How To Avoid 5 Sins of a Startup Retail or Franchise Business

By Bob Phibbs

5 sins of startup retail franchise businessI had come to Charlotte to help a business owner considering expansion.

We drove around and she showed me a location down a side street, on the back side of a grocery store with limited visibility.

She told me she expected to be doing $3000-4000 per day. "Why is that?" I asked. She replied, "Because the competitor across the way has a line out the door day and night.

That's startup business Sin#1 - Unrealistic expectations. You're not your competitor.

Sin #2 -Undercapitalized. When your opening budget is created, you have to expect cost overruns and delays in the buildout. You should still have at least six months of money to operate the business. Oftentimes startups run so close to the rail that if something happens, they don't have the money or credit to get by. That means they open their doors stressed and looking at customers with dollar signs in their eyes. So needy for sales that they often miss on what should be the easiest - exceptional customer service.

Sin #3 - Not take seriously. "Build it and they will come," only worked for Kevin Kostner in Field of Dreams. You can't assume the world will beat a path to your door. There are too many places already to buy too much of the same things - differentiate.

Sin #4 Impatience. This dovetails into #2 but it is the disregard for a well-trained crew that ultimately shoots startup businesses in the foot. Why? With no marketing in place, untrained staff or lack of consistency of product, customers might well flock to your Grand Opening but they won't return. They'll tweet about the bad experience, Yelp about it and flame it on Facebook. In the long run you will have torched your own neighborhood. Remember: bad news travels fastest on grapevines that have soured.

Sin # 5 Picking location by price. I met a Jack in the Box location scout and he told me he was always amazed when a franchisee asked where they should locate, the scout told him and the owner went somewhere else. Why? Because they would tell themselves with the 1/3 savings in rent, they could do 1/3 less business and be at the same place. My take: maybe. But there's a reason rent is cheaper, it is not in demand. You never want to be 100 feet from success and once you sign a lease, you're stuck for a very long time.

These are by no means all the things that frequently go wrong in a startup but they have a common theme: leaping before you know how deep the water is.

Starting a business?

Honestly, answer these four basic questions:

  • Realistically, not hopefully, what do sales have to be to breakeven within six months?

  • Realistically, how much time are you prepared to work in the business?

  • Realistically, who will your customers be? And please don't say, "Everyone." Not even Wal-Mart says that.

  • Realistically, how are you going to get the word out about your business? Please don't say, "Word of mouth." That's a bonus, not a marketing plan.

If you can answer those questions with detailed answers, you'll be sure to avoid the five sins of a startup and be able to grow your retail sales.

 See also, Should You Start A New Business or Retail Store Now?

In Sum

It's great to have hope and belief in yourself. However it bears repeating, build it and they will come, only works in the movies.

Plan ahead.

Work your plan.

And you'll be ahead of the game. Call me before you open the doors, you'll have a great sounding board to make sure you hit it out of the park.

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