With success comes the potential – and often the necessity – of expanding your business, sometimes by adding satellite offices elsewhere in the country or abroad.
Each new office brings with it new challenges, but it is the second which usually presents the biggest learning curve for most businesses. That said, opening a second office may extend your business reach, improve client relations, mean hiring better-qualified people and open up new markets. But if you’re not physically there to manage staff on a day-to-day basis, how can you reduce the risk that they’re under performing in your absence?
The number of staff in your new office will undoubtedly be small early on, so it’s important that they feel engaged with the brand values of the larger company from the get-go.
Bring them into the fold via an induction period spent at company headquarters, and make sure they attend every sales function, away day or company-wide event by offering travel expenses and overnight hotel accommodation.
These satellite staff need to feel part of the larger company as much as those based at company headquarters need to get to know these staff as their colleagues. Therefore, both offices should be made as accessible as possible to all staff. One way of doing this is to introduce hot-desks. Ensuring that everyone will be guaranteed work space, no matter which office they work from, will help to instil a sense of togetherness.
If you’re opening a provincial satellite office, remember that the working culture of major cities tends to differ from that of the regions. For example, client lunches in London will take place over longer time periods, due to the added time employees need to build in for travelling by public transport. A culture of evening events and client entertaining may also exist more in major cities, whereas family life and leaving work on time may be more important for staff living outside key hubs.
In order to maintain staff happiness, adapt working practices around these differences in local culture. Give staff the freedom to work how they need to by removing barriers such as one-hour lunch-breaks or social media restrictions.
Some of the best client relations are nurtured via a range of touch-points to allow staff to experiment with what communications prove the most effective.
As expansion continues and you employ more staff, it’s important to keep reassessing how managers split their time between offices. Video conferencing is no substitute for face-to-face contact with your staff, so manage what days of the week you’ll be in which office and organise work flow and meetings accordingly.
Both sites may work differently, but it’s important that they share the same goals, the same brand values and achieve the same target together.
If you’re dipping a toe in the water of expansion and you want to reduce the risk associated with expensive office lets, look at sharing with a like-minded or complementary business – or someone you’ve had a pre-existing successful relationship with.
With the right choice of technology to ensure that everyone is connected, and the right level of flexibility and employee engagement, business success will be well within your reach.