“You gotta know the territory.”

By Michael Layne, President

Marx Layne & Co.

Entrepreneurs who infuse compelling business ideas with outstanding execution can be tremendous contributors to our economy and way of life, especially as they expand their business model to new locations.

However, there are unique challenges when deciding to roll out a successful business beyond its original community launch site, whether it’s a food and beverage, retail or service concept and whether it’s franchised or corporate owned.  What works so well on one’s home turf may take some fresh insights and thinking in order to succeed as well in less familiar locations.

The process starts with site selection.  Key factors include whether the general community, its demographics and potential customer base fit a given business model.  Specific site selection then becomes a science of its own with respect to available properties, construction costs, parking and traffic patterns, or location of competitors, as well as complementary businesses.  There are plenty of such nuts and bolts behind the “secret sauce” of any business.

For example, building a productive, harmonious staff that can work with each other and prospective customers is no easy chore.  Clearly, employers, as guided by legal counsel, must understand and follow all applicable federal, state and local employment law to ensure equal opportunity and anti-discrimination in hiring and supervision.  Strong HR policies and procedures that are regularly reviewed and understood by all employees and their supervisors form essential protection against any claims of improper employment practices.

Most importantly, in today’s society with its rich diversity of ages, cultures, experiences—and expectations—among both employees and customers, it is also imperative to understand and appreciate the local environment that will nurture a new business location.  

Thus, as businesses expand to new locations, even within a state or region of a state, owners are likely to encounter a more diverse population of potential staff and customers, with subtle nuances of lifestyle and expectations.

If you are a restaurateur, have you thought about the dietary requirements or food preferences of your customer base?  Are adjustments to menus or food preparation in order?  Or retailers may take a careful look at their merchandise assortments for a given customer audience.

Further, social trends and styles impact interactions with staff and customers.  Are you sensitive to and prepared to accommodate individuals with varied sexual orientation or gender identity?  What about marijuana use?  What about potential employees who report for a job interview with flesh plugs or inkings; or wear a hijab or dastar? How will your attitudes and responses as a business owner impact potential legal exposures, as well as business acceptance and growth?

Many national and global brands have broad experience with such issues and the resources to establish workable human resource policies that can accommodate and protect the rights of a diverse workforce.  They also have experience in tailoring their business platform and offerings to local expectations and preferences. Individual entrepreneurs rolling out a business concept can learn from their approaches, in addition to working with specialized business development and public relations consultants as they enter new markets.

Here, in Michigan, we have notable representation of individuals from almost every part of the world and every culture.  It is one of our great strengths and a great opportunity for business owners—if you “know the territory” and embrace its people.

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