A Tale of Two Cities

In 2007 leading content provider, Publishing Technology, began as a single office site in London. It has since grown to a multinational company with lead offices in Oxford, Bath, Boston and New Jersey, and with smaller offices in China, Brazil, India and Australia. However, with growth comes the challenge of ensuring management is shared across all sites. Here, former CEO of Publishing Technology, George Lossius, provides his top tips on how to manage a company based in multiple geographical locations.

Opening an additional office is a sign that your business is succeeding. A physical embodiment of growth, a new office also represents a significant outlay in finances, manpower and a general commitment to driving towards a higher level of achievement. But, at the very same moment, there’s your existing office, like an older child, whose need for attention has not diminished in the slightest. Working across multiple geographical locations can be difficult, but getting it right is key for the success of your business.

1. Share, share and share alike

A key to managing multiple geographical locations effectively is to ensure that information is shared across the entire company simultaneously. It means that no-one is behind on important information and it also helps to engender a sense of community. Technology can help as it allows immediate, widespread communication. Businesses must ensure that there is one main method of digital communication, as too many half or underused initiatives quickly become difficult to manage effectively.

2. Your leadership team is your greatest asset

Of course there are many occasions when digital communication is not the correct method through which to communicate with employees. Employing an excellent senior management team to undertake
communication on the company’s behalf is equally important to successfully managing multi-office operations. It’s also important that the senior management team integrates as much as possible with each other, and all are equally informed about work across the company.

3. Timing is everything

However much you trust your leadership team, it’s essential to maintain a top level presence across all offices and to be a recognisable face to all employees. Of course, if one site is distinctly smaller than the other(s) I would advocate business leaders to prioritise their visits accordingly, whilst still maintaining a high level of inclusion in digital communications, in order to show staff they are all highly valued. CEOs should get involved in as much as possible during visits, and become part of the office during visits so that appearances – however infrequent – become a normal part of the office routine.

4. Integration wherever possible

I think it’s exceptionally rewarding for staff to work with colleagues from across the organisation – it’s important to develop a wider understanding of the business and it’s healthy to work with a number of different people. It’s also very conducive to caring about the business beyond the four walls seen every day. One means of doing this is to give staff an influence in how the company sees itself, such as getting all members of staff to participate in brand workshops.

5. Don’t be afraid to try something new

Perhaps most importantly, is to commit to trial and error and always try new things. What suits one business may not suit another, but be prepared to innovate to find out what works for you. And finally, don’t forget the value of old-fashioned face time among and across teams (not just management and not just via technology). I hold ‘Teatime with George’ twice a month to informally meet with four random, but deliberately selected employees, none of whom work in the same team or even office.

It can seem like a lot of hard work, but splitting your time between offices and building a system of sharing information is of crucial importance to the overall long-term success of your business. Get it working effectively and it’s so much easier to keep your workforce informed and happy. And a happy workforce is inclined to be a productive workforce.

This article originally featured in Guardian Online Small Business Network on 11 April 2013.

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