GoForth’s 30-question location suitability checklist

small business location checklist

Recently, we shared the seven components of a great business location. Once you’ve narrowed down your location search, ask yourself these 30  important questions to further assess its suitability:

  1. Do the zoning requirements allow for my business type?
  2. What is the condition of the building – are any repairs or renovations required?
  3. Does the location’s layout fit my requirements?
  4. Is the location the appropriate size for my business? (Consider storage, office, workroom, manufacturing equipment sizes, etc.)
  5. Is the location suitable for my daily commute?
  6. Do I have access to all required utilities?
  7. Do the surrounding businesses bring favourable traffic to the location?
  8. When conducting community research, does my target market have access to this location? Is the location suitable for a substantial portion of my target market?
  9. Do the leasing, renting, or buying terms fit my requirements?
  10. How much will it cost, and how long will it take, to get my internet and phone up and running?
  11. Are my signs and outdoor advertisements visible to traffic?
  12. Is the labour force in the area suitable for my staff requirements? Are wage scales similar to or lower than other location options?
  13. What is the local Chamber of Commerce activity like?
  14. Does the location meet my accessibility requirements?
  15. Is parking available and affordable for customers and staff?
  16. Is public transportation available?
  17. Is the location consistent with the image I’ve communicated through branding and marketing?
  18. What lifestyle factors, schools, and community activities are present?
  19. Am I close enough to suppliers and manufacturers?
  20. Can deliveries be made to this location?
  21. Are the costs of transporting goods and shipping to and from this location similar to or lower than other location options?
  22. Are competitors located nearby?
  23. If competitors are nearby, am I confident in my ability to compete?
  24. Is the crime rate in the area tolerable for my business, and are security services available?
  25. What times of the day and week will provide the most traffic at this location? Am I able to operate in the evening and is there adequate exterior lighting to attract evening customers?
  26. What will my insurance cost at this type of location?
  27. Later on, will this location be able to accommodate growth of my business?
  28. How do rental costs and lease agreement terms compare to other location options? Break this down to cost per square foot and compare to your revenue per square foot.
  29. How long is the lease and does this fit with my requirements?
  30. Does the current lighting meet my needs? Are there window displays available? Are shelving units or wall displays provided or am I allowed to install them?
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The components of a great business location

best small business location

Several things go into the perfect small business location. We’ve identified seven of some of the most important things to keep in mind when analyzing your small business’ proposed location:

1) Accessibility

How easily can your customers drive to you, or get there by public transport? Your location must be easy to find — customers have only so much patience for getting lost. Include directions on your website, with a map.

In many cases, lack of parking will be a complete turn off for customers. Make sure you figure this out before you commit to a location.

Also, provide wheelchair access as well as child-friendly features if necessary.

Think about your employees, too. Is the location miles away from anywhere? If so, you may have trouble tempting prospective employees if you don’t have good transit access.

2) Competition

What businesses are nearby, and how directly do they compete with you? Often, being near a major competitor can be good for your business — as long as you’re confident in your abilities to compete. In fact, if a competitor has already set up shop in a particular place, then it’s usually a good sign that customers will come. However, you’ll need to work extra hard to attract and retain customer interest.

3) Business Environment

Is your business environment a busy downtown core? A popular shopping centre? A rural area? Consider the types of businesses nearby and the customers they may attract, volume of traffic they bring in, proximity to your location, etc. Also consider the potential for growth in the area. If businesses seem to always be closing down, it might be a great area for your location. Spend some time monitoring a prospective location’s business environment to help find out if you could succeed there.

4) Physical Layout

The layout of your location has to be conducive to a smooth working environment. You may have some equipment or machinery that has to fit inside the location, or inventory that you need to store there. How will customers and employees get around? Will the layout help or hinder them? Check out our tips for assessing the physical layout of your potential location.

5) Site Availability and Regulations

There are regulations to keep in mind with almost any small business location. The site must also be available to get in the way you have in mind — renting, leasing or buying. (More about that here.)  Zoning regulations, municipal licences and taxes have to be considered too. Check with your city or town’s website or band office for more on local zoning bylaws, licences, and taxes.

6) Costs

Costs will depend on the location. Downtown rent is almost guaranteed to be higher than a similar-sized office further away. Sales royalties paid to the landlord, landscaping, water, power, fuel, security and storage fees are other costs to take into account. What about leasehold improvements – construction you’ll need to undertake to be ready for business? This construction is sometimes paid by the landlord (or owner) of the building, sometimes by you and sometimes shared.

7) Resources

What resources that you need to run your business? Research municipal services like police and fire protection, public transit and sewer and water supplies. Also consider your proximity to suppliers, raw materials and customers are. It’s a good idea to check out other resources you may need like postal service, telephone and internet service, banking, and security services.

How did you decide on your small business’ location? Let us know in the comments!

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Small business commercial lease checklist

Ready to take the plunge on leasing a location for your small business? Review the following components that should be stated in your commercial lease or rental agreement, and consider your requirements for each. Also consider which of these may give you leverage during negotiations, and which you can afford to back down on.

  1. Names of Landlord & Tenant
  2. Address of the premises
  3. Rent amount, payment terms, late payment penalties and any allowable or scheduled increases
  4. Items included in rent:
    • Description of rental space: square footage, available parking
    • Utilities – phone, water, internet, gas, electricity
    • Taxes, maintenance fees
  5. Lease term – start and end date
  6. Damage deposit requirements
  7. Any representations made (statistics or even promises about certain aspects of the site like foot traffic estimates, average utility costs, competitive restrictions)
  8. Zoning information
  9. Permitted uses of the premises
  10. Subletting terms and conditions
  11. Build-outs – Restrictions on and ownership of additions, modifications, improvements, or fixtures added while the space is occupied
  12. Repairs – terms and conditions
  13. Insurance and security requirements
  14. Non-compete clause (restrictions on leasing/renting to your competitors nearby)
  15. Dispute resolution
  16. Lease termination options
  17. Renewal options
  18. Signing incentives
  19. General legal provisions
  20. Additional rules and regulations
  21. Signatures and dates of signing
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A 20-question location checklist for your small business

understanding_target_marketDeciding where to open up shop is a major consideration for every small business owner. We’ve talked about how to perform neighbourhood research and shared the top 7 factors for a good small business location. Now we’d like to help you organize your search even further with our 20-question location checklist to help you find your best small business location. These are just some of the things you’ll need to ask yourself when searching for your ideal small business location:

  1. Do the zoning requirements allow for my business type?
  2. What is the condition of the building – are any repairs or renovations required?
  3. Does the location’s layout fit my requirements?
  4. Is the location the appropriate size for my business?
  5. Is the location suitable for my daily commute?
  6. Do the surrounding businesses bring favourable traffic to the location?
  7. Does my target market have access to this location?
  8. Is the location suitable for a substantial portion of my target market?
  9. Do the leasing, renting or buying terms fit my requirements?
  10. Are my signs and outdoor advertisements visible to traffic?
  11. Is the labour force in the area suitable for my staff requirements?
  12. Does the location meet my accessibility requirements?
  13. Is parking available and affordable for customers and staff? Is public transportation available?
  14. Is the location consistent with the image I’ve communicated through branding and marketing?
  15. Am I close enough to utilities, suppliers and manufacturers? Can deliveries be made to this location?
  16. Are the costs of transporting goods and shipping to and from this location similar to or lower than other location options?
  17. Are competitors located nearby and, if so, am I confident in my ability to compete?
  18. Is the crime rate in the area tolerable for my business? Are security services available?
  19. Later on, will this location be able to accommodate the growth of my business?
  20. How long is the lease and does this fit with my requirements?
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How to assess the physical layout of your small business’ location

When scouting out the best locations for your small business, proximity to competition, accessibility to customers and the surrounding business environment are just the tip of the iceberg. The layout – both internal and external – of your small business’ location needs to work for you as well.

For example, you may have equipment or machinery that needs to fit into the space. If you’re running a retail business, you’ll need to think about the “flow” of the store once everything is set up, plus consider room for a till and things like changing rooms. For restaurants and cafés, you need to think about kitchen space and room for tables – not to mention customers and wait staff.

What to keep in mind when considering the layout of your small business’ location

  • How many employees will be in the space at one time? Is there room to swing a cat (so to speak) once everyone’s assembled and working?
  • Does the location give you the storage or warehouse space you need?
  • How can you divide the space between public and private?
  • If parking at your small business location is a concern, is there enough?
  • Do you need a loading dock or room for delivery vehicles?
  • If you run an industrial small business, is the ceiling height adequate for your needs?
  • For manufacturing small businesses or those with major pieces of equipment, is there room? (Don’t guesstimate. Measure – twice!)

Look at floor plans carefully and take a walk around, both inside and outside the space. Consider enlisting the help of an architect, commercial office designer or consultant to help you plan – for the future as well. You never know how your small business layout needs can change in the future!

For more reading on choosing the best location for your small business:

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