New businesses that have figured out their purpose are off to a very good start. What follows is the usual exploration of WHAT they do, WHO will do it and HOW they will differentiate themselves. Aspects of WHERE are often lagging, but I think play a greater part than many realise.
These thoughts were prompted by the crossover of a couple of things I came across recently. An excellent piece by business accelerator BetaDen‘s Linda Smith on TechBlast, ‘Identifying and supporting the next generation of tech entrepreneurs’, drew the choice of geography question to the fore. This contrasted with a great podcast featuring leading designer Debbie Millman in conversation with Tim Ferriss on ‘How to Design a Life’, where she built her career choices around an early decision to live, and keep living, in Manhattan. Both reflect on the early choices that set the path for what comes next.
As a start-up, you have a lot of options in front of you. Scary though it might be, it is easier to choose somewhere to set up than it is to move an established business, and so laying the local foundations for your fledgeling business can be very influential on your long-term prospects.
So, what parts of the jigsaw does location touch in the beginning?
- Access to customers – if you intend to target a particular market segment with a geographic concentration area, then being there shortens the route to market and connection with your customers’ needs
- Connections with suppliers – maybe you need to be near a port or airport, have room for delivery trucks, storage, or just need some of them nearby to respond to urgent requests
- Availability of employees – being close to schools, universities or other companies that produce or use key skills will increase your options for recruitment
- Suitable facilities – try storing bulk raw materials in an inner city location, or finding high-speed broadband in some remote rural idylls
- Access to other resources – testing facilities, transportation or specialist services that you don’t have yourself are all easier to use and cheaper if they are nearby
- The support of a like-minded community – to overcome the isolation of a start-up, provide wise counsel and all-round help
It typically comes back to two big questions. Firstly, how easy can you make things for yourself? Secondly, how happy will you be living and working where you choose to set up? Are you more naturally a city or country type and how will your business choices balance with this?
Help is available, and local resources have a big part to play. There are organisations that know the local infrastructure well, so take some time to check out the Local Enterprise Partnerships, universities and colleges nearby, and any local accelerators, incubators or business communities.
Remote working has changed how we think of where we do business, but there are always compromises in the arrangements we settle on. For one of the bigger decisions of setting up a new business, perhaps those compromises can be challenged a bit more fully to find a location that really accelerates your prospects, and makes the journey an enjoyable one at the same time.