Overcoming the Biggest Challenges of Managing Multiple LocationsRunning a successful small business with one location is tough enough, but there are unique challenges that come about when your business grows to include an additional site.
In business, success is typically measured in terms of growth. Even microbusiness owners, who intentionally keep their enterprises small and manageable, want to see profits grow year over year.
But what happens when that growth means opening a second, third or fourth location?
“Having multiple locations is a positive challenge as this means your business is growing,” said Candice Simons, president of outdoor advertising firm Brooklyn Outdoor. While it’s exciting to watch your small business grow and prosper, expanding your business footprint brings with it some unique obstacles.
Simons, who started her business in Detroit and has since expanded to include branch locations in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, spoke with NCR Silver about some of the top challenges dispersed small businesses face and her advice for overcoming these obstacles.
Whether you own a restaurant with several locations within the same city, have a handful of service facilities scattered across the nation, or simply let employees telecommute from home, the biggest problem faced by businesses with more than one location is communication.
“Lack of strong communication can be detrimental to a business that is not sharing failures, best practices, successes and leads between the multiple locations,” said Simons. “Consistent and regular communication across the board to offices is vital. When you have one site, communication is relatively easy; however, once you expand out to two offices, the communication dynamic changes.”
Using an instant messaging platform, such as Slack, Google Hangouts or Skype, can be a great way to make sure everybody is on the same page and collaborating effectively, she said. In addition, weekly conference calls with managers and internal email newsletters work well for sharing updates on what’s happening at each of your locations.
“Think about how your communication worked with one location and implement the best practices just to a larger scale between the multiple locations,” she advised.
Consistency is another common challenge multi-site businesses face. Sure, each location may have its own “flavor,” but as a business owner you want to make sure customers get a consistent experience with your brand and the same quality of service wherever they are.
Internally, as well, it’s important for policies and procedures to be standardized across all locations. Not only does it ensure employees put out a consistent work product, it also helps you stay organized.
“With multiple sites, processes naturally need to change and strengthen,” explained Simons. “If you do not have a strong base foundation for your [business] at the core, things will start to fall through the cracks in the foundation like anything else. This is one of the biggest things we see when speaking with the small business community when growth happens too fast or companies try to cut corners.”
She advised hiring a consultant or business coach to help you build efficient processes and procedures that can be used companywide. This will make it easier to stay organized across multiple locations.
Small business owners usually take a very hands-on approach to running their companies. While that may be doable when you’re only dealing with a single location, as your company grows, you must learn to delegate those responsibilities to employees you trust.
“This is a challenge for many small business owners that could sink the ship,” said Simons. “It is hard to let go of control in your business due to fear of everything unraveling or falling apart. We keep a lot of the information locked in our heads and most of the time it is easiest just to continue to do things ourselves instead of asking for help. When you have more than one location, it becomes impossible to do everything by yourself.”
Delegating responsibilities to key employees not only helps keep things running smoothly, but it also helps you build a business capable of stable and effective growth.
“Unplanned and unmanaged growth can breed chaos within the various sites,” said Simons. “Ask for help. Just do it. Find great leaders and managers from the beginning. It is worth it and will help you sleep at night. Trust those people and let go of perfection.”
Track your data
While you obviously can’t be everywhere at once, it is still important for a business owner to keep tabs on what is going on at their various locations on a daily basis. Simons advised owners establish key performance indicators (KPI) for each location so you can keep a high level on what’s going on at your company without getting stuck in the weeds.
“It is not about micromanaging the offices,” she said. “It is simply about establishing KPIs for each office and making sure that there is a reporting system in place. By looking at your processes and establishing KPIs that monitor performance, you can alleviate long-term issues very easily.”