[Today’s guest blog post was written by Chris Garrett, a freelance writer for Megaprint.]
Starting a new business consists of a series of crucial decisions, one after another. Possibly the most important decision for any brick-and-mortar company is where to set up shop. For a first-time business owner it can be difficult to know what questions to ask—and what to do with that information once you have it. These tips should help you to sift through the options that are available to you in order to find the best possible place to hang your shingle.
For businesses that serve customers directly, foot traffic can be a critical issue. You’ll need a location that is near other businesses, accessible to public transportation or on foot, and has enough parking to accommodate the area’s shoppers.
Choosing a location that is next to direct competition is a risk that can either pay off or backfire gloriously. The advantage of this strategy is that your competitor has already put a great deal of work into attracting your ideal customers to the area.
The danger, of course, is that as a smaller, newer business you might not be able to convince their customers to give you a try—or even worse—you won’t be able to provide the speed, quality, or cost control that they would need to make the switch. Before taking this chance, be confident that you have something to offer their customers that may lure them away from your competitor.
One of the first things you’ll look at when scouting a potential location will be the size, but be sure that you’re taking into account all aspects of your business operations. Will there be enough room for storage, the necessary work space, and a large and appealing sales floor?
You’ll also want to consider the possibility of growth. The cost of relocating repeatedly as your company thrives can be significant enough to cause you to stay in a location that is no longer the right fit for you. Choosing a location with some empty space nearby leaves you the option of growth without having to restart the entire scouting process.
It is almost impossible to find a location that won’t require any renovations, and it is important to keep those costs in mind when shopping storefronts. No matter what, you will need to spend some money on interior design work, but if the plumbing needs to be moved or the wiring updated, it may not be worth the expense.
When researching the neighborhoods you’re considering, there are several important factors to consider. You’ll want to thoroughly research the demographics in order to understand the customer base and potential employee pool. There are a variety of services online that will offer this data—often at a price—but the U.S. Census Bureau is a great place to start.
You’ll also want to research the crime rates in the area, and speak to an insurance provider about the possible cost of crime insurance. Coping with constant theft and vandalism is costly and frustrating, and doing just a little bit of research can help you to avoid that.
You’ll want to ensure that whatever location you choose will be consistent with the image of your brand. Setting up a law firm out of a rundown storefront does not inspire confidence, while a skateboard shop is better suited to that than to a glitzy, modern office complex. Think about what your customers will see, and what they’ll look for when they seek you out for the first time.