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“A big business starts small.”
– Richard Branson

 

Chattanooga-Based Businesses Expanding Beyond the City

It’s no secret that Chattanooga is a great place for local businesses to thrive. In fact, the Scenic City has been named one of the 15 best U.S. cities to launch a business in by MarketWatch. Here, we’re taking a look at five Chattanooga-based businesses that have done so well in the Scenic City that they’ve expanded their operations into other regions. Read on to learn more about what it takes to bring a successful brand into a new market.

scott parrish

Scott Parrish, Esq. | Chairman, Miller & Martin PLLC

Was expanding beyond Chattanooga always a part of your business plan? Our firm started over 150 years ago, so I’m not sure what plans for expansion were considered back then. However, our first serious foray outside of Chattanooga dealt with the opening of an office in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1998. As our practice and client base expanded over the years, we realized that there were considerable opportunities for us in Atlanta, an area that was (and still is) experiencing tremendous business growth. In the years that followed, we have periodically had Chattanooga attorneys transfer to Atlanta. This helped create a seamlessness between the two offices. Twenty-six years later, our Atlanta office is flourishing.

In your experience, what is the most challenging aspect of expanding into a new market? One of the most challenging and important aspects is identifying partners in the new market who have similar values to those we have in Chattanooga. When we established our Atlanta office, we were fortunate to find partners who shared those values. These new attorneys were skilled practitioners who had their own business but put client interests above their own. This kind of sacrifice has been the cornerstone of Miller & Martin’s success over the years.

What advice would you give to business owners who would like to expand their company? Be prepared in advance to address differences in the new markets, whether that is increased competition for clients, different compensation expectations, or differences in expected communication styles. Anticipating how to manage those issues could be the difference in being successful or having an office languish.

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katherine and paul schurer

Katherine and Paul Schurer | Owners, Vinterest

Was expanding beyond Chattanooga always a part of your business plan? It has always been a dream to expand into other markets. We imagine opening stores is like planning a family: we initially planned on having one store, then got the ‘itch’ for a second. Then, opening a third in the Nashville market just made sense for our family. We are always in talks about adding more, but trust God’s timing when it comes to that. We are playing the long game.

In your experience, what is the most challenging aspect of expanding into a new market? So far, the most challenging part for us has been not being able to be everywhere at once! We have learned to utilize our team instead of trying to do everything ourselves. It is hard to trust your ‘baby’ with someone else, but we have found good leaders in all three markets.      

During the process of expansion, has anything come as a surprise to you? From building maintenance issues to customer traffic patterns, each location is different. For example, our Nashville location’s peak time is during the summer, but in Chattanooga, the Christmas season dominates.

What would you say is the most exciting aspect of expanding into a new market? Our once small network has also grown substantially since our 2015 launch. In our Nashville location, we get visits from customers all over the globe. We’ve met celebrities, watched vendors grow to substantial business models, and have witnessed kids grow up over the past nine years. Customers we first met in Chattanooga have supported our Nashville location and vice versa.

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karen hutton

Karen Hutton | Founder, President, & CEO, ModWash

In your experience, what is the most challenging aspect of expanding into a new market? You can’t have your finger on the pulse every day, but that’s where great operations come in. Harry T. Jenkins, our COO, has many years managing 1,000 stores in the tire business, so his relationship with the team, developing the culture, and hiring the right people has been key.

What would you say is the most exciting aspect of expanding into a new market? Offering new local customers an experience they have not had, as well as ‘being the positive ripple’ in new communities by offering great positions for people to grow within our company are both equally exciting for us. ModWash is a fun, woman-owned business.

During the process of expansion, has anything come as a surprise to you? Realizing that districts need to be formed and filled in around our current locations before we expanded to more states. Our brand name is important, so having multiple locations in a market adds value for our customers. Having a membership and being able to visit any ModWash location in the U.S. is a great perk.

Is there anything else you’d like to add? Having the right team to execute is key. I can have a vision, passion, determination, and goal, but if I don’t have the right team to execute, then it’s just a dream.

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tom williams

Tom Williams | Senior Attorney; Leitner, Williams, Dooley & Napolitan, PLLC

In your experience, what is the most challenging aspect of expanding into a new market? For a law firm, the challenge in expanding is locating talented personnel who can perform the tasks at the same level of quality required of our staff. In legal defense work, we have clients who look to us with expectations based on previous performance. We must assure clients that our work will continue at the same or higher level.

What would you say is the most exciting aspect of expanding into a new market? It is a great feeling when the planning and execution of expansion come together, and the time and effort are rewarded. It is also rewarding when the staff we recruited perform at the level expected by the client, the client lets us know that they are relying on the staff we chose, and, as a result, our business grows in the expanded market.

What advice would you give to business owners who would like to expand their company? Choose location and staff carefully. Do your homework, and move forward with the right people in place to give yourself the best opportunity for success.

Pay attention to what is occurring outside your business. Communities are rapidly evolving, which can change your client base, their needs, and their expectations. The determination of if and how to adapt may have to be made quickly to keep up or stay ahead of others in the market.

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donnie hutcherson

Donnie Hutcherson | Managing Partner, HHM

Why did you choose to start your business in Chattanooga? Chattanooga is my hometown. I grew up in the city and have seen its growth and transformation over the last several decades. In the early years, Chattanooga was an okay city in which to do business. Now it is a great city in which to do business. HHM grew alongside our city.

What would you say is the most exciting aspect of expanding into a new market? Giving my partners room to grow is the most exciting part of being in a new market. With each new office, someone from our Chattanooga office has relocated to be in a leadership position and help establish our culture. It is exciting to watch someone that we have hired straight out of college grow within HHM then become a managing partner of one of our new offices. 

During the process of expansion, has anything come as a surprise to you? Yes! It is surprising how important it is to make sure that someone from HHM joins a newly acquired firm from the beginning. Culture is so important, and you just can’t transition culture to a new location without someone that knows our culture to have boots on the ground.

What advice would you give to business owners who would like to expand their company? Crawl, walk, and run. Don’t expand too quickly. Fully integrate each new location before moving on to the next expansion project.

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