Enspyre moved into our first office in 2002. It was about 20 ping (1 ping = 3.3 m2 = 35.5 sqft) inside and cost us NTD25,000 per month. It lasted us until 2005 when we moved to a place that was 36 ping and cost us a bit more than 50,000 in rent. It was a nice short move, just 6 floors up in the same building.
By 2013 we had nearly 40 employees and our office was really cramped. It was not working anymore. We had to temporarily rent an office in a Business Center (Thanks FarGlory!) for the employees that did not fit in our office and we asked more experienced employees to work from home. It was time to find a new office where we could keep on growing.
In August 2013 we started looking and during 5 weeks we saw about 60 different office spaces before finding our current office.
Define the office we needed
First we had to decide what we needed. We settled on 75 ping of usable space in the Songshan area. We wanted to be able to fit 70 people eventually. In Taiwan, homes and offices are advertised with a size including its share of common spaces like staircases, bathrooms and the lobby. Count on the common spaces to take up 20-40% of the stated size.
We also aimed for rent of about $1600/usable ping. We are a call center so we pack the office quite tight. We also wanted two smaller conference rooms (about 3.2 ping each) and a small server space.
We started looking for offices by contacting realtors and also by checking the listings on
It is also possible to just walk around the neighborhoods you are interested in looking for the rental signs.
Our preference was to stay in the SongShan area of Taipei since our thousands of phone numbers would otherwise have to be changed. I didn’t want to have to go to all our customers and tell them that because of our move (and inexplicable rules of the telecom provider) they would have to change their business cards, websites and brochures. Also, I hoped to find an office that was within walking distance of my home. As a friend of mine pointed out, if my business doesn’t make my own life quality better, what’s the point?
The agents started contacting us with the offices they had available. Many of them had cars with a driver taking us around town so no time is wasted parking. Others paid for cabs. One just told us to meet them at the specific address and got on his own scooter.
During 6 weeks we saw about 60 offices. It was a sweaty job considering that it was the hottest period of the year and all the places we visited of course had not had the A/C turned on for a while.
Often different agents told us about the same offices. A friend of mine told me he saw big differences in prices quoted from one agent to another but that was not our experience. However, keep careful notes so you do not waste time seeing a rejected place twice.
Taking notes about the offices you see is very important. Also take many pictures. After just a few office visits they will start blurring in your head. We found one good way was to give them nicknames so we could refer to them (as in, “the one with the nasty toilet has the perfect size” or about one that was owned by a bank we said “the ABC bank one is too expensive”). Referring to the addresses did not work as well.
One thing we found to be annoying is that we had to ask the agents the same questions about every office.
“How many usable pings?”
“What kind of air conditioners?”
“Is there a parking space in the building? How much does it cost?”
I wish they would just prepare all the info ahead of time but nope.
We looked at offices in only Songshan, Hsinyi and Daan areas of Taipei but saw offices with rents from $1400 to $2700 per usable ping.
In our opinion there is little logic to why one office is more expensive than the other.
Some of the places we looked at was so far outside of our parameters we really had to ask why they had taken us there.
Here are some offices we passed on:
Right across the street from our old office was a building owned by a bank. On the 13th floor they had an empty office that according to the realtor’s sheet was 90 ping in total with 72 usable ping. Monthly rent was 198,400 plus tax so the rent per usable ping was $2,756.
For us this place was too expensive. It was also a bit too small. We played with the floor plan but could not squeeze in the desks and conference rooms we needed. And the ceiling height was very low, only 220 cm.
The lowest price per usable ping belonged to an office on Keelung Road. It was on the 12th floor which was the top floor in this building. It was the only office on that floor which we liked. The office had big windows, a nice view of roof tops and the agreeable price of 1,400 per usable ping. Total size was said to be 126 ping and usable size 90 ping.
What we did not like was the location. It was far away from Songshan Area which we hoped to remain in. Also, because it was the top floor, there was a consistent low frequency buzz. I believe it would drive me nuts in the long run.
We looked at one office on Bade Road that fit all our requirements, except, it felt a bit small. Was it really as big as they said it was? We measured it ourselves and came up with an internal size that was 15 ping smaller than the realtor and landlord claimed. We really liked the office and played around with the floor plan to see if we could fit everything. In the end we had to give up since it really was too small.
We looked at another office that also seemed very nice. It had 4.5 meter ceilings with large windows that let in lot’s of light, there was just one office on the floor so we could control the bathrooms and lobby by ourselves, and it even had a bar desk inside! Unfortunately, because of it’s layout it turned out to be too small. Too bad, this office would be perfect for a company with 10-30 employees who wanted an office with a bit more personality than most offices in Taipei has.
The office we ended up picking was actually one we had seen on the very first day and rejected. The first time we saw the place the previous tenant’s inner walls and carpet were still in place. This tenant had covered up nearly all windows with walls. Were they paranoid about spies or maybe vampire wannabes? Either way it looked dark, awful and with very low ceilings.
Three weeks later the landlord had paid to have everything in the office torn out and the realtor asked us to go back and look at it again. What a difference! Now we could see there were floor to ceiling windows with lot’s of lights coming in. Even the ceiling looked taller. The office also looked so much larger. We measured everything (again, by ourselves) and checked how everything would fit. The size inside was nearly identical to the previous two I have mentioned here, but because of its layout, we could fit many more people.
After taking a better look at it and understanding its air conditioners, electrical systems, common areas etc we decided we wanted it. The realtor then had us filling out a formal offer where we stated what rent we hoped she would accept, how many months of free rent we needed while renovating etc. A few days later we met with the landlord who accepted most of our proposals after negotiating some on the rent.
Here are a few things you might want to consider when you examine the offices.
A/C – Air conditioners are wonderful inventions but they can also be noisy, expensive and bad for the environment. Some of the offices we looked at were on the top floors and the water towers on the roof added a horrible low hum and vibrations. Not a nice harmonious environment.
Another big issue regarding air conditioners are the after-hour costs. If you want to work evenings or weekends and want to have the A/C on, many buildings charge 1200 or more per hour. Some offices have therefore independent A/Cs installed so you only need to pay the electricity costs.
Windows – I hoped to find a place with well insulated windows that would help us save on air conditioner bills. Or cut down on noise from the outside. Not an easy task.
Water leaks – we saw several offices where water was leaking in through badly installed windows or where the office had been extended out on the original balcony area. To me this a big red flag.
Ceiling heights – most offices we saw have very low ceiling heights. Out of the 60 places we saw, the lowest was 220 centimeters, most were 233-238 centimeters. We thought we could take away the acoustic ceiling to make it higher but later we learned that this was not a cheap solution. To take down the existing accounting ceiling and re-arrange cables, lights and air conditioners would have costed quite a bit of money. Not to mention that you would have to put the acoustic ceiling back up when you move out.
Water – most offices do not have water taps in the office. Instead there will be a shared kitchenette in the staircase for all the offices on that floor to use. Not much to do about that.
Electricity – if your company is like mine and you have a lot of servers and personal computers, you use a fair amount of power. In our old office the power was just enough. Sometimes the power was not enough and the fuses blew. So make sure you calculate how many ampere you might need and ask the realtor or landlord how many ampere the office has.
Size – How big is it really? Do not trust the agent or landlord since they will likely use a number that includes a lot of common areas. One would think they would provide you a floor plan so you can evaluate if you can fit all your people and equipment. Nope, in most cases we had to run around and measure the office by ourselves. I swear, next time I have to find an office I will invest in a laser distance meter.
I used a program called Microsoft Visio to set up a floor plan to scale and play with how to arrange desks and chairs. There are of course other programs you can use. What I discovered was that two offices that are the same size but different shape might fit completely different number of people.
The office we settled for on Fuhsing North Road just fit perfectly. As you come throw the entrance there’s exactly the right amount of space to put two conference rooms and my corner office. On your right side as you enter the doors, the space is big enough to put both enough seats and space to walk around in-between the seats. You would not have to change the proportions of this office a lot before too much of the space would have to be used for communication space not leaving enough for desks.
Other issues to look out for:
Is toilet paper provided in the bathrooms?
Are the common areas nice and clean?
Is the floor flat?
Can you register more than one company there?
What walls can be moved and which cannot?
Are there enough bathrooms?
How high are the ceilings?
Is it a lot of noise from outside?
The building management and staff, are they nice and efficient?
The signing of the contract
A contract has many terms and conditions and but let’s mention a few.
Time without rent during the renovations – the landlord can agree to let you not pay rent for 1 or 2 months while you are renovating the new space. If you have to have more severe renovations, make your case and hope the landlord agrees.
Payment methods – bank transfer or checks? It is quite common that landlords asks you to issue bank checks for every month of at least the first year.
Landlord renovations – the landlord might agree to pay for certain basic renovations. Ask and you might receive.
We got quotes from 4 contractors and several specialists before we decided who to give jobs to. Every one of them were referred and recommended by someone we know and trust but we still had a lot of problem communicating with them and getting the office renovations we needed. This was a very frustrating part of the process.
Based on our experience, these are some suggestions.
When discussing with the contractors what you want to have done, write down in silly detail what you want to have done and the results you want. Have the contractor sign that and attach to their contract with the milestones and payment schedule.
Do not forget to include things like that you want them to protect other parts of the office. For example, after tearing out the previous tenants stuff, our landlord paid a contractor to put in little window sills under each window. Somewhere during the cleaning of walls and windows, chemicals damaged those window sills so now the look really old. Covering the window sills with plastic would have solved this problem. I took this for granted and was left with a problem.
Document every little step, take pictures every day or after each step of the renovations. This way, if something gets damaged you know who is to blame.
Should you use an interior designer for your new office? Maybe. I decided not to. I talked to two well-recommended designers. All nice people who I am sure are very good at their jobs. What mistakes, frustrations or problems past, current or future could I have avoided if I had hired one of them to help manage the renovations? I don’t know. My decision was purely financial. I had a very clear idea in my head about what I wanted to achieve and after receiving some quotes from contractors I also knew how much it would cost. The quotes from the designers would have added about 30% on top of the contractor costs and I felt that was too much.
After renovations finished I did have some disappointments. The movable conference room walls I had been dreaming about for years were not even close to be as soundproof as I had wanted. I chose between two very different solutions and decided on the one that saved me a few hundred thousand.
The carpet was not glued well and the corners of the corner squares popped up in a few places. The vendor came back and fixed it and now I am reasonably happy.
One of the office features that I had dreamed about for years was to have all walls being writable like a white board. I LOVE to write while I am talking. Having some visible results of the discussion spurs on my own imagination and at least in my mind it helps bridge language gaps as well. A consulting client of mine had imported a special paint that achieved this result two years earlier and it looked great. The contractors we talked to had never used such paint before and told us that including the priming of the walls the whiteboard paint would cost more than their preferred solution which would be to cover the walls with thin sheets of glass. Eventually I found a vendor for the paint and found out it actually was not quite so expensive. Despite the surface not being 100% as smooth and cleanable as I would like it to be, I love my walls.
Every office needs furniture of various kinds. Your style might be completely different from ours but we can share the price for some of the things we considered or bought. Just for reference.
Aurora – http://www.aurora.com.tw/
Aurora is one of Taiwan’s largest furniture companies. They have nice, large showrooms and lot’s of choices. They can help you make a floor plan of your office to make sure all furniture will fit.
The furniture is not all that different from what you can buy in what I call the mom and pop catalog stores, but you can see and touch all their furniture and they are better prepared to show you different colors and fabrics you can choose from. The price is a bit higher.
Mom and pop catalog stores
These types of stores can be found all over the place. Usually they have loads of furniture outside and if you walk in they have a table full of catalogs. Even with limited Chinese language abilities you can often point around and get a quote for what you need.
I asked both Aurora and two catalog stores for quotes for cubicles, different kinds of chairs and a conference table. After I received quotes and compared both price and the quality (as best as I could) I decided to buy all of it from the catalog store.
IKEA – http://www.ikea.com/tw/zh/
It’s not that I have to buy from IKEA just because I am from Sweden, but certain things just made sense to get from there.
We bought a customized kitchenette and 3 large closets with sliding glass doors. I liked how much stuff can fit in a 60 centimeter deep closet.
IKEA deliver and install it for you so no need to read their famous instructions. However, I can’t for the life of me understand why that service does not include garbage removal? Why do I as the customer have to deal with a huge pile of styrofoam and cardboard? I just think it is implied when I pay for the utility of them delivering and installing that once they leave it should all be finished. Just saying…
Moving companies are like companies are most, some are good, some are bad. Ask your friends for referrals. Look for companies that offer some kind of guarantee in case they break something.
The moving company should send someone to your office so they can give you an estimate about how many cars they will send. Make sure to ask how many people and cars they will send at the same time since if they will go back and forth many times it will take a long time.
The moving company will be able to sell you boxes and after the move they will take back the boxes you do not use.
Make sure to talk with the management in both the old and new place about the time you plan to move.
Getting rid of old stuff
We wanted each person to have a 120 centimeter wide desk while offering more space to walk around the office. After several years of everyone being stacked like sardines we wanted an office that had a bit more air.
We also wanted to keep noise down a bit by having cubicles. Low enough so people can stand up and get an overview of the office, high enough to block some of the noise from the roughly 3000 phone conversations we have every day. I settled on 135 centimeter high cubicles in our corporate colors.
Our old furniture did not fit. The desks we bought in 2002 when we started up were still really nice, sturdy furniture, but they waste more space than a cubicle. We also had a bunch of high back chairs that I felt were inferior in terms of comfort and they use up more space than a low back chair. But they still worked well. What to do with it? The furniture stores were willing to take care of all the old stuff and then sell or throw away it afterwards as they saw fit. With a bit of effort maybe I could have sold the stuff by myself. I went on Facebook and asked if anyone knew of any charities that might want the furniture and was quickly contacted by a few. I simply picked the first one that said they would come and pick it all up. Done deal! Our furniture is now used in free schools teaching computer skills to disadvantaged kids. I like it.
Here are the charities we gave the furniture to:
When we started I had no idea how much time it would take before we could move into our new office. I had no idea we would have to see that many offices. My friend Adriana Archambault, the director of the French Chamber of Commerce CCIFT told me that they had looked at more than that, so I guess it is normal.
I also did not understand that it would take us nearly 2 months before the actual renovations could start because the search for and communication with the contractors were so slow. But I guess this has to do with us managing the renovations by ourselves and not having the connections and knowledge.
In the end it is not all perfect but I am very happy to be in a new, fresh, large office with plenty of meeting space. It is a new home for Enspyre where we can grow and develop.