Seeking Out Small Businesses

Use these simple strategies to find start-up clients.

Even though commercial real estate professionals offer important services to small businesses, they don’t always come looking for them, says Jeffrey Hulett, CCIM, a tenant representative at DHC Associates in Cleveland. “These companies are small and tend to fly under the radar, so you need to be creative to find out about them and how to reach out to them,” he says.

Sometimes this can be as simple as reading the local paper. “One of the most successful approaches for me is to read local newspapers and publications that cover these start-up firms,” Hulett says. “I recently represented a national casual dining company looking for [a place to locate] their corporate headquarters. I learned about them from an article [in the local newspaper promoting] their recent receipt of funds for an aggressive expansion plan. Local publications carry a lot of helpful information about small and start-up companies. Many times this resource is underutilized by the brokerage community.”

CCIMs also can make sure that the companies have access to information about them. Steve Marcusse, CCIM, industrial adviser with Grubb & Ellis/Paramount in Grand Rapids, Mich., finds a good way to attract new clients is to make sure that the community knows his company’s name. “Have your signs up in as many places as possible. The best advertising is to show that you are active in the market. For example, if we can make a sale near a highway, we make sure the sign is big enough for people going by to see.”

The most important task a commercial real estate professional has when working with a small-business owner is determining their space needs and guiding them toward the best decision. “[Small business owners] know their business and what sort of machinery they need, but we help translate that into the type of real estate they need, boiling it all down into a focused site search, request for proposal, and lease or purchase contract,” says Jeremy G. Woods, CCIM, SIOR, senior director of industrial services at Summit Realty Group in Indianapolis.

In this way the commercial real estate pro/small-business owner relationship is mutually beneficial: the small business gets a well-suited property and the commercial real estate pro gets a positive word-of-mouth testimonial that hopefully leads to new business.

Carolyn Bilsky

Area report is written by Carolyn Bilsky, associate editor of Commercial Investment Real Estate. Contact her at (312) 321-4507 or


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