What to Look for When Renting Office Space in Maryland: Finding and Renting What’s Right for Your Business Startup

office space for startup

What you look for in an office space in Maryland is fundamentally no different than the criterion for office space anywhere else. As a leader of a startup venture, one of the first thoughts to cross your mind is likely to be: “Where should I locate my team? It’s true, we’ve all heard stories about how many of today’s giant corporations – Microsoft, Google, Amazon – all have their roots in basements and garages. But the point is – those garage and basement spaces were once their “office”. Clearly, regardless of the type of business you’re planning to launch, having a formal place where your team can meet in-person, at least occasionally, is critical.

What to Look for in an Office Space for Rent in Howard County

What you should look for in office space for rent in Howard County, for your fledgling business, is what’s called “the perfect fit”. And here’s what that unique fit must look like for your startup venture:

  • Location: The space must be conveniently located for you and your team to access
  • Space: Make sure you have adequate footage to support your short, intermediate, and longer-term growth projections
  • Facilities and amenities: Check to make sure you have at least the essential amenities and facilities included – common areas, lounges, storage room, dining and kitchen/kitchenette/cafeteria
  • Parking: Often overlooked, sparse or difficult to access parking spots may make prospective office spaces in Howard County untenable for a startup team
  • Team comfort: Make sure your prospective office space offers great heating, cooling, lighting and ventilation
  • Meeting spaces: Meeting rooms and conference rooms are where some of the most important work will happen for your startup business
  • Communication infrastructure: You’ll need excellent quality telephone and high-speed internet connections. You’ll also require access to video conferencing and tele conferencing facilities

Recent retail and commercial office real estate statistics[i] show that Howard County, MD offered approximately 18,931,764 square feet of office spaces, with office spaces with retail totaling 7,217,565 square feet, and industrial space available totaling approximately 32,915,083 square feet. Even though there’s a lot of office space in Maryland, yet fledgling businesses in Howard County must often contest more established businesses for that space. And that’s a major challenge for young businesses looking to establish themselves.

[i] https://www.commercialcafe.com/commercial-real-estate/us/md/howard-county/

office space

Weighing What You Want Vs. What You Need

It’s likely that, by the time you review this post, there’ll either be more office space available, or less – depending on how economic growth pans out. Regardless, not all those units may be suitable for every startup venture. When making that decision to rent office space for your newly established team, it’s critical to weigh what you want against what you really need. And sometimes that distinction can be hard to make.

You may want everything that the “perfect fit” checklist above sets out: a great location; easy commute for the team; ample parking and storage space; lightning-fast internet, video and telecommunications infrastructure. However, it’s unlikely that every location on your short-listed office space for rent in Howard County will provide all of that to you. So, what do you really need to get your new business up and running?

Because office space all over the State is highly contested, startup ventures have several disadvantages when they begin their quest for rental property:

  • For early-stage ventures, funding is often tight. While more established players might have deep pockets, rent affordability is often a challenge for startups.
  • Typically, most fledgling ventures start off with relatively small teams – 2 to 3 individuals comprising the core group. Most rental property owners, however, prefer to lease their spaces to one (or just a few) large team, as opposed to multiple smaller tenant groups. Often, finding that “perfect fit” office space for a small startup group is difficult.
  • Though a core team might start small, it could easily expand – sometimes faster than anticipated. So, with office space hard to come by quickly, if your business does enter a long-term lease for a small space, how will you respond if you must scale up your office space quickly?

So, even though you might want the “perfect fit”, the above challenges often force business startups to compromise when looking for office space. And sometimes, those compromises can be costly! For instance, if you need space for no more than 3 desks today, but are expecting that you’ll want more space in two years, do you still go ahead and sign a long-term lease (and pay!) for a 12-desk office now…just in case? If you don’t do just that, the risk is that, in two years, you might not find more space in your current digs – and then your office hunt begins all over, followed by the stress of relocation.

Not all office space in Maryland might offer prized (or free!) parking. Are you and your team willing to give up the ease and comfort of having easily accessible parking, even though it’s something you want? If you need conveniently located office space (with fewer parking spaces), then that’s another want-versus-need tradeoff you’ll have to make.

startup team office space

Why Rent Office Space in Maryland?

Apart from the fact that Maryland is a thriving, supportive place for fledgling businesses, there are many reasons why startups should initially rent an office, rather than outright buy retail or commercial property. The high cost of owning real estate is typically one of the biggest detractors to buying office space outright. As a fledgling company, there’s often better use of capital than buying office space.

Renting an office also brings flexibility to early-stage venture business plans. As your business evolves, from startup to maturity, it’s likely that the business scenario might change too. Business vision may change. Your choice of office location might undergo a rethink. You may find you are not close enough to your customer base. You may need to be closer to financers, investors, business experts and advisors.

Once you’ve acquired your own “perfect fit” office space, renovated it, and moved your team into it, if you discover that you now wish to relocate – that’s a tough decision to implement. As an early-stage business, renting or co-sharing office space gives you the time (and space!) you need to explore, experiment, and test out various business decisions, before finally settling on your path ahead. Renting office space gives fledgling businesses the flexibility they need before making longer-term, more permanent decisions about the physical dimensions of their business address.

team working in office space

Beyond Physical Dimensions

Our “perfect fit” checklist focused on many physical wants/needs of office space for startup businesses. Beyond those physical dimensions, however, are other aspects that newbie entrepreneurs must consider. For instance, you might have an office that’s conveniently located for your team to travel to; and it might also have lots of free parking and great heating and internet infrastructure. But fledgling businesses also need other support structures during their formative years.

If you are a first-time entrepreneur, trying to take your business idea from vision to commercialization, then physical space might not necessarily be your topmost priority. Having an office in proximity to other like-minded entrepreneurs, who can share their experiences with you, may be worth any tradeoffs on the physical dimensions of the office space.

Newly minted business leaders, looking for office space for rent in Howard County must also consider their need for tapping into a network of funding sources and investors. Merely focusing on the physical dimensions of the office, such as ample storage space and great reception and lounge areas, could distract you from accessing the early-stage financial resources your fledgling business needs.

startups, mentors

Having Your Cake…and Eating it Too!

While renting or owning the right office space is important, as an early-stage startup, you’ll need a lot more than a physical office to ensure you survive and thrive in the long run. Thankfully, there is an option where start-up businesses can have their proverbial cake, and eat it too! And that option comes in the form of office sharing at the Maryland Innovation Center (MIC). The MIC’s business incubator program is ideal for new startups who are primary looking for support to establish themselves, and to acquire the competencies and skills to grow into strong, competitive enterprises.

The MIC incubator is a place where fledgling business share office space with other likeminded early-stage businesses. And it comes with:

  • Affordable and flexible rental terms
  • Access to state-of-the art physical office space
  • Flexibility to expand your team if you onboard more staff, or down-size quickly if you shrink the team
  • The ability to tap into the latest in online conferencing and virtual meeting and collaboration technologies. So, even if some of your team is remote, you’ll still be able to collaborate and work together seamlessly.
  • Networking opportunities that allow you to showcase your products, services, and ideas to a range of local, national, and international investors and financers
  • Mentorship opportunities that match start-up business leaders and teams with veteran entrepreneurs who can show the newbies the ropes

Co-sharing incubator office space doesn’t just tap into the best of the physical dimension of rental office space in Maryland. It also provides growth opportunities beyond the physical considerations – all of which are hard to access when renting or owning office space outside of the incubator.


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