Dan DiZio | Crain's Washington D.C.

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Dan DiZio

Background:  

Founded in 1998 by college friends Dan DiZio and Len Lehman, Philadelphia-based Philly Pretzel Factory has more than 165 franchised locations around the country.

The Mistake:

My mistake was not thinking ahead. We didn’t have any sort of business plan when we first started Philly Pretzel Factory. We were so focused on the product side that we completely overlooked everything else, and it almost ruined our business. Though people were lining up outside the door for our pretzels, we had no staff to help us accommodate them more efficiently. And we had no cash registers.

Three months into our business, we were struggling to keep up with things. Although the business was a dream come true for us, my partner was ready to give me the keys and walk away because we were working 21-hour days, sleeping on flour bags at the store and falling asleep at the wheel of our cars. We had no days off.

We also spent almost $100,000 in six months on several different types of flooring because we didn’t do enough research into which type of floor worked best for our kind of operation.

It was a mess.

This might sound simple, but we really should have had a business plan.

The Lesson:

This might sound simple, but we really should have had a business plan. We were just a couple of new guys who thought they could come up with a product and wing it.

Fortunately, we caught our error early and corrected it.

After struggling really hard those first three months, my partner and I decided to sit down and put our plans on paper. We set goals and came up with strategies to help us get there. Had we done that earlier, we would have saved ourselves a lot of trouble. For example, we were initially going out to Sam’s Club to buy flour every night after closing shop, when we could have just had it delivered to our store.

Now, we sit down and plan out every detail and decision. We think about potential roadblocks and how we might approach them, so it’s not a costly and time-consuming surprise. That’s not to say we’re perfect now. We’re still trying to be better at preparing ourselves for certain situations. But we’re much better at it than we were before.

Philly Pretzel Factory is on Twitter at @PPFpretzels.

Photo courtesy of Philly Pretzel Factory