You're not likely to move your company to an area where you don't want to live.
But when it comes to your employees, the answer to the quality of life question depends largely on whether or not you want to take workers with you or find them locally.
If you're planning to staff your operation from the local labor pool, a quality of life analysis isn't critical because your potential employees already live in the area and are presumably satisfied with it. What's more important in that case is to determine if the community has a work force with the skills you need. If, on the other hand, you're hoping to entice current employees to move, you need to choose a place they'll want to go, says Gene DePrez, co-global leader of IBM PLI-Global Location Strategies. Think about the type of living environment your employees will want. Look for places that offer that environment yet also meet your business's needs.
Any quality of life analysis is going to be extremely subjective, says Andy Shapiro, managing director and principal of Biggins Lacy Shapiro & Co., a consulting firm that specializes in location economics. "What you might see as a high-quality factor may be perceived by the next person as [unimportant]," Shapiro says. "Whether there's a professional sports team may not make a whit of difference to you, but it could influence someone who's being asked to relocate."
The typical quality of life indicators are housing costs and availability, overall cost of living, schools, crime rates, congestion, cultural opportunities and so on. "Quality of life can also be extended to include employment opportunities for the trailing spouse," Shapiro notes. "You want to make sure that the [relocating] employee is made whole, not just from a financial perspective, but that they are trading a type of life and environment for one that is equal to or better than what they had before."
When evaluating an area's quality of life, resist the urge to use generalizations in your analysis. Instead, make it as personal as possible based on what you know about the types of people who have the skills you need or the employees you hope will move with you. And realize that you won't please everyone.
Finally, says DePrez, remember that the people you want working for you don't necessarily have to be where your company is physically located. If the nature of the work lends itself to a virtual arrangement, let employees live in a place with a quality of life that they prefer, and you can choose an office location that suits you.
Jacquelyn Lynnis the author of The Entrepreneur's Almanac.