How to Relocate Your Business (Without Losing Your Sanity)

How do you move 65 employees — and their stuff — to a new location without disrupting your customers? We did it, and you can too — with careful planning.

how to relocate a small business

Our new office location. (Credit: Patriot Software)

But first, some background. My group of companies rented office space in a building which served us well for many years. However, building maintenance and neighborhood safety started to be major issues. Plus, the old building lacked natural light and fresh air. Finally, I didn’t have the physical space to hire more people. We simply outgrew the facility and needed a new home.

Our new building needed updates and repairs, but was in a better neighborhood, had good bones, and offered room to grow. After 12 months of renovation and planning, we were ready to move. It didn’t happen overnight, but we successfully relocated our business without disrupting our customers or losing our sanity.

If you’re planning a move, here’s how to make relocating your business a successful process:

Appoint someone in charge of the new location.  One of our employees, Mike, moved in the day after we bought the building and set up a command center to deal with construction, contractor meetings, and tenant concerns. We spoke several times weekly, and met as-needed to brainstorm, discuss the new work spaces, and plan for the move. With Mike at the new building, I was able to focus on my companies, and not worry about when the drywallers or plumbers were arriving.

Appoint someone in charge of the old location. I hand-picked another very efficient employee, Stacey, to catalog every item: desks, printers, lamps, fans, bulletin boards, etc. She was the go-to person for employee questions about the move, and coordinated a massive office furniture sale for employees. Which brings me to my next point….

Have a big sale and get rid of stuff. Since most of the old furniture was not coming along, Stacey researched the fair market value and developed an itemized price list of all items. Each employee had a shopping time to claim items to purchase and take home (by a deadline.) Unsold items were donated to a Habitat for Humanity resale shop.

Encourage employees to lighten up. We use cloud computing for inter-office communication, but there were still unnecessary piles of paper, files, and folders everywhere. To encourage simplicity in our new space, everyone shredded unnecessary documents. Vital records went to a secure storage space, and everything else was scanned and stored in the cloud.

Employees took home personal items (including fake plants — although live plants would be welcome!) I didn’t want old clutter in our leaner, more modern work spaces. My rule: employees could bring one box of “stuff,” including books, folders, staplers, etc. They had an incentive – whoever got ready first could enter the Promised Land first! (Some employees were ready to move the day the memo went out.)

Wipe down all electronics and office supplies. The new office was pristine-clean, and I wanted to keep it that way. With so many computers, monitors, power cords, and electric strips arriving, each employee wiped down their electronics first before we loaded it into a van. Bob, my go-to guy in charge of building maintenance, carefully transferred everything to the new building, and everything arrived safely.

Plan for rolling arrivals. To minimize chaos, employees departed and arrived in groups of two or three. They “got lost” for an hour while our technical team set up their new work spaces. After arriving, they could get right to work. Our tech team was busy for a few solid days, but finished the job ahead of schedule.

Ensure uninterrupted internet and phone service.  During the move-in period, we worked with the cable/phone company to ensure the phones and internet were live at both buildings. Our customers didn’t experience service interruptions (and probably never knew the difference.)

Now that we’re settled, we’re enjoying our light-filled, modern work spaces. Stacey, Mike, and Bob are still handling repairs or maintenance issues (since they are intimately acquainted with the new building’s quirks.) The move has given a renewed energy to my companies as we start this new chapter. Through it all, we kept moving forward, developing new products and taking care of customers — without missing a beat.

Have you ever relocated your business? Do you have any tips to share on business relocating?

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mike kappel

Mike Kappel is the president of Patriot Software, Inc., which develops affordable online software for U.S. small business owners. As a serial entrepreneur, he has successfully started five small businesses and shares advice for other entrepreneurs in his blog, the Small Business Expert. Connect with him on Twitter @MikeKappel and Google+

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