The biggest business decision we have made to date was to up stick from our home of 36 years in the town of Ayr to move into Glasgow city centre.
There were a number of reasons for this. The main one was our long-term growth plans and the future of the business. Ayr like a lot of small towns had begun to struggle economically in recent years and while the town had served us well, it would not support our plans.
We wanted be closer to a much larger business community and in amongst some of our professional connections we had built up in Glasgow.
We would also have access to a much larger talent pool as we looked to grow the business.
We were a well-established firm in Ayr but making a success in Glasgow would come with its challenges.
We worked over the previous three or four years to build a name and presence in Glasgow, both in the press and through professional connections, we were building our reputation as far as we could, but because we were not in the city there was a hurdle in people’s minds, we decided that was the missing piece.
It was a big cultural change too, if you’re living that small town life, with the best will in the world it’s difficult to change the business culture but we had to.
As a result of the move we lost some members of staff; we had 6 in our team in Ayr and now there’s 8 of us, but there’s only 2 from the original 6 still with us, so there was a high turnover. The reason staff left was to do with the location, as some lived in Ayr, but also some did not like the change in direction, attitude and culture and how we wanted to do things looking forward. We have hired a lot of new staff, and that is a benefit to being in Glasgow – we tried to recruit while in Ayr but there’s such a small pool to pick from.
We’ve had to make allowance for staff who still live in Ayrshire, so we pay for their train fares and allow advisers who have clients in Ayrshire to take a day a week from coming into the office. I have always lived in Glasgow, even when the firm was in Ayr because I was always thinking of our growth plans.
We had to reassure the Ayrshire clients that things wouldn’t massively change for them. The quality of service we could deliver in their homes wasn’t the same as what we could deliver from the Glasgow office with all the tools, equipment and service.
There were a few grumbles but we’ve allayed those by moving things gradually. Now for client meetings we will put on a lunch, clients meet all the staff, and it just feels more professional. The clients really enjoy it, they make a day of it in Glasgow, so if we make it a nice experience, they won’t see it as a hassle or a bad change.
Six month adjustment
The most challenging thing was it took about six months for everyone to settle because things were so different to how we’ve always done things and it took time to adjust.
For others going through the same, I’d say the most useful piece of advice is don’t underestimate the impact it will have on others, it won’t just happen smoothly and you’ll continue to make money and it’ll all be fine straight away. You have to make sure everyone is 100% prepared for it.
It was a mental block, but now we’re working with a business coach now who is fantastic and is helping us a lot. Knowing what I know now, we would have managed everyone’s energy differently. We could have made the benefits of the move to the staff more clearer, because I think some may have been wondering why we did it. We didn’t prepare for the downside of it.
It took us 6 months to get our feet under the table, but it took until now to feel like we have established ourselves in the city and getting the referrals we were expecting to get.
Although we were an established brand, we had to accept that in Glasgow we were a new firm, and that was a dynamic that surprised us. It hurt our egos, we’ve done this for 40 years and suddenly we’re back to being the new kids, and we spent a lot of time, money, sweat, blood and tears to get to this point and establish ourselves again.
We thought it would have taken less time, perhaps we were naïve in that respect. If you’re moving office within a particular setting, that’s not a problem, but moving geographically to a whole new market there are so many established relationships, no matter how good you think you are, other people won’t know that at first so that was a steep learning curve.
However now we’re getting to the point where we’re not having to chase business, but business comes to us and most of our clients are of a substantial nature and are the business owners and younger people we’re aiming for.
No matter how hard it was, during the whole period we never doubted we had made the right decision and we just got out there and worked really hard at building the right relationships and reputation.
Fast forward to now and we are in a stronger place than we have ever been.
We have a fantastic and energetic team in place, we have firmly established ourselves among the top firms in the city and we are now moving onto the next exciting stage of our growth plan.
For anyone else considering moving into a new market, I would prepare to be in it for the long haul. It takes 18 months to 2 years to properly establish yourself and start seeing returns on your investment.