By Karen Axelton
You’re ready to expand your business with a second location. Congratulations! Growth is exciting and, in today’s economy, you’ve picked a good time to go looking for new space. In many parts of the country, rates for office, retail or restaurant space are still depressed (or just starting to rise again) so there are plenty of good bargains to be had.
But cost isn’t the only consideration when you’re growing into a second location. Whether you’re opening a retail store, restaurant, spa or accounting office, here’s how to assess potential locations and pick the perfect one for you.
Learn from the past. What mistakes did you make choosing your first location that you can learn from now? Did you sign too long a lease, forget to ask key questions or not consider traffic patterns? If there’s anything that bugs you about your current location, make sure you don’t repeat the problem in space number two.
Make a list. Consider what you absolutely must have in a location, what would be nice to have and what you absolutely don’t want. Prioritize: Since chances are you won’t find a location that has everything, you need to know what you can live without and what you can’t.
Get help. Look for a commercial real estate agent who’s experienced with your type of business and the area/s where you’re considering expansion. Don’t feel wedded to the person who helped you last time. Use social and other networks to find the best person to help.
Get the data. Good real estate agents will be able to provide you with numbers such as market demographics for the city you’re considering, traffic patterns for the street you’re looking at, past history of the space and more.
Ask questions. Create a checklist of questions to ask when looking at properties so you don’t forget something crucial. Ask about what is included in the lease, such as maintenance and utilities; other current or proposed tenants and any exclusions (for instance, could your direct competitor or other undesirable type of business move in next door?); and infrastructure issues such as high-speed Internet and parking.
Look around. Don’t be so busy checking off your list that you don’t raise your eyes from the paper. Scan the area, the parking lot, the other businesses nearby. What’s your first impression of the space? Is it bustling with customers or are tumbleweeds floating by? Does it look clean and upscale or dilapidated and dreary? Visit at different times of day (and night) to see whether the vibe of the location fits your business brand.
Negotiate. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want, whether that’s a move-in discount or a shorter lease. You never know what you can get until you try.
Image by Flickr user faul (Creative Commons)