Written by: Paula Woodhouse, VP Head of Business Banking, Union Savings Bank
There are many reasons small business owners decide to relocate. Maybe your lease is expiring and you think it’s time for a change, or you need to move office locations to accommodate a larger team. Other common drivers are a desire to reach a new labor market or target customer, or perhaps you need a more cost-effective area, or buying may have some tax advantages.
Whatever is inspiring your desire to move your small business, you’ll need a checklist to keep you and your team organized. Here are the first things you’ll need on your relocation checklist.
Decide why you are changing business location. Why are you relocating? Whether it’s for one of the reasons above or for a reason unique to your small business, identifying why you’re moving and sharing this explanation with your employees will help keep everyone on the same page and on the right track. It’s also helpful to have a concise response prepared for when customers ask you why you’re changing business location every day leading up to, during and after your move.
Paint a picture of your ideal location. While you don’t need a brush and easel, it’s not a bad idea to sit down and sketch out what kind of space you’d like for your small business, or at least its basic layout. Is storage a problem in your current location? Include plenty of storage space in your new concept. Do you wish you had more room to display your products? Imagine your ideal balance of shelves and cases. Even if you find yourself designing a luxurious storefront on a modest budget, letting your imagination take the wheel is a good way to identify what’s most important to your small business, and what to save for a later date.
Prioritize your relocation checklist. Now that you have created your dream workspace, start paring down some of the more fanciful additions in favor of the essentials. Custom-made furniture is great if it fits into your budget, but if you have a long list of things you need to operate your business, that designer desk chair might have to take a back seat to higher priorities like repaving the parking lot for your employees and customers.
Set a relocation budget. You have your list of must-haves, and you know how much you can spend on a new location, whether you plan to buy, rent or build. Make sure you also plan for moving costs, equipment and storage rentals, marketing to spread the word about the move and contingency for any surprises along the way in your relocation checklist. Updating the budget daily and weekly will ensure you stay on track or help you make any adjustments to it as you work through your relocation checklist.
Make a moving to-do list (and don’t forget to delegate). As a small business owner, the entrepreneurial spirit is in your blood, and that can mean taking on a lot of work on your own. Create a moving to-do list for everything that needs to get done for your move, from finding the new location to moving the last miscellaneous box, and assign each task to you and your team. Taking on all of the big tasks on your own will not only drain your energy, it could also leave lots of room for error and alienate your team.
Be careful of underestimation in your relocation budget. It is common to look for the cheapest movers and vendors in hopes of making your office relocation as cost effective as possible. And it’s true that unless you have unlimited funds, you will need to be smart about any vendors, movers, designers and team members you choose. Keep in mind, though, that this is an important milestone in the life of your business and that the move needs to be done right. By being honest with yourself about the costs associated with moving, you can better adhere to your budget (see tip #4) instead of trying to cram in cheap extras.
Part of sticking to your relocation budget is taking into consideration every possible cost that might arise from actual movers, an IT team to set up any new computers or routers in the new space, an office design expert and any other members needed to make the move possible. Oftentimes, new office space will be presented to you as a blank canvas. You may need to build out the space in the form of new walls, offices, cubicles and the overall organization of the space. Most landlords will allow you to include this budget in your rate per square foot, so be prepared for your initial relocation budget to grow. Overestimating and planning for a larger budget is always safer than trying to cut corners and have the same teams do multiple jobs that might actually be out of their scope of work.
Exploring potential tax breaks may also beneficial for small business owners – potentially saving a sizeable amount of money up front, which can then be used to pay for some of the unexpected costs along the way. Set up an appointment with your accountant to discuss the costs of moving and if there are benefits to buying versus renting.
Designate someone to oversee the moving process: As the business owner, you may not have time to keep the actual business running while in the midst of changing business location, so it can be really helpful to designate a trusted employee – or non-employee – to handle the process for you.
Ensure this is someone who can make decisions alongside you and handle more menial items, communicates well, has experience managing larger budget projects, and most importantly, someone who is dedicated to helping you create that better work environment for you and your employees. Review your budget and relocation checklist in detail with your designated “mover” until they are comfortable with the amount and all responsibilities that may arise.
Get the word out about your small business relocation. All of this work won’t really pay off if your customers don’t know where you’re moving. Spread the word about your small business relocation ahead of time, making sure that your team is all on the same page about why and when you’re moving. You should also let your customers know if you’re planning to keep the business open during the move or if you’re going to close up shop as you relocate. Social media, emails, web alerts and mailers can all be good ways to get the word out and stay top of mind with your customers, even if you will be closing your doors for a few days. There should also be signage on your old location for anyone wandering in wondering where you’ve gone.
Make your move. When the big moving day (or week) finally arrives, get your moving team together and prepare yourselves for a hectic few days. Creating a moving day timeline and separate checklist can help you stay close to your schedule, but know that you might need to deviate in a moment’s notice. Building in enough buffer time can help relieve some of the stress of moving and allow any loose ends to be handled.
With your small business relocation checklist in hand, you’re ready to tackle the challenges and reap the rewards of moving into a new location. Make sure you have all of the information and resources you’ll need ahead of time to make the process as smooth as possible. If you’re looking to buy a piece of property for your business, our business lending team can help you reach your goals. Contact us today.