KEHLAN KIRWAN: Finding the right place to expand your business and what to look out for when moving

Where you set up your business can have a major impact on its success. Equally, where you move when you expand is just as important.

Location, Location, Location.

The right location is essential to the development of your company. Recently, I’ve gone through this in my own business. 

We’re expanding our production facilities for video and photography, and are moving, this week, to bigger and better facilities. 

It’s taken us about a year to find the right place for the expansion, but it has been worth the wait.

Nothing is straightforward about choosing where. There are criteria that you need to fulfil before you find the right space.

Who are your customers?

It might seem an obvious question, but many people don’t recognise the need to be where their customer can find them. 

The harder it is to find you, the harder it is to do business with you.

If you look at the pattern of some of the biggest retailers in the country, and where they open new stores, it’s easy to see why they open where they do. 

Age, income, and households are all important to consider.

We deal often in corporate production, so it made sense to move closer to other businesses. 

In fact, we moved into a building where a number of our customers already reside. Go where your customer is, not where you want them to be.

Business drives business

Remember the importance of other businesses in the area, including competitors. 

Moving to a cool space in the middle of nowhere may seem like a great idea, but you’ll have to work a lot harder to attract people to it.

If you’re a restaurant or in retail, having other businesses on your doorstep is a great way to attract new customers. 

Knowing that there are other business attractions within the area will be vital to bringing in paying customers.

When we found the right space, we knew we had customers already in the building. However, we are also no further away than 15 minutes from four major industrial estates inside the Limerick City area. 

They contain SMEs and large foreign multinationals — perfect for exploring new customers. 

In the past decade, we have seen the vicious cycle of closures on a main street. 

As more businesses closed, it became unattractive for shoppers, creating a cycle of decline and closures.

Having other businesses in the immediate vicinity is important and will make it easier to bring in the clientele you want.

Competition is good

Having competition on your doorstep can be great. Their push to attract more customers can benefit you. 

If your competition is a large multinational, it can also be good to piggyback on their efforts to attract people into their stores.

This can work to your advantage, especially if their advertising and marketing spend is much bigger than yours. 

Being next to your competition is no bad thing. It can be easy to see what they are doing and, more importantly, how you can do better.

Budget

This may seem obvious and yet it is one of the key factors in determining what a business can afford to invest. 

Recently, a nationwide food brand located near me shut its doors, because it couldn’t pay the rent. Workers turned up in the morning to find themselves out of a job.

There is always an opportunity to expand, if you find yourself needing to do so.

Budget for a rent that is affordable and which can give you the flexibility to improve business, or reinvest in better equipment. Rent is supposed to keep a roof over the business, not weigh it down.

Layout

The layout of office space, or shop space, is incredibly important. It is the look and the feel of the business. How people feel inside your business is determined by the layout. 

I recently dropped into a suit store in Limerick. It was super to be in there. The layout, the design, everything said ‘this is your place’. So have an image of what you want it to look like when it is finished.

What will clients think when they walk through the door? Will people want to buy from you, based on what they see? 

You need to be able to create an environment that represents who you want to be to your customers.

Supplementary costs

Large buildings come with large costs. Maintenance, electricity, insurance, health-and-safety. 

Think about how much it’s going to cost to keep the lights on. Don’t forget about local rates, too. 

All of these things are significant costs on a business and finding the size that fits is important to how much money goes out. 

While the building may look incredible, it may also be a big drain on your finances. Remember all the other costs that come with your space.

The contract

The contract between you and the landlord is extremely important. 

Never, ever sign anything without having a solicitor look at it first. If you don’t have a solicitor, get one. 

This contract is a binding agreement which will affect the future of your company. 

You must look after your interests and ensure that you, and the business, are protected against anything that may happen.

Make sure you are protected, as much as possible, on rent rises and letting agreements. 

I know a business owner who was days away from signing a contract, before he realised that the agreement effectively gave the landlord free rein to raise rents, or cancel the contract, on minimal notice. Make sure you are protected on all possibilities, as much as you can be.

Your employees

How easy is it for them to get to, and from, work? We’ve moved five minutes from a motorway and two minutes from several major, local routes. 

Make sure that it gives your employees easy access to work and ensures that they are not spending hours in the car.

Employees are just as important to the business as the product you’re selling.

Where you end up must be an asset to your business. There must be valid reasons for you choosing a particular place from where to work.

Think about how much it will cost, how it will look, and how accessible it is. 

Find a place that works for you and which is a key part of how the business devleops and expands. 

It must be a place to which you are proud to bring people; a place that represents everything you are as a business.


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