The Business of Expansion

Local Leaders Discuss the Ins and Outs of Large-Scale Expansion

Where there is vitality, there will be growth. Expansion is a key indicator of a successful business, and many businesses in the Chattanooga area have had the opportunity to expand as our market has grown.

We spoke with several leaders to learn more about why their businesses have expanded, how they strategically managed the expansion, and what they’ve learned along the way – here’s what they had to say.

Jason Provonsha CEO, Steam Logistics Jason Provonsha

CEO

Steam Logistics

How has your company grown or expanded over the years?

Steam has grown from $33 million in sales in 2019 to $358 million in 2021, with projected sales of $900 million in 2022. We have hired 600 people in the last 12 months, along with opening six new offices outside of Chattanooga.

steam logistics
What prompted this expansion?

With the global supply chain disruption of the past few years, Steam has been reinvesting into the company – adding several new offices and recruiting in additional markets – to continue serving our 2,500 customers.

How did you maintain the customer experience throughout this expansion?

We have added a ton of great leaders and executives who have been hard at work ensuring we stay focused on consistency around our internal culture and the customer experience. We are very fortunate to have this kind of talent inside our company, and it’s had an exponential impact as we’ve experienced this meteoric growth.

What are some key indicators that it’s time for a company to expand?
Customers will tell you. If you are adding a lot of new business and getting good responses to the work you are doing, then you should double down on that and reinvest for growth.

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Steve Goede General Manager, West Star Aviation ChattanoogaSteve Goede

General Manager

West Star Aviation Chattanooga

How has your company grown or expanded over the years?

Since 2018, we’ve added almost 225 employees, several additional hangars, and a significant amount of floor space for maintenance and back shop support.

How did your company’s administrative structure evolve?

We are actively focused on building a robust admin support team. We’ve invested in front line management training, and we have dedicated trainers on-site who engage in internal development to help identify future leaders. It’s very rewarding to watch our employees develop professionally.

In what ways did your support personnel have to adapt?

We’ve invested in innovative technology, allowing our operations system to be used remotely and on tablets. We outfit each one of our technicians with iPads, giving them accessible technology at their fingertips. We try to engage support personnel and keep it simple.

 West Star Aviation Chattanooga
Were there any unanticipated challenges?

Qualified and skilled labor is becoming more difficult to recruit. Becoming an AMP technician requires a two-year certification or 30 months of on-the-job training. We are always looking to bring in qualified technicians.

What is your advice for communications teams during expansion?

Internally, thank and praise the current team. The culture and relationships fostered over the years are a reflection of their direct commitment. Externally, highlight partnerships and added value – we like to recognize both employees and customers.

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Erik Niel Owner & Chef, Easy Bistro & Bar and Main Street MeatsErik Niel

Owner & Chef

Easy Bistro & Bar and Main Street Meats

How has your company grown or expanded over the years?

Our restaurants have been in constant states of growth and development over the years. We grow every day, and thus we’re always on the move. This was especially true during the pandemic, when both businesses were able to pivot, adapt, and even grow multiple times. It was exhilarating and exhausting, but in the end, we grew in every fundamental way.

 Easy Bistro & Bar and Main Street Meats
How did you maintain the customer experience throughout this expansion?

The customer is always our North Star … we exist to take care of them. We stay true to this value, and all of the other stuff takes care of itself.

How did your company’s administrative structure evolve?

We have grown, albeit slowly, our management structure as we have been able to recruit talented people.

In what ways did your support personnel have to adapt?

They had to pivot and adapt at a moment’s notice. When surges in demand occurred, all of our people had to learn to be faster while maintaining quality.

What is your advice for communications teams during expansion?

You have to believe in what you are doing, otherwise no one will get behind you and help push.

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Roshan Amin President & CEO, Dynamic GroupRoshan Amin

President & CEO

Dynamic Group

How has your company grown or expanded over the years?

We have been recognized as a leader in developing and managing hotels since inception, but we have since expanded into additional industries. Our newest venture, Dynamic Labels, is a custom label manufacturing company focused on serving local businesses such as Hutton & Smith, Naked River, Haygood Farms, and more.

 Dynamic Group
What prompted this expansion?

The supply chain crisis caused by the pandemic inspired us to enter the label manufacturing industry. We studied the market and identified areas we could improve, then planned to expand at a manageable pace to maintain high standards.

How did your company’s administrative structure evolve?

Our goal is to create new job opportunities to support more Chattanoogans. Dynamic Labels has already created three gainful employment opportunities, and we are forecasting more growth in the near future.

What are some key indicators that it’s time for a company to take a growth action?

Growth starts with considering our clients’ needs. Many opportunities exist, and so long as we can be nimble and make calculated risks, we shall remain well-positioned for growth.

What is your advice for communications teams during expansion?

The key to success is in the preparation. It is vital to understand every aspect of the expansion and how it will affect your existing system. There will always be growing pains, but do your best to plan well and keep everyone informed for smooth action!

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Jamey Elrod Co-Founder & Chief Customer Officer, Text RequestJamey Elrod

Co-Founder & Chief Customer Officer

Text Request

How has your company grown or expanded over the years?

Expansion has been steady and ongoing for us. We moved to bigger offices in 2017, 2019, and again in 2021. We have about 7,300 square feet now, and we may be growing out of that before long! We’ve also expanded our products and our workforce, but our biggest growth is ahead of us. 2022 is a banner year – we’re staffing up, making major product improvements, and on track to triple our customer count.

Jamey Elrod Co-Founder & Chief Customer Officer, Text Request
What prompted this expansion?

We hire (and move offices) when there’s a clear need. Our thought process for product and market expansions is similar. We talk directly to dozens of customers every day to determine their needs and identify opportunities. There’s other work that goes into it, but those customer conversations are the foundation for our decisions.

Were there any unanticipated challenges that took place?

When mobile carriers implemented “10DLC” regulations for business texting in 2021, that brought new fees and processes for the entire industry. We had to adapt internally while also navigating the change for our customers.

What is your advice for communications teams during expansion?

You may not have all the answers, but tell your people what’s going on and what you’re trying to figure out. This can also apply to customer communications, particularly if there’s an ongoing shift in your industry or company. If you don’t communicate, no one will know.

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Craig Fuller CEO & Founder, FreightWavesCraig Fuller

CEO & Founder

FreightWaves

How has your company grown or expanded over the years?

As one of the fastest-growing technology companies in the country, change is part of our business model. Part of our growth involves a sort of rapid experimentation – we lean into what works and quickly scrap what doesn’t. We also continually focus on new iterations of what has worked – optimizing the software, adding features, and improving the user experience. We’re not an organization that sits idle.

Craig Fuller CEO & Founder, FreightWaves
How has your company’s administrative structure evolved?

When you’re starting a business from scratch, the founding team does everything – you’re the janitor, you’re the accountant, you’re the head of HR … you’re getting the mail, but you’re also coding the software. Then, once you have the resources, you become much more compartmentalized. As the business scales, we’ve been able to attract talent with increasingly specialized skills to keep leveling up our operation.

What is your advice for an expanding company?
When businesses are afraid to fail, they end up overcomplicating innovation. They might invest all their resources for the year into one big launch – I think that’s actually a mistake, because it limits your opportunities. We’re constantly experimenting with new launches; we’re willing to have something fail, and we welcome those failures. Every failed launch gives us valuable information to improve upon in the next iteration. I’d say it’s the number of times at bat that matter.

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Christopher Wood Co-Owner, (Be)Caffeinated

Christopher Wood

Co-Owner

(Be)Caffeinated

How has your company grown or expanded over the years?

We have gone from the two owners working every shift to nearly 50 employees on the payroll, and from one location to four. We have also rolled out a monthly Giveback Program where we partner with local nonprofits. Every step we have taken has brought on hardships and challenges, but it has all been worth it because we keep the happiness of our employees at the forefront.

(Be)Caffeinated
What prompted this expansion?

Vertical integration of our products has always been on our radar, and when we had an opportunity to open a roaster – and were practically forced to open a bakery – the decision was easy to make. This allows us to have a stronger hand in flavors, quality control, and pricing and has opened doors into unique opportunities we would not have previously had.

What are some key indicators that it’s time for a company to expand?

If you are either too busy or too bored, something needs to change. If you do not have enough business, you need to change your marketing, offerings, or branding. If it is too busy for whomever leads the frontlines, then you need to hire more people, change your workflow, or optimize and delegate tasks. There are a ton of ways to “grow” your business, and a good amount of them don’t require any money out of pocket.

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