Expanding your company is "a  customer-led journey," says Ashley Grech. 

The global head of sales at Square says the San Francisco-based fintech follows its customers to choose new territories to bring its operations. The same principle applies to Square sellers, she says. If your customers are headed to Facebook or Instagram, for example, meet them there. 

Grech provided insight on how to expand and pivot your business during a Square-sponsored panel at the Fast Company Innovation Festival on Monday, along with Rachel Lavipour, vice president of sales in North America at New York-based skincare company Malin + Goetz, and Oriana Wen, director of data and innovation at Oakland-based Blue Bottle Coffee. Here are some of the biggest takeaways.

Do more of what you love

During the pandemic, Grech says, Square saw as much as 67 percent of restaurant revenue coming from phone or online orders. Lockdown made that essential, but she says it pushed restaurants to innovate in ways they hadn't in a long time, from the use of QR codes to providing self-serve options. Now customers have gotten used to many of these adaptations.

When you're facing those kinds of opportunities to change for the long term, the challenge is to make sure your new tactic fits your original brand. To accomplish that, Grech offers a mindset tip. "Expansion is just doing more of what you love," she says. "If it's not that...you're just wearing someone's costume." 

Decide whom you want to reach

When planning an expansion, out of necessity or otherwise, decide if you're trying to reach new customers or existing ones. At Blue Bottle, Wen says, they knew current customers liked coming into stores to hang out. After the pandemic hit, they decided to try to reach a new audience with a mobile app -- folks looking to grab a latte on the go. Having a "clear vision" of this new customer helped them develop a version of the app quickly and launch it. 

Set up short-, medium-, and long-term goals 

After the coronavirus started to wreak havoc on real estate, Malin + Goetz saw an opportunity. The company let go of leases in locations that were "not making sense," Lavipour says. Then, they decided to "hyperfocus" on customer service so they could really engage with folks coming into the company's remaining stores. Finally, like many savvy negotiators in 2020, they picked up leases in pricey areas. Malin + Goetz is set to open a location in Williamsburg, Brooklyn this year -- "something that had historically been out of reach for us."  

They key, Lavipour says, is to divide up your response to change into short-, medium-, and long-term goals. In the short term, for example, her team was able to cut costs (by letting go of leases), keep its existing customers (by providing good service), and plan for breaking into new markets (by getting locations in expensive neighborhoods).