Monday, February 16, 2015

Off the Counter (Tradecraft)

I made the decision recently to step away from the counter and hand over day to day operations to my staff. After ten years of being pulled in different directions, of building the business while running the business, I finally decided to give away part of that work. My staff is really good, in many ways, better at the job than me.

It's a hard decision to make, since customer interactions are the best part of the job. I'm pretty good at it too. Moving on from something you've mastered is difficult (yes, I said it), but I think it's also necessary. The trap is getting stuck, and I was feeling stuck. So what do I do?

Well, I still go to work at the store. Finding enough work to do is like any new job you step into. You know there are things that need doing. You know there are things that you're supposed to be doing, that you haven't figured out yet. Your day is about poking around, tying to find out what those things are. For me, it's about taking the "building a business" tasks and giving them my full attention. Marketing is a good example. Community outreach is something I've stated is an objective that others are working on (important, but not my thing). Purchasing, which is often rushed, now is more professional. Dealing with the smaller vendors and negotiating deals has been my thing of late. Oh, and there's still a decent chance I'll be managing a construction project. You get the idea.

There are pitfalls here. First, it's important I continue to show up. The institutional knowledge is still being transmitted to staff. I've got my finger on the pulse of the business, but more as an observer. Step away, and that will change. I'm not retired or off starting a new business, which has different issues. Second, there is still the question of whether this new position is temporary or full time. It might be seasonal if I run out of meaningful projects. Perhaps it's a January through March break after each busy, holiday season. Third, is this could also be a trap of sorts, keeping me from starting a second store or other business. A safe place to explore a business that is self sufficient and really doesn't need the extra attention (I disagree with that).

This is the point where a customer might have concerns that the whole business, the service and selection, will completely fall apart. That's valid. However, I've been at the new job, kind of informally, since around October. The store is in very good shape at the moment.

Some store owners will say you should never do this. Burn down your office. Others will ask me what took so long. I think it's a decision as personal and unique as every store out there. What do you think?


  1. Hands on the wheel you can't do much more than tactics, short-term decisions. Riding in the backseat opens the doors of strategy, analysis, and allows you to do your real job : running a business. Running a store is a nice job, but it gets in the way of actually running the business.

  2. Owner a game store is a work of passion for me. I am most passionate when dealing with the customers in my store. Could I run a better business if I were more hands off? Perhaps. Would I enjoy it as much? Definitely not. If I were in this just for the money, I would do something else for work. I am in this because I love being on the front lines. I have 1 shift per week that is dedicated to strategy and "managing the big picture". The rest of the time I work with my crew and have a blast doing it.

    I hope that your new position works for you. Just be very aware of your satisfaction in your work. If it is high, then keep doing whatever it is that gives that return on your time.

  3. If you have a good staff it will work out. One of the things about having employees for me at least is when sales people or people come in wanting to sell or trade they can just say they are not authorized to do that. Where if it is me they are upset that I do not just jump right at their first deal no mater how bad it is. "Such this is worth $100 so give me a $100 for it." Why would I buy something to resell it at the same price? I had one person actually reply because in the future it will be worth more. The person expected me to hold on to the Magic card and wait till (if) it became worth more. Yeah... that is a good use of money and when I said no they were upset. Currently I have a pretty good staff that the customers are happy with so that helps. Having people that actually care about where they work instead of how much they can milk out a pay check for is great. A change can be good. New challenges and new adventures and all that.

  4. Sounds like a well thought out plan. If you were to open a new store, by elevating someone, you've created a good succession plan down the road.