We've all heard the saying that “the only thing that is constant is change." As small-business owners, growth and expansion efforts can create tremendous change for a company. Many business owners may envision that the change will be a positive experience, but it takes more than imagining it. Having a plan for navigating those uncharted waters and maintaining effective leadership can help you arrive successfully to your desired destination.
“One key leadership skill that a small-business owner must have when expanding a company is the ability to effectively manage change," says Karima Mariama-Arthur, Esquire, founder and CEO of WordSmithRapport, an international consulting firm specializing in professional development.
"While change is an inevitable component of long-term growth," Mariama-Arthur continues, "it includes: 1. [the] ability to create a clear vision; 2. the ability to execute a functional strategy; and 3. the ability to remain flexible when the unexpected occurs. And these factors must be managed with reasonable competence to accomplish the overarching business goals."
This subject hits close to home for me. With my first business, my primary goal was to grow my day spa company from a single location to a chain. While I was able to expand to that second location, when I look back on the process of transitioning from one to two sites, there were some key effective leadership lessons that I learned. I believe they can help assist other owners before they take the expansion leap.
1. Effectively communicate the business expansion vision early on in the process.
As previously mentioned, before I opened one day spa, I knew I wanted it to be a national chain. That was my vision for the company, and when I started hiring people, I would communicate my dream for the company to new hires.
I had an enthusiasm for that vision that was extremely clear. I hired people who understood that concept and wanted to share in that growth with me. When it came time to realize that expansion dream, people were not surprised because I had articulated my intentions from the beginning, which is part of effective leadership.
2. Have the ability to execute a functional business expansion strategy.
Having an idea is one thing, but having a well-defined strategy is another. Effective leadership during business expansion often means having a blueprint for where you want to go and how to get there. Leaders can get extra effective leadership points if they involve key team members in the process and develop buy-in along the way.
While professional consultants can have a key role in facilitating the business expansion plan, the implementation of that plan will most likely be done by the boots on the ground who understand the existing customers, systems and products. Effective leaders can help organize and draw on the strengths of both groups to coordinate the winning outcome.
3. Be flexible and adaptable when the unexpected occurs to display effective leadership.
A key effective leadership strength is adaptability. “Fluidity of focus" is a term I coined to describe the delicate balance of focusing on a desired outcome without being slavishly wedded to a particular process for seeing that result achieved.
In the case of the day spa expansion, I strategized that the existing team would have the ability to work at either location. I thought it would create more hours, client opportunities and revenue for the team. In practice, the day spa team members did work at the two locations—however, the hair team members did not want to move their clientele. That required me to actively recruit a new stationary team for location number two. That is one of many, many examples of how a blueprint needs flexibility in order to have viability.
While there are numerous skills and processes that an owner needs to grow the company, those articulated above can be essential tools in maintaining effective leadership during an expansion. I found myself constantly using these skills throughout a successful and flourishing business expansion.
Read more articles on leadership.