When your small business expands beyond its original location, consistency and communication are key to continued success. We spoke with Los Angeles-based management consultant Ray McKenzie, founder of Red Beach Advisors, about the best practices for managing a small business with multiple locations.
McKenzie says the first thing a business needs to do before it expands is to determine what already works, and make that the template. In addition, small business owners must be clear on their company culture so that they can duplicate it easily. "They need to make sure that whatever location they branch out to or build, it needs to be exactly like the one they've been successful with so far," McKenzie says. "Use the formula that works. Have a concrete mission, values, and culture."
Use consistent systems and processes
And, make sure those processes work for the remote locations. If you have a cabinet full of physical customer files, how will your satellite managers access them? If your business is not already using a digital system for filing, orders, invoices, and the like, it's time to adopt new technology. Then, train all employees to use them the same way. McKenzie says to make sure all managers are reporting on the same metrics at the same intervals. That way, you as the owner or founder can get an overview of the company quickly and make intelligent comparisons about performance.
High touch is critical in the beginning. When your new locations launch, McKenzie says it's important for owners or founders to spend at least three days in person with the new manager and staff. While getting everyone up to speed on your systems and processes, you are also infusing them with your energy and culture, he adds. Going forward, small business owners must be prepared to spend more time with satellite locations than at headquarters. If that gives you pause, it could be a red flag. "You don't ever want to expand if you don't have the home office running smoothly," McKenzie says.
Plan a weekly one-on-one meeting with each location manager, McKenzie recommends, to assess performance. Then have a meeting or call with all site managers at least once a week. This will give you a chance to give each location individual attention and allow them to discuss common concerns as a group. Be sure to give them clear guidelines on the types of information you want to know: sales reports, client growth or loss, progress on goals and projections, staff issues, customer feedback, and so on. And make sure all managers follow the same standards for their reports. Cloud CRM services such as Salesforce or Domo, or even QuickBooks, can help streamline this, McKenzie suggests.
Remain accessible and supportive
Hire managers you can trust with the day-to-day details and resist any urge to micromanage. But make sure they have direct access to you as the business owner whenever they need it, and communicate this clearly. "You can pass along energy from headquarters to the satellite offices," McKenzie says. "They're on remote islands, and you want to close that gap as much as possible." In addition, be clear with your home office staff that the new locations need their full support, and encourage your new staff to ask for help when they need it. "Everyone needs to understand that, for us all to be successful, we have to do whatever we can to help the satellite grow as much as possible."
With consistent practices, clear expectations, and robust communication, your new locations will be well prepared to carry on your brand and grow your business.
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