When Bryan Evans joined Aspen Consulting Group, the intention was that he, plus the five engineers who started at the same time, should form the nucleus of a new office in Bishop's Stortford. The team had the advantage of knowing the area and each other, but this would be a new venture. The company is now part of the Waterman Group but the need for new office space still applied.
Premises were found through an estate agent which had been thoroughly briefed as to what was needed. 'The company made sure it understood what we were looking for. The main thing was the square footage, location with respect to the road network, flexibility and cost, ' says Evans.
The briefing was good enough to ensure that a suitable location - one floor of a converted mill - was quickly found. 'We took down one internal wall and one door but retained the rest. It was reasonably decorated and clean, ' he says.
'The company supplied some of the furniture and we went out and bought what else we needed.
We gave a lot of thought to the layout of the office - where to put shared equipment like the plotter, photocopier, fax machine, printers, telephone points and so on, and we involved our IT people in this.
'Then there was the question of where people should sit - how much interaction did we want?
You need to give people a reasonable amount of space, but we didn't want to be directly facing each other. So we've located most desks side by side around the perimeter of rooms, so there's no distraction but people can easily turn and talk.'
The office is non-smoking - smokers go outside when the need for a cigarette becomes too great to resist.
All the team members have keys to the office and everyone is responsible for security.
Evans is talking to the other tenants in the building about sharing some facilities and obligations - cleaning of the communal kitchen, checking fire extinguishers, etc. 'You must talk to your neighbours and interact with them, ' he believes. This is especially important in a small facility like The Mill where arrangements tend to be informal, for instance car parking spaces. 'It's not allocated, so people have to squeeze in where they can, but it works fine, ' Evans explains.
One of the first tasks was to prepare a capability statement for the new office. This was mailed to all potential clients in the area and the team members let personal contacts know that the new office was up and running and ready for work.
The secondment service offered by The Mill team initially proved most popular. Work also came in from other company offices, and now 14 months after setting up, the Bishop's Stortford office has a good and varied workload and seems like home.
Key points Setting up a local office
Know your organisation's structure, culture and procurement processes
Know the areas and limits of your authority
Be aware of the key people you will be interacting with - financial, technical, IT, health and safety, quality assurance and so on
Ensure plans for equipment, furniture, layout, security and refuse management are in place
Make sure you liaise with your marketing department, other offices and client representatives