When running a multi-geographical business, your branch managers become an extension of the home office. Branch managers make or break a branch-based business.
There's an old saying: "A good manager will figure it out no matter how bad it is, and a bad manager will figure out how to screw it up no matter how good." As a business owner, the management team you have surrounded yourself with is incredibly important, but don't overlook your managers in other locations. They can be incredibly important assets and allies. This can be especially important where large companies must deliver services locally, such as construction, scaffolding or industrial service businesses.
When establishing branches, it is important to give each office a strong leader or manager who has control over that location. These people need to feel empowered, and the more responsibilities and direct control that you give to them, the more they will feel like owners. Branch managers, properly motivated, that also are good leaders can generate tremendous profitability as well as increased employee and customer satisfaction. They also communicate your corporate message to the marketplace, making them valuable regional assets.
When setting up a business with multiple locations, one must decide how much control to keep at the corporate level and how much can be done at the branch level. Some examples of functions that can be done at the branch level include the following:
Accounting and finance
Branches often have a payable and receivables function, but there are some areas where you might want to push the boundaries. For example, do you want your branch staff to collect past due receivables? At first glance, this might seem like too sensitive an area to designate to branch-level employees. However, if you consider that they are closer to the customer, geographically and personally, they may be better suited to handle this task than your corporate division.
Also, consider holding profit and loss responsibility at the branch level. Branch managers, when incentivized on the profitability of their location, tend to make good profit-and-loss decisions.
Another area typically managed at the corporate level is human resources, but many successful HR programs can be implemented at the branch level. Hiring can be easier at the branch location, because prospective employees will interact with the people with whom they will work.
Additionally, employee engagement programs can be much more effective when executed and managed locally. It is important to remember that people often work at locations for the environment and lifestyle, which can be specific to a branch location, even in a branch that is effectively communicating your corporate vision.
Marketing and sales
Local marketing driven by the branch manager and staff can be very effective. Backed by the corporate image and reputation, a branch manager can visit local customers or potential customers and deliver a personalized message. This can be a successful tool for making your business seem local.
Remind them why corporate is important
The biggest hurdle with an empowered branch manager is always going to be costs, from the standpoint of headquarters. Corporate allocations can provoke big debates around budget time. The best way to navigate those discussions is to remind branch managers of the benefits of the brand and its policies.
Because customers and employees see your corporate personality through the lens of the branch manager, it is important to have multiple ways of engaging and training branch managers. Many multilocation companies regularly review best practices, safety, quality and core philosophies with their branch teams.
Delivering services over a vast area can be challenging. Balancing corporate structure with branch-level responsibility can be a struggle for control-minded companies. Remember, branch-level management equipped with the right corporate message can be extremely valuable in maintaining growth, profitability and customer satisfaction.