What to Do When You Think Your Business Needs More Space

by Robert Moskowitz

3 min read

Growth is generally a good thing for small businesses, but it can be scary when it means you need more square footage.

Although relocating to larger quarters usually signals to customers that your company is confident, successful, and financially strong, it may seem risky, difficult, and emotionally challenging to you and your team.

Here’s what to do when you think your business needs more space.

Look for Alternatives to Moving

Make this your first step before committing to a move. The reason: Sometimes the pressure to relocate stems from making poor use of the space you’re already in.

Before you go to the expense, time, and trouble of a full-scale move, discern exactly what’s driving you out, such as: inadequate facilities, overcrowding, or plans to add staff. Then consider alternate ways to overcome these deficiencies, such as restructuring or rearranging your existing space or consolidating or replacing equipment to free up more usable space.

Even if you’re using your present space with maximum efficiency, you may be able to avoid a move to a new location by expanding into an adjacent area, establishing a new or satellite location, or even just renting a storage locker.

Moving can be costly and time consuming, with costs starting at several dollars per square foot for consulting services and basic furniture moving. That doesn’t include higher prices for moves of individual workstations and other specialized equipment. Only when no other solution meets your needs should you undertake a full-scale move.

Create a Wish List

Moving is time-consuming and expensive, so you want to find a new space that truly satisfies your business’s wants and needs.

To that end, compile a comprehensive wish list that includes:

  • square footage and ceiling height
  • type of access for people, equipment, and supplies
  • location, particularly proximity to existing customers and important resources
  • amenities
  • move-in and ongoing costs

Because you’re unlikely to find everything you want in one space, rank the items on your wish list in order of priority. Explicit rankings make it easier to recognize your optimal mix of features and associated costs.

Outsource the Property Search

Unless you have a lot of extra time on your hands, you’re more likely to accomplish your move on a reasonable schedule if you hire a real estate agent to do the legwork. Let the agent find locations that match your wish list. Then you can visit the top two or three options and make your selection.

Be sure you specify not only what your high-priority needs are, but also how much you can pay.

Be Nonchalant in Your Negotiations

As much as you may love a space, don’t let the other side detect your enthusiasm. Be very open about any negatives, such as the dollar amount of the rent or mortgage, the lease- or zoning-based limitations on your usage of the space, any items on your wish list it doesn’t provide, and the complexity of building-out the space. The harder you make the other side work to “sell” you on taking the space, the more favorable terms they’re likely to offer.

However, be thorough in getting prior approvals for your remodeling plans, including any physical changes, and your planned usage of the new space. Once you’ve signed the lease, you’re not going to get any additional changes or improvements to the terms.

Organize Before You Start the Move

Moving a messy office (warehouse, store, factory, etc.) is far more complicated than moving an organized one. It’s cheaper, too, because you can usually discard, recycle, or donate some of what you’d otherwise pay to move.

Key items to organize before you move include your financial data, your customer records, and your “in process” orders. By keeping close tabs on all three, you set the stage for your business continuing to operate smoothly during and after the move.

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