Managing multiple locations is a big change from managing the day-to-day operation of a single location. The key is to recognize the unique challenges and complexities you are faced with when you and your staff are in different locations and adapt your focus accordingly. Your success rests on the shoulders of people you rarely see. As a creative leader you will need to focus on:

  • Building relationships between all locations
  • Facilitating efficient communication
  • Getting the home office and remote sites to act in unison and ensure team members stay motivated and engaged
  • Learning the unique needs of clients in various locations

Following are some relevant points that every creative leader needs to take into account in order to successfully manage multiple locations.

Communication is Essential for Successful Management from a Distance

Communication becomes even more critical when you manage multiple locations. Effective communication requires a very structured, frequent and proactive communications plan with clear accountability throughout office locations.

Having a plan will ensure that the team members in remote locations don't feel like second-class citizens, uninformed and forgotten. A clear plan is essential to build trust between locations. All employees want to know that their contribution is significant and meaningful towards meeting both departmental and company goals. This is even more important the further they are from your department's main location. Be sure to communicate often how your department, and all its locations, will contribute to the company's success.

Stay in Touch

As a creative leader, the discipline of staying in touch with team members in all locations is your responsibility. Consider establishing a formal monthly calendar, and stick to it. This will ensure that all locations have regular contact with you and the other locations.

Institute regular meetings and communications that may include:

  • Regular on-site visits--Visit your remote sites regularly. The routine will add stability because off-site employees need to know they have the support of the head office. Use this time to review key projects in progress, for mentoring and training staff, and meeting with key clients. And don't forget to build in some time to visit and socialize.
  • Weekly conference calls with all locations--Use this call as an opportunity to update all locations in one communication on initiatives, upcoming projects and events. This will also give the sites an opportunity each week to provide updates and solicit guidance from other site managers when issues arise.
  • Bi-weekly calls with each site--Hold meetings with each site manager and their team members. The focus should be on that site's capacity issues, developmental or technology needs, client concerns and other issues and concerns that senior management needs to be aware of.
  • Monthly/quarterly performance, financial and strategy reviews--It's important to keep all locations abreast of the overall department's performance for the month and any change of direction or if course correction is necessary.
  • Periodic email blasts to all team members--Issuing department-wide emails every two to four weeks will reinforce camaraderie and should include breaking news, new hires and promotions, congratulatory messages and individual accomplishments.

It is imperative that remote teams stay focused and engaged and these steps will aid in doing so!

Strong On-Site Leadership is the Key to the Location's Success

In a multi-site environment, committed and capable management is mandatory. The most important consideration when selecting your site manager is whether this person can work in harmony with your other sites and channel the energies of their staff to meet your department's overall objectives. Your site manager is responsible for managing support staff, projects, and client satisfaction, as well as implementing technology, processes and procedures. You need to be sure that your site manager is in lock step with you as you will be delegating the responsibility and accountability of implementing your vision and direction.

Solid working relationships require trust. Building in-depth relationships with your site managers will require you to proactively communicate with them as often as possible and be accessible whenever they need your guidance. And, by getting to know your site managers personally, you'll be able to effectively respond to their individual personalities and work styles.

As the creative leader, it is up to you to ensure that you provide each site manager with the proper training to make both the site manager and the location successful and self-sufficient.

Delivering Client Value in Multiple Locations

Don't overlook each location's unique client needs. You must get to know your client base at each location as they may have different demographics, needs and markets. You must factor in their needs for your organization and staffing decisions. The organizational structure you put in place in each location should reflect and accommodate the different needs of each location. You will need to ensure that you have the right complement of talent and standards in place to deliver consistent value, support the client experience and guarantee client satisfaction.

Keep the lines of communication open. Continually reinforce to your clients in remote locations that you are personally involved and available to them at all times.

Further, client satisfaction surveys can provide feedback to confirm how well sites are working toward delivering the desired client experience.

Replicate Best Practices

There is no need to reinvent the wheel in each location. Conduct a comprehensive analysis to capture the very best practices of each location, then implement them across all locations to quickly replicate obvious cost efficiencies. Be sure your workflow processes promote a collaborative work environment where team members are comfortable working with colleagues from different locations.

Consider using a Web-based collaborative automated tool, such as "Marketing Central", for traffic, workflow, scheduling, timekeeping and internal and client approvals. Such automation tools help to ensure the success of in-house creative teams in maximizing efficiency in creative operations and resource management.

This will enable you to work share across sites and, perhaps, time zones.

Include Remote Team Members in Decision Making

Establish a work climate that generates innovative ideas, and learn how to get your staff in remote locations to actively participate in creative problem solving. Encourage an open exchange of information and viewpoints, and create a culture that supports collaboration among team members working from different locations.

Establish an all-inclusive organization--Involve your entire staff, not just the home office, in planning departmental policy and decision making. Build and foster an environment and culture that encourages openness and collaboration across locations. Consider implementing a quarterly incentive program that recognizes the quality and innovation efforts of your team members.

Enable a workplace that fosters a cohesive tight-knit team--Encourage team members from all locations by giving them the freedom to present ideas to help the department be a value-add to the company's mission and business goals.

Creative leaders who focus on building relationships, facilitating communication, developing collaboration and cultivating new clients will find that managing multiple locations can be a rewarding, positive and productive experience for everyone involved.