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How to Stay True to The Experience While You Grow

Guest Blogger | February 9, 2016

Managing multiple locations is a mountainous challenge for so many entrepreneurs. Here’s a look at what often comes up on the expander’s journey, and what to do about it.

– by DEVON BROOKS, Advisor & Co-Founder of Blo Blow Dry Bar, Futurpreneur Canada Mentor and Board Member, Named 1 of Canada’s Coolest Entrepreneurs by PROFIT Magazine. www.devsdevelopment.com

The thing is — most people want to grow. In fact it’s all many entrepreneurs are ever thinking about; when to grow, where, how and who to do it with. There isn’t a one size fits all approach to scaling a business, and certainly there is no-end to the important questions we can ask ourselves as we begin to take the first steps towards doing it. The following are three high-level questions I have seen help founders, and their teams care for a business with more than one consumer-facing brick and mortar space:

1) Are you assuming that franchising is the golden ticket?

Recently I was on a quick mentorship support call with a young entrepreneur whose retail business was pulling in revenues of nearly $700K (CDN) by the second full-year in operation, with one location. She and her co-founder were already fielding interest from a few local parties that wanted in on the action. The first serious conversation that she and her business partner were having about their growth was with a group of potential partners focused on a franchise strategy. The problem here is that so many founders get giddy about what they think will be a ‘speedy’ strategy, and suppose that franchising means lower HQ overhead and initial costs every time. When I asked these particular founders if they had the systems in place to be able to roll out a new location tomorrow, regardless of where it was. She replied ‘yes, I think so’. I then inquired about how those systems had been articulated and documented. Basically, could she drop a handbook into a freshly appointed managers mitts tomorrow and let them hit the ground running with head office guidance? Her answer, ’well I’ve got the systems down in my head’. Right. Franchising, or geographical partnerships, require even more elbow grease in terms of systems, on-boarding and ongoing-support. Not every leader is cut out for it, and not every business model is best suited to it.

SO: Use your first location as your test kitchen. Set up a dope little digital binder, and each time you notice a system is working, pen it. Don’t wait until later. Pen it right then. Whether or not you franchise this will become your operational jetpack. If you are seriously considering franchising I highly recommend opening and operating at least one additional store before you start franchising multiple locations, or looking for partners. This way you‘ve tried and tested your systems and have already had the chance to troubleshoot any operational madness. Whether you have a co-founder or not, sit down and spend time considering your vision for your company and brand, and then define what kind of partnership or funding is best suited for you based on the needs of that vision. When people say they want to get on board with you, the excitement factor can be overwhelming. Don’t get giddy and lose touch with your intention.

2) Are you playing favourites?

Your first location feels like your baby. You know every crevice, nook and cranny in there because it feels like home every time you walk through the front door. Likely, there are also logistical contributors to playing favourites as well, like, the location is closest to your home, or you base your office out of it. If that’s the case, maybe you get too lazy to drive to the others, or the crazy traffic deters you, and then eventually you find yourself facetiming to check-in instead of actually being there. Watch out for this. Skimping on the in-store presence of the leadership team can result in sales loss, communication breakdown, and decline of morale. Those other teams often end up losing accountability to the experience. Every team member you’ve got needs to see role-modelling.

SO: Don’t let great tech for managing people, products and staying in touch become a vice for you to ghost out on your team. Show up. Nothing is as effective as having the founder, or esteemed leader, in-the-flesh. You’ve got to mentor, inspire and connect with every living thing in the biz.

3) Are you doing what it takes to keep the Vibe alive?

Your brand is measured by how it makes people feel – how it’s remembered, and what it is remembered for. The Vibe. Nurturing the Vibe of the in-store environment and maintaining it throughout a collective of locations is an absolute craft. In a brick and mortar space there a number of environmental factors to consider from sound and smell, to decor, to the flow of the point-of-sale. That said, your greatest brand asset is always going to be your people. In the early days, when my business partners and I founded Blo, we’d create unity amongst the divided teams by designing playful competition. I loved our dance-battles: we’d pick a theme song and each location would film and submit their-battle video for a chance at a rad prize and bragging rights. This helped keep spirits light and high, and allowed the teams to connect over more than sales numbers and scheduling. Figure out a few cultural practices that help evoke the visceral feeling you want your customers and team to experience, and make sure they are on brand for your business.

SO: Embolden your team-members to be stewards of the brand promise. If you don’t have a brand book, baby, you need one. It’s 2016. Creating and preserving magic is about communication, community and culture. Every soul you employ should have a copy of your brand book — and be able to recite your purpose and values, better than they can rap a verse from Juicy (and, who doesn’t love Biggy Smalls?).

To book Devon or learn more about what she’s got brewing, scoot over to devsdevelopment.com — sign-up to get in on growth goodies she only shares through her email, and stay tuned for details about her forthcoming book.