Have you ever been standing in the ocean when a larger than expected wave appears and knocks you over? This is exactly what my first experience opening a large multi-facility parking operation was like. In the weeks leading up to the opening, people kept asking me if we were ready, and I confidently said yes every time and was left wondering what the big deal was. Reality hit me like that rogue wave on opening day when we didn’t have adequate staff, supplies and change funds for all of the locations.
As is often the case when a mistake is made, I learned more from that experience than many of the successes in my career, and I became very good at opening large, complex locations as a result. So what did I learn?
1. Treat the Opening Like a Project
Opening a new location requires effort from a number people and departments. The best way to organize all of the tasks involved and the people completing them is to treat the opening like a project. This also helps to distribute the workload to more than one or two people.
2. Utilize a Staffing Plan
There are a number of things to do on the staffing front to make sure you have enough staff, the right people and a team that is energized.
- Determine the positions needed and number of each.
- Verify whether the location operates under a union collective bargaining agreement.
- Decide how existing employees at the location will be handled.
- Once these details have been identified, develop and execute a hiring plan.
- Deliver new hire orientation and employee training to all location employees. These sessions are an opportunity to make a positive first impression, create excitement regarding the opening and communicate expectations.
3. Keep the Client in the Loop
Providing the client with a high level countdown to opening plan will give them the information needed to confirm you have a structured approach to opening the location. Set up regular status update meetings at a frequency that the client is comfortable with and during these meetings, use the countdown to open plan as the agenda. If anything is ahead or behind schedule, keep the client up to date and be prepared to share what is being done as an alternative to address any items that are behind schedule.
4. Make Sure You Have Everything You Need
One challenge in this area is that some supplies often remain at a location when it transitions from one company to another such as the facility equipment, safe and signage. It’s necessary to identify what will be provided onsite at the time of transition and what needs to be ordered or obtained elsewhere. One of the best ways to do this is to meet with the outgoing operator. Arrange to have this meeting at the facility as early in the transition process as possible. After this meeting, identify and order remaining supplies and equipment.
5. Celebrate Opening Day
In the process of making sure every detail is attended to during opening preparations, it is very easy to forget this and miss the opportunity to celebrate the opening. This simple act can strengthen newly developing relationships with clients and employees and create a positive first impression on customers. There are countless ways this can be done. Two examples include offering coffee and donuts to customers in a high foot traffic area of the facility or hosting a staff pizza party.