Tips on How to Prepare to Expand your Business Seamlessly
Have you reached a point of growth where you’re considering expanding your business by opening another location? This could be your first expansion, or perhaps you’re going on your tenth location by now. Either way, expanding your business’s footprint and bandwidth is a big deal. So first, congratulations on your success thus far – you should genuinely feel proud of where you’re at! Celebrations aside, however, there are a multitude of items you must consider before you officially open shop. Whether it be a restaurant chain, an ad agency, an accounting firm, a boutique clothing store, or really any business type of that matter, there are foundational economies of scale that apply for any industry. Outlined below you will find 8 topics to carefully consider when scaling and growing your business:
1. Evaluate your expenses
Can you afford to expand? While it may seem like an obvious question, have you truly evaluated all the associated hard costs that come with opening another location? From leasing costs, to operational expenditures, to staffing, to infrastructure expansion, etc., there is an abundance of line items that can add up, quickly. A new restaurant will need appropriate kitchen appliances, a new POS system, tables, chairs, menus, the works! A new office location may need more phones, more computers, desks, office supplies etc. Does your current business insurance cover multiple locations? To evaluate your new investment, sit down, and make a list of all the items you first purchased to get your initial business up-and-running, and a list of current monthly recurring costs. Will all these items be needed for your next location? Narrow it down, get price quotes, and see if your current cash flow can truly support this new venture. Furthermore, if you’re a fast-growing business, anticipate that you may soon outgrow your space, so plan ahead and go a little bigger if you can afford it.
2. Choose your location thoughtfully
Where your new site will be located can be make or break, both externally and internally. If you plan on migrating a portion of current staff over to this new location, have you considered their new commute times? Before GeoLinks opened its second office location, the company did a full assessment of new commute times for the employees that would be moving offices. You may be at a higher risk of employee turnover if this isn’t truly accounted for. Also, is the area and building itself conducive of company culture? Externally, does the location accommodate your targeted audience or customer base? If you’re opening a new coffee shop targeted at a working audience, are you near any business parks or office buildings? Remember, convenience is key. Furthermore, is there another coffee shop on your block that may already have a dedicated following? Just as you probably were selective in choosing where you live, be selective with where you open shop.
3. Know your “Ts and Cs” (Terms and Conditions)
Make sure the location you choose fits your business needs, and always read your lease! Make sure you fully understand the lease you are about to sign. For example, according to the lease, you might be on the hook for building repairs or other future expenditures. Based on what type of business you have, it’s also critical to discern the legalities and any permitting required in the city and county you’re moving into. Work with your city’s local chamber to ensure you’re set to do business in that area prior to signing any long-term lease. During your research you’ll be able to uncover if that city or county is more or less “business-friendly” than others. Take this into serious consideration before making any commitments.
4. Upgrade IT Services if Needed
If any part of your business requires having an Internet connection, it’s crucial to evaluate your current and needed IT infrastructure preceding any move. For example, is your current Internet Service Provider (ISP) able to service your new location? If so, integration will be far less of a headache. If not, you’re now looking at juggling multiple carriers and multiple bills. Furthermore, is the bandwidth available needed to support your business operations? Are your current systems prepared to integrate with a multi-location business? How about your phone system – are you operating on an on-premise PBX or a Hosted VoIP system? For ease of management, it’s worth considering onboarding with an aggregator like GeoLinks (a telecom who has both their own services/access to wholesale services of other carriers) who can provide all of your needed IT services under a single bill. With this, comes one support contact, and one project management team (AKA less contacts to juggle.)
5. Ensure your systems are equipped for expansion
Now that you’re going to have more than one business location, have you outlined how to seamlessly scale your current systems and processes? For example, if you have a warehouse at only one location that houses all your inventory, how will your outside location communicate and receive order requests? Is your customer service department now split? What software or CRM will you use to coordinate service tickets and feedback? If you’re a restaurant that has fresh produce delivered every morning, have you communicated with your supplier the need for a multi-location delivery? It’s highly likely that new systems and processes will be required to support current and future growth. That being said, establish a backup protocol in case system failures occur during the transition. Update all your mailing and billing addresses with outside vendors and utilities to the appropriate location, and don’t forget that anytime a business scales beyond current operations, there will always be some extent of trial and error.
6. Assess internal communication methods
Similar to organizing your systems and processes, it is absolutely critical you optimize your internal communication structure. Today, millions of organizations use softwares such as Slack, or Google Chat to streamline employee communications globally. Google drive and Dropbox are also popular resources to house company documents, all accessible online. (Which once again speaks to the importance of making sure your company has a strong and fluid IT infrastructure plan.) Sync up with your organization’s critical managers and team members to ensure they are fully aware and prepared for any new communication protocols.
7. Have a marketing and PR Strategy
This may or may not apply to your business model. If it does, make sure you have a marketing and PR plan in place to help spread the word about your new location. Examples of simple ways to help spread the word can include sending an email blast to your customers, notifying your local paper, posting on social media, connecting with your city’s chamber of commerce, and even advertising in your founding location. Past that, decide if you want to market the locations under one main brand account (on Instagram for example) or have separate accounts unique to each location. For brands at this stage of growth, it’s worth considering onboarding someone in-house or bringing on an agency to help manage, formulate overall strategy, and implement (unless your business itself is a marketing or PR agency of course.)
8. Establish a “Business Continuity Plan”
Have a clear business continuity plan before making the move. In fact, this is critical whether you have one location or multiple locations. Outline a clear course of action that will ensure your business remains operational before, during, and after the move. For example, make sure your utilities are turned on before you move in. Have your IT services installed, and tested, weeks prior to relocating. Make sure your network is truly redundant. Double-check that all of your required business licenses and permitting are configured and live. Don’t put yourself in a position to get behind or fail, before you even begin. The more locations you open, the more visible your brand becomes to the public; prepare accordingly.
While the dozens of questions posed above may seem overwhelming at first, they are critical in ensuring your expansion is a success. Take it in strides, and ask for help where and when needed. Do your research, and learn from others. Acknowledge that not everything will be perfect, and unavoidably there will be a bit of trial and error involved. Be willing to pivot quickly. Support your team before and during the transition. Have patience, but work to keep overall momentum moving forward. Understand scaling requires change; be willing to adapt. Maintain a healthy work-life balance, for both yourself and your team. And finally, allow yourself to celebrate and feel excited for the exciting new venture that lies ahead!
Need or want assistance in understanding the IT infrastructure your business will need when expanding? Talk to a GeoLinks’ Client Consultant today!