Business idea: MARKET TESTING

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The finest place to develop a profitable business, and the best
way of building success, is often when you are already operating a
business. Lessons can be taken directly from the market and your
customers to give you an instant guide on what is working—and
what isn’t.
The idea
Julian Metcalfe and Sinclair Beecham founded the successful
Pret A Manger chain of sandwich shops in 1986. It has gained
substantial profits, been credited with “reinventing the sandwich,”
and become familiar in Britain, New York, and Hong Kong.
Yet their business did not start out as a sandwich shop; the original
store was an off-licence (liquor store) in Fulham, London, called
“Hair of the Dog.” However, they soon realized this was not a
winning formula. Although takings were high, the profit margin was
not—Sinclair Beecham stated, “We decided there was more scope
in low-priced, high-margin foods like sandwiches.” By listening to
clients and having a bold readiness to drastically alter the customer
offering when necessary, they became successful.
This was a lesson they learned firsthand while actively doing
business in the market. Because any marketplace will always have
a degree of unpredictability, the best way to learn the formula for
a high-profit business is by “learning as you go.”
This is not a lesson that Sinclair Beecham has forgotten. In late
2006, when preparing to launch the Hoxton, an innovative “budget luxury” hotel in central London, he commented, “The Hoxton is an
experiment. We’ll see if it works. There’ll be things that we need to
change, and we’ll listen to our customers if we need to do so.”
In practice
When starting a new business, do not expect to achieve a flawless
formula instantly. No matter how much abstract preparation is
done beforehand, there will always be lessons that can only be
learned on the “shop floor.”
Do not be discouraged when problems are encountered. View
them not as obstacles or failures but as invaluable opportunities
for learning. Analyze why they occurred, their significance, and
their impact.
Be prepared to make drastic changes to your business. Although
it can be tempting to hold onto a particular formula, it may have
to be altered, or in extreme cases discarded, for a more profitable
Combine abstract learning with hands-on experience. The two
concepts do not have to be mutually exclusive.

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