Problem-Solving in Branch Organizations #2: “Branch Purpose”

In a time when some claim e-commerce has rendered the branch-operation concept all but obsolete, one does have to wonder about the building of branch operations in the staffing industry. Why do you have branch operations? What is the purpose of each?

For some in staffing, the purpose of having branches is footprint, although with changes in technology, procurement and workforce preferences, “the footprint” alone is a pretty outdated way to spend money on your top three expenses: personnel, real estate and technology. Beyond footprint, some staffing companies say the purpose of branches is to put decision-making closer to the customer. Still other staffing companies attempt to create a collection of experience centers for staff (usually) and customers (occasionally). Another school of field leadership looks at branches as laboratories, places from which to originate high-potential new products or incubate high-potential new employees.

There is no one right “branch purpose” that fits every branch-based enterprise. But there is definitely a right “branch purpose” for your individual strategy and it starts with centralizing the right things vs. localizing the right things. Otherwise, you’re simply caught on the treadmill of finding best practices, trying to replicate them, and witnessing yet another year where 100 of your branches make as much profit as the other 400. In other words, if the same branches win the same awards every year, you might not be a replicator. You might have to ask, “If it’s so easy to pick the award winners every year, what is it about our model that 80 percent of our people just don’t get?”

Wrong Things Centralized … Should Your Branches Be Re-Purposed?
Instead of merely trying again to reinforce the copying of strong local results (“Be more like Jimmy’s team”), let me suggest heading into 2013 thinking about a bigger question: based on your unique five-year goals and market position, would a different operating structure and branch purpose better serve your new vision? Here are a few questions to get you started:

  • Do your branches perform at wildly different levels? How much downward variance should you accept before admitting there may be a structural problem, not a market problem or an employee problem?
  • Are your branches drifting away from true sales/recruiting toward bureaucratic administration? I’ve seen this in action: good recruiters who recruit less because they are weighed down with forms and process that could easily be automated.
  • Wealth is created when assets are shifted from lower uses to higher uses. What “lower uses” of people are destroying wealth on your balance sheet today (low-level work that prevents your recruiters from recruiting)? What “higher uses” might you reconfigure your branches for in the future?
  • Is sales a local function just because that’s the way you’ve always done it? Or is it time for a fresh look: would you drive more sales energy, accountability and results by deploying the sales force differently? Could a portion of the sales process (e.g., prospecting or QC) be performed more competitively or rigorously in a centralized manner?

Here’s one closing thought before you gather your senior leadership team to plan your future branch network: In five years, will you be signing leases on the same tired branch boxes you use today, or will you shape your field assets to more tightly reflect your strategic goals and the unique value you can bring to tomorrow’s customers and workforce?

Frank Troppe

Frank Troppe
Frank Troppe analyzes trends in sales strategy and field operations. He is the author of three books and 40 articles on Branch Operations.

Frank Troppe

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