Friday, June 27, 2008

The Two Store Dream

I have this recurring bad dream. In the dream, I'm doing fine, running my store, and then I suddenly realize I have two stores! This other store is in a bad location (Pleasanton in my dream), with falling sales, thieving staff, and an owner (me) who often forgets it even exists. I jump in my car and head to this bad store, closing the good store for a time, with the back of my car full of stock that the bad store needs, depriving the good store and it's good customers. I can even envision the quiet corner in Pleasanton where this pathetic game store resides. Implied in the dream is that I'm milking my "cash cow", store number one, to keep this sad second store going. Then I wake up. Phew!

For a year or so I planned on having two stores and thoughts of how I would do it are permanently etched on my consciousness. It seemed like the thing to do once your first store was off the ground and you weren't completely broke. I talked with many people in the industry about my plan, and the consensus was that a second store was more than twice as hard as running one store. There are staff issues, stocking issues, the potential of stealing customers from yourself and the kicker for me: you end up managing your business instead of managing your store. It's probably great for a pure entrepreneur, but I enjoy operations; I'm an operations guy with an operations background. Business stuff can be fun, but it's often a necessary evil to operations.

Worse, beyond two stores it gets infinitely more difficult. Many store owners go from one store to two stores, which works out fairly well, despite the extra work, and then they go to three, four or five stores. Then it all falls apart, and it's back to four stores, then three, two, and finally back to one store. Beyond two stores, I'm told, requires an additional layer of management to make it work. You end up with a full-time buyer, human resources person, and CEO type overseer. Unfortunately, you can't afford that layer of management until you get to many more stores. It's a catch-22, which I often think retail is in general.

Instead of the two stores, as you know, I opened a much larger store and gave in to my impulse to manage a store and not those managing my stores. It means I have greater control over processes, customer service, the cleanliness of the store and the direction the store moves. I gave in to my obsessive compulsive urges and I'm happier for it. All my problems are in front of me, and not spread through different counties. I'm better able to establish my vision and ensure it's carried out. The "dream" of two stores, which I had for a while as a pleasant experience, is now a frightening dream of trying in vain to get my vision across and applying band-aids to major problems that I can't be there to fix. Some people can make the two store dream pleasant, but my guess is that it becomes a nightmare for most.

Here's an article on the basics of opening a second store.

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