Neil Armstrong, director of business services at Timico, explains what you need to consider as a small business owner when it comes to moving premises.
They famously say that moving house is one of the most stressful things to do in life. One 2014 poll found that moving house was more stressful than bankruptcy, divorce and even the death of a loved one. If upping sticks is stressful in your private life, it’s even more so in the business world. With 24/7 communication a must for most companies, the seamless transition of your telecoms, internet and servers is absolutely essential. So where on earth do you start?
First things first
Before you even sign an agreement to move to a new location, make sure you understand what networking options will be available. Is fibre broadband available? Can you find a phone number and run a broadband line speed check? How good is mobile coverage – can you get 3G or 4G? Good internet connectivity is as essential as water and electricity for business. Make sure you avoid the biggest pitfall of all, moving into somewhere where connectivity is worse than what you currently live with.
Three to six months before the move
Don’t underestimate how long this process can take. Your bricks and mortar deal might be signed and sealed, but don’t leave your telecoms provider in the dark – it’s not always as easy as flicking a switch. Raise questions such as how to retain your existing phone number, what happens in the event of any downtime and timescales for delivery.
Porting numbers will take several weeks, but moving an Ethernet circuit can take several months. What’s more – the bigger your company or the more complex your requirements, the longer this process will likely take.
Eight weeks to go
Assuming you can get fibre broadband connectivity options at your new office space, now is the time to start placing the order. This might be a good time to review your existing services, future expansion plans and think about upgrading your telephony to VoIP or SIP – which allow your calls to be carried over the internet. Of course, if you already use VoIP or SIP, then retaining your phone numbers, extensions and data is much easier, as no matter where you move, everything is housed in the cloud.
Six weeks to go
Sort your back-up plan. Even the best laid plans can go awry. You might have covered the bases with your telecoms provider in plenty of time, but it’s still important to have a back-up plan in place. It’s a standard expectation for a business to have its phones, internet, computers and mobiles all up and running on the first day of trading in a new office. Nothing will take the shine off your exciting new office faster than a room full of employees who can’t make a phone call.
A recent Timico survey found that for 63 per cent of respondents, it would take less than two hours of being unable to make or receive calls before their business suffered reputational or financial damage, so put those plans in place.
Five weeks to go
Think about any hidden “gotchas”. Book a meeting with whoever runs your IT day-to-day to try and bottom out any potential problems. For example, will the internal cabling at your new site work with your other equipment? Can your supplier still operate over this infrastructure? Does any cabling need to be upgraded or replaced?
Taking the time to think about these problems ahead of time, as well as scheduling a site visit, will help everyone to feel more prepared when the move itself happens. While you’re thinking about gotchas, think about upgrading the maintenance care levels on your lines. It makes sense for SMBs to save as much money as they can, but that £9 p/m investment would soon pay for itself in the event of any downtime.
Four weeks to go
You might think all the planning has been sorted by now, but make sure you stay in regular contact with your provider – chatting about the finer points, like expected levels of call flow and contingency plans. You can start to think practically now too – so begin recording voicemail messages. Will each extension have a personal voicemail message, or will it route to a company mailbox?
Also, think about the way calls will be routed into the business – do you currently operate an IVR system, which directs customers to a certain department by pushing a number on the keypad? If so, you need to make sure this system is transferable and will be operational from the first day of your office move.
Three weeks to go
Time to think admin. A new address means a lot of organisation. Is the company website indicating the address of your new premises? Have customers been informed of the office move? Who is responsible for letting Companies House know about your change of address? The digital world makes switching a little easier, but your communications to external parties still need to be up to scratch. Think about booking some training too. Even if your systems are staying the same, it’s a good chance to ensure that your staff are using all of the helpful functions available on their handsets, computers and general equipment. A new move is a fresh start – so make sure that trickles down into other divisions of the business.
Two weeks to go
Start testing that back up plan you pulled together a couple of weeks ago. Say for example the worst happens – complete downtime. Maybe your back up plan included a router with 3G or 4G capacity, which allows you to stay connected even though your primary means of connectivity is not functioning. Test these routers during a quiet time to make sure this fail-safe will help in the event of an emergency.
Mobile dongles can also help employees stay connected if the broadband fails – but make sure you monitor the usage. Dongles are great if you’re in a tight fix, but they are expensive. When your normal connectivity is back up and running ensure the dongles are removed, or you could be in for a nasty shock when the bill arrives. Not the moving in present you’d be hoping for.
The week of the move
There are two schools of thought when it comes to the best day to move into your new space. Some think that moving over the weekend, when there are fewer client pressures, makes more sense. However, this also makes it difficult to get help if something does go wrong, as your suppliers may be enjoying that quiet time too.
Moving during the week means your staff can help and other support is more readily available. Designated members of staff can be on hand to handle any re-routed calls, while others can be troubleshooting at their new desks.
Essentially, planning and having faith in your providers are the key ingredients to a successful office move – as well as a focus on staying connected. Remember that telecoms and connectivity are only stressful if they’re not working – so make sure you invest the time and energy into making a smooth transition.
Are you a freelancer? Read Business Advice’s suggestions for choosing alternative spaces to work.
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