Expanding your business can spark a lot of complicated feelings. On the one hand, you’re elated that you’re finding success and that your venture is resonating with your customers. On the other hand, you’re worried that when you expand, you’ll lose or dilute the special sauce that got you to this place. It is possible to grow your business while staying true to your mission, but you can’t lose sight of what’s truly important. Here’s how:
Keep up with employees.
In the beginning, you and your employees are on a mission to get your business off the ground. Everyone is wearing multiple hats and filling in where needed, which fosters a sense of teamwork. But as you grow, employees have more defined roles and the business has more formal processes, so it’s easy to lose your collective “us against the world” mentality. Still, it’s crucial that you keep up your relationships with employees, both new and old. Whether it’s a scheduled meeting or a casual coffee run, it’s important to stay current on what’s happening with them and get feedback on how things are going at work. Your employees are the people who got you to this point, so their input and perspective are as valuable as ever. If you’re new to managing a larger team, brush up on some tips for how to be an effective leader.
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Hire excellent people.
When you’re hiring your first few employees, you’re focused on finding the best people to help you rev things up quickly. But if you’re expanding rapidly and just trying to staff up as fast as possible, you can run into problems. As you grow, you likely won’t be able to meet with or interview every candidate, so you need to develop a standard for the types of candidates you’re looking for and train some of your top employees to handle the hiring process. Your employees play a big role in shaping customers’ impressions of your business, so it’s important that you don’t get complacent about who is representing you.
There are probably certain team members, whether they’ve been with you from day one or are relatively recent hires, to whom other people on staff gravitate and look for guidance. It’s important to develop these natural leaders for larger roles within the business as you expand. Let them know that you’re impressed with their performance, and talk to them about the kind of opportunities they are interested in. When you’re opening a new location, promoting someone you trust and have trained for a long time makes for a smoother transition than hiring a new person who might have great experience but is new to the company and doesn’t have a relationship with your staff.
Focus on the customers.
In the beginning, every customer interaction feels so important to creating a positive first impression and building your reputation. But when businesses expand too quickly, great customer service can fall by the wayside. Or you can end up with a situation where one location is known for responsive, caring employees, but another is defined by dismissive staff. Develop a strong customer service policy, and don’t just talk about it — actually write it down and make it part of your training manual. You can’t afford to lose customer goodwill and the solid reputation you’ve worked so hard to build.
Don’t expand too quickly.
Make sure you’re really ready to expand. As mentioned previously, expanding rapidly can make it difficult to hire the best employees possible, and it can also be detrimental to other aspects of your business. To make sure that you maintain quality, have a strong training program in place to onboard new employees. And before you go on a tear opening new locations, make sure that you’ve done all the proper research on the neighborhood, the demographic, and the competition to make sure that each new site has a strong chance of success. Don’t be so focused on opening new locations that you lose sight of your business’s mission. It’s better to move slowly and focus on quality than to have to course-correct after making mistakes.