Finding the Best Location for Your Business
When you’re considering where to open your business, you might think that finding a suitable location would be easy. After all, business owners need to run their companies efficiently and have their offices in a central location to make the most of their time and productivity. However, if you’ve ever seen the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, you’ll know that finding the right location for your business is anything but easy. When you have an idea for a business, it can be difficult to know where to begin.
There are so many factors to consider when starting a new business. From the cost of rent to the availability of customers, there are countless variables. As someone who owns and operates a business, I’ve learned that you can’t just look at the numbers when determining where to locate your business. After years of searching, your business finally has a location for its flagship store. Your new business must be a few miles from the last one.
With its limited options, many business owners end up moving their business rather than accepting a broader but lower rent range.
Forget about the cost of relocating. Let’s look at what businesses really need to consider when thinking about a new location. A cautionary tale from a friend illustrates the difficulties of finding a suitable location for your business. He’d been searching for a new office for his accounting firm for several months. She explained that the owner of the property was concerned that the rent would go up if they rented it out to a nimble startup business.
How to find the right location for your business is a cautionary tale... We had a customer with a retail store in an excellent location.
When she started the lease. There was a large and beautiful tree in front of the building. Which completely obscured the shop's sign 9 months of the year by the leaves on the tree. She didn’t step back to look at the signage from across the street or down the block. Didn’t imagine what the tree might look like when in full leaf (we rented it in January when the tree was bare).
By June, we understood why the rent was so reasonable!
The most obvious thing you can do is look at and study your location objectively for positives and negatives. That means, go out on the sidewalk. Walk up and down the street. Drive up and down the street too, as well as any nearby cross street. Go across the street as well. Look — really look — at your sign (or where the sign will be). Is it easy to see? Is it blocked by anything?
Compare it to or examine other signs in the vicinity:
Does your sign stand out? Perhaps it may be blocked in one direction but not coming from another direction. If so, note that.
Is the sign an eye-catching colour, and does it have a large enough font compared to others nearby?
Is it back-lit, or lit by overhead lights? Are the lights bright enough, especially compared to other signs nearby?
Is there an awning or anything else that makes the sign stand out?
Be sure to check at night and during the day.
It’s a simple fact that trees, or some obstruction, can block the view of your shop and signs. It might also surprise you at how many times a sign has lettering that is too small, or the sign colour itself is too dark and hard to read, or it has poor lighting.
Another common thing I see is ground signs where the lettering is too close to the ground - perhaps a foot from the ground. So when 24-inch flowers or bushes are added, they obscure the wording. In those cases, a very low ground cover would be preferable to taller bushes.
Or there’s the uncaring landlord that builds an outbuilding in the outer parking lot. If your landlord pulls a stunt like that, moan. See what accommodations he or she will do to make up for obscuring your storefront?
Anecdotal ways to tell that your signage may lack are when customers report having trouble finding your business. Or they hesitantly try the door and tell you they weren’t sure you were open!
Try to improve the sign to be more visible if you can. Bring in a sign company and ask for a proposal for a replacement.
Signs do matter, especially for any business that depends on retail traffic. I once interviewed a successful franchisee, and one of the success factors he credits was their location along a busy road, where the store had a very prominent sign.
However, signs are often regulated by councils. Some things you cannot change about the sign itself.
If you can’t change the sign size or location, here are techniques that business owners try:
Get a neon “Open” sign to put in your front window. Often these are allowed.
Put up vertical banners outside your front door.
If you have a display window, make sure it is attractively arranged and well lit from the inside. Change it regularly so people don’t become “blind” to it.
Put up a sandwich board out on the sidewalk with the day’s special on it.
Paint your front door a bright colour, put up an attractive awning, or place a large entry mat outside — whatever is allowed.
If there’s a parking lot or space in front of your building, park your branded vehicle in front — again, only as permitted by zoning.
Hire a sign spinner a couple of days a week, so those regular travellers will realize your business is there.
Fly a flag or put an inflatable on your roof — once again, if permitted by local zoning regs.
These and other techniques can help attract attention and make up for poor signage that you cannot otherwise fix.