By Dr Malcolm Parry, Director of The Surrey Research Park

As a sole trader or micro business, working from home can be a good idea. But, as time moves on and you look to expand the company with new employees and grow the business, the next step will be to take on business premises. Here are three key factors you should consider when choosing the base for your start-up business.

1. Location, Location, Location

The same saying applies for locating your business as it does for buying a house. There are clear advantages in locating your business in attractive premises that close to your home, your customers, suppliers and/or partners – in terms of maximising your availability and accessibility, and saving travel time and associated costs. Locating to a local business park or cluster of start-ups is a good option not only because you will be able to take advantage of business networks and support services, but you will also be well-placed to grow your business. Potential investors in your business will be reassured when they see that your business has a good location in a thriving area, and controlled overheads.

If you do have to move further afield or away from your key connections for any reason, take a look at managed start-up space options that are offered for a monthly membership fee. These will come with all the facilities you need for the next phase of your business’ development; you can access existing networks easily, find links to finance and be amongst with other like-minded people that are willing to work with you for mutual benefit.

You will also need to consider how your premises will help you build a reputation for your company as it grows. Attractive premises will help catch the attention of potential new staff as well as potential clients and investors. The science park movement in the UK has developed to provide these features to new companies. Due to their beneficial links to businesses and universities, they should be considered in your search particularly as they offer added business development support.

2. Choose a solution that offers flexibility

As a start-up business, flexibility is crucial and your premises needs to reflect this, allowing you to expand or move on should you need to without being tied into long-term contracts. Then there’s the matter of facilities and equipment to consider. There’s a strong case for small business centres that offer easy in, easy out terms as well as telephony and broadband; they’re a great solution that will enable you to avoid long term contracts when the future is uncertain, or offer your business grow-on space should you suddenly need to expand quickly. Some of these centres will offer business advice and mentoring, which can include how to structure shareholder agreements, how to “pitch” and some even run investor clubs. These added services can provide invaluable support that will help start-up companies like yours survive the early phases, and are worth looking out for.

3. Pay attention to little details and read the small print!

Always read the contract very carefully and use a lawyer or at least get professional advice, as most leases are landlord friendly rather than balanced with the best interest to the tenant. At The Surrey Research Park, I urge tenants to do a full and photographically recorded schedule of the condition so that there is a record of the initial condition, which they can refer to when leaving the premises and that can then be used to challenge over inflated dilapidations costs.

Though it’s not easy to know how quickly your business will grow, do make sure you choose premises that not only work for you now, but are likely to suit you in the not too distant future and that tie in with the goals and projections in your business plan. The last thing you want is for your premises choice to stifle business growth by being tied in to a set agreement, so do choose somewhere that will be beneficial for your business today and that will give you the options that you need as you expand.