Foresight helps firms avoid relocation nightmares

When an agency relocates from one office space to another, making the transition as smooth as possible requires extensive planning and a thorough assessment of potential future needs.

When an agency relocates from one office space to another, making the transition as smooth as possible requires extensive planning and a thorough assessment of potential future needs.

"We've done a lot of preparation to get to this point," says Lisa Treister, founding partner of The Treister Murry Agency in Miami, which is scheduled to relocate at the end of the month. "On moving day, each of us just has to pack up their things at our desk."

Since the firm inked its new lease last April, it has relied on a checklist to maintain order; all staffers are assigned specific move-related tasks. The checklist also serves as a reminder of chores - both major and minor - that have to be done before the relocation, everything from finding a donation source for old computer equipment to ordering new stationery.

Even with these extra measures of precaution, because there is no lag time between the firm's old lease and the new, says Treister, "we're crossing our fingers that no major emergency arises."

Having clear goals, strong organizational skills, and realistic expectations will ultimately help elude those major emergencies, solve problems before they become crises, and make an office relocation less stressful overall. But even before the first box is packed, an agency's approach to managing a move should be forward-thinking.

Susan Tellem, president and CEO of LA-based Tellem Worldwide, considered future hires when choosing new office space for her current seven-person staff.

"We have much more room than we need for the group of us," she says. "Based on growth from the preceding year, we figured we were on target for having bodies in the chairs."

Though a new space's functionality must fit the firm's work needs, many executives express a desire for their offices to personify their firm's character, as well. Tellem, for example, took six months to find the perfect space - and had the good fortune of securing an office that came furnished with nearly new, dŽcor-perfect furniture.

"We wanted something that combined both the hip, exciting world of entertainment, as well as the conservative world of healthcare," she says.

"On the design of your space, try to have a vision of how you want it to look and feel when you're done," adds Fred Conover, president of Conover Tuttle Pace.

Timing, too, was a big consideration for Boston-based CTP. The agency had to be out of its previous space in September 2006, but its new office wouldn't be remodeled and available until January 2007. For four months, the firm was housed within a temporary space located two flights of stairs from its would-be permanent office.

CTP's arrangement may have been a bit harried during relocation, but "staying accessible wasn't an issue," Conover says. The firm shut down phone and server systems only overnight when necessary, and had a reliable technology team to help with the transition.

"We didn't lose communications for more than one hour," he says.

If the agency had experienced a glitch in the moving process, however, Conover believes that would have been manageable.

"From an execution standpoint, be as prepared as you can be and expect bumps in the road," he says. "If you have good relationships with your staff and clients, they'll understand."

Key points:

In preparing for relocation, agency execs should consider both large things, like technology, and small things, like business cards

An office move should be minimally disruptive to conducting daily business

A firm's new office should accommodate its current situation, and be flexible enough to adapt to future needs

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