Over the past 10 years I’ve done one direct lease and four subleases for office space. Needless to say we’ve moved every couple years as we would inevitably grow out of our space. It wasn’t until the past two subleases that I came across the number one tip I want all entrepreneurs to know when negotiating a lease/sublease: ask to pay for only the space you need now and grow into the space financially by paying for more over the life of the lease.
As a startup, when looking for office space, I recommend getting the amount of space you expect to need by the last 6-12 months of the lease. So, if you’re doing a three year lease and you have five employees now, but expect to have 20 employees by the end, it becomes tricky to find the right space. Here’s an example of growing into space:
- You find 5,000 square feet office but only need 1,500 sq ft at $18/yr/ft for a three year term but can’t afford that much space now and don’t need that much
- Offer to pay for 1,500 sq ft for the first six months, followed by paying for 2,500 the next six months, and add another 1,000 sq ft to the bill every six months thereafter until you’re paying for the entire 5,000 sq ft
- The $18/yr/ft would stay constant or increase 3% per year such that by the end of the lease you’re paying the standard asking price
Naturally, your effective rate per square foot over the life of the lease would be significantly less than $18 sq ft but you get the benefit of the space you’re going to need at a price that meets your respective company size. Plus, landlords like to develop relationships with growing companies and people like to see startups succeed as it helps the economy.