Why, When and How to Move Your Business Plan carefully to make the process as rewarding and stress-free as possible.

By Randy Myers

Christine White knew it was time to find a new home for her spa products business, Scandle LLC, when a Japanese distributor reported that some of her candle tins were arriving with rust on them. The culprit? A leaky warehouse roof her landlord in Texas just couldn't get around to fixing.

Denise Mazan knew it was time to move her Culver City, California, dance studio when her landlord tried to raise her rent and Mazan, inspired to look for a better deal, found that she could lease space nearby that was almost three times bigger and cost $1 less per square foot.

Businesses move for lots of reasons--to accommodate growth, save money, get closer to customers or vendors, maybe just enjoy a nicer neighborhood. But it can be stressful for employees (who may balk if faced with a longer commute) and for customers (who may not find the new location convenient). Even a move designed to save money will trigger short-term costs, from hiring movers to finishing and furnishing the new space.

Moving can also be a logistical challenge filled with unexpected pitfalls. Junction Networks, a VoIP phone system provider based in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey, was just about to move earlier this year when it discovered, at the last minute, that the building it had chosen was not wired for internet service. Costs for wiring were prohibitive, so it had to pull out of the deal and hastily find another space.

Business owners who've gone through the moving process cite three keys to a successful move. The first is to be realistic about what you can afford. "Make sure you have enough money," stresses Stephanie Somogyi Miller, president of public relations firm Spread PR, a Miller/Hamilton company in New York City. "Just because you have a good six months does not mean you can support a new space for a three-year lease."

Miller stayed in her 400-square-foot office in Manhattan's Murray Hill neighborhood until it was "bursting at the seams." She moved her company in May to a 1,000-square-foot location on West 39th Street.

The second key to a successful move is to do your homework before settling on a new location. When Wendy Diamond, owner of Flag Fables Inc., a retailer of outdoor decorative products, realized that her previous location was becoming too small and the neighborhood too unsafe, she spent three years vetting alternatives. She finally moved to her current location in West Springfield, Massachusetts, in late 2007. Before uprooting her company, though, she drafted a list of requirements for a new location: a safe retail environment, better visibility from the street, more passing traffic, and room for her manufacturing, warehousing and shipping operations--all at a price that made sense for her budget.

To minimize the risk of choosing the wrong space, Diamond assessed as many hard facts as she could for each property she visited, including traffic numbers, proximity to major highways, price per square foot, NNN costs (real estate lingo for property taxes, insurance and operating expenses on buildings offering "triple net lease" terms), estimated build-out costs, the landlord's reputation, the presence of adjacent stores and businesses, and space for growth. She ultimately chose to lease a 3,300-square-foot facility that met all of her search criteria.

The final key to a successful move is planning the move itself. Prasad Thammineni, co-founder and CEO of OfficeDrop, a document-scanning company, created a Google Docs spreadsheet before moving his company from Waltham, Massachusetts, to nearby Cambridge. The spreadsheet "broke down specific categories and responsibilities for each employee, covering everything from coffee mugs to the change of our address on our website," reports Healy Jones, OfficeDrop's vice president of marketing. "We referenced this plan before, during and after the move, and it was an incredibly effective guide to keep things going smoothly."

To ensure uninterrupted receipt of its customers' documents, OfficeDrop arranged to have mail delivered to both its old and new locations for two weeks before and after the move. It also established internet and phone service to the new site prior to the move, and stationed an employee there--online and with live phone service--during the move itself.

Making sure phone and internet connections work before the move is important, confirms Joshua Kelly, chief operating officer of Fine Design Group, a digital branding and Web design firm with two West Coast locations. His company endured several months of sporadic video-conferencing and VoIP phone service failures after moving into its San Francisco office last year. "Do not skimp on the up-front cost of IT advice if connectivity is important to your business," Kelly says.

Moving your business can be an exciting and important step in its long-term growth, so plan carefully to make the move as rewarding and stress-free as possible.

© 2010 Business on Main

Wavy Line

A former reporter for The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones and contributor to Barron's, Randy Myers is a contributing editor for CFO and Corporate Board Member magazines.

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