How Do You Select the Right Commercial Space for Your Business?
February 21, 2018
When selecting a commercial space for your business, it’s not just location (location, location) you need to keep in mind.
Likely, you are familiar with that old adage, “location, location, location,” when selecting a commerical space. And, while it certainly does apply, there are many additional factors you should consider when selecting a space for your business.
Just as much as the design of your space impacts the feel of your business, there are other factors that will help shape your brand and how your customers interact with you.
Here are some things to consider when looking for a retail or commercial space to lease.
Does the style of the space hurt or help your brand?
A good business (be it retail, office, or a restaurant) benefits from a strong brand. A huge part of your brand perception is influenced by the environment that you set up shop in.
When we met our awesome clients behind Ada’s Technical Books and Café, they had identified an old, rundown house as their perfect spot. Why? Not only was the location great, but the old bones of the home helped anchor their brand. In many ways, it has become as integral to their success as the products they are selling.
The Takeaway: Carefully consider how the feel of your new space aligns with who you are as a company.
What are the lease terms?
The lease terms are key. This is less of a design issue and more of a practical one. How long is the lease? Are there are any restrictions? How do those impact your goals? And, what sort of TI allowance will your landlord provide?
The Takeaway: Build these details into your business plan and work with your commercial broker on understanding the nuances of what is being offered to you so you don’t get locked into a space that isn’t right for you.
What are your signage opportunities?
This is your chance to shout to the world who you are. Most people won’t already know where you are located, and you need to be able to capture the attention of people passing by.
The Takeaway: Ensure that there are appropriate opportunities to announce and promote your business on the exterior of your building.
Are there required business hours in your lease?
It might seem strange, but it’s more common than you think.
The Takeaway: You’ll want to verify if your lease requires you to stay open a certain number of hours to activate the neighborhood. If so be sure that works for you!
What are the nuances of the location?
The importance of the location is obvious, but the not so obvious parts are the specifics of the location. If the street is one-way, how will you ensure that traffic sees your business? What are the pedestrian traffic patterns on your specific block, and how can you draw people in? Is there solar glare on the windows that will block people from seeing into your space?
The Takeaway: Carefully consider what the details of the location really are, and work with your designer on how you can take advantage of, and/or mitigate, those conditions.
How will you grow or contract in your space?
Businesses have changing needs. A retail store may want the flexibility to reduce or expand a stock room. A restaurant may want overflow space for busy weekend crowds, but not want to look empty during the weekday lunch.
The Takeaway: Can the space be divided up easily, and are there good options for configuring (and reconfiguring) the space?
Is there outdoor space?
Especially for restaurants, but even for retail stores, having great outdoor space can add an additional flavor to what you are offering. If there is outdoor space, is it covered? Is it configured in a useful way? How is that space factored into your lease and how is the use of that covered in the lease? Are you able to alter the exterior space, or do different rules apply to it from the interior space? Is the space shared with any other businesses? Is it visible from the street? Do you want it to be, or is it better to be sheltered?
The Takeaway: Understand the nuances of outdoor space, if available, and make sure that the space you are paying for will be useable and productive for your business.
How is your space measured?
I covered this years ago, but, briefly: there are several different ways that commercial spaces are measured, and some give the the advantage to the owner, others to the renter.
The Takeaway: Since the square footage of your space will be included in your lease and you’ll likely be charged at a price per square foot, you’ll want to know if that number is accurate. If it isn’t, you’ll want to verify how it can be changed before you sign your lease.
Who are your immediate neighbors?
Ideally, you’ll have some adjacent neighbors that compliment your business and ensure that your location is a desirable destination. If you’re a coffee shop and there’s a restaurant only open for dinner next door can you share an outdoor space? Think creatively!
The Takeaway: This is a bigger deal that you might think. If your neighboor businesses attract a similar or complimentary clientele, it can help you both. If the clientele of one business will disrupt the others, it might be difficult for your business.
Is there adjacent parking and/or loading nearby?
I know that driving stinks in Seattle, but people still use their cars here. You’ll want to ensure that you have a loading area, if needed.
The Takeaway: Depending on your customers, you’ll want to consider if parking is critical or not. Factor any rent costs into your business plans.
Will your employees be happy there?
Your clientele are key, but so are your employees. Your business wouldn’t exist without either one of them. So, make sure you consider how your space will be for those that work there. Is it comfortable? Is it easy to get to? Will they feel safe? Are there any features that would make it uncomfortable to be there all day?
The Takeaway: Your employees make your business successful, ensure that they will be happy in your space.
How is the air?
Quite frankly, a space can be too hot or too cold and it will haunt you every day. Our old office used to get so hot we would have to walk around in T-shirts in January and we’d still be sweating. While it is a shared pain that brought us closer, it would have been better if that could have been avoided.
The Takeaway: If at all possible, visit the space at more than one time of day and take note of how it feels from the front of the space to the back. Stand near the windows – does it feel cooler or warmer? Is there a draft? Sometimes, these things come with the territory, but if you are aware of them ahead of time, you can design for it.
What is your gut telling you?
As much as you can evaluate a space in spreadsheets, sometimes it takes a vision to know what a space can be, even when no one else can see it. If you have a designer or architect on board, work with them on what the space could be. Sometimes, telling the story of “you won’t believe what this space used to be” can be as much of a part of a business success story as what you actually sell.
The Takeaway: You and your design team know your business best. Trust your gut and realize a little risk can often pay off!
Why do these nitty-gritty details all matter so much?
Finding a great space for your business to call home is so critical to how you operate and succeed. If you are only thinking about “location, location, location,” I promise you, you will be missing out on some important details that will have an impact on your success, for better or for worse.
When we found our office space, we went through the checklist above, including the part about trusting our gut. Our space is home to us and has shaped a lot of who we are.
So, be bold, be thoughtful, and go on out there and find an awesome new home for your business.
Photo Credit: Thanks, Tim Mossholder, for sharing your photo on Unsplash!