It's been said that the three most important elements to starting your own business are location, location, location. That's because the population (and the reputation) of an area can make or break a company. Here are some tips for finding a place that will put you on the path to success – and customers on the path to your business.
Match Your Brand Image to the Area's Culture
As you begin your list of potential areas, consider the culture and "vibe" of your business. Find places that give off the feel you want your company to have and that customers will experience when they visit. For example, if you envision your business having a personal, “home-grown” feel, consider looking in tight-knit communities that are home to other locally owned businesses and fewer chain stores.
You can also consider what your business could contribute to the area if it's one that's not well established. Anne wanted Harness Cycle to help create a community of local boutiques that supported one another, which she thought would be perfect in Hingetown, an area of Cleveland with a less-established economy. "I saw the vision for turning a run-down physical location into one that could become an emerging neighborhood supported by young, active residents and small, locally owned businesses," Anne says. She also saw Harness Cycle contributing to Cleveland's active lifestyle culture, so she found a neighborhood that was conducive to both goals.
Know Your Neighborhood
Demographics are key to the success of your business. You already know your target market, so make sure your business is where your consumers are, or where they're at least accessible. Tools like the U.S. Small Business Administration's free demographic information on sba.gov can help you locate your future customers. Also consider surrounding residential areas, other shopping areas or businesses and ease of access, including parking and building design. You don't want to turn potential customers away simply because they can't get to you.
Your demographic information may put you at a spot near or even next to a competitor, and that may work for you. Throwing yourself into the mix, especially when competitors have already spent their own money to attract people to the area, can help align your business with your competition in customers' minds and result in more foot traffic.
Consider if your business is well known enough to share a location where similar businesses reside. If you don't feel confident to put your business right next to your rivals, finding a different spot that you can "make your own" may be the better option.
Consider All Aspects of Your Budget
Rent isn't the only expense you'll be paying when you eventually move in. It's just as important to find out and consider the taxes associated with a certain area and any hidden costs. Hidden costs can include anything from renovations to IT system upgrades. Property taxes will have a huge impact on your budget, along with state and federal taxes. Know as much as you can about the location's real price before you commit so you can adjust your budget or find a place that suits it better.
Ask for Help
When it comes to location hunting, having the right people on your side is just as important as finding the perfect location. Don't be afraid to seek help from a realtor, who may be much more knowledgeable about the area and its customer base. Realtors can help you find the perfect neighborhood based on the vibe and community you're looking for.
Another important tool to have in your toolbox is a good lawyer. Although not absolutely necessary, they can help negotiate a fair lease between you and your new landlord, making sure you get the price and term you're looking for. Lawyer or not, when you do find the place that's right, make sure you and your landlord are on the same page by keeping communication clear and open from the beginning.
If you want more one-on-one experience and insight, especially regarding landlords and customer bases, you can also reach out to other business owners or co-tenants in the areas you're looking at. Considering all of these factors when searching for a location will help you find the place that's right for your business and will help put you in a position to succeed.