Whether your studio resides in an office-style building, or you’re located within a strip mall with a bit more space, chances are you’ve come across some issues with the folks who operate their businesses directly to the left or right of you. It just comes with the territory of renting a space. Even if you have the best of intentions, unforeseen issues can pop up, causing tension between you and and the business owners around you. And they can run the gamut, from small scale issues like noise complaints, to bigger situations that need solving, like parking problems.
Even if you believe you’re in the right, it’s in your best interest to play nice with your neighbors. So to smooth over the common scenarios that arise between nearby business residents, we asked Lois Barth, life coach and author of The Courage To Sparkle, to offer up tactics for defusing tough situations. Read on for her best advice on how to get along with your business neighbors.
1. You’ve just moved into a new space, and you want to make nice with your new neighbors.
If you’re looking to make the best first impression possible on your new neighbors, Barth recommends identifying the top concerns that the surrounding tenants may have about your business, and find a way to address them in order to set expectations. “Ask about their business,” she says, “and ask if there’s anything they would like to know about yours. You can also add, ‘How can I help you conduct your business best?’ Listen for the answers to let them know from the get-go you’re a team player.” Oh, and throwing in a gift basket that helps your neighbors better understand your business doesn’t hurt, either. “Put together a lovely welcome package with strategically placed items,” she suggests. “For example, you can give them a branded water bottle, a few healthy snacks, and even a few free classes. Don’t come from a place of self-promoting, but rather, position it as a ‘healthy neighbor’ package.”
2. Your neighbor doesn’t like that you play music in your studio, even though you feel that you keep it at a reasonable level.
Music is a key component to just about any workout class. So if you have a neighbor who keeps making noise complaints—even though you feel that you’re keeping the volume at a reasonable level—it could escalate into an issue. According to Barth, the first step to easing the tension here is to make sure your neighbor feels heard. “When you feel like someone’s giving you a hard time, it’s important to move from criticism to curiosity,” she says. “Invite your neighbor into your studio, and find out what a reasonable level of music means to them—without being snarky about it. Play with the stereo levels, and come to a compromise.” Why is this effective? “When you do this, you’re sending a message that you are interested in meeting their needs and learning about what works for them. Your neighbor will feel that they’re being heard, and you’ll have a stronger position to negotiate.” Another way to smooth things over? “Invite them in to take a class on the house,” she suggests. This way, they can experience and understand the importance that music has for your business.
3. The members of your studio constantly take up parking spots from your neighbors, and your neighbor is upset with you. Or vice versa.
Whether it’s your parking spaces being hogged or vice versa, Barth says step one should be to get clear on how many spots you’re technically allowed, and go from there to come to a resolution. If it’s possible to be preventative and bake in the amount of parking spots you’ll get within your lease before you move in, do so with your landlord, and make sure it’s in your contract on paper in case this issue arises. “If you’re not taking up more than your fair share, you have a contract you can point to in order to show that this is so.” she says. “If it’s not clear, speak to your landlord, so that know what your rights are and can set some boundaries.” How do you go about having this conversation with your neighbor? Barth says to validate their feelings, and have a friendly but firm discussion about each of your business needs. “Say to them, it seems like you’re really upset about this. How many spots do you need? Once you come to an agreement, speak with your landlord to see if you’re able to mark certain spaces for your clientele, and if you need more than you’re allotted, see if you can pay extra in order to reserve more parking space for your clients.”
4. The space you rent from has a common area that’s shared between businesses—and your class members hog the space.
If you’re able to do your due diligence before this situation occurs, Barth says it’ll be helpful to know your rights in terms of the use of common space, so that you can address it with your neighbor if this issue does come up. But if you aren’t clear on your rights for the usage of the common space, Barth recommends negotiating with your neighbor on the amount of space that his or her business needs, and making it clear which seating sections are available for your class members. “Have a discussion with your clients on which seats are available for use and which are not, and set up clear signs or indicators of which space is which,” she says. “If your landlord allows it, you can even have slightly different furniture that sends the message that these chairs or couches are for your members only.”
5. You share a bathroom with your business neighbors, and they’ve started to complain that your members are always jeopardizing the space by changing there.
Having to share a bathroom with other businesses is obviously not ideal. But if you find yourself in this situation, the best thing you can do to smooth this scenario over is to figure out preventative measures to keep your members from hogging the space. “Get creative, and see if there’s any little enclave that you can set aside in your studio that’s just for changing,” says Barth. “Most office-style bathrooms only have 2-3 stalls, and if you have a line of people wanting to use that space to change, it’s disrespectful.” If there’s no chance you’ll be able to allot a changing space within your studio, Barth says the next best thing would be to put some parameters around when your members can use the bathrooms to change. “Have a policy that says restrooms are reserved for bathroom purposes only,” she says, “and that we request no changing in the bathroom during certain hours, and establish these hours with your neighbor,” she says. “There are definitely pockets of time that are busier than others. Maybe your morning classes need to come dressed and ready to workout, but after 6 pm when businesses let out for the night, your evening classes have the option of using the bathrooms to change, since there will be less people in the building needing to use it.”