Where should you locate your business? One expert will tell you location is absolutely vital to your company's success; another will argue that it really doesn't matter where you are-and they're both right. How important location is for your new company depends on the type of business, the facilities and other resources you need, as well as where your customers are.

If you're in retailing or if you manufacture a product and distribution is a critical element of your overall operation, then geographical location is extremely important. If your business is information- or service-related, the actual location takes a back seat to whether or not the facility itself can meet your needs.

Regardless of the nature of your business, before you start shopping for space, you need to have a clear picture of what you must have, what you'd like to have, what you absolutely won't tolerate and how much you're able to pay. Developing that picture can be a time-consuming process that is both exciting and tedious, but it's essential that you give it the attention it deserves. While many start-up mistakes can be corrected later on, a poor choice of location is difficult-and sometimes impossible-to repair.

Types Of Locations
The type of location you choose depends largely on the type of business you're in, but there are enough mixed-use areas and creative applications of space that you should give some thought to each type before making a final decision. For example, business parks and office buildings typically have retail space so they can attract the restaurants and stores that business tenants want nearby. Shopping centers are often home to an assortment of professional services-medical, legal, accounting, insurance, etc.-as well as retailers. It's entirely possible some version of nontraditional space will work for you, so use your imagination.

1. Homebased: This is perhaps the trendiest location for a business these days, and many entrepreneurs start at home, then move into commercial space as their business grows. Others start at home with no thought or intention of ever moving. You can run a homebased business from an office in a spare bedroom, the basement, the attic-even the kitchen table. On the plus side, you don't need to worry about negotiating leases, coming up with substantial deposits or commuting. On the downside, your room for physical growth is limited and you may find accommodating employees or meetings with clients a challenge.

2. Retail: Retail space comes in a variety of shapes and sizes and may be located in enclosed malls, strip shopping centers, free-standing buildings, downtown shopping districts or mixed-use facilities. You'll also find retail space in airports and other transportation facilities, hotel lobbies, sports stadiums, and a variety of temporary or special event venues.

3. Mobile: Whether you're selling to the general public or other businesses, if you have a product or service that you take to your customers, your ideal location may be a car, van or truck.

4. Commercial: Commercial space includes even more options than retail. Commercial office buildings and business parks offer traditional office space geared to businesses that do not require a significant amount of pedestrian or automobile traffic for sales. You'll find commercial office space in downtown business districts, business parks, and sometimes interspersed among suburban retail facilities. One office option to consider is an executive suite, where the landlord provides receptionist and secretarial services, faxing, photocopying, conference rooms and other support services as part of the space package. Executive suites help you project the image of a professional operation at a more affordable cost than a traditional office and can be found in most commercial office areas. Some executive suites even rent their facilities by the hour to homebased businesses or out-of-towners who need temporary office space.

5. Industrial: If your business involves manufacturing or heavy distribution, you'll need a plant or warehouse facility. Light industrial parks typically attract smaller manufacturers in nonpolluting industries as well as companies that need showrooms in addition to manufacturing facilities. Heavy industrial areas tend to be older and poorly planned and usually offer rail and/or water port access. Though industrial parks are generally newer and often have better infrastructures, you may also want to consider any free-standing commercial building that meets your needs and is adequately zoned.

Excerpted from Start Your Own Business: The Only Start-Up Book You'll Ever Need, by Rieva Lesonsky and the Staff of Entrepreneur Magazine, © 1998 Entrepreneur Press