Gen Y Speaks: I Paid Thousands of Dollars to Move My Home-Based Startup to an Office, Only to Realize My Bedroom Was Better

After starting a digital marketing agency business in my bedroom in 2019, I spent my days like many others desperate to get their business off the ground, making nearly a hundred cold calls a day to find client.

The dream I had was simple. At one point I wanted to expand, and that meant renting physical office space to have a collaborative work environment, as well as a team to help run the business.

So I set out a vision for my business, with a plan to take it out of the bedroom and into a real office.

Ten months later, the business I started from my bedroom was generating at least S$15,000 in monthly income.

I was waiting for this moment, because I could finally invest part of the profits of the company to rent a physical office space.

A bit of background: This was during the height of the pandemic in November 2020, when remote working was already the norm. At this point, my company had only one employee, who had been working from home dutifully for two months.

With only one worker and only one boss, did I really need an office? I weighed my options.

I thought an office space would make this small business more credible and trustworthy. And eventually, I would be able to attract more customers.

I also saw it as an investment in my team. After all, my company wasn’t going to last long as a two-man crew. I was going to enlarge.

Next thing I knew, I found myself signing a lease for a Woodlands office to house my business for the next two years.

HIGH EXPENSES

But the story of the realization of my “dream” did not end there. Soon came the renovation costs, utility bills, travel expenses and all the other dollars and cents I never saw coming.

Fast forward to a few weeks later. I sat in a refurbished office, which I had reluctantly spent S$40,000 on renovations for, while incurring rental costs of S$3,120 per month.

More than 60% of the company’s cash reserves have been invested in office space.

To tell the truth, it was not the financial burden that made me reconsider my decision.

It was always about people after all. I had imagined that this office space would be the hub of the company creating a work environment the team would love, so we could all work harder for the company.

Instead, I realized that having an office was actually counterproductive. Two new recruits left three and six months after their arrival.

One of them resigned because he lived in Pasir Ris, while the office is located in Woodlands. For him, the three-hour journey was too much to bear.

Not to mention that people’s work expectations have been shaped by the pandemic and flexible work arrangements are now all the rage.

The pandemic has also shown us that it is possible to work remotely in most service businesses, especially if there is no need for physical interaction.

When it comes to team meetings and cadence meetings, most interactions can be done easily through Zoom and Google Meet sessions. In fact, these meetings can potentially be more productive and valuable because these meetings can be digitally recorded for future reference.

Face-to-face interactions are still needed from time to time, of course, so that we can interact with each other as humans rather than as pixels on a screen.

WORK AT THE OFFICE TWICE A MONTH

Today I have a team of nine and we only use the offices twice a month.

The reason?

I appreciate my team’s feedback and they truly enjoy working from home, embracing the autonomy and comfort they truly deserve.

A member of my team once said, and I quote: “The office is nothing more than just a hassle for me to travel from home to the office, when that time could be better spent responding to customers. .”

That’s when it hit me.

The pandemic had taught me that a physical office is redundant for a digital business like mine, since I hold no inventory.

Being a service-based business, we can work remotely and efficiently from any location we desire – something I wish I had realized earlier before signing the rental agreement.

Would I care if my team members were working on a beach? No. As long as their tasks are completed, that deadlines are met, that is enough for me.

So instead of chasing my vain dream of working in an office, I decided to listen to my team.

After the office lease expires at the end of this year, I will probably end the lease and would prefer to rent a coworking space instead. Why should my company pay S$1560 per desktop usage, when I can get it at S$100 per day, right?

Yes, I spent money, time and effort to get something I didn’t need. But in the process, I learned three invaluable lessons as an entrepreneur.

Lesson 1: Don’t rent an office just to appear credible. Most business deals can be done through a Zoom meeting these days, and a physical office isn’t the top priority.

Lesson 2: Office renovations are very expensive, so take that into account. I rented a “bare unit” which meant I had to pay for many various certifications to renovate which cost me around S$10,000.

Lesson 3: Trust the team and evaluate them on how they perform their tasks. Performance should not be based on presence in the office or how long they stay in the office.

ABOUT THE WRITER:

Jim Ng, 27, is the founder of digital marketing agency Best SEO Marketing.

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