While the expansion of a business to multiple locations is a sign of progress, there can be some challenges involved. To overcome these, small business owners need to maintain control while appreciating the uniqueness of each location.
As the owner of a small business, the day you are able to expand to an additional location is understandably an important milestone. It is a sign that your business has reached a level of success that allows it to grow and develop. However, having multiple offices or locations can bring about difficulties. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to maximise success and minimise complications.
It is important to remember that although you may be running several locations, branding needs to be consistent in order to link them to one another. This not only includes the aesthetics such as signage and colour schemes, but also the way that business is conducted. You want to offer clients the same standard of quality regardless of which location they are dealing with. The last thing you want is for one location to be referred to as “the bad one”.
When we look at big business, it’s clear how important branding is, with consistency being key. Small business has the advantage of a more personal touch. However, it is vital that even things that may appear minor, such as the greetings used when answering the phone, remain consistent.
No matter how effective a manager you are, it is impossible to maintain complete control when running several locations. This is why effective delegation is so important. Equip yourself with trustworthy and efficient staff who can act as your eyes and ears. Don’t be afraid to give capable staff members more responsibility – instead, take advantage of increased role opportunities to motivate staff. While you will continue to be the owner, having multiple locations means a greater need for management roles.
Make your presence known
One of the hardest elements of running multiple locations is maintaining a sense of your presence. Make it a priority to get to know all of your staff on some level. If you are unable to see them personally on a regular basis, make use of other means of communication such as telephone or email. Regular visits to each location are crucial, and making some announced and unannounced visits will keep staff members on their toes and focused on work.
Create a common business spirit
It can be easy for members of each location to feel disconnected from one another. Try to organise events, both formal (regular staff meetings) and informal (social outings), to create and maintain a spirit of commonality amongst staff. Some workers may even be interested in working in a different location on either a regular or sporadic basis.
It is also great for team members to have contact with one another to share ideas and strategies for overcoming shared concerns. A newsletter outlining the month’s events can also be a fun way for staff to maintain contact with one another and a great way of encouraging staff contributions. Some businesses encourage friendly competition amongst locations to motivate sales. Just remember though that each location is different and expectations need to be adapted accordingly.
Consider each location as unique
While the goal is to create consistency, you do need to acknowledge the differences that exist between different locations. Try to make use of the attributes that make each location unique. Consider where it is situated, the clientele and the staff, and make modifications as required.
Conduct frequent reviews
Regular and honest reviews of each location are required in order to determine what is and isn’t working for your business. It can be helpful to discuss this with your staff as they are able to give firsthand feedback about what they feel could be done to improve your business.
Managing multiple locations can be an extremely rewarding experience, not just for your bottom line but also, if you can create unique yet still consistently branded stores, for your staff and customers.
This article represents the views of the author only and not those of American Express.
Nick Petrovic is a registered psychologist and head of clinic at the Mind Profile Psychology Clinic and has more than 10 years' experience in the allied health and business. Nick has contributed to regular columns in more than a dozen business magazines and newspapers, advising on issues such as mental health, work related stress, strategic planning, business analysis and human resources.