By Mike Linforth, project management consultant from PSG, providing hands on experience for clients moving or refurbishing their offices.

Relocating a business to new premises can present something of a headache. Keeping the business trading whilst orchestrating the move might seem like an insurmountable task. But with careful planning you can reduce downtime and be up and running again with minimal disruption.

Here are my top tips for a successful relocation:

(1) Be clear on why you are relocating Has your lease come to an end or have the terms become unfavourable? Is your workforce expanding or contracting? Are you moving to be nearer to customers/ suppliers? Are you looking to upgrade your surroundings? Are you looking to buy a commercial property rather than continue to lease? Being absolutely sure of the reasons behind your relocation is key to making the right decision for where to base your business.

(2) Fit for purpose Chances are your new premises will not be move-right-in ready. The largest cost of any office relocations usually the fit out. And the longer it takes, the more costs will be incurred. With careful planning and management, it may be possible to overlap the time-consuming design, procurement and construction processes. Employing the services of an external project management consultancy to coordinate these stages could end up saving you money in the long run

(3) Taxing times Don’t forget that there are a number of allowances available on an office fit out project. These include a 100% first year allowance on energy saving machinery and plant. Other expenditure that may qualify for tax savings include demountable partitions, window blinds, carpet tiles, kitchen areas, air conditioning, security systems and specialised lighting for specific business requirements. Have a read through the 2001 Capital Allowances Act and if in doubt, check with your accountant.

(4) What is your relocation budget? The removals costs, deposit and business rates are just the tip of the iceberg. Will you be taking your old office furniture with you, or replacing it? Will you upgrade your IT as part of the move? Does the new office space come with design and fit out challenges? How will you dispose of any furniture etc that is not coming with you? Is the cabling infrastructure up to scratch in your new premises, or will you incur costs there? Your marketing material will be out of date once you have a new address. Factor this in. You’ll need to arrange mail redirection for at least six months. Are there any costs involved in returning your current premises to their original state? (dilapidation costs). Will you need any temporary storage during the relocation? Once you’ve totted all this up, add on a further 20 percent contingency.

(5) What is the timescale? Relocating an office of any size usually has a narrow window of opportunity. Often a relocation can become financially unviable if the project cannot be completed to the optimum timescales. Creating a realistic project development programme from the outset should help to keep the project on track and help to ensure that contractors, suppliers, and procurement all complete at the right time. It is important that the project development plan also schedules in holidays, key dates for decisions to be made, lease signing, and budget approval. Consider if these dates must be cast in stone, or if you have any flexibility in them.

(6) Who will head up the move? Assign one person to be the ‘move champion’. Consider who has the best skills — and availability — to take on the job. Without a central coordinating figure, you will be moving nowhere fast. In a larger company, it may be that the relocation task is too large to be project managed in house. If this is the case, you will still need to nominate someone to be the main point of contact with your relocation service provider.

(7) Who will do the physical removals? Whilst a desk-based microbusiness will probably be able to manage it themselves, anyone bigger than this is going to have to think about calling in the professional movers. Don’t be tempted to use a home move company. They won’t understand about the importance business continuity and might not have right expertise — or insurance — to handle expensive office equipment.

(8) Declutter before you move An imminent move gives the perfect incentive to get rid of what you don’t need. Factor in this vital decluttering before moving day. It will save you time and money in the long run. Rather than skipping old furniture and technology, consider donating it to a local school or charity project.

(9) Communicate with staff and customers A move is potentially a disruptive time for both staff and customers. Key to managing this is not leaving it too late. Inform all stakeholders of the move date as soon as it is confirmed. A reminder to customers a few days in advance of the move would be appreciated.

(10) Manage risks Make time to identify the risks associated with the move and put plans in place in manage them. Common risks include communications downtime, damage to technology during the move and extra stress and workload for all personnel.