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Jeanie Wells CDS Consulting Co-op

2 keys to preserving your culture during the leap to multi-store operations

Don't risk an organizational identity crisis when you're expanding! Here's how to including internal cultural development in your planning.

Adding a second store is exciting, but beware—there may be an organizational identity crisis lurking ahead! Many have heard the horror stories of "old store vs. new store" culture battles, or the staff decrying, "We’ve become so corporate!" But those are just symptoms of an organizational identity crisis. We can head this off by including internal culture development as a part of the expansion planning. Two key components are great communication strategies and keeping people connected to the goals and each other.

Be effective communicators

Build a clear vision and goals for the project before you get to the construction phase. Ensure the staff understands what the expansion project is trying to accomplish. This builds understanding and heads off the feeling of "their expansion" rather than "our expansion."

Build unity by ensuring you have designated locations for project updates for all staff. These can be electronic channels or a bulletin board in the back, but create a "watering hole" where everyone in the organization can come to get updates on the latest plans. Your staff will help get the new store launched. Nourish them with knowledge so they can better help each other and the customers.

Ensure strong and transparent hiring practices are in place before new staff is hired. Adding a second store provides mobility for aspiring employees, but invest the time to talk about what skill sets are needed for each and make sure everyone knows that you will be looking for the best match to the skills required. This heads off any unwanted "heir apparent" syndrome, which can be caustic. Additionally, you will be expanding your staff size, so talk with your current staff about what systems and training initiatives you will want in order to preserve and improve your collective workplace.

Little details matter! Eradicate the use of "us" and "them" and make sure everyone replaces those with "we." Never call your stores "new store" and "old store." Instead, call them by their location names and foster empathy between them at all costs. 

Build connection

Make sure every person sees the connection between his or her work and the goals of the organization. This link to the larger goals is vital for any business but especially so during times of expansion. If staff members think for a moment that it's all just about selling more groceries, they have lost connection to the larger and loftier goals your expansion is pursuing. Help them see that each of the stores will be the economic engines on which the organization’s overall impact depends.

Expansions test our communication skills and threaten connections to larger goals. When these links get fragmented or broken, it brings on an organizational identity crisis and can be destructive right at the time we most need our culture’s strength. So go forward and plan your great new store, but don’t forget to invest in building your internal culture and identity because this is the muscle that will make it all possible!

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