The Right Time to Expand
Greg Bunch is the owner and founder of Aspen Auto Clinic in central Colorado, and he is no stranger to seeking out new locations. His shop currently has five locations, making his name well-known in the repair industry. Because of this, he has plenty of advice to pass along to shop owners who are considering expanding. But, how do you determine when the right time is to open a new location? Luckily, Bunch can help with that. Here are a few questions to ask before taking the leap and expanding to another location.
Do you have the financial means?
Asking yourself whether or not you have the funds to open the doors on a new location may seem like an obvious one, but it is crucial nonetheless. Bunch says it is important to mentally prepare for the financial investment you may undergo. He notes that although there is risk involved in an investment like this, there is also an opportunity to prosper. However, it is important not to be too hasty.
“A lot of shop owners will retreat back to doing just one store because they didn’t put the right foundation in place,” Bunch says. “They just got excited about an opportunity that they weren’t quite ready for.”
Where do you want to expand to?
Finding the right place that allows your business to grow can be intimidating. Bunch recommends looking for good visibility and low competition when starting from scratch, whether that be acquiring an existing building or establishing an entirely new structure. Opening new locations has allowed him not only to see his investments grow in the literal sense, but also in the way that he has learned more about his employees and what he wants from future locations in the long run.
What kind of culture do you want to establish?
Chances are, if you currently operate a shop, you know your reputation. What do you bring to the community that other shops or services can’t? Bunch says a huge part of a shop’s culture comes down to the people employed there. Evaluate the kind of team you want representing your business. Bunch recommends bringing a trusted employee to the new location, and then seeking out new potential employees for the expansion. This way, you have someone to help run the show who already knows your shop’s approach and can accurately train the newcomers. Training is a massive component to success, says Bunch.
“People need to be trained, or else [shop owners] are going to find themselves stretched thin trying to manage two shops.”
Do you have the capacity to split your time between shops?
Bunch likes to make the most of his time by implementing something he refers to as “time blocking” which encourages him to be proactive in his time management.
“Most shop owners live in a reactive environment,” Bunch says.
By time blocking, he allots himself time to respond to any problems that may arise as a training opportunity. He puts time in to help his employees learn from mistakes so that they can be the first responders next time something happens. While it involves extra time investment in the moment, Bunch says it saves you time overall because you are equipping employees to take the reins when you are not around. He can confidently move between shops knowing that fires are being put out and he doesn’t need to be in more than one place at the same time. It is important to know that once you open another location, you will not be able to pour all of your time into one place anymore. Trusted employees can help run the show.