My startup has always been a digital business. I grew it for two years out of my NYC apartment without any problems. Videos calls, emails, and text messages made it possible for my to work completely remote. However, I always wondered what a physical location would do for my business. One day I was presented with the opportunity to take over an old music studio in central Florida, and I decided to give it a try. I thought having a physical location would be a great opportunity to take Branded Humans to the next level, but at the same time I was also terrified that the impact of added expenses would cause harm to my business. At the end of 6 months, I realized both thoughts were true. Here are the pros and cons of owning a physical business location.
Let’s start with the bad first. Obviously the biggest hesitation towards getting a physical location is money. Beyond just the rent of the place, you have to also take into account light, internet, and other utilities. Just to put things into perspective, here’s what I paid in my little studio in the small town of Kissimmee:
- Rent: $1200/month
- Light/Water: $300/month
- Internet: $250/month
That’s almost $1800 and it doesn’t even include all of our other expenses. Coming up with this much money forced us to make bad decisions just to make money. We overloaded ourselves with work that wasn’t fundamental to our business. Branded Humans is supposed to be a completely digital company offering websites, management, and marketing. However, because we needed money, we took on all types of creative projects from printing apparel, to making music videos. Every time we took on one of these projects we stunted the growth of our core offering and confused our clients. A lot of people had no idea what we did because we were doing EVERYTHING.
Having a physical location also ties you down. Being a freelancer for most of my career I’m use to making my own schedule, taking spontaneous trips, and completely disconnecting from the world on a whim. When you have a location with office times, that’s very difficult to do. People show up out of no where, expect you to always be there, and directly relate a closed office with a closed business.
Lastly, maintenance can be quite overwhelming. Assuming you have clients coming into your shop everyday, that’s a lot of sweeping, mopping, and scrubbing. There would be times where I was tired after a long day of work and still I had to clean up for the next day. One time there was a bathroom leak and all work had to stop until we got that fixed. Another time we were having electrical problem, and although the owner took care of the whole thing, we still had to delay work until it was resolved. Taking care of a building adds a whole set of tasks on top of your already busy schedule.
Now, when you pay you bills, show up to work, and have the maintenance all under control, you’re able to really reap the benefits of a physical location.
The best thing a physical location did for us was super charge our business. Although we live in a digital age, we are still human. We want to see, feel, and smell. This is especially true when dealing with business. If your client has physical contact with you, they will feel more secure about investing their money with you. With our location, we were able to grow our clients like never before. Meetings in an office with real people for a website platform is almost unheard of. Usually the most you’ll get is support from some guy on the other side of the world.
Although the money factor was extremely stressful, it did help the team get together. We had a clear focus that we needed to make money or we’d loose the location. This put a fire under all of us and got us to think about incredible ways to keep the lights on for another month. We used all of our skills, reached all of our contacts, and made things happen. Like I mentioned above, we took on every creative project we could. This allowed us to spread the name of the business to everyone we knew. Without the huge stress of rent, we wouldn’t have exhausted our options the way that we did. We were forced to hustle.
Lastly, a physical location makes everything real. This is true for your clients as much as it is for your team and even yourself. Today, anyone is able to create a website and open social media accounts, but opening a location is still as difficult as it’s always been. Putting up that kind of money behind something shows how serious it is. People drive by it everyday and can’t deny that it exists. When you turn off the digital screens the physical location stays there. Your digital shop is now in the real world and with that comes real potential.
Should you open a physical location
In the end, my personal experience has shown me that positives definitely outweigh the negatives. If you’re able to get through the added stress, your business will thank you. Before opening up the shop, we were still in building stages with beta user but had no actual paying clients. After 6 months of having our physical shop open, our business has finally gotten off the ground with a healthy number of recurring monthly clients. Having a physical location gave us the boost that we needed to kickstart our business. If you have an online shop, I deeply recommend to getting a physical location. Even if it’s a pop-up shop only open for a limited time, that face to face interaction with your clients will give you great leverage to continue growing. Yes, get the physical location.