Words of Wilson features a rotating panel of consultants from Bruce Wilson & Company, a landscape consulting firm.

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If you’re like most landscape business owners, you still have an entrepreneurial streak that not only got you where you are today but continues to drive your enthusiasm for action. And if business is so good you’ve outgrown your facility, there’s no action bigger than opening a second location.

Growing your service footprint, opening up a satellite yard and launching a full-fledged branch office can all be effective ways to become more profitable. But it’s far from easy. Expanding takes a lot of preparation and, just like buying a new home, location, value and ROI are everything. If you’re bursting at the seams, a word of caution: Think before you leap.
Do you have a plan?

If you have a long-term business plan or strategy with specific growth goals, you’re already ahead of the game. But even if you don’t (and you should), you need to measure the strength of your existing business. Is your current operation profitable and generating positive cash flow? Can what works at your home office – the behavior and characteristics of your culture and service model – work at a new location with equal strength? What’s the profile of the existing competition? Can you staff a new location with qualified talent without compromising your ability to generate and sustain quality across the whole of your business? How long will it take you to capture sales and become financially sustainable in your new location?

Have you done your homework?

Research is an opportunity to be strategic and confirm objectively what you think you know. Survey your customers for feedback so growth is aligned with their needs. Perform an analysis of your competition to more fully understand gaps you can fill and demands not met by competition you can deliver to fill the void.

Do you have the money?

Assess your financial situation to see if you need funding sources, outside investors or financing to support expansion. Opening a new office can be disruptive to current business and you’ll need sufficient cash flow to carry the project through its ramp-up phase. Understand the impact of expansion on HR and your legal and internal resources. And make sure the risk vs. reward case and the hidden costs of running a second business are well considered. A satellite location may not need administrative support on site, for example, but a branch does.

Are you ready to delegate?

You can’t be in two places at once. Can you afford to move some of your senior executives away from your current operation to drive readiness initiatives for a new location? Are you comfortable with having a second-in-command, a new partner or a new manager? Can you replicate your workplace culture, systems and processes across new locations and new employees? As an owner and ‘chief vision and inspiration officer,’ your presence at the new office is critical in the early phase as a transition and morale booster. But by delegating leadership, you’re also empowering your new site’s team to run with the ball.

Do you have systems in place?

Determine how the new location will be staffed and supported, and have an organizational chart in place for reporting and accountability. The logistics required to manage more than one site require integrated technology infrastructure, state-of-the-art back end software and a virtual communications plan to stay on top of workplace and customer issues.

Unless your business is performing profitably at a high level and you have a strong relationships and favorable market data in place, don’t rush. Think instead about a satellite yard or a service or operations hub as an interim step. Use the time to scale up strategically, build a deeper bench, grow your profits and put great systems in place to ensure that the best practices you use in running your ‘home’ location can drive your new location toward greater success.

Bruce Wilson is principal of green industry consulting firm Bruce Wilson & Company.