Facing the trials of the office trail

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 April, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 April, 1993, 12:00am

STARTING up a new office from scratch is never easy, especially in Hongkong, as interior designer Ms Kerrie Lynn discovered.

First, the right building has to be found, which means choosing the property that best projects the desired company image.

Ms Lynn has been setting up a new Hongkong office for the Australian Smith Madden Group, and liaised with her boss by courier and fax on major decisions.

''My role was to have the office constructed, and there was only a period of five weeks from the time the first drawings were produced to the day the office was ready for occupation,'' she said.

As design and project management consultants, Smith Madden specialise in commercial office and hospitality design.

The company applied the same list of requirements it uses for its own clients in fitting out the Hongkong office.

First call was the estate agents, to secure space in the ideal building, having narrowed down the location to either Central or Wan Chai.

Smith Madden managing director Mr Richard Kenyon said he thought the most difficult aspect of relocating was matching a company's requirements along cost-efficient lines.

''Getting the building isn't very difficult. You simply go to a leasing agent and they come up with the best that's available,'' he said.

Smith Madden decided on the On Hing Building, off Wyndham Street in Central, with space at about $30 per square foot.

It won out over the high-profile Central Plaza.

''We targeted a certain type of building within a certain price range, and Central is where most of our clients will be,'' explained Ms Lynn, business development manager and interior designer.

The chosen office covers 11,200 sq ft net, 1,700 gross, on level 16 of the conveniently located building.

Eleven people will be working in the office, in about 100 sq ft to each.

''We can manage that because it's largely open plan, with a drawing staff of seven,'' she explained.

Once the plans and designs were drawn, it was time to gather quotes from contractors.

Because Ms Lynn was working to a strict deadline, she dispensed with inviting tenders and looked at quotations over a four-day period.

''Considering tenders normally would take eight days, we made a decision after only four,'' she said.

The five contractors under consideration for fitting out the office were already known to Smith Madden through personal contacts.

''We got the estimates and analysed the prices and then selected the best contractor - who wasn't necessarily the cheapest,'' said Ms Lynn.

Documentation, design and organising the tenancy took 21/2 weeks, with colour charts and fabric samples being ferried to and from Australia for approval as the furnishings and fittings were chosen.

On site work was completed in a total of four weeks.

Fire and air-conditioning contractors were nominated by the building's management, which also took care of washrooms, shared with other offices on the same floor.

Ms Lynn supervised the work as it progressed and the job was successfully completed, on time, and on budget.

It was not all straightforward. Dealing with the contractors was the easy part.

''Showing them the sketches was simple enough, but sourcing items such as photocopiers, faxes and phones, and dealing with new people proved a challenge in a new city,'' said Ms Lynn.

Following her experience, the company planned to offer office equipment as part of its package for future clients, she said.

Finding equipment and dealing with the language barrier were the biggest hurdles in moving, said Ms Lynn.

''We basically take the problems away from the client so that when they're ready to move into the office, we can just hand them the keys,'' added Mr Kenyon.

He said clients were initially asked to fill out a questionnaire.

''Then we can sort out the different sections like meeting facilities, storage, telecommunications, data processing, machines room and staff amenities.'' Mr Kenyon said it was also important to predict the growth or contraction of the organisation over a five-year period.

''This is essential because it lets us know where the company is going in terms of expansion,'' he said.