The sublease is finally signed and on its way to US Bank for final approval. It's been 6 months of negotiation and the relief that we can now move onto the next step is palpable. Really, it's pretty anti-climatic. I actually though the Sears Tower would have purple lights and the Chicago Tribune would be running a special, the phone would be ringing off the hook...but no, this is the life of a small business person- the greatest satisfaction comes from within. We will be moving onto the next step of making the vision of the brewery a reality in the next 30 days. This will include a whirlwind of banks, investors, paperwork, meetings and big decisions about equipment, workforce training programs and business longevity. In reflection on the lease negotiation process, there are a few stand out lessons learned:
1. It will take longer than you think. Being an impatient person, this was a real struggle for me. After 2 or 3 months of waiting for an answer on the review process, I thought I was going to die...of waiting. I believe I've become more resilient in this regard by embracing the 'let go and let live' mantra.
2. You won't get everything you want. Even if your landlord is totally cool, their main priority is protection of their asset. This is the filter every single decision is made from. So yes, they'll want to know what you're up to. However, you're getting a killer space for your microbrewery so...praise hands.
3. You won't know everything at the time. What does the sign look like? How big is it? How much time will it take to get a permit? How many holes will you poke through a wall? What finish will be on the floor? These are all questions that more than likely, will not be answered during lease negotiation. The best thing to do it work in enough flexibility and a process for changes that is satisfactory to both parties.
4. Hire an attorney. There's very few things I've read in life that make less sense than legal documents. I know the words but put together, The meaning Is lost on me. When we're arguing over things like 'forthwith', pay the money, hire the attorney, let the professionals translate legalese for you so that you know what you're getting into. And even more important the repercussions of those agreements. You definitely don't want there to be any question about what you're getting into. A word or caution, make sure your attorney is a deal maker and can offer actual advice on how you should proceed and what decisions need to be made to get to an executed lease. There are also resources for small businesses that have played a huge part in getting us to this point including support from Northwestern's Entrepreneurship Legal Center. Those guys rock, are creative and knowledgeable.
5. Don't wait for the lease to move forward. While waiting to complete lease negotiations, we made new friends, cultivated strategic relationships, interviewed marketing strategists, applied for grants (and got one! See our post HERE), ran a 5k with the mayor, participated in street fairs, talked to potential investors, contributed to non profit fundraising through donations of auction items, judged the Englewood Business Plan competition, selected brewery equipment, and went on vacation. In the ever increasing 'to do' list, the relative lull of waiting offered us time to move a few steps ahead in other areas. Use this time to your advantage.
6. Breathe. Negotiating the lease can be frustrating and time consuming. Take time to breathe and keep things in perspective. Owning a small business is a long long journey of which, signing the lease is a first and important step.