As part of our series taking a look at the projects that PAs and EAs are tackling as part of their day-to-day work, we talk to Nathalie Gregory, PA & Office Administrator at Liquidnet Europe, about planning an office move…
Tell us about the project and its objectives
Over the last two to three years, the business has grown significantly. When I joined two years ago there were approximately 60 people, and now we are 105 and still growing! Our lease is due to expire in August this year, so we started planning for the move about 18 months ago, as we knew moving was our only option.
Searching for the right location was tricky. We were slightly limited as staying in the City was one of our ‘must haves’. In the end, we were very fortunate as two floors in our current building became available. Having said that, despite only moving upstairs, the workload is as much as if it were moving a mile down the road. Taking over two floors is a major benefit to us as it allows space for growth but also gives us critical requirements, such as more meetings rooms and more kitchen space.
Once we had secured the space we started working with our Project Managers immediately. They took us through the tender process for all required teams – designers, architects, quantity surveyors, etc. Having a dedicated Project Manager on side has helped us immensely. Their knowledge and advice in the area has been critical to the process. We’re currently 12 weeks off from completion and so far, so good!
What were the main challenges the project presented?
There have been so many challenges with this move, ranging from budget to physical/design changes, to the deadline. I think with any big move, there are so many variables involved, it can sometimes be tricky to keep on the pulse of every aspect. Communication is certainly key. There are eight teams involved so to ensure everyone is kept up to speed, there are weekly Design Team meetings and fortnightly Project Team meetings. Then there are ad hoc meetings with various teams.
Another challenge, that you don’t really consider until it’s happening, is that all these meetings eat into your ‘normal’ working day. So, time management is definitely required.
What solutions did you discover or learn during the course of the project
From day one, the entire project has been a real learning experience for me. I’ve been involved in office moves in previous roles, but this is on a whole other level. Budget has been critical to the move as when it comes to making decisions, it always comes down to, can/did we budget for that? I’ve also learned that for 99 per cent of problems encountered, there is a solution – as long as you have the right teams with the right attitude.
Tell us a little about suppliers you worked with to get the job done.
The suppliers and general teams that I’m working with have been amazing. I recently had the pleasure of viewing soft furnishing for our breakout area. After giving the design team a brief of style and colours, they produced a selection of furniture which fitted our needs perfectly. They even went as far as keeping an eye on costs so that we didn’t go over budget, which made my decisions even easier.
Similarly, to our general Project Manager and the tech and build teams, I’m fortunate to be able to say that we chose well. They’ve enabled me to understand the most intricate details, which I would have never even known about. All round, their involvement and advice have been invaluable. Plus, they’re a really nice bunch of people, which always helps.
What are your top tips for other PAs with similar projects?
If I could pass on any advice from my experience, it would be:
- Communication – keep everyone in the loop at all times, even if you think it’s not relevant to their part of the project. Also keep open communication with the business employees. I’ve found that giving staff regular updates and keeping them involved in the move is appreciated. For example, the coffee machine keeps our business functioning. So, I arranged to have a new coffee machine on display for a day, for people to try out – they loved it!
- Change – be open to changes because they WILL happen. I’ve heard the words ‘final decision’ several times, and it rarely is.
- Keep calm – people get stressed when put under pressure. That’s a simple fact. Pressure also increases the risk of mistakes. So, when faced with a challenge, I take a step back, breath and assess. Sounds easy – it’s not!
- Be nice, but firm – if you’re an Office Manager, you’ll already be familiar with this technique. You can’t please all of the people all of the time so be prepared to push back. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be open to opinions, but keep the larger picture in mind.
And don’t forget, every decision affects the budget!