When you first decide to start a business, chances are location scouting is not the first thing on your mind, or even on your to-do list. After all, you’re in idea mode, you’re focused on creating your designs/patents/menus/business plans, on finding partners, and on getting funding. All these things are important, but it’s time make choosing your business location a higher priority. According to Karen Spaeder of Entrepreneur, “putting your business in the proper location might be the single most important thing you do at startup.” This is true whether you’re in retail, in freelance, or in Internet and technology. It’s not just about finding a location where customers can find you, it’s about finding a location that fits your budget, your work style, and your company’s goals. Here are a few things to think about to get you started.
Work from Home
Before you’re able to get your business off the ground, you may need to work out of your home. There are many stories of successful businesses that started in a garage (Microsoft, anyone?), and many Americans still work out of home offices, whether self-employed or for a company. But keep in mind that working from home is no bed of roses. Just as in any business, you have to be prepared to invest a lot of time and energy into making it successful.
You may work from home temporarily, or you may have a permanent workshop or home office, but either way, you’ll need a dedicated work place. This is not just in the interest of minimizing distractions or putting forth a professional image for clients: you need to prove you have a dedicated work space in order to deduct business expenses.
Rent or Buy?
Once your business is ready to move out of your home, you’ll have to decide whether, and where, to rent or buy workspace. There are various pros and cons to consider when it comes to renting and buying property: flexibility, capital required, potential expansion, and longevity of the business, among others. In some cases, you may already know where you need to set up shop, to be closer to your target demographic and your business competitors. Other times, there are companies that can help you find the right space for the right price. Consider checking Google maps for startup-friendly neighborhoods in your area.
Being close to affordable transit, living, and eating options is important, but one thing few startups think about is being close to potential collaborators. For example, it’s fairly common for startups built on common platforms to coalesce in the same spot (think Silicon Valley) or even the same building (like Twitter’s 795 Folsom Road which also houses Plancast, Klout, and Storify). By working closely with your allies, it’s much easier to get questions answered, avoid mistakes, and learn from each others’ successes. But even more importantly, you’ll be entering directly into your desired business ecosystem, which will give your company credibility right off the bat.
Create your Online Storefront
It doesn’t matter if you run an Internet-based business or not, you need a web presence. If you can’t create a website, consider hiring someone, or if you don’t have the funds, at least reserve your url through sites like GoDaddy.com. In the mean time, you can use free social media to your advantage to create buzz about your business: make a company page on Facebook, start a Twitter account, get reviews on Yelp, and put your profile on LinkedIn. Sites like Mashable.com are a good place to turn for tips on getting started. The true value of social media isn’t just marketing: it’s a way for you to connect with partners and clients, and create strong positive relationships. Keep others posted, respond to feedback, and show clients that you don’t just care about your business, you care about them too.
You may also want to turn to the Internet for business management purposes. Cloud computing means your software and files are not stuck on single computers, but can be available anytime, anywhere you are. Often, you’ll be able to share accounts or documents with clients and coworkers. You may be surprised at the amount of online services available to your business, from accounting to legal help.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to picking a location. Because you know your business inside and out, you’re the one who’s best equipped to decide what location is perfect for you.