MAYA HOLIHAN: Her Perspective on Growth and Expansion

Maya Holihan_HeadshotA few months ago, House of Maya Bridal Salons announced that their Pure English Couture Bridal, Silk Social Occasion Studio, Maya Couture and Maya Couture on Main would merge into one storefront. The new 13,000 square foot retail space opened in early March in downtown Norfolk at 258 Granby St.

The question I think a lot of people would like to ask is, how did she get to that point? What has made her so successful to be able to expand her business? Last October, when presenting a STRIVE webinar to our members, Maya gave Retail Alliance an insight into how she grew her business and to be able to manage multiple locations. She shares her experience and advice.

Where it all startedhouseofmaya_newstore

I started my company in 2004, and then really took a decade to fine-tune the operations and get it to a point where I felt comfortable looking at other options to diversify. One of the reasons I felt comfortable expanding was because I really felt like the business operations that I had developed were streamlined and strong. I felt like we had the reputation and recognition that we needed to expand further into the marketplace.

Expansion is something that, whether it’s small or large, really changes how you operate day-to-day in both in business and your personal life.

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Starting from scratch

One of the things I experienced when I expanded was that, essentially, I was a new business again and that was not something that I had anticipated. If you are comfortable at where you are at, be prepared that an expansion may mean you are starting from the beginning again. Are you prepared for that? Is that something that you are willing to take on?

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Small business owner or entrepreneur?

A question was asked of me last year that I had never really thought about is, are you a small business owner or an entrepreneur? As you are considering the next step for your business, ask yourself, are you willing to go out of your comfort zone? Are you willing to possibly take two steps back to take five forward?

If you are not somebody that’s going to do well outside of your comfort zone maybe expanding at this point is not something that is right for you. But if you are somebody who is trying to seek new opportunities and create opportunities, this could be a great time for expansion.

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Skillsets you need

There are some fundamental skillsets that you need if you are considering growing your business. I’ve certainly learned about these myself the past two years since I started my expansion.

You have to be really resilient. There are going to be bumps along the way. You will be delayed. You will get frustrated. Just keep focus on your vision and develop a really thick skin. You need to be resourceful, finding all the people, resources, and tools that are going to help secure and strengthen the expansion that you’ve chosen to go into.

Be open-minded. You’ve got to be able to pivot. When you expand, things happen very quickly and they can be a challenge; they can be a crisis; it could be an exciting opportunity and you have to be able to capitalize on those things.

You must be ahead of the curve. Be proactive versus reactive. Don’t stick your head in the sand. You can’t wish away the problems because if you try to do that, the only problem you’ll have is going out of business.

You expanded for a reason, which means you should have a general roadmap to where you want to go. Keep your eye on that vision and goal, and any road block that comes your way, you will be able to get around.

Advice to follow

One of the things you need to accept when you open a business, or certainly when you expand a business, is that you are going to make mistakes. You are not perfect. It is about trial and error.

My first piece of advice is: secure strong business partnerships, particularly with your financial institution. They need to understand what your vision is and a general sense of where you are going, how you are going to get there, and your philosophy in getting there.

Your business team are the people that are going to help you be resilient. If you can find good people, they are there for you on the business aspects but they also understand personally what you are going through.

When I expanded, I made it my mission to bring on people that also were small business owners because they would understand what I was going through. My financial advisor, accountant, lawyers all own their own companies. While they can advise me, and lead me away from harm, it’s beneficial to me that they live it every day, as that’s very important to me.

Make sure you have a very strong upper management team. When you grow, the more people you bring, and the further away you become from the ground level. Your managers need to be strong and communicating from the ground up. Have a solid organizational chart and chain of communications.

You need to know when to say no. I really had to sit down and consider the things that were most important to me and then what were the things that were priorities and they had to be part of my day-to-day decisions because the growth of my company depended on it.

You also need to be transparent. When you are growing, you are asking the people that work with you, that support you, to go on this journey with you. Whether it’s a positive or bumpy journey, the people that are supporting you along the way need to know what is going on.

If you are not communicating with the people that are supporting you and working with you, they are going to feel uneasy and are not going to perform at the level you want them to perform and they are going to compromise your ability to be profitable. And you will lose them.

Best practices

Lead more and do less. When I started my company in 2004, I was in the trenches with my employees. I took bridal appointments, I cleaned the toilets, I took the garbage out, I changed the light bulbs.

As the company grew, and I brought in more people, I had to really step back from that. This is where you institute managers; where you institute directors, or a chief operations officer, or a CFO, etc. They are the people that you need to give the power to, to run the company the way that you want so that you can continue to grow, create alliances and really do the things that are necessary to take your business where you want it be.

Empower your team. You need to be able to delegate. Have faith in the people that are working with you. They need to understand your business philosophies; what’s your mission, what’s your vision. Infrastructure and chain of communication should be the first thing that you analyze and create before you start opening other locations.

It is important that you have scheduled meetings that end in good results. Don’t meet just to meet, but end in good results so that everybody feels like they know what is going on within the organization and feeling positive.

Sometimes we just should lighten it up. I have taken my staff out to dinner. We have done things that are not business-related, just to remember why we are doing what we are doing and why we work together, that we appreciate each other.

Find ways to continue to build your team to give them the opportunities for education and professional development that will make your business better.

An essential part of expansion is adding an HR division or an HR director. If you can’t afford to do that and you use a payroll company, look to them to see what HR functionality they can do. As you grow, you bring in more people therefore there are more challenges with personnel. You need to know what the laws are, what your rights are, and they need to know what their rights are.

Recognize the good work of the people that are around you. Whether it be an email, or walking by them and just saying “I really appreciate all the work that you are doing”, it doesn’t have to have a whole lot of pomp and circumstance but it needs to be done.