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Opening a second store? Consider impact on staff

carolee colter opening second storeWhen you open a second business location, there may be joy and excitement. But there may also be jealousy and feelings of abandonment. In times of stress and perceived scarcity, that “us versus them” tendency can raise its head among the staff in both locations. 


When you open a second business location, there may be joy and excitement. But there may also be jealousy and feelings of abandonment. In times of stress and perceived scarcity, that “us versus them” tendency can raise its head among the staff in both locations.

Two is an awkward number. Once you add a third store, the issues are different and, in my experience, less intense. There’s less of that “us and them” with multiple stores because there’s no longer just one other “them.” Also, by the time you open a third location, you will have already worked out new systems for multiple stores. 

If a second store is in your plans, it’s important to bring the leadership team together (or the whole staff if your store is small) well before opening day to come up with answers to questions about how the staff of the two stores will relate to each other. 

The overarching question is: what would it look like if the staff of the two stores worked for each other’s success? And exactly what will it take to make that happen?

Here are questions I suggest asking to get to the point where you can answer the overarching one:


  • What names will we use to identify the two stores?  Are there words we will try to avoid (e.g. “old store,” “second store”)?


  • Will we encourage staff to transfer to the new store? If a significant number of staff transfers, how will we manage the impact on the first store? 


  • Will we encourage staff to work in both stores? Will we try to use staff from one store to fill holes in the schedule of the other store?


  • In what ways will the counterpart departments in each store be expected to support each other?  Will expectations be different between departments?


  • How can we make the HR, marketing, IT and accounting functions accessible to the staff in both stores, without appearing to favour the location where they’re based?


  • How might the cultures of the two stores be different? Are there differences that we would celebrate (as opposed to merely accept)? Are there differences we would consider not acceptable and try to change?


  • What will the current staff be giving up in the expansion? e.g. will some people lose autonomy and variety because certain decisions will now be made by a centralized function?


  • What are potential impacts on existing staff if the new store does not meet projections? If that happens, how will we work to mitigate the impacts?


  • What forums can we use for staff to ask questions and express honest concerns about the expansion without fear of getting shut down?


  • How will we keep the staff informed throughout the expansion process? What talking points will we give the staff to answer customer questions?


It makes a difference how well the new store performs. If sales don't meet projections, staff at the first location may feel they’ve been asked to sacrifice raises or benefits due to financial strains caused by the new store. One GM relates, “I chose to combat this with transparency – being as upfront with staff as possible on the store's performance and our plans for improvement.”

Remember that language matters. As a store manager shared with me, “The narrative isn't ‘the other store is bringing us down,’ it's ‘what can we do to get the other store up to profitability and make the organization stronger?’ I'm constantly preaching empathy, collaboration and understanding.” 


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