Who hasn’t heard the well-known real-estate saying, “Location, location, location,” when looking for a home? But location isn’t important only for personal property; it’s a huge factor for small businesses, too. Experts say that understanding how to choose a business location is part art, part science, and that the obvious location might not always be the best. It all depends.
Business owners should always examine certain factors, says nfib.com, like the affordability of the rent, how well it serves your demographics, surrounding traffic patterns and competitors. But even if you think you’ve found the absolute ideal location, take the time to investigate further. NFIB suggests five specific steps:
- How do the cultures match up? Different neighborhoods have different personalities and cultures, as do businesses. You’ll have a greater chance of success if your internal and external cultures are compatible.
- Don’t scrimp on your must-haves. In business, the details matter. If lots of parking and massive windows are important features of your business, don’t be tempted to throw them over for less rent, for example. Stay focused on getting everything that matters, to give yourself every opportunity for success.
- Where are the customers? If you’ve been in business for a while, you already know how far your typical customers are traveling, their zip codes, their shopping preferences. If you’re doing business online, you also need to consider customers in different time zones, for example, and how you’ll accommodate them.
- Is that fine print I’m seeing? As with personality and culture, different neighborhoods are zoned differently, with different restrictions. Signage can be a biggie. If your signage needs to be hip and neon, you’ll likely have difficulty in an early-American style neighborhood where everything needs to conform to a more colonial style. All this should be spelled out in your lease. Be sure to read and understand every word!
- Be sure the fundamentals are in place. Some neighborhoods or suburbs, like cities and states, are more business-friendly than others and have a documented track record with small business. Do your research with information from chambers of commerce, realtors and other small business owners.
In the short run, you want a location that’s going to mean traffic, customers and sales from Day One. But property experts point out that choosing a location for your business has long-term implications, as well. So think ahead three, five, 10 years, and ask yourself some questions:
- Do I want to be here for the duration—or might I want to relocate eventually? This will determine, in part, whether you need to rent or buy commercial property.
- What do the surrounding areas look like? Is this a growing area—or one that shows signs of dying?
- What do other businesses look like in the area nearby? Are they well-kept, well-lit and attractive?
- Are there businesses nearby that likely have the same target markets as my business?
- Is there ready accessibility to main roads, highways and public transportation?
- Will I have room to expand if I want/need to in the future?
- Does this location enhance my business’s brand and image in the eyes of my customers?
All in all, you want a location you can live with—and in—for a long time. You can’t control everything that might happen in the future, but having the right set of variables going in will minimize your headaches and optimize your chances for future success.
Image courtesy of renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net