Opinion: Take stock before the big move

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This article appeared in the August issue of CRN magazine.

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Opinion: Take stock before the big move

Sooner or later, many resellers have to relocate because their premises are too small, the rent squeezes margins or customers can't find a park. Many think about moving to be near their customers.

As a business grows, the layout of the premises evolves to handle new equipment, more staff and a wider range of products. Property specialists say that poor workplace layouts can cut productivity by as much as 20 percent.

There might be low staff morale because of clutter and work habits to accommodate the inefficiency of the place.
Relocating a business is an agonising and expensive process. It can damage the business if it is badly prepared and executed.

To minimise this, resellers must:
1. Consider the factors that influence your decision. These could include increasing rents, change of amenities in the area and the business growing beyond its current capacity. Other issues include the number of potential customers, competition in the area, future market trends and pricing.

One factor that might influence you is growth of the area you are looking at - for example, new shopping centres and an increasing population. It's also a good idea to look at the number of vacant business premises.

2. Examine what has prompted the move. Is it to save costs? Do you need more space? Better access to customers? Is it all about moving to a growth area? By focusing on these, resellers can prepare a mini business plan to look at how to get the most out of the new building and location.

3. Finding the right location is a big task. It is often a main factor in the success of the business. Before you start searching for premises, list the requirements. These would include size and layout of premises, price, public transport links, local workforce supply, amenities, potential for future growth and planning laws. It is important to take the needs of customers and suppliers into account. How do they get to your new premises? Is there enough parking? Is it close enough to them? Location is also critical for staff. Is it within commuting distance?

The location of the business might also be critical in your decision as to whether to rent or buy. If you are renting, the location will help determine whether to go for a long or short term lease. Council by-laws are important considerations.

4. Ensure property managers service your needs such as size, location, parking and office design.

5. You must comply with council zoning requirements and have approvals beforehand. It's important to finalise legal transactions.

6. Create a register of key documents, equipment and furniture before the move. And do a stocktake of office stationery such as invoices, letterheads and business cards to make sure these are changed. It is best to do this months ahead. Prepare floorplans for major items and keep it handy during the relocation.

Label everything with a code showing where it will go in the new premises, making sure all the cartons and furniture are numbered to match the selected locations. This helps you rid clutter. Ask your accountant about buying or leasing furniture and equipment. Will a lease free working capital? What are the appreciation benefits?

7. Create a small move team with a coordinator who allocates tasks. A "business-as-usual" team will also ensure that customer service and key operations are maintained.

8. Have a relocation budget and make sure all the insurance is up to date. You will need to confirm that the new premises are insured. Get a removal contractor early on and confirm costs, what they need to do and whether they have insurance. If necessary, arrange specialists for relocating and reconfiguring IT and telecommunications systems. As with the removal contractor, do it in advance.

Make sure that all the insurance and occupational health and safety obligations are in place for the move to minimise any potential exposure. Notify your insurers about the move to make sure you have continuity of cover.

9. Communicating with customers and suppliers is critical. The best businesses make sure they tell customersand suppliers three months in advance and explain why they are moving. Smart businesses use this as a marketing opportunity. Prepare signage in advance so that you can hit the ground running. Some businesses even prepare a media release to send out to local papers. If it's done properly, that could alert potential customers and increase business.

10. Make sure that the power, water, telephone and IT systems will be available.

11. Poll staff for ideas; they are first to identify space and efficiency issues. You need to consult, involve and update them and look at how the relocation will affect them.

12. Prepare your exit strategy from your old premises at least three months ahead for mail and phone redirection.

13. Keep a backup of your IT system, including copies for suppliers, customers and employees in case there are problems rebooting your system.

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