5 Ways To Pick the Best Brick-and-Mortar Location

By on March 2, 2016

Location, location, location – the physical position of your business on land should be a top priority for your company. Picking a brick-and-mortar site is risky business, though, and a stressful one at that. These five tips will help you choose the perfect spot.

Identify your company’s needs.

Are you in need of an office or manufacturing space, entirely closed off to the public? Or are you starting a restaurant or retail store, through which you’ll want to generate the most foot traffic possible? This is the most obvious designation you’ll have to make; office buildings and manufacturing spaces vary greatly from retail and restaurant spaces in distance from pedestrians, proximity to other businesses, lease options, and more. Manufacturing spaces need to be far enough away from residential areas to avoid annoying neighbors with noisy machinery, while offices can be closer (and not to mention, much more customizable in size) since they’re normally very quiet. Cafés often differ from full restaurants in the amount of room they need for equipment, tables, counters, and walking space. Retail stores can be tiny or extraordinarily large, depending on what they’re selling.

Understand the community’s needs.

Before you pick a specific spot for your business, you’ll have to choose a general community for your brick-and-mortar spot to fit into. Downtown areas are normally more accepting of experimental businesses, while conservative suburbs prefer to stick to the classics. College towns are great for fast food restaurants, breweries, bars, and lounges; historic districts may let companies go out of business if they don’t offer some sort of neighborhood-oriented, eclectic charm. If you’re thinking about placing your brick-and-mortar site with a community in which you’ve always lived, you’re probably good to go – if you’re new to the area or you’ve never lived there, you might want to talk to the locals.

Take a look at the data.

Caliper’s Maptitude provides endless data on a particular zip code’s business locations with a subscription, as well as how many employees those businesses have, the numbers on their annual payroll, and who their competitors are. Factual’s enterprise solutions allow businesses to “expand market insight” by surveying other businesses based on category, geographical location, customer base, and more. Your county’s main website may offer local business data as well. Rather than jumping into the world of brick-and-mortar business alone, test the waters by assessing current data. It can’t hurt to have an idea of what other companies are up to.

Find competitors.

Did you know In-N-Out and Chik-Fil-A frequently put their restaurants close together on purpose? The idea is if one person in a group doesn’t eat red meat, he or she can grab some chicken without completely separating from their accompanying family or friends; and if someone doesn’t want food that’s been deep-fried, they can run to In-N-Out for a double-double or a protein-style while the rest wait in line at Chik-Fil-A. Though both are greasy fast-food joints, In-N-Out and Chik-Fil-A acknowledge they have something to gain by working together (to a point). By locating competitors on a map and understanding their customers’ unmet needs and wants, you can take advantage of others’ losses – with or without letting them know you’re doing so.

Even if (or perhaps especially if) your business idea is brand-new and totally innovative, you’ll have competitors. You’re doing your company a major disservice if you don’t include them in your location decision-making process. What are nearby graphic design businesses refusing to offer that you can? How can you become more approachable than that accounting firm down the street?

Anticipate growth, but don’t take more than you need.

A tricky formula to follow, huh? Many businesses experience some kind of growth during their time at their first brick-and-mortar spot. Take a look at the goals you’ve set for your company and try to find a place that will still accommodate you after you achieve them. Will your private medical practice eventually need to hire on a second doctor and another secretary? Make sure you’ll have the room. Is your café going to start making its own pastries someday, rather than buying them from local bakeries? You may need space for extra equipment and a couple bakers.

At the same time, don’t sign a year-long lease for a 20,000 square foot office space when you need half of that. It’s great to hope for exponential growth, but you don’t want to bite off more than you can chew – especially financially. The real cost of a brick-and-mortar site is often significantly more than it is on paper; everyone has to pay utilities, and odds are, you’ll need to repair or update the space to perfectly fit your business.
Choosing the perfect spot for your business can be tricky, but these tips exist to make the overall process a little easier. How have you picked the perfect brick-and-mortar location in the past? What do you wish you had done differently?

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Matthew Toren

About Matthew Toren

Matthew Toren is a serial entrepreneur, mentor, investor and co-founder of YoungEntrepreneur.com. He is co-author, with his brother Adam, of Kidpreneurs and Small Business, BIG Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right .