By Rieva Lesonsky, CEO GrowBiz Media & SmallBizDaily.com
Managing one retail location is challenging enough, but what happens as your business expands to multiple locations?
Here are eight tips to help you stay on top of things whether you have two stores or a dozen.
Hire good managers.
As you add locations, you can either promote an existing employee to a new store or hire more experienced managers from outside. Either way, take the time to train the managers so you can be sure they run your stores correctly. Trust should be the biggest component in your relationship with your store managers.
Use the cloud.
Keeping track of employee schedules on paper is bad enough with one location, but multiply that across several stores and you’ve got a major headache. Put your accounting, time tracking, and employee scheduling software in the cloud and you’ll always know what’s what, whether you’re in Store #1, Store #3, or in your car. With cloud-based apps, you and your managers can create, share, and update employee schedules online on your computer, tablet, or phone. You’ll know everyone has the current schedule and is on the same page.
Standardize operating procedures.
If you haven’t already done so, create an employee handbook and an operations manual that can be used across all stores. You don’t want customers to have a great experience at one of your retail locations and a horrible time at another. Systematize as much as you can so that the customer experience is consistent.
Keep in touch with each store.
Ideally, you’ll want to visit each store once every week or so. In between in-person visits, check in by email, chat, or phone. You can also hold weekly meetings with all your store managers via video conference or conference call. If you have GPS-based time tracking software, you can see which employees are at work, what time they clocked in or out, and who didn’t show up — all without having to physically visit a store.
Build team spirit.
Your employees may be at different locations, but they’re still part of one team. Encourage bonding and build loyalty by holding fun get-togethers after hours, as well as group training sessions and annual meetings for the entire team. You can also energize your employees by holding store-vs-store competitions (for the most sales, neatest store, etc.) to get employees excited.
Keep people in the loop.
One study found that businesses with multiple locations spend an average of 17 hours a week clarifying communications. Since retail employees are known for frequent schedule changes, communication can quickly become overwhelming. Scheduling software that sends employees notifications by email or text whenever someone’s schedule changes mean you’ve got one less thing to communicate about.
Simplify wherever possible.
The more locations you have, the less time you have to get things done, so speed up your processes with technology. For example, time tracking software that lets you sync employee time directly into your accounting or payroll software eliminates the time and hassle of collecting time cards from each location and having someone input the data into your accounting system. This also increases accuracy — no more worries about human error, overpaying, or underpaying.
Know your numbers.
In addition to getting weekly status reports from each store manager, use a time tracking tool with a reporting feature so you can generate labor reports about each of your locations. By knowing the hours worked, scheduling issues, overtime and more at each location, you’ll be better able to allocate staff in the future, saving money and ensuring your stores are adequately covered.
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva, and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.