Location, Location, Location

The City of London realized, shortly after WWII that they would need a new airport, now known as Heathrow.   The job of determining the location was entrusted to Alfred Critchley, a successful businessman.

Consider the many criteria that must be considered when choosing the location for a major airport: Transportation access, proximity to the population, geotechnical suitability, environmental impact, utility infrastructure, land acquisition costs, many others.

Do you know why Heathrow is now located precisely where it sits today?  Because that was the location exactly halfway between Alfred Critchley’s home and his office in London, and therefore the absolute most convenient place for him to catch flights.  And so you now have insight into how most site selection is determined when chosen by those who have a personal interest in the ultimate location.

Smart firms realize that each party involved in site selection will often have a bias toward a location that is in their own self-interest.   This does not necessarily mean that it is near their home or their child’s school, although that in fact is often the case.   We had one local manager who was insisting on a particular location that required a ten year lease, while we were under instructions from the CFO to limit the term to five years or less.   When the location became unsuitable for other reasons, he asked what other facilities would require ten year terms.   When we queried “Why is a ten year term important to you?”, he responded that he’d heard that the company planned to close several offices in the next year or so and, if they had a ten year obligation, then choosing his facility would become unfeasible.

Likewise, staff without financial accountability may want the nicest space for recruiting purposes, or the largest space to accommodate growth that is hoped for but not yet obtained, or even the easiest option simply because it takes a more complex project off their plate.

The point is this:  Corporate objectives need to be clearly defined for every location option, and then both quantitative and qualitative measures applied to each property under consideration.   Only then can you be assured that company goals are being met, and that they are not being driven by the goals of those who might have conflicting interests.

When it comes to Conflicts of Interest, then certainly Less is More.