Of all the things you need to deal with when you start your business, two areas are particularly scary and will give you most hassle: recruitment and finding premises.
Get either of these wrong and you are facing big bills and a load of work to overcome early in the life of your new venture. Get them right, and you’ll wonder what all the fuss is about!
While hiring the right people is an imprecise skill, finding the perfect premises is something that can be broken down into a series of simple tasks and checks.
Getting the right premises is simple on paper. It’s about finding the building that suits your business and its needs best, in the right location, at the right price. In reality it’s about doing a lot of leg work, and using your head more than your heart.
Before you do anything else, you should work out exactly what your business needs, in terms of size, location and budget. Once you know these, the rest will follow.
What size offices do you need?
Size is often the thing which dictates when a business moves. As more staff or equipment come on board, existing premises can suddenly seem cramped. Health and safety laws provide guidance on how much space is needed for each employee or to do manufacturing.
ou need to take a long-term approach. How many people do you plan on hiring over the next three years? Few people enjoy moving, and shifting a working business can be particularly stressful.
If your business is a start-up with no trading history, try to make a realistic guess at what kind of facilities you will need in the years to come.
If you have outgrown existing premises, ask yourself why. Try to see past the current space problem that is demanding a move and think long-term.
When you are examining potential new premises, consider what you will do when you run out of space again! Can your building be altered inside by knocking down walls or installing a mezzanine floor? Is there additional space you can get your hands on nearby, or would you be allowed to extend?
If you are renting, how will the landlord feel about potential future alterations? Are you likely to run into planning laws? These are the kinds of questions you need to answer before signing on the dotted line.
Looking at location, this will be dictated by the type of space you need. Do you want retail premises, somewhere to manufacture or just an office?
For shops, High Street premises are expensive but will attract valuable passing trade. The further you move away from key shopping areas, the less rent you will pay; but also less passing trade will walk in.
Manufacturing demands lots of cheap space and great access. Look for large premises near key roads. Often older buildings are cheaper, and it doesn’t really matter if they are a bit tatty.
For office space, ask yourself if image is important – will clients visit your premises? If they will, then make sure they will be impressed. If not, then don’t worry what your offices look like. Instead focus on getting a good space at the right price.
What’s your budget?
Which leads nicely onto the budget. The temptation for every small business looking for its first premises is to go for the cheapest property available. That’s a false economy and can actually hold your business back.
Cheap property is cheap for a reason. It might be badly maintained, unfit for purpose, too cold, or too hot. If it looks like a bargain basement you may struggle to attract staff, let alone customers.
The sensible route is to work out a realistic budget for your premises before you start looking at prices. What do you want to spend, and what’s the most you can afford to pay? Don’t forget to take into account all the financial aspects of premises: rent, rates, electricity bills, phones, etc.
Then when you are weighing up the different premises available, consider the pros and cons of each before looking at the price. If your chosen premises are still the cheapest – congratulations!