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Opening a second office: a checklist

Opening your second office is a massive milestone. Many businesses never make it to this point.

But setting it up isn’t exactly like setting up for your first one. There are different considerations, and it’s important not to lose momentum at your original location. 

Some of these new issues will be a challenge for any business, but others don’t need to be if you take a smart approach.

Here’s what you need to know to get it right:

A few things to consider before opening a second office

  • Do you need a second location? Is it definitely the best and only way to solve your current problems? It may well be, but investigate other alternatives first, technological solutions and remote workers for example. Opening a second office is likely to be the most expensive, risky and difficult of all options – but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.
  • Can you afford it? If your second office is up-and-running and profitable within 6-9 months, you’ve done extremely well. Make sure you have the money available to invest in it for the long term, and sufficient cash-flow/investment that allows you to lose money before it starts being profitable (which is almost inevitable). 
  • Have you chosen the right location? This will have a massive impact on who you can attract – employees and customers alike. Factors like space for growth and adequate meeting rooms are also important. It’s a huge investment, so choose a place that works for the long-term.
  • Document your processes! When you succeed and your business grows, it’s not because you’re just winging it. It’s because you and your team have unique knowledge and expertise around the company, and are continually making smart decisions and trying to streamline and optimize your processes. If someone suddenly leaves, you lose that. So document thoroughly, because it will be extremely useful in the future. 

Four tips for when you’re set on opening a second office

1. Learn from the first office

If your first location wasn’t a success, you wouldn’t even be able to think about opening another. So consider what made it successful and build on those strengths.

Perhaps the most important yet underrated aspect of this is company culture. It can easily get overlooked among more practical considerations, but if you don’t get this right, your second office will become an inferior satellite rather than an equal partner in the business. And your people there will feel that. 

The best way to ensure a smooth transition is with someone senior from the original office in place to oversee the second location. Someone who knows the business well – the product, culture, processes and policies that make it what it is, and can help instil that spirit.

This person doesn’t have to be a founder/CEO – but it’s not the worst idea, at least for the early months.

The first office had someone there to take responsibility, find new business and drive the operation forward. The second office needs that too, or it may struggle.

2. Stay connected with the first office 

All the above is much, much easier if the first second and second locations are well connected. And this is simpler than it once was.

The obvious way to ensure strong connectivity is through the cloud. With a cloud-based platform like G Suite, you can empower your people to collaborate using tools they know and love in a fast, connected environment – anytime, anywhere.

Instead of wasting time with emails going back and forth between offices, with someone insisting they sent that file last week and someone else insisting it never arrived, getting everyone set up in the cloud ensures seamless collaboration from the first day your new office opens its doors.

An office collaboration platform such as Slack can also be super useful for keeping everyone on the same page, constantly in contact and easily discussing projects. It supports much of what used to be done by email, but much faster and with a superior user experience. 

The multiple channels also allow colleagues in different locations to talk, get to know each other and plan social things, which helps carry your culture to the new location.

3. Get the right tech

For multiple offices, this can be the difference between seamless collaboration and a yawning communication chasm.

If you need to save big files locally and require a server, it’s also worth investing in a Virtual Private Network (VPN), which can boost security and remote access. However, for most small companies this can be achieved through the cloud.

For phone connectivity, consider investing in Voice Over IP  (VOIP). This is a cloud-based phone system allows employees to connect to calls wherever they are – as long as they have internet access. 

It works across all devices and locations, ensuring everyone is on the same system. And it makes transferring and sharing calls easy, so no one is ever out of the loop.

Similarly, apps like UberConference can be useful for audio conferences across multiple locations, Zoom is great for video conferences and Google Hangouts offers a bit of everything.

4. Scale your deals with service providers

All your deals with phone and internet providers, insurers, outside support staff and commercial partners should be scalable, and transferable to a second location. 

This shouldn’t be an afterthought when opening a new office—it’s one of the first things to think about. 

Check out how your current operator can help you make your move. How much will it cost? Are there new conditions involved (or even possible discounts)? Will you still be dealing with the same people? 

And finally…

Talk to someone who’s successfully done it before, and can give you risks and pitfalls in detail.

Make sure the second office has everything it needsnot just what the first office needed.

Exciting times

This is a big move. Think about a few factors up-front and you can minimize the growing pains and put all your people’s energy into growth. 

You’re ready now. You got this.