Thursday, February 26, 2009

Getting there...

Well, we are hard at work getting ready to open in Marlborough. It's starting to look more like April than May, and maybe even in the earlier part of April. Some of you have written me asking for firm date, but as yet, I don't have that. Believe me, when I know, you'll know.

Here's why: hard as opening a store is, opening our first one (for us, anyway) is especially hard. The beauty of a franchise, of course, is that we don't also have to invent the operating model. That's done for us. But there is much, much more that's involved.

To give you a bit of an idea of what goes on behind the scenes, here are some of the things it entails:
  • Dealing with vendors: we are simultaneously signing up for gas, electric, linens, pest control, cleaning chemicals, cable/telephone, point-of-sale, credit card processing, security systems, 3 or 4 kinds of insurance, payroll, music (Five Guys always plays specific Sirius channels in their stores), bread, syrup, and of course meat and other food, among other vendors I am leaving out. None of them have ever heard of us before and some want to run personal credit checks even though we have a corporation set up. In this world, they all want to get paid up front for everything. They all have 5 friends who run other businesses targeting small business and those 5 friends all call to pitch something.
  • Hiring: we have rounded out the management team for our first store, and are very proud of the group we have assembled. You're only as good as your people, so we spent a ton of time on this. Next, we/they will have to hire almost 50 people by opening day.
  • Construction/equipment: add to all the vendors above the massive project of design, construction, and equipment ordering. Our construction company has done fantastic work so far, although Marc has spent countless hours chasing down vendors for grills, walk-in coolers, shelving, work tables, etc. At the same time, Five Guys is constantly optimizing how stores should be built. For example: should there be shelving above the fryers? If so, how much and what kind? This affects the bill-of-materials (BOM), and in more than one instance for us, changes it even since we placed the original orders 5 weeks ago.
  • Marketing: this one is easy. Five Guys doesn't do any - they let the product speak for itself. This pays huge dividends in moments like the one I had yesterday with my daughters' babysitter. She's from Alabama, and when I mentioned that we were opening a Five Guys nearby, she went off on a 5-minute tirade about how much she loves Five Guys and that everyone from her high school goes there after basketball games. That said, we will be working closely with the Marlborough Chamber of Commerce, getting involved in local charities and with the schools, and plugging ourselves into the local business community.
  • Banking/lending: this one has also turned out to be easy, which I know is unusual in these times. Our bankers at BB&T (out of Virgina - 13 out of 13 lenders in Mass. turned us down) fund requests the same day, always get back to us quickly, and have been fantastic partners.
Did I mention that we are simultaneously developing pipeline for up to 19 more stores? We actually have a "letter-of-intent" for the second one, which is a description of high-level lease terms but is not legally binding until we sign the actual lease. Of course, before then, we have to form the organization, negotiate the lease, fund a new bank account...

We love what we're doing and are very excited about the first store. But there are definitely days that are excited to run the business, not just build the foundation.

No comments: