Location Is One of the Most Important Parts of Starting a Business

There are many options to consider when it’s time for you to pick a spot to start or grow your company

Location Is One of the Most Important Parts of Starting a Business

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Selecting the best spot to open your operation requires careful consideration. Gary Kes, owner of Benjamin Franklin, The Punctual Plumber, in Northfield, Minnesota, has changed locations several times over his 30-year career.

Kes founded Kes Equipment in 1985, working from a single van to provide water treatment services to dairy farmers. Fast-forward to 2007 when he became a Benjamin Franklin franchisee and residential plumber.

From one van, he upgraded to a truck, then to a building across the street from his home. About 10 years into the business, he purchased a meat market in a commercial district of Northfield and remodeled it to suit his needs.

Over the years, he’s gained valuable insight into what makes a good business location. First, start small. Startups can greatly benefit from low overhead, Kes says. 

“Sometimes you’re starting out in your garage or your truck, whatever it takes to get your client base up,” Kes says. “In the beginning, it’s not that easy. You have to knock on a lot of doors, talk to a lot of people.”

Time to Grow

Once you begin to hire employees (for example, a receptionist to answer calls), it may be time to find a facility of some sort. Leasing space may be the best option in order to keep costs down.

When Kes leased his first location, he chose a 40-by-60-foot building across the street from his home. While it was a better option than managing the business from his truck, the new location had its drawbacks. Operating the business in a predominantly residential area wasn’t ideal.

When searching for a better location, Kes looked for a facility where trucks could go in and out without problems. Semis delivered equipment regularly, so it was important to have space for trucks to enter, back up, unload and merge into traffic. He also wanted a convenient place for employees to park. Lastly, he wanted the exposure of a busy street. That way, customers could find his showroom easily.

“We just tell people ‘We’re on a state highway on the north side of town.’” Kes says. “They say, ‘Oh yeah, I go past your place all the time.’”

Prominent signage draws attention to Benjamin Franklin, The Punctual Plumber. Trucks and vans are outfitted with the company logo and parked out front. The vehicles serve as highly visible moving billboards, capturing the attention of passing traffic.

On the Web

Exposure on a busy street yields different results than exposure on a busy internet, but both are important, Kes says.

“Google loves storefronts,” he says. “When people are Googling you, even Google Plus will not recognize a business unless it has a storefront or building, not just a residential location.”

Once you have a physical location, you should register the location with Google.

“It’s really crucial to have that, especially today with people looking for reviews,” Kes says. “It pops up a lot better if you have a storefront.”

Financing Options

Kes recommends investing in a physical location as soon as possible.

“The sooner a person can put it in the budget to buy a piece of property, the better. You can sit on that asset until you’re ready to retire,” Kes says. “It helps as part of your portfolio and your retirement plan. You can sell it or rent it out to the next owners or sell it outright.” 

Small Business Administration loans and other financing options, such as a bank, are also available.

“Have a good working relationship with a local bank,” Kes says. “That always helps.”

The Look of It

When building or remodeling a facility, you should carefully consider the design. Begin with a well-marked entrance into an area where a receptionist or customer service representative greets customers. Beyond that is space for back-office personnel and a lunchroom. Equipment and inventory rooms are next in line, with a truck bay at the far end of the building. 

Safety, convenience and aesthetics are three important design considerations.

“If we ever built a new building, I would build it so we can drive our trucks in one door and straight out another one, without having to back in,” Kes says.

Parking trucks indoors is another goal, especially during the cold winter months. 

“It’s nicer to get into a truck that’s nice and warm in the morning and everything is ready to go. You don’t have to worry about everything being frozen,” Kes says.

Knowing Your Niche

Another factor to consider when choosing a location is customer base. In a small town you have a limited customer base to serve, but you may also benefit from having less competition than in a larger city.

“You’ve got to find your niche to know what’s going to work the best for you and your business,” Kes says.


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