Developing a strategy to negotiate with a prospective landlord will start your new affiliate off on the right foot.

But before you start haggling, there are a few things every affiliate owner should keep in mind when searching for the perfect opening space.

First and foremost, plan to start small.

Allow your box the opportunity to grow organically by keeping your overhead low. Salary and cost of rent will most likely be your top two expenses, so allow yourself plenty of time to effectively and efficiently find the best deal. Rushing this decision will certainly decrease your chances in finding that perfect lease, and risks the future of the affiliate before it even gets off the ground.

Next, create a wish list of must-haves and start your search (i.e. Tall Ceilings, Garage Door, A/C).

Identify viable locations that are accessible to the densely populated areas in your affiliate area. It’s important to be creative and really think outside the typical frames of search for your area. One tip is to go out into industrial areas, as some landlords aren’t advertising their lease, and do not use realtors and/or publish on the Internet. Pound the pavement and ask to speak with landlords, as they will always have a plan for prospective leasers.

Thirdly, ask yourself: What is my affiliate going to be known for?

Am I going to grow my box as a destination, as a convenient location for people to simply stop in or am I going to create “the third place” where people come to socialize and spend their free time? Having a long-term vision of where you want your affiliate to go is commonly an afterthought.

If you find your perfect location and a landlord or designate who is willing to negotiate, remember: YOU ARE NOW IN CONTROL.

Allow yourself ample time to negotiate, as many landlords in this market will make a short-term deal at any cost to avoid vacant units. It has been said many times before, “Nothing draws a crowd like a crowd.” Other tenants will be expecting their landlord to fill empty spaces, which can be eyesores and hurt business. Let’s take advantage of it.

Understand that everyone’s circumstances can be different; however, here are some general guidelines that can help focus your searching options and provide some negotiating angles to explore:

  • Identify how long a unit or space has been vacant
  • Start with a 2-3 year lease at a rate lower than you are willing to pay.
  • Attempt to include the standard city taxes, utilities and maintenance, as it will be easy to budget and forecast for the future.
  • Use the length of your lease to negotiate extra amenities, such as rubbing flooring, maintenance, ceiling fans, etc.
  • If you foresee yourself staying in any particular location, make attempts to personalize your space, as this will be beneficial during future negotiations. Landlords are more willing to do what is necessary to keep you as a tenant after a short-term lease, if monies have been spent to make the space yours.
  • Lastly, remember your plan is to start small– stick to it and don’t over invest in your space.

First impressions are everything so don’t burn bridges with your potential landlord or property manager.

Be willing to stick to the things you find most important but try to be flexible with the requests you would consider perks. Consider this space your “starter home” and use these next few years to decide what will be your “must-haves” in the next space. Then when its time to renew your lease you’ll have the option to push for your improvements or find a new location with a solid financial backing- your growing affiliate!

The post written by Luke Blakely, owner of  CrossFit Belleville in Ontario, Canada.