Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Q&A: What's Most Enjoyable

Ryan asks:

What part of your work do you enjoy the most? (Interacting with customers, learning about the latest games, crunching the sales figures, managing employees, running events, etc.)

What I mostly enjoy is working for myself. Self employment is so much more satisfying for me than working in a large organization. If I ever have to work for someone else again, a big part of my brain would be working in the background trying to figure out how to attain self employment again.

Being self employed means I get to set the agenda, take the chances, and reap the potentially limitless rewards. All the failures are mine as well, which is fine with me, as it allows me to learn and change, something that I couldn't do as easily in large companies. There are also no safety nets with self-employment, something you don't realize until you find yourself up on that tight rope.

There is no unemployment insurance for example. The expensive workers comp insurance I pay  each month for employees doesn't apply to me. Banks don't understand how to calculate my net worth, so when I try to get a loan, I'm impoverished with a shaky job history but when I try to get a loan modified, I'm a wealthy business owner who doesn't need it. My income has been calculated from 1/2  X to 4X. Every decision I make is legally required to be the best for the business entity, or else. My favorite phrase borrowed from Neal Stephenson is "...to maximize shareholder value." Just tack that on to the end of all your sentences (to  maximize shareholder value).

The first few years I started, I did all the tasks, but now I can delegate the ones I don't enjoy. For example, running events means my job would be a permanent 50+ hours per week, on site, leash.  Plus I don't really enjoy that task. So events I delegate. This is a little unusual in the game trade and there are examples, such as working with Wizards of the Coast, where their system for events assumes the same guy ordering product is the same guy scheduling events. That's a challenge. I don't recommend delegating events, but hey, I'm the boss, right?

I'm also not a big fan of management and scheduling, so I have someone do that too. Scheduling is just some logistics, but I have my manager do that and most of the training of new employees. I end up doing some management by default, but I prefer to treat everyone professional and assume they'll act that way. I'm one of those "don't make me be the boss" kind of managers. I'll help you develop, but for the love of Orcus, show up on time and do the thing.

I still put in that 50+ hour week, but I work on the parts I enjoy most. I work around 35 hours at the store each week, allowing me to interact with customers (probably my favorite part of the job) and another 15 hours at home working on the numbers, marketing, research and planning. Purchasing is a huge part of my job as we place orders daily, which also means receiving daily. Remote access means I can be almost anywhere and perform a sizable part of my job, something I realized when I was logged in while in line at Disneyland a couple years ago.

My goal, by the way, is to be dispensable.  I want the business to be able to run without me. I want it to be Black Diamond Games and not "Gary's Store." This means a bunch of things are possible: It's closer to a hand off if I want to sell it or retire. It's closer to being franchisable, since the processes are sound. I could get sick or injured and it wouldn't crash and burn.  I could start a second store or second business without the first tanking. It also makes working the store more enjoyable for employees when processes are clear. 

Provided we're at full staff, I know I can schedule a vacation and everything will be fine. I've been going on vacations lately where there is no phone service or Internet and I've returned to the place as  I left it. Good processes, but great employees.

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