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CAPCOs earn salute from Kview chief

By KRIS HUNDLEY

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 12, 2001


As certified capital companies, or CAPCOs, lobby to double their funding during the Legislature's current session, they can claim at least one ardent supporter.

Keith Gibson, chief executive of Kview Inc. in Tampa, will receive up to $2-million from two local CAPCOs, Stonehenge Capital Corp. and Advantage Capital Partners, as well as a Texas investor. That is a follow-up to a $4-million investment the group made in Kview in June, when the Web-based training company was in critical financial straits and several out-of-state promises of funding evaporated.

"At the same time, lots of companies are being allowed to crash and burn, we've got a business model that works and great partners in the CAPCOs," said Gibson, who expects his company, which has 150 employees, to be profitable in April. "I love the notion of local people helping local companies."

Advantage, Stonehenge and Wilshire Partners in Miami shared in the CAPCO program's 1999 round of $150-million, invested by the state's insurance companies in return for tax credits. Under pending legislation, another $300-million in tax credits would be approved for the program.

Advantage and Stonehenge say the new funding wouldn't come a minute too soon. "Once we do a couple more deals, we'll be out of cash to make new investments," Timothy Cockshutt, principal at Advantage, said.

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ID: + Paper: +

Date: 3/12/01 Page: 6 +

Section: BUSINESS Byline: SUSAN BOWLES +

Headline: Moving doesn't have to be a headache, if you plan ahead

Notes: +

Michael Spoto had one overriding concern when his insurance agency moved to new offices in July 1999

"Minimal hassle to our clientele," says Spoto, the vice president of John M. Hammer & Associates in Tampa.

It's a tall order. If you've ever moved a household, you know the headaches of packing, scheduling movers and living among boxes. Now add computer lines, office furniture, Web sites and corporate identity packages to the mix.

Still, a business move doesn't have to overwhelm you. Here are tips from real estate brokers, systems analysts and relocation veterans on how to make the process as smooth as possible:

1. DECIDE WHAT SPACE YOU NEED. Companies move for all sorts of reasons. Some need more space. Others, such as Spoto, whose agency has a couple of locations, scale down. Still others simply change addresses, keeping the same square footage they've always enjoyed.

The one caveat, experts say: Be realistic about what best suits your needs. Traditional office buildings typically won't offer less than 700 to 900 square feet, says Kevin Platt, a sales associate in the commercial division of Smith & Associates real estate in Tampa. If you fall under that benchmark, you may be better off with an executive suite.

2. CONSIDER HIRING HELP. While major brokerages usually work with large chunks of space, it is possible to find real estate pros who serve companies looking for less than 1,000 square feet. Professionals can bring market expertise and negotiating skills that you don't have, Platt says.

Yet it's possible to find good office space on your own. David Huerta, head of Group Benefit Strategies Inc. in Tampa, moved to an 800-square-foot office in New Tampa last year. He found the space on his own and coordinated the move.

"I'm sort of a do-it-myself person," he says.

Still, it's not an experience he wants to repeat. If he had to move again, "I would probably ask somebody else to do it."

3. THINK AHEAD. Moving an office isn't a quick process. "You'd better start at least six months prior to the time you want to do this," says Platt, who helped Spoto find his new office in south Tampa.

The reason? Finding available space is just the beginning of the process. Lease negotiations can take two weeks; build-out, or adapting the office so it conforms to your needs, can take four to six weeks.

One other consideration: If you have a particular geographic area in mind, you may need nine to 12 months' lead-time since you're limiting the pool of offices you can consider.

4. THINK AHEAD SOME MORE. Besides finding office space, you face a raft of moving-day decisions. Among them: how you're going to move your furniture, how you're going to pack client files, "even little things like wrapping up pictures," Spoto says.

You also need to assess your telecommunications and computer needs.

Rocky Perreault, a systems consultant in Wesley Chapel, helped Huerta with his phone system and computer network when Group Benefit Strategies moved. He and Huerta spent two to three hours discussing the business and its future needs before deciding on specific equipment or installation details.

On average, Perreault needs a couple of months to order equipment and ensure delivery. "Planning is a major factor," he says. "Any consultant will tell you the more time you give them the better off you are, particularly if you want to research pricing."

5. NOW IS NOT THE TIME TO LAUNCH A MAJOR INTERNET REDESIGN. If you have a Web presence, don't use your relocation as an excuse to revamp your site. Simply change your address and telephone number, says Andy Haslam, a Web site builder with Haslam Corp. in St. Petersburg. You might even want to take your site down if it has an e-commerce component. After all, Haslam says, the last thing you want during a move is to be inundated with customer orders.

6. SHARE YOUR MOVE WITH CLIENTS. Don't forget to tell clients about your new location. Every part of your corporate identity, from business cards to stationery to directory listings, needs to reflect your move.

Yet how quickly those changes are made depends on your business. Huerta waited until after he settled into his new office to order revised business cards and stationery because most of his communication with clients is electronic or over the phone.

One other corporate identity decision you may have to make: Do you want to keep the same phone number? If so, you'll pay for the privilege. But moving veterans such as Spoto say the consistency is worth it.

7. PLAN YOUR MOVING DAY. When and how you move is an individual decision. You may want a moving company to pack your things. You may opt to handle sensitive client files yourself. You may follow Huerta's lead and move in one day. Or you may want to look at the possibility of moving over a few weeks.

That's what Spoto did. While the bulk of his move occurred on a Thursday and Friday, he was allowed to start the process two weeks before his effective lease date.

"They were very fair," he says of his landlord. "They gave us the opportunity to come in here and start putting things in a little bit at a time."

8. AVOID STICKER SHOCK. It's virtually impossible to put an average price tag on a corporate move. Fees vary according to your size, your systems and the companies you choose to work with.

Yet to avoid surprises, be upfront about your expectations. If, for instance, your systems consultant tells you a network connection drop costs $45, ask if that's $45 total or $45 per "drop."

"A small thing like that ends up becoming sticker shock at the end because they didn't understand," systems consultant Perreault says.

9. BE FLEXIBLE. Whether it's your computer system, your telephone lines or some detail in your office's build-out, surprises are sure to erupt. The best remedy for moving day stress, Huerta says, is to relax and trust the pros.

"Be flexible based on what your subcontractors tell you needs to be done," he says. And "get a lot of sleep beforehand."

-- Have a comment about growing your business or a story idea? Susan Bowles can be reached at susanbowles@mindspring.com.

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