Managing Multi-site Businesses, Part 1: Managing People Problems


Managing multi-site organizations is a real challenge for the owner of a growing business. As you expand, determining when, whether and how to add new sites or people to your organization are some of the most important questions you’ll face.  Get these answers right and your business will thrive. Get them wrong and you’ll have an administrative and technical headache on your hands.

You may find yourself managing multi-site organizations for several reasons. You may be hiring more people or moving into a larger location. Other times, expanding your business means opening new offices in new locations. Regardless of which situation you’re in, once your business expands into multiple locations, you’ll find yourself facing a whole new set of business challenges. These can include:

Maintaining your culture – having a cohesive office culture is easy when you share a single space. But when coworkers are distributed across multiple locations, coworkers may have different styles of working and may not know each other as well. This makes having a strong, cohesive culture very challenging.

Team building across multiple locations – Following on to the culture question, when coworkers across multiple locations must work together in teams, setting up and organizing those teams and managing their work becomes more difficult.

Slower turnaround time – getting work done when your teammates are right down the hall makes it easy to get things done quickly. Working across multiple locations means waiting to set up calls, send emails, or even send documents or packages via snail mail. These things all take additional time.

Lack of personal attention – managing employees who share a space with you is challenging enough, but add physical distance and it can be very difficult to pay attention to the needs and work of those remote employees.

These are just a few of the challenges that managing a multisite organization can present. Fortunately, you can overcome these challenge by managing people, processes and technology to make multisite collaboration much simpler.

3 Cs of Managing Your People

Managing multi-site organizations means managing your people in a way that bridges the distance between your locations, whether they are across town, across the country or across the world. A few of the people-management issues you’ll need to sort out include:

Culture – You’ll tackle the issue of culture differently depending on whether the new location comes into being organically – i.e., you hire and set up the office yourself – or whether it was “inherited” through an acquisition or partnership. If you’re hiring new employees, you’ll need to take special care to ensure that the managers and team members you select are a good fit within the context of your organization, and that they have the leadership skills and experience to promote your culture in the teams that they build. In either case, you’ll need to work closely with managers in each location to ensure that your business cultural values and ways of doing business are consistent in each location.

Communication – Managers and key individuals in each location will need to work closely together to ensure that communication between locations is regular and productive. This doesn’t mean calling when there’s a problem or someone has a question. There should be regular communication taking place between key managers, teams and individuals. Weekly or monthly management calls, sales calls, and staff meetings help to ensure that team members get the time they need with management.

Collaboration – Working together in multi-site organizations brings its challenges, especially in the area of collaboration. Regular phone or face-to-face meetings are important for maintaining relationships and motivating people, but there are additional collaboration issues that phone calls don’t address. For instance, when teams are spread out across multiple sites, who maintains project documentation and where do they keep it? What happens when a team member is working on a project and has a question: do they email their question to the team, or are there other methods of communicating issues that might be more appropriate?

In the next installment of this series, we’ll talk about systems and processes that can help to resolve problems your organization may run into when managing across multiple sites.

Read Part 2 here and Part 3 here.