It used to be that if you owned a small business, having a physical location was a given. Even if you had a strong online presence, the idea of not having an in-person space for your business was unthinkable, whether it was a store or an office space. However, over the past few years, we’ve seen a wide range of businesses go fully online, abandoning office spaces to give their employees more freedom in terms of where and how they work. Plus, with the COVID-19 pandemic still in effect, many people are not eager to return to the office.
So you need to ask yourself: “Do I need a physical location?” Even if you don’t plan on meeting in-person much right now, there are benefits to having a physical location. It all comes to personal preferences and the specific needs of your business.
Weighing the Pros & Cons
The most obvious reason to have a physical company location is the sense of trust and credibility that comes with having an actual location. Some clients might steer away from businesses that do not provide a proper contact address, fearing that such businesses are less “real” and more likely to disappear without a trace. How much of a factor this is will depend on what industry you are in but having a physical location can create an image of professionalism and trust among customers.
Additionally, despite the challenges of the pandemic, some people just prefer to work or conduct meetings in-person rather than through email, Zoom, or other remote methods. Of course, you can always have a meeting at a café or some other local space, but having a set location for meetings can do a lot for building customer engagement. Plus, some people are more productive in an office environment compared to working remotely, so depending on your team, having an office could also be the best option for producing the highest quality of work.
That said, the past few years have proven that there are major benefits to ditching the office and staying remote. The fact is that office space is expensive, with the US average cost for office space by square foot falling between $8-$23. This can be even larger if you live in a bigger city where space is at a premium, so you need to consider how much money you can reasonably afford to set aside for a physical location.1
There is also the matter of convenience: depending on where your talent is located, how many people are on your team, and what their regular schedules look like, it might not be possible for everyone to regularly make it to the office. With several people now pushing to work remotely at least part-time in the future, you need to consider how much use you will get from the property. Also, if your business is still in the building stage, tracking down a location and negotiating lease terms might be a waste of time and expenses.
Alternatives & Legal Considerations
Even if you are interested in having a physical address for your business, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you must purchase or rent out your own building. Though cost is still involved, there are a few alternative options: you can go with a virtual office space that gives you a professional-looking mailing address and meeting spaces that can be rented when needed, or mailbox services that you can rent from The UPS Store. You can also reach out to co-working spaces, which provide a professional mailing address and a physical place to work.
Yet even if you have decided that you don’t really need an in-person location for your business, there is one scenario where a physical address is legally required. If you start your business as a limited liability company (LLC), a limited partnership, or a limited liability partnership, you will need to have a registered agent address in the state where you have registered to do business.2 A registered agent is a person or entity that has been appointed by an LLC or Corporation to receive important business documents, such as government correspondence and notices related to lawsuits.3
In the end though, whether you decide to invest in a physical location for your business will come down to the specific needs of your company and clients.
1. Offices.net. (2020, December 15). United States commercial property prices 2020: Per square foot. Offices.net. https://offices.net/news/2020-united-states-commercial-real-estate-prices-per-square-foot/.
2. TRUiC. (2021, May 18). What is a registered agent? TRUiC. https://howtostartanllc.com/what-is-a-registered-agent.