Growing Pains: The Hard Parts About Scaling

Are you ready to hear a cliche statement?

“The only constant in business is change”

We know you might be rolling your eyes right now, but bear with us. With this statement, here’s what we mean: the operational strategies you employed in your business 5 or 6 years ago may not work today. The problems and challenges you had to solve back then are different now.

We all know we have to adapt. But there are things operators tend to forget or overlook as they scale. Today, we’re going to review a few of these things. We don’t necessarily have all the answers, but we’ll get you asking the right questions.

Your entertainment facility can grow in 1 of 3 ways: increasing footprint/attractions, increasing volume/revenue, or opening another location. Each of these presents its own set of challenges.

Laser Tag Entrance

Increasing Footprint/Attractions

Perhaps you’re expanding your building or taking on additional leased space after a tenant next door moved out. It’s easy to focus on all the new goodies you’ll add to fill this space, but don’t forget about everything that comes with expansion.

How many more employees do you need to have on staff? And with these extra employees, do you have enough break room and locker space for them?

With an increased capacity at your center, have you thought about bathrooms? What are your requirements and do you need to expand them?

What about parking? Do you have enough space to accommodate all the extra people who hope to bring into your facility?

And don’t forget about software. Do you need more point of sale terminals? Does your existing software allow unlimited terminals? With the extra employees, are you paying a higher rate for scheduling software? How will this affect your bottom line?

Increasing Volume/Revenue

You’re booking more birthday parties than ever before, and you’ve found ways to increase traffic on slower weekdays (by focusing on additional group/corporate sales).

Again, you have to consider staffing. Your facility may not be expanding, but more parties requires more party hosts.

Your overall footprint is staying the same size, but what can you downsize or remove to make way for more attractions or party rooms? How do you make sure the whole stays greater than the sum of its parts?

And what about storage space? This is overlooked by most operators from the get-go, and as you grow you need even more space. Where are you going to find this space?

Bowling Lane Construction

Opening Another Location

Your first location has been doing extremely well and you’re financially positioned to open a second location in your market. This brings a ton of challenges, but we’ll focus on 1 here: leadership.

How involved are you right now in your facility’s day-to-day operations? If you’re a hands-on owner, how do you plan to stay that way with 2 locations?

If you’re going to open a second location, you need to understand that your role has to change. You’re already working a lot now, and you can’t just double your output at the snap of a finger.

Think about how you can let a GM take over a lot of your roles at the existing center. Then spend your time getting the new center up and running while grooming a GM for that location as well.

If everything goes well, your role likely won’t have much day-to-day operational involvement. You’ll have to focus on the bigger picture, the bigger challenges, and the bigger projects.

The Answers

Again, this article is more about asking questions than providing the answers. As past operators, we’ve experienced a lot of these same growing pains. But every business is unique, and you know your operations better than we ever will.

At Creative Works, we just celebrated our 20th anniversary. Sometimes we can’t believe it’s been 20 years!

As we’ve scaled over the years, we’ve experienced our own set of growing pains. Here are just a few examples: we expanded our building multiple times, bought a second building, created HR and training processes, adjusted those HR and training processes, surpassed 40 full time employees, switched marketing software platforms more times than we care to admit, and a whole lot more.

What we’ve learned through all this is that problems don’t go away. Instead, they just evolve as we scale.

And that’s what we want to leave you with. As your business graduates to another level of success, you graduate to another level of problems and challenges.

Don’t fear these challenges. Embrace them. Solve them. And keep on moving forward.