Operating a business in multiple locations

The goal for many business owners is to expand to a host of new locations either in the local area or indeed around the world. Whether you’re a professional services business hoping to open offices in a range of global locations, you’re a shop hoping to expand to nearby High Streets, or indeed anything in between, there’s an expansion plan right for you.

But expanding to multiple locations brings with it a set of new challenges, and it’s not always an easy process to carry out. From ensuring that staff are appropriately managed to making sure cash can be easily moved between branches, it’s wise to take advice and think about how best to proceed before making the big decision to open up elsewhere. Here are some tips to get you started.

Managing staff 

One of the difficult parts of looking after a business with sites in several locations is in ensuring that all staff are managed successfully. For a business owner, that usually requires delegation – and you may have to accept that a trusted colleague will need to step up to the plate and take on a location manager role in your absence. With the right training, that can be an excellent investment.

Using online tools

There is a range of tools you can use to keep you and your team in the loop. Software packages like Skype mean that you can make unlimited calls to other offices or branches without having to pay anything more than the cost of an Internet connection. Many business owners operating in various locations also swear by apps like Trello to keep everyone up to date on their tasks. The crucial job is finding an app or a system that works well for you and your team; one that everyone is willing to keep using as and when required. 

Money transfers 

If you’re expanding your business abroad, it’s likely that money transfer will be a big issue. Whether it’s ensuring there’s enough in the business’ distributed accounts to cover salaries in each place, or you need to wire money to cover an urgent purchase at a distant branch, you’ll need to ensure you are transferring the correct amount. Let’s say you want to transfer money from UK to Spain branches and you need to know exactly how much to send; you’ll need to know the current exchange rate from Pounds to Euros and so it’s wise to use an online foreign exchange resource to make sure you send over the correct amount. 

Research your new market 

When it comes to opening for business elsewhere, you’re going to need to do some ongoing work to ensure that the locations you choose are right for your enterprise. While it can be tempting to simply try and conquer every location you possibly can, it’s wise to think carefully about whether it’s the right move. Starting up in a new place costs money and time, and if you make the wrong decision it could cripple your other branches.

And while this is a task that ideally should be done prior to the big move happening, it’s one that your business will benefit from doing over time as well. You should always keep an eye on the individual profit and loss sheets and other indicators of business health at each branch, because it may become apparent over time that a move to a new location was a wrong choice. If that happens, and if the negative trends aren’t reversing, it might be time to make difficult decisions to remedy the situation.

 Be there in person

A famous filmmaker once said that “80% of success is showing up” – and while this might not be strictly true when it comes to business expansion, there’s certainly something to be said for the power of physically being there. Of course, with many different branches under your belt you’re never going to be able to be in every place at every time, but by allotting the time to visit each one in turn you’ll help to inspire your teams on the ground.

What’s more, turning up at your branches can help you get a strong handle on how the expansion project is going. It might be possible for staff to hide any problems from you over the phone, but it’s much more difficult in person. The worst thing you can do when running a distributed business is forget about some of your branches, and simply hope that they will run themselves. Delegation is key, but abandonment is very risky! 

Taking your company to a new location and starting to build that business empire you’ve always dreamed of might seem like a huge challenge, but it doesn’t have to be too difficult to be successful. By following our top tips for business expansion success, you could find yourself at the helm of a well-run, international business.

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