The path to a successful startup is almost never straight. Sometimes the best laid business plans for growth require rethinking in order to continue growing, as one well-known and experienced entrepreneur can attest. Norm Brodsky, business mentor and longtime contributor to Inc. Magazine, shared the challenges that he and his partners experienced while working to establish a chain of Japanese restaurants – called Kobeyaki – in the New York City region. The Kobeyaki restaurant chain would offer a fresh take on Japanese casual dining in a comfortable, urban setting. The idea was solid. The entrepreneurs’ plan was to grow this business all the way to the national level. In application, however, their business would end up needing a little flexibility along the way.
Norm and his partners began their dream of creating a national chain with two fast-casual restaurants in commercial areas of NYC. Foot traffic, especially at lunchtime, was high. Success was quick for both locations. They were off to a great start. In 2014 they added a third location to their chain, this one in a more residential spot of Manhattan. They wanted to prove that their business model would work for both commercial and residential areas. Problems arose right from the beginning with this new restaurant. According to Norm, foot traffic was limited at lunchtime, not least because of construction in the area. Dinner traffic wasn’t good either. The restaurant was doing less than half the business of the other two restaurants. The plan that worked for the first two restaurants wasn’t working for this new one, but Norm was hardly surprised.
“It’s rare, I’ve found, that you’re able to stick to the plans you make when you’re starting out in a new business,” Norm explains. “Something almost always comes up that forces you to change course. It could be an obstacle, or it could be an unexpected opportunity. Either way, your plans often need to be rethought.”
Be Ready to Change Your Business Plan to Suit Your Changing Business
The obstacles that Norm and his partners faced are all too typical for business startups. Problems often arise even when the idea is great and the business plan is sound. Entrepreneurs need to stay flexible and be willing to change the course of their business as need demands. Remember that at the end of the day establishing a successful startup is what’s important. Plans can and do require revamping in order to best serve the business. This is exactly what Norm did.
“So we changed our plans. Instead of opening two more restaurants in the city, we had to fix number three. We knew there were potential customers living in the apartment buildings around us. To lure them, we printed new takeout menus and leafleted the area. We also did mailings with coupons for discounts. Our main problem soon became apparent: The local residents didn’t like going out in the evening. So we had to do something we’d never planned on or wanted to do: delivery.”
By incorporating a few new aspects into their business plan – including delivery options – these entrepreneurs were able to turn around their troubled third restaurant and bring in into profitability. They didn’t achieve this by sticking to their original business plan. They did it by being willing to change, rerun their market review for that location, and make smart changes as they grew their company. As a result their restaurant started to take off, and new opportunities for growth arose that they were primed to take advantage of.
“If we can demonstrate the appeal of our concept in both commercial and residential areas, an arena, an airport, and three states, we’ll be in great shape to start looking for the capital we need to go national. It’s not how we planned it. But plans change. That’s one thing you can always plan on.”
Read Norm Brodsky’s article in its original form at Inc. Magazine’s website.