Just Because You’ve Done It, Doesn’t Mean You Can Do It

Norm Brodsky, who writes a regular column for INC, is someone we read regularly and normally agree with, but not with his column about the multi-time pizza store owner who decided to go upmarket. There are a variety of things to consider when you’re deviating from a template that’s done well for you, that weren’t discussed in Norm’s response to Ian Gurfield of Madison Wisconsin.

1. Why do I want to do this? Why not stick to the template? Especially in Madison Wisconsin, which is a big college town. Basic pizza joints rule.

2. Am I in the right location for an upscale restaurant? What research have I done about the new location? It wasn’t apparent that Ian had done any, just assuming that the previous successes would carry over to the new concept. $100,000 mistake. Success breeds a little complacency.

3. Launches don’t usually go according to plan; customers don’t automatically show up, competitors react, etc. Ian might well have pulled the plug on his concept before he’d tried all the various things he could have done in the marketing kit bag. The more novel the concept, the longer it might to take to break even.

4. Ian might not have had the financial resources to hang on much longer. Make sure (as best you can, which is about 80% at best) that you’ve got enough resources to last. We co-owned a restuarant in a poor location for its market and with a novel food concept that took over a year to break even, let alone start returning capital. Should he have brought in a partner in the new venture? We did, and it was key to hanging on.

5. This is unique to the restaurant business, but used restaurant equipment isn’t worth squat, especially if it was designed for your place. Make sure that this factors into your thinking: how much am I going to loose if it doesn’t work? In other words, you might have a 20% chance of losing $100,000, or $20,000. Factor that into your projections, e.g., you’ve got 20k of additional costs.

So, take our courses, even if you’ve done it before. Getting your success chances up to 80% with an investment of, say $120 should be a no-brainer.

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