Is your business ready to expand? How do you know for sure if the time is right? If business levels are up, will they stay up?
Expanding your business is a scary decision to make. With all the changes coming down the pike that will increase health insurance costs, workers comp, and now the new mandate concerning altering exempt and non-exempt statuses, many companies are simply choosing not to grow. Understandable. However, not growing may mean becoming obsolete or even the loss of business, due to being unable to serve your customers. There really isn’t a black and white answer.
For me, I sincerely, believe the company tells me when it is time. I notice that my team is becoming stretched a little too thin; people are coming in earlier and leaving later and they are eating lunch at their desk or not at all. This is all fine if it is due to a one and done project, but when I see it becoming the new norm, I begin to pay attention.
There are plenty of ways to expand a business. The simplest form of expansion is to purchase new equipment or develop new services to cast a larger net and reach a new client segment. At Plaid Swan, we chose to expand our business to new customers by introducing a new location.
There are many things to consider before expanding. In our case, we researched some of our competitors and other like companies, to determine if they had succeeded or failed in opening a new location and why. For most, they opened an alternative location, but never really got off the ground.
Our path to a new location included laying a lot of groundwork. Here are a few steps we took:
1) Develop a client base in the new market prior to expansion. This results in a lot of travel, time and expense, but the new location will be profitable on day one. For our company, this was a 2 year process.
2) Network in the new community to test the waters on how they treat “outsiders.” Again, a lot of time, travel and expense, but we were welcomed immediately by the business community and have a great support system in place.
3) Hire a very connected, networked business development person that knows the playing field. We needed someone that came with established credibility and moved in CEO circles in that market. We found her.
4) Layout a formal culture plan. We had to determine how the new location will function in line with our current operation and become part of the culture. They have to be incorporated in to the long term relationship ties of the current team. We plan to rotate team members, allowing for current staff to work at the new site at least 2 days a month. This will allow for coffees, lunches and conversation as well as mentoring and support.
5) We leaned on our client base in the new market to help with the transition. We have fantastic clients. Early on, we informed them of our intention to expand in to their community and they stepped up to suggest new leads, make introductions, help us find office space etc. They literally appointed themselves as our Welcome Wagon and we love them for it.
6) Leadership Impact: This was a big one for both myself and my business partner and was discussed more than any other hurdle to moving forward. While we are no longer working the 80 weeks we did as a startup, our hours are still pretty extreme. The question had to be asked. “Will this expansion bring unavoidable stress into our life that could potentially derail one or both of us due to burnout?” The answer was “no” if we continue to hire the same type of leaders we have been. It really came down to whether or not our current team would survive the madness. And we instantly knew that they would. They always seem to step up when we need them.
Change is always a little scary and change that involves expansion is just simply a lot of hard work, while also being exciting. But, as most things in business it is all about calculated risk. After you feel you have done your due diligence all you can really do is jump. See you on the other side!
-Betsy McCloskey | Principal/Partner
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