HOW GROWTH CAN
BEGET MORE GROWTH
As this retailer kicks its expansion efforts into high gear,
its founders say that talent management and delegation
are key to carving out more time for strategic planning.
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W hen Wayne Whelan opened his frst store, Terapy, in 1986, he made quite a mark
on the San Francisco retail scene. He just
didn’t make any money. But the used
furniture shop won a Best of the Bay
award and a legion of fans who came
back to check out the store’s second
incarnation, rebranded as Terapy Store,
which Whelan and his wife, Jing Chen,
founded as co-CEOs several years later.
Tat frst shop has grown to a chain of
ten stores that sell a mix of clothing,
accessories, gifts, and home furnishings.
For most of the company’s history its
growth has come one store at a time.
But this year, Whelan and Chen will
open three new locations, including one
in Portland, Oregon, their frst outside
California. Te company credits its
fnancial discipline as a major factor in
its ambitious growth plan. “We always
pay our bills on time,” Chen says. “We
as a company are really known for being
responsible. Te business no longer
depends on how much we have in the
bank but rather on the commercial
credit we have built over the years.”
But orchestrating three store openings
created new challenges in scalability—and
new concerns for the owners. “Getting
big can cause you to be out of touch with
the reality of how your employees feel, or
how your customers feel, or how your
product is faring,” Whelan says. “Growth
is good. But not everything grows equally.
If you don’t focus on the skills and abilities
of your team, then you may just be grow-
ing a bigger set of problems.”
To allay those concerns and meet the
scalability challenge, he and Chen have
had to accept the need to delegate more
responsibilities and fnd and develop
talent—managers who can contribute
to the company’s ongoing growth with-
out the owners’ daily supervision.
Tat’s a challenge that many small
business owners struggle with, but
Whelan says that it’s “liberating to not
be the person who has the answer for
everything.” And giving managers more
authority over daily operations creates
more time to focus on strategy. “Te
more stores we have, the more money
we can pay our support staf, and the
better job they can do in helping us to
run the business, while we continue to
focus on growing the business.”
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