One of my favorite quotes is that new ventures have a 'high ratio of assumption to knowledge' (McGrath & MacMillan, 1995, p. 4). Essentially, when you start a business, you are relying on a huge pile of assumptions. Take the business plan, for instance. It is an important tool that I highly recommend, but it is based almost completely upon assumptions such as what price you think you can charge, how you think the customers/competitors will react, the sales you think you can get, etc. You will likely get financing if your assumptions appear believable, but it is still not a guarantee of success.
As a business grows, however, this ratio of assumption to knowledge should change. You will get customer feedback regarding your prices and products/services. You will see how your competitors react. You will find out how much sales you can actually build. Then, if you are going to be successful, you integrate this knowledge into your working business plan to reduce your reliance on all those unknown assumptions.
As I am writing this blog, I am sitting here at my favorite coffee shop and just finished a conversation with the owner. (By the way, if you ever get to Linton, IN, you have to look up Francisco de Borja!!!) They are in their second year of business and he described their experience thus far as a roller coaster as they try to figure out what works and doesn't work for their business. One example he gave me was their pastry cases, they realized that customers are more apt to purchase pastries if they are on the counter where they can see it and help themselves rather than in the case. I've also noticed that they have modified what they sell for lunch and also what they sell retail.
What I admire about their business is that they are willing and open to taking in new knowledge and integrating it to produce a more successful business. Other businesses can get stuck on that initial business plan (based entirely on assumptions) and don't take the opportunity to adapt and grow into a mature business with the new knowledge being given.