Managing Multiple Locations

Communication, talent and inventory control key

Growth. We need it as humans and in business. How do you effectively manage multiple locations? Two retailers who’ve successfully expanded share their observations.

Scott Clark of The Spa and Sauna Company, which has three locations in Reno, Nevada, says while it helps to have a growth strategy, your newest store might be born of unplanned opportunity. “As methodical as we like to think we are, some of our greatest opportunities are the ones that fell in our lap,” Clark says. For instance, when a local Hot Spring retailer was winding down. “We took that opportunity to open the second store with a different spa brand than our original location. Our third location is a Sundance dealer; the folks who owned that store were preparing to retire. We bought the building from them, acquired the product and launched that store. You have to be open to changes and opportunities that develop in your area.”

At Mountain Hot Tub, which has three retail stores and one service location based in Bozeman, Montana, its most recent store expansion was 24 years ago. Owner Kelly King bought Mountain Hot Tub about three years ago; technology has been key to his success since buying the stores. “Video conferencing, especially, has been a very useful tool for us,” King says. Two of the company’s locations are each about three hours from its home base in Bozeman. “We still believe in physical visits to our locations, but video conferencing has enhanced the relationship between stores and management. As a result, we’re seeing smoother operation at the individual stores and with our service center.”

King began the online meetings with iPads and FaceTime. “Now we do our weekly meetings with Highfive Technologies,” he says. “We have televisions in store meeting rooms with a fixed camera and high-end audio. All stores appear in a split screen format. There could be 20 people in our Bozeman conference room and four people each in Helena and Butte. We can instantly communicate a new product or promotion across our stores without having to travel to do it. I can attribute these video conferences to improved performance at our other stores, plus enhanced morale. Video conferencing gives our entire staff the attention they deserve.”

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In Reno, Clark’s stores are not as geographically spread out. “Since our stores are so close to each other, it’s much easier for my sales manager or me to visit them and make sure those managers and staff are getting what they need to succeed,” he says. “The bottom line is to keep in touch in the way that makes most sense for you.”

Both men are always on the lookout for talent. “Find a really good person, and get ’em to stay in place for 15 to 20 years!” King says. “Seriously, always be recruiting; have people in mind for a key position. Once you hire key staffers, and this is really management 101, empower your staff to make decisions on their own, which keeps the business moving forward.”

Clark says that several months before he opens a new store, his goal is to hire staff and train them at each of the existing stores “to get them used to us and indoctrinate them on our practices and procedures.”

Clark and King use software to integrate inventory and POS. “It allows us to tie all of our inventory together, transfer between stores, do purchase orders and to look at our inventory status by location before we just go and order stuff,” King says. “It gives a salesman at any of our stores the ability to look at actual in-stock inventory and know if a particular tub has been reserved by a customer. Evosus also helps with store-to-store communication, as opposed to relying on text or email. We also use [Microsoft] Office 365 to share documents between stores and bridge the communications gap between multiple locations.”

In adding a new store, success comes by selecting the right staff and giving them the tools and latitude to manage and serve your customers well.