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How to choose your business premises

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When it comes to choosing premises for your start-up business, it's a balancing act.

You'll have to satisfy the needs of your start-up, your employees, your customers and your business associates. And yourself of course.

A prime location means higher cost - but what constitutes a prime location, and how important location actually is, varies depending on the type of business

Your choice of premises is always going to boil down to what type of business you own and the amount you can afford. But before your search begins, you need to decide what your needs are. These will include the size and layout of the property as well as the appearance of the building. You may have special requirements in terms of structure, too.

For your employees, and visitors, there needs to be a range of facilities such as toilets and a kitchen as well as suitable access and adequate parking space. Then there are also the utilities to think of, in terms of power and drainage.

Location

Your choice of location will have a huge impact on your premises. A prime location means higher cost - but what constitutes a prime location, and how important location actually is, varies depending on the type of business your start-up is.

For example, retail businesses will need to be in town centres or retail parks/shopping centres to capture passing trade. A factory on the other hand will need bigger premises, so a more remote location, where the land is cheaper, will make more sense.

Good public transport links are crucial wherever you are, so you can keep both employees and customers content.

Having the option to alter, expand, or to simply leave your premises altogether is of paramount importance. This element of flexibility is something that Ian McRae, principal of Chadwick McRae chartered surveyors, says should be at the front of your mind when looking at prospective premises.

Exit strategy

"It's wise to have both an entry and an exit strategy," he says.

"This comes down to an element of flexibility, you should always have one eye on the future - say five, 10, even 20 years ahead."

Ian adds that professional advice and help from a chartered surveyor is often invaluable, especially if you're entering the commercial property market for the first time.

"You have to understand that when you meet up with landlords you are dealing with expert property professionals. Just because you've bought a house you are still entering an area where you are a rank amateur. So I would strongly advise you to seek professional advice.

"Every situation is different, but when I have a client I ask them 'What is your business? Tell me about your business and where do you see it going?' From this you can choose the correct premises for a company."

He adds that he has seen many start-up business owners who are looking to rent often fall down at the first hurdle because they don't try to impress their prospective landlords.

"Many prospective tenants are bad at selling themselves. When a landlord is showing you round a property be mindful that he will be weighing you up and deciding whether you're capable of paying on time and keeping him or her happy."

A spokesman for The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) explains how a chartered surveyor begins the process of helping a start-up find premises:

"We will create a brief that will ensure you consider all relevant issues such as location, the nature of your business, your staff requirements and ways of working, before searching amongst our own contacts for estate agents and economic development units available in your area."

But if you do prefer to go it alone, then there are numerous places to search. You can look at the internet, get in touch with your local council, speak to an estate agent or even look at adverts in the window of your local newsagents.

Alternatively you could employ a commercial agent. This is someone who has expertise in the property market and will keep you up to date on developments for which you pay them a commission.

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