As with so many other things in professional life, the key to opening a new office is to take things slowly and calmly in the initial stages, planning carefully and logically and drawing up a plan of action in the form of a series of steps which can be worked through clearly and methodically. This plan will form a blueprint which will go on to act as a foundation to build on and a reference tool as things move forward. If problems arise, the solutions are as likely to be found in these initial intentions as they are anywhere else.
It’s imperative, for example, to sufficiently research the market in which the office will be based. Establish whether there are any barriers to entry in place, in terms of trading laws, statutory regulations or even simple cultural and practical differences. If it’s a market which is entirely new to you then take the time to speak to people who have day to day hands-on experience of working within its parameters. Something which, on paper, may look as if it’s a total block on progress may turn out, when dealt with at the coal face, so to speak, to be something which can be circumnavigated. Whilst researching the market, set out a long term vision; the stress and effort involved in setting up a new office can all too easily become a raison d’etre in itself, rather than the first step on a much longer journey. Establish the client group you are planning on targeting and the competitors seeking out the same business. Analysing the recruitment strategy of your competition – seeing where they went right and wrong – will be an invaluable aid toward drawing up your own staffing framework.
Having researched the market into which you plan to move, decide whether it will be best to start a new office from the ground up or to take over an already existing office. There are some practical and logistical advantages to the latter, clearly, but working entirely from scratch will enable you to create and craft every part of the office and how it works precisely as you wish it to be. There are pros and cons to each approach, and as long as you take the time to weigh and consider them in depth, you’ll be able to make the decision which best suits your business model. If this means taking over another firm, or entering into a merger, then carry out due diligence to gain a clear understanding of the culture of this firm and the approach they take to business, since these are factors which should be at the forefront of your thinking when it comes to doing your own recruiting.
On the subject of recruitment, it should be realised that this is the single most important aspect of setting up a new office. The people who work in an office are the office, and nothing else, no matter how right you get it, will salvage matters if you fall down on the issue of recruitment. Identify a mix of people able to work towards a common aim, using skills which complement each other and a shared understanding of your culture and ethos. Don’t make the mistake of hiring a set of individually talented individuals who are not able to work together – at each stage of the recruitment process think of balancing the personalities of your staff as carefully as you do their skills and experience, bringing together people who can lead with those who will follow, and individuals keen on actively pursuing goals with those who boast a more analytical frame of mind. In other words; for every introvert, an extrovert, and for every ‘doer’, a ‘thinker’.
Decide if all functions need to be carried out by in-house members of staff. Consider outsourcing tasks such as IT, finance, HR and marketing to third party sources, then you’ll be freed up to concentrate on recruiting staff for those specialist sectors which represent your core business. When your team has been assembled, make sure that they grasp the vision for the business, both now and in the future. Everyone you recruit should have a firm understanding of what your idea of success will look like and how you intend to set about achieving it.
Throughout all of this it is vital that you resist the temptation to rush things. Moving into a gap in the market before anyone else spots it may seem like good business, but setting yourself up to fail with an unrealistically fast timetable will merely undermine things before you begin. Ask other people with the requisite experience how long they took to open a new office and whether they feel, looking back, that they should have spent longer in the planning stage. Other people’s hindsight may well end up being your extremely useful foresight.