Part 1: Stomaching the Permitting Process
By: Bob Brown, Principal
Talk to most anyone in the small business arena and they will quickly tell you it’s the government’s fault that businesses cannot develop in a timely manner.
Well that doesn’t have to be true. Like any investment –what you invest in your business expansion or relocation is what you will reap in the end. Preparation is key to a smoother permitting process. Before jumping in, here are some tips to consider.
Tip #1 Avoid. You might find the ‘ideal’ location for your business but find out that conditional use permits, coastal permits, variances, etc. are needed. Instead, find out what zoning allows your business with as little permitting review as necessary.
Tip #2 Check In. Before putting your business into an existing available building or lot make sure your business is allowed by checking in with your local building and planning departments. Need extensive permitting? re-read Tip #1.
Tip #3 Know your project. Write out your project description before going to the Planning Department. What are your short-term / long-term needs? What size structure or property do you need? Hours of operation? # employees? What about noise, dust, odors, lights or other potential nuisances? Special utility hook ups or public services?
Tip #4 Sell it. Treat the permitting process like a business deal. Know your audience. Offer incentives. Negotiate. Don’t burn bridges. Develop a relationship with those behind the counter; it might be the best sales deal you broker. (There are times to be assertive –that is in a later tip in Part 2)
Tip #5 Getting to Yes. The person at the counter’s main job is to identify problems and requirements related to your business, sending you off with a head full of jargon, paperwork and restrictions that translate into extra costs. Ask them for advice, solutions to the problems they raise. Don’t understand something? Ask again, and again. Their job is to make this process clear to you.
Tip #6 Invest. Growing or relocating is an investment in your business. Anticipate spending time and money. Remember, success will result in increased sales and an improved life style.
Tip #7 Don’t give up. Hire a professional if you don’t have the time or patience. Our clients are typically in a growth cycle; permitting distractions take valuable time away from growing their business. Hiring someone can take away that frustration and allow you to grow your business. Don’t give up your business plans –many successful businesses have achieved that dream because they persisted with what they knew to be a promising future.
So you have your planning application and fees submitted and have overcome the roadblocks put in your way. Now what? The normal reaction is to wait…get back to working on your business plan or product expansion, pick out the carpet colors, celebrate, etc. Part 2 explains what you should know about how your application will be processed and a couple steps to take next.
Streamline Planning Consultants is a local permitting / business advocacy firm and has obtained permits for many local business expansions and relocations. They offer free consultations if you are considering a business move.