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Rent an office, build a business cluster

6 min read  |   20 February, 2020   By Rachael Down

Cornflake nest

Switching to renting an individual office space or hot-desking location doesn’t have to mean isolating your business.

In fact, according to our friends at FreeOfficeFinder, your remote base can lead to increased growth and unlocking a stream of contacts through untapped networking.

We spoke to Harry Arnold to understand more about business clusters and how they can help build brand reputation. We'll cover:


Build a business cluster

What is a business cluster?

Business clusters is a term given to areas with a high concentration of like-minded, industry-related companies that are located within a set parameter, i.e. county, district or town. Take the US’ Silicon Valley, for example, which is the most renowned epicentre for tech business in the world.

“Such companies work in close proximity to each other based on their shared needs and typically leads to increased revenue investment as well as niche-networking from similar talent pools.” Harry Arnold, FreeOfficeFinder.com

Business clusters aren’t new. In fact, they've proved fundamental to local and small business success for centuries. Consider market towns with dedicated areas for fresh fruit and vegetable stalls, for example. By grouping produce and service type under the same marquee, you can begin to build on the environment and customer base around you, all the while learning from peers and recommending other local stores and services.

Think about it this way. Sally needs a cauliflower, so heads to the market, where she knows there's plenty choice. She finds the one she wants at the first stall, has a quick chat with the vendor before spontaneously grabbing a sack of potatoes, some leaks and a cabbage. Root veg wasn't on her shopping list, but after seeing them, displayed in all their glory on a neighbouring stall, she's inspired to make a darn good soup. It's a win-win. The vegetable seller was friendly, knowledgeable and happy to share business with his neighbour. He's pleased. Sally's pleased. His neighbour's pleased. Everyone wins.

cauliflower cluster (1)

By clustering similar supply and demands together in one space, you maximise opportunities to offer and upsell other produce, while networking at the same time. 


Top UK business clusters:

Business clusters are dotted around the UK too. Take, for example, East London’s Silicon Roundabout, which to date, attracts – and clusters - over 200 tech entrepreneurs and freelance developers. That’s where the coding magic happens.

And it works with retail. London's Hatton Garden is home to the biggest concentration of jewellery businesses in the UK, closely followed by Edinburgh, Birmingham in Brighton. Their success is no accident; more so the result of understanding and using location and market demographics to the maximum. Some Hatton Garden jewellery businesses have been neighbours for hundreds of years. Clearly, business clustering works.

We, ourselves, share an industrial estate with a number of businesses linked to aviation (we’re  the odd one out). On one level, some of these are competitors but others are complementary and mutually supportive of each other.

If you’re in finance, check out London’s financial services cluster, Canary Wharf, which Harry from FreeOfficeFinder believes is

“…the biggest in the country, accounting for more than £45 billion in trade. Edinburgh closely follows, employing around 53,000 people in asset management, banking and FinTech companies”.

“In terms of the hospitality sector, London and the South East have the largest share of businesses, due to the capital’s role as a global visitor centre and the areas closest to it for tourism companies to benefit from. Manchester is the largest technology hub outside of London, with a large range of tech-led companies and start-ups.”

“For creative companies and those in the media, Brighton in the South East has the highest proportion of small and medium-sized creative businesses, with 370 per 100,000 of the population; ahead of London, Oxford and Bristol.

“Legally speaking, Birmingham has one of the highest concentrations of law firms in the UK, second only to London and Manchester. It’s worth noting, however, that a private office space in Birmingham costs only £245 a month, which is significantly cheaper than Oxford or Brighton where prices start at £400 in Oxford and £330 on the coast”, continues Harry.

Cost of offices across the UK:

Private and serviced office-rental prices alter considerably by location and their proximity to other businesses and landmarks.

Example costs:

  • A desk in a private office in London’s financial hub - Canary Wharf – starts from around £850 per month, whereas the same space in Waterloo is markedly cheaper at £625.
  • If you’re based further north, the busy tech hub of Manchester offers private desks for as little as £225 per person, per month.
  • Then there’s Scotland’s capital and financial cluster, Edinburgh, where office rental costs are considerably cheaper than London, adding up to around £302 per month.

business clusters canary wharf-1

Coworking spaces to try

If you’re looking to stretch the bank even further, explore coworking spaces. These are normally contained in one office building with multiple rooms, which are typically well serviced with fast and reliable WiFi, desks, accessible power supplies and coffee or tea facilities. Such coworking spaces offer a relatively low-risk, cost-effective way to enter the business-cluster scene, especially for those hoping to test supply and demand in a different area without the heavy ties of long-term leases and contracts.

As Breathe grows and our office lease remains intact, we’ve started meeting our third-party contributors and friends at local coworking spaces too.

If you’re around the South East, we highly recommend working at Platf9rm in Brighton or Hove. With plenty of desk space, high-speed internet connection and business-people-a-plenty, it’s a great way to add spice to the working week and may even improve employee productivity.

Why rent in a business cluster

There are many benefits to working close to - or in the heart of - a business cluster. Working near other firms in your industry means you can take advantage of economies of scale and production networks, as well as creating more effective supply channels and a stable source of skilled workers.

Many existing business clusters evolve naturally over time and local authorities are more likely to promote, invest and develop these locations further as local economy improves.  

In addition to attracting fiscal revenue, business clusters drive competitiveness among companies.

For companies who are focused on improving standards as well as service, choosing to sit slap-bang in the middle of their competitors could be the way to help them stay in front. 

Business clusters are great for:

  • signposting employment opportunities
  • inspiring new corporate development
  • fostering innovation
  • encouraging knowledge sharing
  • building communities and new business networks

And the list of benefits doesn't stop there. Companies can share resources and services, as well as collaborate more frequently. As clusters often specialise in the production of the same type of product or service, organisations can benefit from stronger supply chains, as well as potentially lowering transportation and production costs through native collaboration with local enterprises. 

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HR strategy | Using business clusters for growth

Thanks to our digital world, work can happen anywhere and at any time (within reason).

Looking into flexible office locations and strategies for your team is the first step in using technology to our advantage. Similar to our self-managed-team’s initiative, letting go of traditional workplace attachments, such as who sits where and who works when can help companies to expand their mindsets and encourage growth throughout the ranks.

We believe in putting our people first and are still testing out ways to help our team and company build autonomy through agility.

Our partner team are seeing results and there’s lots more in the pipeline. Listen to our podcast series, The People Project - in particular, Episode 4 with HR agile influencer, Perry Timms -  to learn more about how to incorporate flexible working into your business. 

Top tip:

Social media is great for helping companies source the best office space for their needs. Check out FreeOfficeFinder’s price comparison tool to find office prices in different areas around the country, based on location, team size and the type of office space you need.


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