office space
Open space loft office with furniture and big windows

What kind of office space is right for your business?

By Leslie Libeskind

If your small business isn’t housed in your personal residence, then chances are you’ve considered one of three office space alternatives:  buying a building and land to use as office space; securing “straight space” by signing a lease with a landlord and renting space in which to conduct your business; or securing space in an office center.

For most small business owners, the first option is dismissed out of hand because there’s not enough capital, need, or certainty in making a purchase of that size.  Securing straight space is fairly common, but there are some drawbacks, especially for less-established businesses.  For example, leases typically require lengthy commitments (sometimes up to 10 years), which can be limiting should the business need more space in the future because of growth, or less in the case of downsizing.

Additionally, with straight space, the business owner is responsible for coordinating everything in that space – which usually requires buying furniture, arranging Internet service, supplying coffee, water, or other refreshments.  Additionally, if there’s an issue with a phone line or copy machine, a representative of the business typically becomes involved in waiting for the repair person or delivery person.

For many small businesses, space in an office center proves preferable for a number of reasons.  For starters, typically a business owner can find space in an office center with minimal commitment – oftentimes as little as a month at a time – to give the owner a chance to see how the business continues to perform.

The office center also provides a business in flux a bit of flexibility – an owner can sign on to a space for a limited amount of time, and then decide to sign on for longer and perhaps move on to a bigger space if the business is expanding, or leave the center or secure a smaller space if the business is contracting.

Additionally, most spaces in office centers come with access to amenities a business owner might otherwise not be able to afford, like conference rooms or one-on-one meeting rooms.   Some also offer a receptionist on hand to welcome clients and answer phones.  And given that an office space is typically a staffed facility, there are people on hand to help out in times of crises when you might be pulled in one direction but something else needs to be taken care of simultaneously.  In these times, having a client call and be connected to an actual person – instead of an impersonal voicemail greeting – can make a big difference for your business.

Business owners can also save money on furnishings as office center space typically comes fully equipped, from desks and chairs to water coolers and coffee makers.  They save time too in cases of equipment issues – they are not the ones responsible for coordinating service calls, and most likely have terms written in their lease regarding quick resolution of any service issues.  New tenants can literally walk in the door, plug their computer in, and be in business.

For business owners who work from home but occasionally need to step it up professionally, many office centers will offer virtual office packages that include a professional mailing address and professional telephone answering service as well as occasional access to conference rooms or small meeting rooms.  Videoconferencing capability is also offered, which can save hundreds or thousands of dollars in travel costs.  Again, there’s typically no commitment to secure these types of services, allowing businesses to try out different amenities and see what works.

For some businesses, location is key.  Landlords of straight space understand this too, and price their rent accordingly, asking higher monthly prices and/or longer commitments for more desirable spots (usually close to or within a big city).  Purchasing a property will also obviously be affected by the desirability of the location.  Given that office centers are made up of so many entities, they are, by and large, much less affected by the impact of location, and so oftentimes prove to be the best bet for those looking for a more urban environment.

While there is much to be said for owning your own property, for those businesses not yet in that position (or just not interested in the hassle and responsibility that comes along with that), securing space in an office center might, in fact, be the straightest route to business success.

Leslie Libeskind is president and owner of Highland-March Workspaces (, located in Braintree, Mansfield, and Quincy, Massachusetts.  She can be reached at