Thursday, November 7, 2013

Nine Years In

We celebrate our 9th anniversary on Sunday, with a big party, lots of games and our usual, amazing, tri-tip sandwiches. We're doing well this year, with sales up 7%, despite many of our top games seemingly in a transition year. We've hired two new, excellent staff members, Taylor and Alexis. We've expanded our operations to include a convention person and because of this, went to more of them this year. In general, I would describe my attitude about year nine as "pleased."

Last year was a more exciting, bombastic year, with the BDG van, Black Knight 2000 pinball machine and the really big accomplishment of paying off all our debt in a giant chunk. This year was more of a nuts and bolts, bolstering the business year. I believe the request from the investors for this year was more business value and "less pimp value."

So with maximizing shareholder value and reducing pimp value in mind, we installed intelligent, Nest thermostats to attempt to better manage our dual zone climate and save money (although the Nests are pretty pimp). Did it work? I know it does, but I can't put a number on it, since electric bills are so dependent on outside weather, which is unpredictable. It does prevent some of the dumb things that occasionally happen, like half the store blowing cold while the other blows hot. It understands that we want FNM to be nice and cool at around 6pm, and it's smart enough to start working towards that temperature in advance. It also brought up the fact that we don't have the capacity to really keep the place cool when the outside temperature tops 100. We've tried to fix that with fans, but really, all bets are off in triple digits.

We spent three months on network infrastructure, after an attempt to save a few bucks with AT&T Uverse went horribly wrong. The business is dependent on Internet for everything, so you can imagine what happened when I switched to an intermittent service at the beginning of the holiday season last December. I gave myself two weeks for it to settle down before our critical sales period, but it took three months before we could rip it out and install the excellent service from Sonic, along with several more months of getting out of the breached AT&T contract. "You suck, I'm not paying" is a valid business argument, especially backed with a complaint to the public utilities commission.

Once the Internet was stable, we upended the rest of our IT infrastructure with new, professional grade, cash wrap fixtures and an entirely new, Mac based, point of sale system. Lightspeed was installed over the Summer and included two weeks of the most stress I've experienced in the business, as we had to shoehorn our old database into this new system, while training everyone how to use both the POS and a Mac. I had switched to the Mac earlier in the year, so that was a test run to see if it was something great or the questionable Mac of my youth. It's certainly great. Several months later and we're just now seeing the dividends begin to pay out from the change over. Special orders, especially, are smooth and efficient.

Finally, there is the expansion. I never should have started talking about it until it was farther along, but we do have news, which I only report because I'm asked so very often. We commissioned a feasibility study over the Summer to get an idea of whether such a build out was even worth doing. We were surprised at the results, mostly because they included things we weren't expecting but also didn't include deal breakers we were expecting. Sometimes you go down a path just so you can be officially told "no," and that didn't happen. The feasibility study suggested it just might be feasible. If I'm vague about this, it's because I need to be since there are so many stakeholders in this and it's such a delicate project.

The feasibility study was step one. Step two began a couple weeks ago with a formal layout, including the complex structural issues in our building. There is a number we're looking for, a seating capacity for the game center that I won't reveal now, but the goal was to get to that number. If that can be done without breaking the bank, then the project could move forward. If not, it isn't going to be feasible. That's step two. How many steps are there? At least five. However, we are now beginning to plan internally as to how we'll use it, rather than if we'll have it. For us, that little binary mental switch is usually all the difference between success and failure.

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