When it comes to meeting your overall business goals, expansion is always high on the list. If your business is going to continue to thrive, modern business approaches dictate that it has to continue to grow– anything other than growth is deemed to be unacceptable. So, when you reach a stage where your business can justify it, you begin the expansion process.
“Expansion” for a business can mean a number of things:
- You are taking on new clients.
- You are expanding the range of products and/or services that you provide.
- You are hiring new staff to allow you to take on more work in the hopes of improving business revenues.
- You are literally expanding your premises by building new offices adjoining your existing site or extending into new land. This tends to also mean you are expanding your business operations in some way.
- You are moving to new premises or opening new offices.
All of the above can be considered expansions that can greatly benefit your business, and we’ll be using the term generally to apply to all of these definitions throughout this post.
The difficulty of expansions
Expansion is never an easy process. It can conjure a number of different emotions, ranging from the incredibly exciting (“I’m finally going to get my business closer to where I want it to be!”) to the downright depressing (“is this expansion ever going to work out…?”). This complete storm of emotions can make handling an expansion extremely challenging, and there’s no simple answer when it comes to lowering the toll on your mental and emotional health.
There is, however, one thing you can do that will make a significant impact on your ability to cope throughout the expansion process: preparation.
If you are prepared for the toll of an expansion, you’re always going to be ahead of the curve. It’s all very well and good to expect the unexpected, but you also need to have a concrete idea of exactly what you have let yourself in for, and how you may feel and react throughout the process.
Why do your emotions matter?
Many business owners ask themselves this when others try and caution them against the emotional demands of expansion. This is business, after all– what have your emotions got to do with it?
As you will soon discover for yourself: everything. No matter how businesslike you are, or how professional your approach, it it impossible to divorce your emotional experience from your business management. As a business owner, you embody your business, so your emotions are essentially the emotions of your business.
Furthermore, emotions drive businesses forward. If you’re feeling buoyant and excited about the future, then you’re more likely to take a positive attitude in your business ventures. If you’re feeling more subdued or concerned about the state of the business landscape, then your business ventures will be more conservative and restrained. Your emotions and your decision-making abilities are inextricably linked.
If you’re not prepared for the potential emotions you will experience during an expansion, you will lack the ability to truly oversee a project. There will be times during an expansion when it feels like the world is your oyster; then there will be times when you’re sick of the entire process and just want to go back to basics. Learning to ride these storms is key, and preparation — as well as understanding about what is happening to you — is vital.
So, in an effort to ensure a maximum amount of preparation, read on for a complete guide to the very distinct emotional phases you will experience during an expansion– as well as an overview of what you need to look out for when you are experiencing them.
PHASE: “This is so exciting!”
This is one of the most recognisable stages of the entire expansion process. You’re excited. You’re bubbling with ideas, imagining the future of your business, and you just can’t wait to get started.
During this phase, you will delight in every single part of the process.
- Need to go and have an interview with the bank manager to discuss the possibility of hiring new staff? Fantastic! You can’t wait to talk about the numbers.
- Have to finalise your plans to expand your premises, discuss the final arrangements with your contractor, and contact an earthmoving equipment company in a single afternoon? Great! You’ll relish the challenge of multi-tasking!
- Need to craft a job advert for those new staff you want to take on and contact your lawyer to ensure you have the paperwork for new hires all in place? You’re on it!
During this phase, every task related to the expansion sounds amazing.
At this point in the process, the expansion is exciting, fresh, new, and invigorating. It feels incredible, and you can’t imagine ever doubting the decisions you have made.
What to watch out for: During this stage, you are liable to suffer from over-confidence and may also make poor decisions due to your desire for the work to proceed as soon as possible. The enthusiasm is great, but you have to try and temper it with the realities of the situation too.
PHASE: “Why is everything going wrong?”
This phase tends to follow the first; it’s the stage when all of your best laid plans are beginning to struggle, and all of the initial excitement you experienced is beginning to drain away.
You’ll begin to feel like everything is a drag.
- Have a meeting with your accountant? Why do you need to do that, again? Can it wait?
- Keep in touch with your contractors? You put it off for as long as possible.
- Have to interview the new staff you’re so keen to hire? You begin to daydream about being able to hire a recruitment company to do the work for you.
This is a phase when you will feel like a victim of Murphy’s Law, and you’ll likely feel irritated, resentful, and generally dismissive of the project.
What to watch out for: When you’re beginning to feel the bite of reality, be wary of making decisions you may come to regret. You may be tempted to shorten the project or reduce your overall vision for the expansion because you think this will ensure things move along at a more acceptable pace.
PHASE: “I’m so done with this.”
You will reach this point, and it’s never a pleasant one to experience. You will suddenly find that you have absolutely no patience for any further discussions of the expansion, and you’re beginning to wish you hadn’t embarked on the entire endeavour.
- Talk to your accountant?
- Meet with contractors to discuss the construction of your new premises?
- Talk to new staff?
- No to them all. You’re tired of the whole idea.
This is arguably the most difficult phase of your expansion and, for most business owners, it’s easily the least productive too.
What to watch out for: Your malaise is understandable, especially if your expansion plans aren’t going as you hoped. You do, however, need to be careful of taking your eye off the ball and making the easiest decision rather than the right decision. It will help if you take a few days away from the business to refresh and rejuvenate yourself, too.
PHASE: “Dare I hope…?”
This phase is one of cautious optimism. Things are back on track, you’re feeling more like yourself, and you’re beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s the best you’ve felt since the heady days of the excitement phase.
- Have to deal with accountancy paperwork? Okay, sure.
- Need to come up with a new schedule for the construction work to be completed? Alright, you guess you can do it this afternoon.
- Have to training new staff on your system? Fine, you’ll schedule it in the diary.
You won’t delight in these tasks, but you are able to do them. You have the tiniest glimmer of hope beginning to form, which you’ll try to dampen down with pessimism, but you don’t always succeed. Despite yourself, you’re starting to feel positive again.
What to watch out for: When things are going well after a period of difficulty, you need to avoid making reckless decisions because you think you’ve survived the worst. You also need to ensure that you don’t extend the expansion project; this can be tempting when things are beginning to look brighter, but it’s a bad idea. Finish the initial plans and then you can strategise from there.
PHASE: “The finish line!”
You’ve finally made it. Your new staff are hired, your new premises are built and decorated, your expanded project range is on the market– whichever it is, you have definitely reached the end of your initial expansion plans.
What to watch out for: By this stage, the only threat is that you will forget how unpleasant the expansion has been at times and start planning your next venture. Try and contain this; give yourself — and your business — some time to recover!
Now you have a thorough idea of what to expect during a business expansion, you can see the changes through with your mind firmly focused on achieving your business goals as a result.