A SECTION FOR ENTREPRENEURS: Crash Course - When it's time to relocate

A SECTION FOR ENTREPRENEURS: Crash Course - When it's time to relocate - It took an hour to get to work today, because of that snarl-up at the underpass. Your cramped office building looks oh-so '80s, and HR say they can't recruit because nobody will work

by ALEXANDER GARRETT
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

It took an hour to get to work today, because of that snarl-up at the underpass. Your cramped office building looks oh-so '80s, and HR say they can't recruit because nobody will work in such a scuzzy neighbourhood. It's time to relocate.

CHOOSE YOUR SPOT. Identifying a new location is the first task. The Association of Relocation Agents (08700 737475) can help find an area and premises. You will need to consider accessibility to customers and suppliers, availability of skills, and rental costs.

DO A FEASIBILITY STUDY. Once you've fixed on some potential locations, carry out a feasibility study. According to Stuart Mitchell, senior partner in Business Moves Advisory Centre, such a study will invariably include an appraisal of likely fallout among employees, as well as a cost-benefit analysis. It will also look at the resources needed to make the move. Ideally, have this work completed at least six months before your planned moving date.

IDENTIFY KEY PERSONNEL. It's no use deciding to go 50 miles up the road only to lose the two linchpins of your business because they don't want to move away from their favourite football team. Mitchell says it's common to segment employees into those who are absolutely vital; those you really want to keep; those you would like to come; and those you could afford to lose. 'You can do an analysis by postcode to give you a good idea of who will be able to commute from their existing home,' he says.

INVOLVE YOUR PEOPLE. You should get employees involved early on, says Anita Dicketts, of logistical planning specialists MovePlan. 'Make sure they know what's happening and what's expected of them,' she says. Initiatives might include a countdown newsletter and appointing departmental representatives who will keep their colleagues informed of the move.

ORGANISE A VISIT. The first thing people do when they're going to be relocated, says Mitchell, is to jump in the car and have a look. 'If you organise an orientation visit, you can at least ensure that they see the best aspects of the new location, and not just the worst,' says Leslie Bushnell of the Relocation Support Group. Consider involving families, and organising visits to local schools and other amenities as well as the business site. Or create an exhibition about the new location within your existing building.

PLAN FOR ZERO DOWNTIME. The big question many companies face is whether the move can be accomplished in one 'Big Bang' - ideally over a weekend - or whether it needs to be phased in. Dicketts says the former is preferable: 'If you opt for a phased move, it is highly disruptive because of all the inter-dependencies between different departments.' So you must make interim plans for running the business from more than one location, she adds, which could mean replicating some equipment, especially IT.

OIL THE WHEELS. Offer assistance to employees when you have to. Most large companies operate a relocation policy, including a threshold beyond which employees will be eligible for assistance - usually measured in travelling time to the new location. Smaller businesses can target assistance at those it wants to retain. One measure is an offer to buy an employee's house so they are a cash buyer at the new location. 'You should offer it if you need somebody to move quickly, or if their house won't sell,' says Bushnell.

DO SAY: 'Our move to Millennium Business Park will bring the whole company under one roof, in a state-of-the-art working environment, with easier commuting.'

DON'T SAY: 'We're relocating to Brighton. I've always fancied moving down there and my yacht is at the marina. If there's anyone who doesn't want to move, it's hard luck.'

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