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Moving day moxie.

Changing offices doesn't have to be a nightmare -- here's how

Two employees, vying for the same computer terminal in the back office, are clearly disturbing a client in the reception area. Secretaries trip over a maze of computer cables as they squeeze past filing cabinets to line up at the copy machine. Obvious signs of overcrowding and turmoil.

Two floors down, in the offices of another company, six coffee mugs hang beside 12 empty hooks in the staff lounge. A secretary's steps echo in an office of empty desks, the result of recession-induced down-sizing and an attempt to improve efficiency.

Hart Mallin, a sales associate with Chartier & Associates, says an experienced commercial real estate agent could help both companies. Says Mallin, "I need to know what their anticipated needs are and then we can set up a plan based on their present space."

Mallin suggests that, for the company which down-sized, negotiating a lower rent with the current landlord until business returns to normal levels is an option.

If a move is inevitable, Mallin and the company's consultants will find the right home for a business without a business interruption.

Mallin's questionnaire outlines a company's needs. Does the business need to be downtown or in the suburbs? Better parking facilities and the absence of time-consuming elevators sometimes make the creative use of retail strip mall space or an empty warehouse a cheaper, more attractive alternative to the downtown high-rise office.

If the choice is downtown, Mallin wants to know how important it is to be attached to the indoor overhead walkway system. Does the business have to be on a bus route? If a building is being bought or renovated, will it meet today's wheelchair accessibility codes? Can it be brought up to standard for electronics?

Similar questions must be answered when leasing. It's important to know how secure the landlord is. What kind of maintenance and security is there in the building?

Mallin advises anyone considering a move to contact several reputable real estate companies and talk to specialists.

It could take a broker a week to review a company's requirements and match them with what's available in the city. It might take another week to look at what he has to offer.

Tom Sullivan, regional manager of real estate investments for Great-West Life Assurance Co., says some tenants phone the landlord directly, but generally most hire a broker, usually a specialist.

Says Sullivan, "On average it then takes four to six months from the time we meet a tenant until the day we start construction." He says Great-West's portfolio includes more than a million square feet of office, industrial and commercial real estate.

Sullivan says landlords in general will provide a tenant allowance to improve the space in return for a lease of three to five years in length or longer.

With Winnipeg's Class A vacancy rate running at more than 11 per cent, it's definitely a tenant's market and a broker can help negotiate the best lease. Brokers can help the tenant write a two- or three-page letter which indicates that the landlord and tenant agree to enter into a lease that is mutually agreeable and subject to the approval of their lawyers. Commercial leases can now comprise two, sometimes three, different types of rent. Basic rent is the amount a landlord tries to obtain as pure profit. Additional rent covers all the costs of operating a building (realty taxes, landlord's insurance, utilities, snow clearing, maintenance, security, accounting staff). Percentage rent, applicable usually to retail operations only, is based on a percentage gross (not net sales).

In addition, a standard lease would outline the responsibilities of the tenant and landlord for things like maintenance, hours of operation, parking and subletting.

After signing the lease, renovations could take months, warns Sullivan and Mallin. That's why it's vital to start looking for premises at least a year before your old lease is up and to have a few months or weeks of overlap in the two premises. It is also vital to contact telecommunications specialists as soon as you've decided to move so that they can advise you on setting up a new network.

IBM, for example, moved three years ago from two small downtown offices to one larger facility in the TD Tower. "I got involved at the design stage two years before the move," says IBM's Rick Peters, a project manager.

"All of our requirements were documented up front to avoid problems and the move went very smoothly," says Peters. The company appointed a 10-member committee and a team leader to handle the logistics of moving more than 150 staff and their electronic support systems. Peters credits a great deal of hard work and co-operation between departments for the success of the move."

Informational Systems Management Corporation (ISM) just finished moving 230 of their staff from two downtown locations to a new building on Ellice Avenue. "Everything went on schedule," says Gary Campbell, ISM's director of personnel and administration. "We planned the move for a year and put a number of contingency plans into place. Fortunately, we didn't have to use any of them."

Paul Lapointe, the traffic manager of ISM's network solutions group, says most companies with a large network and a mainframe required a minimum of six months' notice to move or duplicate a computer network.

In either scenario, it is best to contact MTS at least six weeks before the move. This would give the utility time to set up a reference system to forward calls from your old number to the new one, says MTS sales manager, Bob Turton. It would also give advance notice of your new phone numbers so that new letterheads and business cards could be printed well in advance.

When ISM moved, they did it one floor at a time, doubling the workload on each computer at the old location until a computer was in place at the new one. They used two cartage companies, one for supplies and furniture, the other for their electronics. Both were selected through a tendering process that began six months before the move.

"Get at least three reputable movers in to do a visual estimate," recommends Blair Loughery, office move co-ordinator for Jay's Atlas Van Lines. "Then pick the one who most addresses your concerns."

And usually each employee packs their own stuff, labelling everything. Boxes are labelled strategically so they are unpacked logically and delivered accurately.
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Title Annotation:how commercial real estate agents can help you move shop
Author:Arnold, Cheryl
Publication:Manitoba Business
Date:Mar 1, 1993
Previous Article:Self-starters.
Next Article:Threading the needle.

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