Peer to Peer: What should I consider before relocating my business?

Moving a business presents challenges and opportunities

Justin Maxwell, Amelia Chan and Jason Shanks

Justin Maxwell: COO, Angus One

The relocation of a business can be a fantastic opportunity for change and growth, but it's not something to take lightly. Strategic planning is needed to ensure that there is a smooth transition and that the move improves, rather than disrupts, your relations with clients, customers and employees.

From a human resources perspective, it might be advantageous to move a business primarily to engage a suitable labour force. As companies grow, the supply of appropriate labour, especially those with technical expertise, does not always keep up with expanding demand. The labour force is more mobile than ever and certain industries are finding it harder to retain employees if they do not operate in the right geographic location. I see examples every day of how location and proximity to public transport can either make or break an employee's commitment to a company.

Customers or clients are the lifeline of any business. If your business can't attract customers or adequately sell its product or service because of a poor location, its days are numbered. The fluid nature of business and changing market conditions often determine the path a company travels. To remain competitive or grow a business, relocation may become necessary in order to provide the best product or service.

Importantly, during the evaluation process for relocation, attention should be paid to the new location's quality of life indicators. Factors such as safety, education, health care, culture, environment and recreation should all be evaluated before a final decision is made.

So be wary of relocating a business too quickly. A move's effect on retaining key employees should be considered. There are numerous examples of companies making abrupt decisions to relocate only to learn that employees vital to its business success will not follow.

Amelia Chan: Principal, Higher Options Consulting

Big or small, relocating a business is always and essentially about moving people. While a strong business vision is what drives a decision to move, it needs to be grounded in the details of the people part of the process. My advice? Look before you have others leap.

•Whether you're moving across provinces, countries or continents, forethought, research and connections are key. Planning well ahead, communicating openly with your team and involving the right support are crucial aspects of relocation.

•If you're moving abroad or opening an overseas location, remember that operational timelines and work pace will vary in different parts of the world. Pay particular attention to the immigration timeline in the overall business-planning schedule. In addition to being key to the approval for the business itself, it affects the lives of those on your team.

•Commercial and employment law, taxes, insurance coverage, regulatory bodies and professional associations are other administrative areas that reward advance attention.

•Bear in mind the many ways your business might connect with existing fabric and consider what will and what will not work in the new context. Companies that establish themselves abroad successfully accept the value of studying the lay of the new land in advance. This serves well in relocation and recruitment alike.

•Consider the means of integrating your business with the local networks – both online and in person. Learn as much as possible about the neighbourhoods, local happenings and community-based associations. Once your business is relocated, these are the early efforts that will most readily reward your team and business.

Jason Shanks: Owner, Creative Move Management

Moving is a significant event in the life of any organization. Because it doesn't happen often, organizations rarely have experience in commercial relocations. From large corporations to small niche businesses, this inexperience often results in damaged customer relationships, burned-out management, frustrated staff and overdue, over-budget relocations. To help you avoid some of these pitfalls, consider:

When? Although it would be ideal to move on the last day of the lease or right after obtaining occupancy permit, consider potential delays: last-minute leasing problems, renovation issues, surprise workload increase and even weather issues. Give yourself a one- or two-week buffer before the lease is up. This should prevent you from falling into a month-to-month lease that will likely be more than double the regular cost. Also, your business will see a dip in production during the move. Consider when this can best be absorbed.

Who? Because a smooth transition is crucial to keeping your business operating, consider using someone with commercial move management experience to make it all happen. This person will have to co-ordinate assets, employees and vendors. Think about all the elements that might need to be involved: property management, movers, alarms, phones, mail, waste disposal, leased equipment, specialized assets, paper shredding, utilities and, most importantly, customers.

What? You have more than you think and more than you need. Be conservative in what you take to the new location. Consider employing 5S, Lean or Six Sigma methodologies. This will help bring down the cost of relocation and future storage.

Other. You must also consider the location you're leaving. Lease or sale obligations might require you to budget for demolition, renovation or cleanup.