5 Core Lessons for Expanding Your Growing Company
While rapid growth is a great problem for an entrepreneur to have, your cramped quarters don't do much for your team dynamic or company culture.
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Your company started small, with a few co-founders, an industry vet and a rainmaker or two. But as time went on and your venture gained momentum, you started adding to your staff. Now Joe is sharing a desk with Susan, Susan can't fit her lunch in the fridge and the constant buzz of your company's phones interferes with everyone's work.
Of course, rapid growth is a great problem for an entrepreneur to have, but your cramped quarters don't do much for your team dynamic or company culture -- key building blocks for productivity. In fact, tight office space reduces connectivity and cross-functional collaboration, because it inhibits the formation of project-based teams.
Rather than holding breakout sessions at the coffee shop next door, it might be time to consider moving. But before you rent the moving truck, there are a number of things you need to check off your to-do list:
1. Reach out to your network.
Even if you plan to work with a broker, spread the word to your network that you're looking for a new office space. Your fellow entrepreneurs are probably connected to property owners, and it's a good idea to explore your options before making a final decision.
2. Determine your needs.
Choosing a new location for its exposure is understandable. But don't let it completely drive your decision. You also need to take into account other less-obvious factors. For example, does the building offer extra space to account for future growth? Does it place you at the center of competing businesses? What about complementary ones? Does this new location align with your company's image and culture?
My company recently moved to downtown San Diego's East Village, and many companies are following suit, creating a strong business community. We hired a well-known local designer to make sure our new space reflects both our company culture and the San Diego community. I recommend you do the same.
3. Look into local and state incentives.
Many communities offer incentives to locating, expanding, migrating and/or retaining businesses as a way to deepen economic development and provide jobs to its residents. On the local level, relocating to an enterprise zone may provide tax concessions, which could maximize the benefits of your move. If you're moving to another state, you may be eligible for out-of-state incentives, such as tax credits for job creation or funding for infrastructure costs.
4. Review the building's permits and zoning laws.
Your new location will likely have specific regulations, which can affect everything from signage and parking to lighting and storage. They could even restrict the nature of any intended renovations. Because ordinances vary by municipality, check with your local planning agency for more information.
We ran into issues surrounding our chosen location and needed a conditional use permit to "convert" what was traditionally a retail space into an office space. Make sure you're actively checking for these kinds of requirements as you search.
5. Negotiate your lease terms.
If you're leasing a space, negotiate the terms to suit your business. I recommend having a release valve that will allow you to break the lease if revenue runs hot, and you need to rapidly expand. You may also want to consider add-on clauses to protect your business's interests.
For example, exclusivity prevents your landlord from leasing space on the same property to your direct competitors. Co-tenancy clauses allow you to break your lease if an anchor business closes -- potentially causing your business to lose customers.
Once you find a place, remember that you're joining a new community. It's important to alert your neighbors of your upcoming arrival. Visit businesses to introduce yourself and contact the local press. Expanding to a new area is part of a broader narrative, so share your story.
Relocating a business is daunting, but it's an important phase of growth. As long as you choose wisely (and plan accordingly), it could be the best move you ever make.