03/04/2014 12:34 EST | Updated 05/04/2014 05:59 EDT

Are You Ready to Expand Your Business?

Recently I received a call from a woman who wanted to take her program on the road. She wanted my advice on how to proceed and how to take her business to the next level.

After asking a few questions, it was clear that while she'd had a lot of interest in her program from other cities, she really needed to:

• Document what she did and prepare a manual

• Develop the guidelines and parameters under which the program would work in other


• Identify the "ideal" individual or organization to replicate what she was doing

• Build some processes to ensure that those she recruited would be true to the essence of

her program

• Consider what her business model would be - license fee, one-time purchase or royalty?

• Talk to a lawyer about an agreement to be signed by the parties involved

I cautioned her about leaping in and trying to expand too quickly, especially if she didn't have the staffing or resources in place to manage the growth.

My suggestion was that she tried a pilot program, perhaps close to her base, so she could monitor what was happening and learn from that experience before embarking on a full-blown expansion. Adding that she shouldn't make it too close, as that could negatively impact her own programs and dilute the number of people she could serve.

So often people from the outside looking in, believe that what you do is simple and can be easily replicated. I know with Company of Women, I have seen other women's groups start up enthusiastically and after a while fade away. Why? Because it is a lot of work if you want to do it professionally.

In another life, I worked as a community developer, and I've often found that what works in one community, may not work in another and so it is important to tailor your offerings to suit the local group.

Having a local champion to talk up what you want to do is a good move. In fact, having a local planning committee often works well as then you can draw on their ideas and suggestions and have buy-in on what you want to do.

I also suggested that she might also want to think about what was a must-have, and what could be left to the discretion of the community.You also want to look at their motivations, and ask yourself if their values match with your own.

So often we feel flattered and pressured when other groups express interest in having your program or service in their community. It is easy to get seduced into growing before you are ready.

Like any business expansion, there needs to be homework done to ensure that all the pieces are in place, not just one enthusiastic fan who could disappear just as fast as she appeared, leaving you holding the baby.


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