Note: this is the second post in my series on business lessons I learned while running a small retail business shortly after graduating university. Click here to go to the first post.
When I did my research, everything looked "fine" on paper. My area had more than enough target market; they had the money and the demand for the goods. I interviewed potential customers, all of whom were excited about the idea of a local skateboard and snowboard shop. I built my cash-flow based on other shops in similar markets.
But none of that planning ended up working, because all of the facts, business theory, and analysis went out the window as soon as I started selling real products.
Instead of planning for over a year, and then launching a big store, I should have planned for a month and launched multiple test-runs. I could have tried selling skateboards out of my truck at the skatepark. I could have rented a temporary space in the mall over Christmas. I could have tried home delivery.
All of this could have been accomplished with less time, less money, and less planning. I should have moved from the theoretical to actually selling the product. This would have given me the data I couldn't accomplish doing other types of research: will this work? Is it worth doing?
Until you produce and sell something real, you can't really forecast what the response will be. Start small: build it and sell it as quickly as you can.