all this is moot. This space would definitely be an investment on our end, because it’s meant for the company we could be in a year or two, while it’d be much too large for us right now. This could be mitigated by subletting desks for a while.
Following these early considerations we took a hard look at our finances, outstanding invoices, upcoming projects, also making a list of stuff we would need (tables, chairs, lamps, cables, equipment, …). Turns out one can easily spend 20k on furniture and you can double that for the security deposit. This is obviously a substantial investment for us, but carefully considering the risk we ultimately decided that we’ll apply and try to get the space.
The reasoning: Even when spending the aforementioned amount of money, we will still be financially secure all the way to April 2017, even if no new projects come in whatsoever (which is highly unlikely). That’s a comfortable buffer and we’re now looking very much forward to the response from the landlord; of course they can still decline, but after making up our minds and looking at the hard facts at least on our end we unequivocally reached the conclusion that yes, we want this space and yes, we can also afford it.
Taking a close look at the hard numbers was necessary though to get all of us on board, because sums/investments in this price range naturally give you a feeling of unease. As you can see, we’re taking all this quite seriously, because we don’t intend to jeopardize what we have built so far.
Anxiously awaiting the reply now! Fingers crossed! 😬
[In case you’re the landlord having googled us, reading this: hey there! You’d make us really happy if you gave us the benefit of the doubt and trusted us to make this work! Because … we will! 💪]
… now for something completely different:
Save the date—we’ll be at up.front.ug on Tuesday!
up.front.ug is a user group for designers and developers in Berlin and it’s finally back after the summer break! We’ll be there, giving a talk about how most things turn out differently than you expect.
Indeed, that’s a very generic title, mainly because when agreeing to speak, we didn’t yet know what the talk would be about. 😇 Still, we promise it’ll be fun and we’d be happy if you joined us there! 🙃 Also there are three more talks and dozens of smart people as well, so what’s not to love? We’re very much looking forward!
And I guess that’s it for today. If you liked this post or you’re in a generous mood, we’d be delighted if you gave us a 💚 below or let us know what we could’ve done better! As always you can follow us around on various social networks as well (👻, 📸, 🐦, 👍 & 🎥) or subscribe to this publication to be notified about new posts!
In any case, have a nice weekend, get some rest and see you next week!
Your friends at diesdas.digital