Quick Tip. If your business relies heavily on the internet you may want carry out a broadband speed check in the area of your new business premises. You can do this with BT http://www.productsandservices.bt.com/products/speed-checker/

Whether your business is newly formed, or has been going for a while, the location of your business premises can be a key factor to your continued success. Though some businesses can be successfully operated from home, or even out of a van, if your business is growing; specialist in nature; or you need to hold regular meetings with customers or clients then to give the very best impression you may need to choose some specialist premises.

Where to look for business premises

You’ll find business premises in the windows of many estate agents, and you can use web search engines such as Rightmove and Zoopla to filter out residential results. The tablet app and website for Rightmove even have handy map features (“Draw a search”) so you can find property in the specific locations you desire.

Word of mouth is a handy way of generating leads – your customers and clients may be aware of upcoming leases, and vacant units. And never underestimate the old fashioned way of laying down some shoe leather. Many office buildings, especially newer ones, will advertise their vacant unit’s right in the windows.

Location, Location, Location

It’s best to first of all decide roughly where you would like your business to be located. Location is key when choosing the right business premises. It’s not just about being on an industrial estate or in a pleasant suburb – you need to really think about where you choose to locate your business. You can use tools like Google Maps to take a virtual tour, and most search engines have a business search function so you can check out in advance who your local competitors might be.

There really is no substitute for a personal visit, though – often the best looking advertisements hide a myriad of problems, and there may be some real hidden gems to be had that you just won’t notice without going for a walk yourself.

Certain businesses flourish in certain area – shops generally need to be on the high street or a retail park (unless they are very specialist in nature, or predominantly trade online). Office-based businesses can generally operate from almost anywhere, but the best rental deals are usually in the less common locations or by renting a space within a larger unit.

How will your customers and clients view the location?

When planning where to trade from, many businesses forget to ask a very basic question first: What are the expectations of your customers or clients? Image is everything, and people have expectations that you may wish to live up to – or challenge – through your choice of location. You wouldn’t open a sweet shop or a hairdresser on an industrial estate, as they need the footfall of the high street. Conversely, if you work with clients you need to consider whether your offices are easy to find, whether they are accessible for public transport and – the scourge of all modern office buildings – whether there is any on-site parking.

What about your staff?

If you employ staff, you’ll need to think of their needs too – if you choose a location that is off the beaten track will any non-drivers be able to get there? What about at times when there are adverse weather conditions such as snow? How long will they have to travel to the new premises? If your workers do not like the location, then it could be reflected in their productivity.

The premises itself

Of course the premises itself must be right. Are they the right size for your business? Are they accessible for customers and staff? It may be cheaper to rent a small office above a shop but if it is impossible to park nearby, or your customers cannot locate the entrance then it could be a false economy. If your business relies on passing trade then you must consider the footfall in the area, and whether the location is right for your clients.

On the other hand, you may fall in love with a huge open space but you must consider whether you will really maximise it as it work out to be extremely expensive to rent, heat and power such a grand building and if there is only you working from it – and you spend most of your time on the road – then you will be eating into your business’s profits for no good reason.

The kind of choices you might have to make are:

  • A convenient location with high footfall but at a higher cost of rent versus lower rent but situated on a quiet back-street
  • A ready fitted unit with much of the equipment provided Versus a lower cost unit that you can design to your own needs

Competition and complementary business

One area that is often overlooked when choosing business premises is to consider what else is nearby. If you are opening a pub, then this may well be second nature to you, but even businesses outside of the hospitality sector can benefit from thinking carefully about the other local trade before committing to premises.

If there is another very similar business nearby then you could be dragged into a price war, or at best trade might be split between you. Open too close to a big-box competitor and you could find that your business is driven into the ground very quickly.

On the other hand, you may be able to complement the other businesses in the area: your sandwich shop could go down a treat on an industrial estate with no competition nearby, and if you provide specialist business to business services then your close proximity might be one of your biggest selling points.

What about rent?

Of course, one of the most important considerations when selecting appropriate premises for your business is the cost. Most companies cannot afford to buy their premises outright, and the cost of rent can be extremely high in the most sought after locations. What you need to do is balance the cost with the benefits – if moving will allow your business to grow and take on more work then you may be able to afford a higher rent. Alternatively, choosing a higher rent location may open up new opportunities – such as taking advantage of footfall or the presence of staff and customers from other local businesses who might buy from you.

There are other other costs too...

You will also want to consider some of the indirect costs associated with the location you are thinking of moving to, these can include:

  • Business Rates
  • Gas and electricity
  • Water rates
  • Insurances
  • Extra Fuel costs if you need to travel further to meet clients

Your local authority will be able to advise you on business rates, but unless you are friendly with a similar business in the area it could be tough to predict the cost of some costs, such as heating the premises. If you choose a large open office, or a factory unit, then these could very quickly run up into hundreds of pounds a week. It’s worth contacting insurers to get a quote in advance as the cost of insurance can be crippling.

Check out the small print

You’ll want to think carefully about the terms of the lease, as you will get better rates if you agree to stay for a longer term, but there is always a risk that business could outgrow the premises before then, or you could need to reduce your costs and be tied into a long-term deal you can not get out of. Check out your potential landlord’s restrictions on use too, along with any local bye-laws or restrictive covenants that are linked to the area the premises are in. It could be a very costly misstep if you find that you are not allowed to carry on your business activities in your shiny new premises!

Some landlords will not let you make what they deem to be permanent alterations, or will require you to reinstate the property to the condition it was in before you took over the lease, and this can be a huge added cost at the end of your time in the building if you need to start to make major changes such as removing walls or cables.

Finding the right premises

There is a lot to think about when deciding to invest in new premises for your business, and it is worth spending as much time and effort as possible now, before you end up being tied into a lengthy contract or your sales start to suffer as a consequence of a poor choice. The good news is that in the age of the internet there has never been a better time to search for and find the best premises for your business without even leaving your desk. Ultimately, you have to find the best compromise between price, size and location – balancing cost and convenience to find the perfect space in which your business can flourish.