Take the headaches out of new store openings

“Ice is forming on the tips of my wings / Unheeded warnings / I thought I thought of everything”
– Pink Floyd

Expansion is exciting. The corresponding problems are, in some ways, “nice problems to have.” When customers in new markets are clamoring impatiently for your product, it’s tempting to speed ahead with new stores. This isn’t going to turn into a “Tortoise and the Hare” lecture; slow and steady often loses the race in business. But reckless speed opens the door to collaborative chaos, and collaborative chaos can wind up diluting what customers loved about you in the first place.

Scale in all its varieties can pose organizational chaos, but today we’re talking especially about new store openings. Here are some of the biggest risks, and how these crises can be averted, drawing on lessons from our own customers.

25 stores. 15 different logo variations.

Nobody wants to be on endless email threads about the latest version of your logo, your signage, your menu, or the branding specifications for the inflatable tube man that beckons customers from afar. Shared workspaces provide all stakeholders with the latest versions of every asset they need. Even if you have a team of two people, this will shave time and save headaches. If you’re scaling at an ambitious rate, it could be a life-saver. OK, that’s an exaggeration—but it could keep you from walking into your Albuquerque store and wondering why all of your signs are green-and-yellow when they’re supposed to be black-and-silver.

Speaking at our Collabosphere conference a few years ago, Pinkberry told the story of taking their project plan for new store openings out of Microsoft Excel and into Central Desktop—after realizing that sometimes 10 versions of that same spreadsheet were circulating at a given time.

Don’t get derailed by the inevitable delay.

Opening a store entails an enormous amount of work and complexity. A lot of your tasks will be contingent upon one another, and you can’t afford the time (or mental anguish) of re-doing your entire project plan every time there’s a schedule-disrupting hiccup. Gantt charts and task dependencies have been key pieces for our retail-minded customers, helping project managers maintain a consistent overview of a given store’s progress, and adjust on the fly when a domino-pushing deadline is missed for whatever reason.

“You never told me to do that.”

The rumor on Customer Street is that local stores ever-so-occasionally go rogue. The more stores you open, the better your chances that one of your store managers may decide to take creative license with your exacting guidelines. Hopefully this doesn’t happen, but if you do deal with a store or employee who seems to conveniently misplace marching orders, audit logs provide a new layer of accountability, letting you know exactly who has seen a file, and when they looked at it.

Broadcasting isn’t collaborating.

As we’ve seen, collaboration solutions are a great way to keep people on task when you can’t be on premises to play taskmaster yourself. But it’s a mistake to frame your collaborative philosophy—regardless of your solution—in one-way terms. As you scale, it’s increasingly challenging to stay plugged into the pulse “on the ground.” If you have a handful of stores in a region, you can build relationships with store managers and staff; if you have dozens of new stores across the country (or globe), it’s a lot easier for the team at headquarters to become that dreaded, faceless “Headquarters.”

Instead of just communicating out to the masses, online discussions offer a structured, transparent forum for two-way communication, while social collaboration tools help to put faces and personalities to names that could otherwise get lost in the shuffle.

To take your collaboration skills to the next level…

Keeping your collaborative culture intact as your company scales is just one of many topics we’ll be covering at this year’s Collabosphere, the ultimate collaboration conference. Join us, best-selling author Ben Casnocha, futurist Jacob Morgan, PGi founder/chairman Boland T. Jones and many others as we bring this year’s show to Austin (Sept. 28-29).

Post by Adam McKibbin

Adam McKibbin is the content marketing manager for iMeet Central. His writing has been featured in Adweek, the Chicago Tribune and The Nation, and he’s produced content for some of the leading tech brands on the Fortune 500.