Step by Step: How to Successfully Find New Office Space
By Lawton W. Howell
As with any business, there are three keys to enjoying a successful business: Location, Location and Location. The death knell for selecting the location for your chiropractic office are lease rate and proximity to your home. Picking an office based on the amount you pay for rent without considering the more relevant factors is penny-wise and pound foolish. On the other hand, picking an office location based on travel time from your home to the office is focusing on the wrong component for having a successful practice location. While travel time to and from your office is a consideration, focus on the office location first and, if necessary, move your residence.
Here are the critical factors for selecting an office location or for relocating your existing office:
Demographics and Psychographics
The first and most important factor for selecting a new location or relocating is the marketplace demographics and psychographics. A marketplace is defined as a 15 minute drive time from the physical location. When considering relocation, get a current demographic report for your office and then secure demographic reports for other areas you are considering. What you are looking for is a concentration of prospects who meet your desired patient profile based on your best patient demographics. At one time, your current location could have been highly prized, but over time, the demographics have shifted away from the people who desire chiropractic or can afford your fees. Demographics and psychographics are more important than virtually any other factor when it comes to selecting an office. Many commercial realtors can provide you with this information or you can purchase online from a number of vendors based on a number of factors to ensure you select the location that offers you the maximum opportunity to build a successful practice.
Commercial space is available in a variety of physical space: converted house, strip mall, traditional mall, office park or free standing building. Each of these structures have advantages and disadvantages, but the most important factor is congruency with your brand of chiropractic. Each location style has a strong and unstated message. How people in your marketplace view your office facility will have a significant impact on how they perceive the quality of care they can expect from you. Viewing a practice in a converted home, a strip mall or a free standing building will embed a perception about your brand of chiropractic. Obviously, the perception is different from one style of a location compared to another. Your choice should be the one that represents your brand of chiropractic and is congruent with your care philosophy and your desired fees.
If they can't see you, you are wasting a tremendous marketing tactic. The next factor to consider is visibility of your office by traffic. Your office should be located in a highly-visible location that will have a constant stream of traffic and that traffic can see your signage and your office. The greater the visibility, the greater walk-ins you will enjoy. A great location with strong signage, visible to the traffic, can contribute 9 to 12 walk-in new patients per month, often providing the income for the entire space! As with demographics, there are reports available to show you traffic flow for most streets. Ask your commercial property realtor or contact city hall. Traffic flow broken down by time of day and day of the week, will give you some insight into signage considerations.
Depending on the location, who are your immediate neighbors? For example, if you are considering a strip mall location, who is adjacent to you? Do they complement your practice or are incongruent with your image. A restaurant may be convenient, but does cooking food aroma drift into the office? Is the mall run-down, with many empty or poorly maintained units? Where's the nearest competitive colleague in relationship to the location you are considering?
If you have made it this far, carefully inspect the actual space of the location. Does it have enough space for growth or will you be force to relocate in one or two years? The biggest mistake made is having a large vision and then trying to fit it into a closet. You don't want to lease too much space, but worse, you don't want to have too little space to support your growth plans. The cost to relocate in the near feature (3-5 years) is not only wasteful, but destructive. The amount of space you will need today and in the near-term will be based on your brand of chiropractic. What products and services will be offered immediately and in the near future, i.e., massage, rehabilitation, nutrition, etc. Next, is the space raw; no walls or even a floor or is it chopped up from the previous tenant? Build out or remodeling can cause months of delays to get an occupancy permit. Stripping a space down in order to create the optimum office flow can be costly. Consult with an architect to ensure that the space dimensions are suitable for the layout you desire. Not all dimensions can support your vision.
Most locations will offer parking space, however, you must be careful. Some governmental agencies require specific numbers of parking spaces for medical offices, based on the square footage of the office. If the office is located in a shared parking lot, this could be problematic. If you have a popular neighbor, they could be grabbing most of the spaces, forcing your patients to drive around, park on the street or around the corner. You don't want that. You can negotiate parking space as part of your lease including designated, reserved spaces for your practice.