Note: this is the second post in my series on business lessons I learned while running a small retail business shortly after graduating from 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 excited about a local skateboard and snowboard shop. I built my cash flow based on other shops in similar markets.
But none of that planning worked because all the facts, business theory, and analysis went out the window when I started selling real products.
Instead of planning for over a year and 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.
This could have been accomplished with less time, less money, and less planning. I should have moved from the theoretical to 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 forecast the response. Start small: build it and sell it as quickly as you can.