Paul Damico: Preparing your organization for growth requires a sound strategy

The downturn of the economy is clearly behind us. Companies have their feet back under them and are once again focused on expanding, acquiring, adding clients and hiring employees. Now is a great time to grow.

Moe’s Southwest Grill is one of those fortunate companies that made it through and, for the past few years, has been experiencing growth. In fact, Moe’s is preparing to open restaurants at a much more substantial rate than in years past. While this is great news, growth, of course, comes with its own set of challenges and opportunities.

So how do you prepare your organization for growth? 

Establish a viable strategy

First, you need to have a sound strategy for how you go about it. Moe’s expects to double in size in the next three to four years — but how many will we open next year, and can our current organization support it? Those are questions that can be answered with a solid strategy.

It was important for me to work with the team to set our opening goals together so everyone bought in — now we know next year we’ll open 100 restaurants, 150 the year after that and another 200 after that. Including the team early in the planning allows you to get support, but it also helps you hold the team accountable for the goals it sets.

Explosive growth means opening 100 to 200 restaurants a year, which is also like opening a small restaurant chain each year. The support team that’s in place to support 500 restaurants will also need to grow, so it’s important to understand the people impact of growth. How do you become a recruiting machine but hold on to your company culture? I currently meet the final candidates for nearly every position we hire, even if for just a few minutes, to ensure they can “play well in the sandbox” with the rest of the team.

I stay involved because I know growth is one thing that can fracture our culture and ultimately the company. It’s important to recruit quality people who are the right fit, because when you don’t, there’s a good chance the culture will slip away. 

Define departmental roles

In the grand growth plan, every department should play a clearly defined role and be a vital part of the growth strategy.

In the franchising model, franchise sales are the pipeline. Real estate leads the way to introduce the concept across a larger geographic area. Training helps new restaurants open and is on the ground to mobilize what they do in the restaurant. Operations supports training and the franchise partners to ensure customers have a consistent, positive experience. Marketing promotes our products and what our company stands for and grows sales.

As a leader, you know that some of the most exciting times can be the most challenging. But with a sound strategy, the right people in place and departments that are involved and know their roles, you should be full steam ahead.

Paul Damico is president of Atlanta-based Moe’s Southwest Grill, a fast-casual restaurant franchise with more than 500 locations nationwide. Paul has been a leader in the foodservice industry for more than 20 years with companies such as SSP America, FoodBrand LLC and Host Marriott. He can be reached at [email protected]