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Lesson #2: Know Where You Want to Go, Then Worry about the Way
“It was an extremely serious goal in that it never changed,” says DeLuca. “We never had a discussion about changing the goal. We always talked about the goal; we always kept it in mind. We thought it was achievable because the other guy had done it.”
Sales on DeLuca’s first day of opening were poor, and they continued to drop steadily thereafter. Still, he remained fixed on his goal of 32 stores. “I didn’t have big family expenses,” he says. “I didn’t have high expectations. I was willing to try solutions that other people may not even have thought of. I’m not saying they were all smart solutions, but I tried them.”
Even as his first two stores came short of closing, that idea never cross DeLuca’s mind. “I didn’t know enough about business to realize how bad we were doing,” he says. “And I didn’t have the concept that you should quit at something. I can think of so many reasons why we shouldn’t have made it. We were on the edge continuously.”
DeLuca knew that in dreaming of opening 32 stores in ten years, he was reaching for the stars. But in doing so, he also gave himself the motivation to keep going even when things looked like they could not go any further. In fact, the chain seemed to be losing its edge around the time of the 16th store opening, but DeLuca pushed on. “We would not have franchised if we didn’t have this plan,” he says.
Looking back on his success, DeLuca realizes not only how beneficial his goal-oriented focus was, but that he jumped in headfirst without doing too much planning. During construction of his first store, somebody came by and asked DeLuca what he was doing. “I’m building a sandwich store,” he said proudly. With that, he was told he could not just build one without getting approval first.
“I walked to town hall and said, ‘I have to get some kind of license for the store I’m going to open,’” DeLuca recalls. “The lady behind the counter said, ‘We need some kind of plans for your store.’ I said, ‘Well I don’t have any plans.’ She said, ‘If you could draw something out, that would be great.’ So I drew a sketch, gave it to her, she stamped it, and that was it.”
DeLuca says he “never had plans drawn, never went to the city for building permits.” Although he admits this kind of strategy would hardly be allowed today, he credits his spontaneity and focus on the long-term goals with getting him through much of the tough times.
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