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How to Find a Brick-and-Mortar Location for your Business

Whether you’re a new small business owner or you’ve been growing your business at home and are ready to move it into its own space, finding the right location for your business is a big decision. We’ve outlined several steps to think through before you take the plunge and sign a lease.

First, make sure you’ve completed your business plan. This is a critical step for many reasons, but you’ll need one before signing a lease because a landlord will want to see it.

Once your business plan in ready, you should start looking for a business location by understanding your community’s local zoning laws. Zoning regulations restrict where retail, office, industry and residential buildings can legally be located. These zoning laws help keep noisy manufacturing firms away from residential neighborhoods, but this also means you may only house your business in certain areas. Talk to your local zoning office and learn what zoning category fits your business so you can limit your search to those commercial properties.

Once you have figured out the right zoning areas for your business, you should also consider the following before signing a lease:

  • Location—Are you near your target market or employees?
    • Are you able to have a sign on the building? If so, what size?
    • Is it easy to get in and out of the location?
  • Cost—Does the space fit your budget?
    • What costs are not included in the lease?
    • Build-out costs: Who pays for improvements or changes to the space?
  • Size—Do you have enough or too much space?
    • Can you expand as you grow?
    • Can you sublet if needed?
  • Tenure—How long do you plan to be in the space
    • Can you extend your lease after the time is up?
  • Parking—Is there enough allotted parking for your employees and/or customers?

There are additional factors to consider depending on what type of business you own.

Retail & Restaurants

  • Again, location is key!
  • What is the visibility and foot traffic during all business hours?
  • Does your target market shop nearby?
  • Are you near your competition? That can be good!
  • How large of a sign can you have to promote the business?
  • Does the space already have a commercial kitchen?
  • How many people can legally be in your space?
  • Do you need to add a restroom?

Office Space

  • Does the space reflect your customers’ expectations (conservative vs. a more modern, laid back environment)?
  • Do you need amenities like being near a gym and restaurants or for the building to have a nice lobby?
  • Can you use a flexible coworking space?
    • Pros: No long-term lease, networking with other owners, potentially cheaper; additional amenities such as conference room access, administrative support and mail services included
    • Cons: Limited flexibility in layout, can outgrow after a few employees
  • What level of office space best fits your needs?
  • There are different classifications of office space, ranked A, B or C, with A being nicer but more expensive and C spaces being cheaper but in older buildings and less desirable locations.

Manufacturing Site

  • Do you have access to enough electricity, water and internet capability?
  • Are the floors strong enough for your equipment?
  • Do you have the loading and transportation access (highway, airport, ship) you need?
  • How much storage is included?
  • Is your landlord flexible in letting you grow if you think you’ll need more space?

With so many factors up for negotiation, it is highly advisable to work with a commercial real estate agent. Find one that has experience working with small businesses and understands your local market and the needs unique to your business. A good agent can help you negotiate favorable lease terms, find trustworthy landlords and land a prime location.

Check out your local economic development agency or city government for help finding a location. These agencies can help you understand local demographic information, as well as provide future building and transportation plans and help with the regulatory process.