Dream big, but set realistic expectations for your first year in business.
Opening a UPS Store in San Francisco back in 2003 was my very first entrepreneurial venture. I had just finished business school a year earlier and I was pretty confident I knew what I was doing. How hard could it be, right? I had the theoretical business knowledge, the support of my franchisor, and the powerful UPS brand behind my back.
What I didn’t realize was how long it would take for people to be aware that our store was actually open, and what The UPS Store brand stood for. The re-branding of Mailboxes Etc. to The UPS Store took place sometime during the spring of 2003, with a big advertising push on TV, radio and print to explain our “new, low pricing, direct from UPS”. My store opened in July, but apparently, consumers still needed more time to fully absorb our value proposition.
So my vision of being as busy as the main UPS hub as soon as we opened our doors turned out to be just a pipe dream. On the first day of our soft-opening, we shipped one bike…and nothing else. Within the next week or so, we were shipping between 5 and 10 small packages a day, and our daily sales didn’t exceed a few hundred dollars. It became fairly obvious to me that hitting my revenue targets would take much longer than expected.
I’m glad I had big dreams — a grand vision for the business — because without it, I would have been scared to death. My honest belief that we would eventually get to where we needed to be, helped me get through those nerve-wracking first few months in business. It also helped that I had a bit of cushion in terms of working capital, otherwise my miscalculation could have proved fatal for the business.
When I sold the store 3 years later, we had the highest revenues subject to royalty among the 15+ stores in San Francisco that month, our very first time in that position. So it all worked out in the end, it just took 3 years to realize those big dreams.