A definitive guide to setting up an international office

Setting up a new office is a big project, and setting up one abroad can seem even more daunting. But with a few simple steps to approach it in the right way, you can better prepare yourself for the new challenge and ensure the office or workspace setup goes as smoothly as possible.

Spend a little time

Before making a more permanent move to open an international office, it's a good idea to suss out your chosen area a little better first. Even if you have done plenty of research on where your business should be, it’s always worth spending some time in your new area to ensure that it really is the right one for you.

This might be better done by renting in a co-working space, or searching for a temporary office space while you work through the finer details. This'll give you a clearer idea of the working culture in your new destination, as well as help you think about where you'd like to set up a base.

Renting a temporary co-working space can be particularly useful for building up contacts in a new location too, giving you access to and networking opportunities with multiple other companies in the area.

Make a checklist

Creating a detailed checklist and an inventory for your new office is essential. Start by listing everything that needs to be done from the first step right the way through to your office being ready to use.

Make sure that everyone involved knows exactly what they are meant to do and by when. It’s helpful to have a spreadsheet or working document that everyone can contribute to and sign-off the tasks when completed. This will help track progress and avoid anything being missed.

Step one

Work out your budget and growth plan. The first thing to do before you begin your office search is work out what your budget for the office rent is. Make sure to take into account any costs associated with renting an office, for example, services and facilities.

Take into account potential growth as well, including headcount. Flexible workspace allows your space to easily grow with your business as the space will work around you, making it a great first port of call for any business establishing in a new territory.

Step two

Decide on an area – Make sure you conduct thorough research into your office location. Key things to check are:

  1. Is there an area that is particularly strong for a certain industry?
  2. Where are your clients and competitors based?
  3. What are the amenities and transport links like?
  4. How close is the office to the airport?

Step three

Narrow down your requirements - identifying what's essential to your business will help you decide what you need from an office space. Consider factors such as the amount of space needed, breakout areas, meeting rooms, connectivity and outside space.

Step four

Once you know your budget, your location and the key requirements, you are ready to start looking for your new space. 

Step five

Once you have found your space, this is where the checklist really comes in handy. If your new work space is serviced and therefore includes everything then great, if not, you will need to make sure you have an internet connection, electricity, furniture – and all of the other essentials for a functioning office.

Make the most of helpful services

When making the move overseas, a little help can make a big difference. Now's the time to make the most of your contacts for assistance, as well as seeking advice from the likes of Export Britain.

Powered by the British Chambers of Commerce, part of what Export Britain does is provide support to companies looking to establish an overseas presence. They offer advice on all aspects of moving, from looking for new staff to more complicated processes such as visa applications and translation services.

The legal parts

It's important to determine the legal requirements of your move before you begin. You'll need to have a specified plan for the new office before you can determine what's required of you legally. For example, will the new space be a representative branch of your business, or will it be a new company altogether?

The specifics of your new office will determine how it can legally operate, as well as the tax implications, so make sure you're clear on this from the beginning.

Shout about your move

Finally, once your office is up and running – make sure everyone knows about it. This is a great way to create a buzz around your new office and potentially build some new contacts. Whether this is on a company scale in terms of incorporating it into your marketing plan, or on an individual networking level, it often pays to keep people in the know.

Attending conferences, networking with local businesses and getting to know your new neighbours are all great ways to settle in to a new community. While opening an office in a new country isn't exactly like starting from scratch, if you're relatively unknown in that area it's worth making a big effort to make your business known to the locals.