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Entries in business advice (3)


Five top tips for those forced to make redundancies

Redundancies are an unfortunate aspect of running a business. In many cases it is an unavoidable task with many companies having to slash operating costs in the current economic climate to remain competitive.

However, it is also important that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) deal with the process in a professional manner to ensure they don’t leave themselves liable for claims against unfair dismissal.

Here are five top tips for SMEs forced into making redundancies for the long term survival of their business.

Ensure redundancies are genuine business decisions

Making redundancies is a major decision for both parties and consequently businesses must make sure they have sound, genuine business reasons for making staff redundant. It should not be used as an excuse to get rid of under-performing employees as this can be managed in an entirely different manner, avoiding legal action against the business.

Calculate how many redundancies required from the outset

It is important that any business knows how many redundancies it is required to make from the outset. This is because the redundancy procedure differs depending on the number of staff likely to be laid off. These include notice and consultation that must be given in cases of redundancies of more than 20 employees.

Oversee a thorough skills matrix

In the event SMEs are required to reduce staffing levels it is important to assess the skillsets of their employees with a thorough pool selection. SMEs should assess the skills of employees within robust, clearly defined pools or groups to further guard against claims of unfair dismissal.

Communication is the key

As difficult as any redundancy situation may be it is vital to communicate strongly with teams and individuals affected. Managers should be prepared to field awkward questions and discussions with frustrated staff. Losing your job is one of the most stressful situations a person can face so be sure to show understanding and compassion.

Adhere to redundancy payments

Finally, it is also crucial to follow the necessary payment procedures. Adhere to redundancy payments for employees with two or more years of service – the final figure is calculated by combining the age of the employee, their length of service and their standard weekly wage. Be sure to document every payment as all business practices come under increasing scrutiny during a redundancy period.

More business advice for SMEs

Beginner's guide to writing a business plan
Essential guide to email marketing
The best time to relocate your office


Beginner’s guide to writing a business plan

The key to the success of any business start-up is a solid business plan. The ability to put down plans on paper to provide a clear vision of a venture’s future is an essential skill.

Although it will take some time to do your homework and research your product and target market thoroughly, a business plan should be centred on the strategies by which a business aims to excel and expand.

The premise of a business plan is that it can provide the building blocks for how any start-up will operate on a short and long-term basis. Here are some of the areas a successful business plan should touch upon:

Executive summary – a concise overview of the business and the ambitions of taking the business forward in the future months and years. This is critical as many potential lenders and investors choose to invest in businesses based upon the clarity of their executive summaries alone.

Products and services – a summary of the products and services you plan to sell, including analysis and research surrounding your target market.

Marketing strategy – details of why you think your products and services will sell well within your target market. Provide a brief outline of how you plan to sell to your customers and how you manage to reach out to new markets via online and offline marketing.

Management credentials – this section provides start-up owners with the opportunity to sell themselves as individuals. Outline your personal credentials and the people you plan to recruit to work with in the infancy of the business.

Operations – a brief outline of where your business will be located, its facilities and the systems in place to manage the day-to-day running of the company. This section should also outline the planned development of premises and infrastructure.

Forecasting – translate the rest of your business plan into financial projections. Consider working capital, security that can be offered to lenders, repayment on any debts and current sources of income and revenue. Forecasts are generally run for the next three to five years, with the first 12 months the most detailed, critical timeframe.

When writing your first ever business plan keep in mind that it is likely to be the first thing any potential investors or lenders will see regarding your business. A professional, clear and honest business plan will help your business stand out from the competition and help you onto the first step of the ladder.

More business advice for SMEs

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Five places your customers need to be able to find you
Implementing a social media campaign for your business


How to know when to expand your business

Some may say that every small business expands from the first day of trading, but the first genuine hurdle for start-ups is to break even. This is when a business begins to produce as much income as it spends – then the fun begins.

It is one of the hardest challenges as an entrepreneur to know when to take the plunge and expand your business. After all, business expansion can have its upsides and downsides. Some business owners are keen to grow and expand their workforce while others would rather remain a one-man band.

Ultimately though, business growth brings with it more responsibility at the helm. You must weigh up whether you are prepared to take charge of a whole new set of issues, from recruitment and payroll to marketing and networking.

So what are the primary indicators for knowing when the time is right to take your business to the ‘next level’?

Struggling to keep up with customer demand

If you are receiving enquiries for potential work and are unable to fulfil them there is a danger potential customers will go to competitors instead. This is where expanding your workforce comes into play. The last thing you need as a small business that depends on its reputation is to put your employees under pressure to complete jobs, increasing the risk of mistakes and missed deadlines.

Reacting to changes within your industry

The very make-up of your business is controlled by the industry you find yourself in. If the playing field changes in any way, requiring you to invest in new products or services to compete with rival businesses or simply meet government regulations, you may be forced into investing just to keep up with your competitors.

Consumer perception of your business

Is your business in danger of losing its credibility with consumers? Is your product lagging behind competitors? If your rivals have successfully expanded their own operations it may have given them new, untapped opportunities in your market. Subsequently it is important not to be left behind, however it is important to carefully assess the financial benefits of such an expansion and whether your cash flow can support the significant investment.

At the end of the day a business should serve its clients as best it can in order to solve problems for customers and build long-lasting consumer relationships. Weigh up the pros and cons, consult your business plan and make the right choice for the longevity of your business.

More office environment advice for SMEs

Benefits of open plan spaces on the working environment
Four tips to help you design a functional office layout
Coping with summer temperatures in the office