Ten Thoughts for Ten Years (PART 2)

Jay HeadshotIn PART ONE I discussed how the ten-year mark gives one an opportunity to reflect on how we got here, where we are, and where we are headed.

6. It’s all fun and games
The best part of my job is that I get to sell fun in a box.  It’s all about getting the right kind of fun to each person.  Events, demo games, open copies, competitions, online reviews and content, are all things done specifically to help each person find the right kind of fun for them.  Just like teaching, each person responds differently to these methods of reaching them.  Some people respond to competition, and hosting elaborate events and tournaments is what will get them most excited.  Others are casual occasional players, who are looking for something unthreatening and easy, something they can convince their non-gamer friends to play.

We are at our best when we are providing opportunities for all kinds of people to fall in love with the right kind of game for them.

It’s also very important to separate my own opinions on games, from what I know others will enjoy.  I may personally think that Catan is a bit slow, that the trading is a bit clunky, and that randomness takes over more than I would like – but I also know that it is an amazing gate-way game.  It’s something a good chunk of the public is familiar with, or has heard of.  It’s developed a solid place in the history of games, and is an excellent game to get people playing, because it hooks them on the hobby. It’s a straight up Hall of Famer, no matter how much I personally want to play it these days.  I will pitch Catan all day long to the right kind of person, and be confident that they’ll go home and love it, and that there is a more than good chance that they’ll come back looking for recommendations: that’s when I can pitch some of my personal favs.

Gamers all have opinions, strong ones.  This game is crap, that company sucks, anyone that doesn’t like ____ is a moron.  But the truth is that this is a big industry, and EVERYONE in the world should be able to find something they can enjoy in it.  It’s my job to help them find it.

7. It’s not all fun and games
Owning and operating a game store is a surprisingly complex endeavor.  As far as businesses go there are more moving parts than I can count.  I have had to become at least competent at handling business things like payroll, taxes, bank-stuff, paperwork of all sorts.  Also I have to establish systems for trade ins, sales and organization of singles, customer rewards, managing store credit, returns, online sales.  I have employees to manage, hire, train.  I have events to coordinate, volunteers to wrangle, prizes to manage, feedback to take, adjustments to make.  I have to sift through the hundreds (yes hundreds) of new products that are released each and every month, research trends, build rapport with distributors, orders to place, customer order to manage, product to receive, walls to merchandise, signs to make.  I have a play space with terrain to make (and fix), customer trash to pick up, floors to vaccuum, and games to sort.  And that’s before we open our doors for the day to the public.

There are a lot of balls to keep in the air that’s for sure.  But it keeps us busy.  It also always gives us something to work on, because there is no way we keep all those balls in the air at the same time consistently. Which is why…

8. Customer feedback is liquid gold
No matter how much I love to hear that people enjoyed themselves, and love our store, I will always make time to address people with constructive criticism.  Sometimes after an event, or shopping experience people leave unsatisfied.  I hate it but it’s true.  Usually these people just silently sit thinking that we let them down, or that our event was kind of meh, or even worse that they’ll never come back – and I never even know about it.

On other occasions people let us know their disappointment.  Sometimes they let me know in person, or they email us, and often they vent a bit on Facebook.  Now I do prefer the direct approach, because it’s a bit painful seeing your efforts diagnosed and critiqued online.  However the FB method has it’s own merits because you get to see beyond one person’s opinion.  Quickly you discover if this is a universal complaint, or a one-time screw up.

As much as moments of it are painful, I love getting feedback, even when critical.  At least this way I can exercise  some diplomacy, ask some questions, and get to the bottom of it.  At least this gives me a chance to fix the problem.  I even get the opportunity to get a second chance from those vowing never to return.

I am always grateful for those brave enough to give me the chance to address their concerns.  Especially because…

9. Reviews are important to my business
Whether on Facebook, Google, Yelp, Yellow Pages, or elsewhere reviews are an important step towards customer acquisition.  My business needs positive reviews to attract new customers.  And I need new customers to stay in business.  That’s not to say that reviews are the glue that holds my business together, but it is an important tool to have.

I hate getting a negative review.  I think most small business owners feel that way.  Which makes negative reviews a great way to get our attention right?

Well…sort of.  You see the problem with giving a place a negative review is that you aren’t all that likely to go back and address it again.  If you have a problem with a business, I would suggest the following: tell them, and give them a chance to fix it, and if they don’t THEN review them negatively.  I can tell you that if you come to me I will absolutely hear you out, and likely will take steps to fix the problem you’ve had.

If you just write a negative review, I will address it too, take similar steps, but your review will almost always remain even after a problem has been fixed, because people rarely re-view their own reviews.  It’s a permanent blotch on my record, one that may not be relevant anymore, one that may not represent the original poster’s current opinions, but certainly continues to hurt my shop.

That being said reviews, both good and bad, are important.  If you have the time, please post a review yourself about BKG – good or bad I will appreciate it.  They create a complete picture of my businesses to others, and it’s my job, and my staff’s job to earn good ones.  Which is why…

10. Good staff are the crown jewels of a game store
Nothing is more important that having good staff.  They represent my store to the public more hours of the week than even I do.  Finding the right kind of people to work for me is tough, because there is a lot to learn, we need reliability and flexibility in hours, we don’t have a huge payroll budget, and they need to have the right personality.

Luckily for us, gamers love the idea of working in a game store, so we have our choice out of a pretty big field of applicants each time.

Unluckily for us, our customers are also important regulars, that we like, and are often friends with.  You need to disappoint a lot of people each time you hire.

We don’t hire often, which I take as a good thing.  It means that we hire good people, and those people stay with us a long time.  I have hired only sixteen people in ten years, most of those worked for over two years with us.  I’ve also always had people in the management level that I could trust, bounce ideas off off, and rely on.  The first years it was Rob, and currently it’s Mike and Tim.  Mike and Tim are opposites in some ways, they project two different sides of my own personality.  Tim likes to think things through, really analyze, and execute over time with all the angles covered.  Mike likes to just get things done, figure it out on the fly, and roll up his sleeves.  They balance me out, and keeping things moving, while also making sure we properly think things out.

I am extremely grateful for the staff that I have had over the years, we wouldn’t be here today without them.  And I am especially grateful for the untold hours of council with Rob, Tim, and Mike.

11. The first ten are only the beginning
We are now in our eleventh year.  So far it’s our best yet.  We have gotten over some financial hurdles, recovered from mistakes, and things are going well right now – but they won’t all be boom years.  What I have learned is that after ten years in business that I love it, and that I can grind my way through the rough spots, and get pack on the fairway.  BKG will continue as long as I remain passionate for it, as long as I feel it’s worth fighting for, and as long as I have great staff, and enthusiastic customers walking through my door.  I can’t wait to begin the next ten.

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  1. […] Join me shortly for more rambling thoughts in Part 2 shortly […]

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