Thursday, March 10, 2016

Trust Your Gut (Tradecraft)

With the GAMA Trade Show next week, I wanted to encourage new retailers to trust their gut when it comes to new product. Publishers create slick presentations and great demo experiences at the show, which can short circuit your usual buying process.

Your gut is an amalgamation of your experiences. It's your subconscious understanding of your business, your customer base, your stock. This is not to say a game in particular is inherently flawed, it's just not for you, and your gut will let you know. Having ignored my gut, because of lack of experience, I can tell you that it doesn't take a long time to develop a strong gut instinct. Even after a couple years, I knew in my gut what worked and what didn't. It just took much longer to trust it.

Edit: Trusting your gut doesn't just mean knowing something is a wrong choice. It also includes right decisions. Unfortunately, we forget about those because there's no pain associated with it.

This brings up another mini topic, that of store identity. Everyone wants to grow. We're taught to grow or die, like the swimming shark. Swim or suffocate. However, after a while, your store will mature and you'll establish an identity. That identity is rarely what you want it to be, it's what you've become based on your circumstances. You might not realize you even have an identity, because you're striving to be something else. It's much like becoming an adult.

Embracing your identity means playing to your strengths. It also means saying "no" a lot. In fact, it means saying no most of the time: to opportunities, to customers wanting new product lines, and to lines that excite you but don't fit your identity. Deciding what not to carry will not only define your business but can save it.

This is a fine line, for sure. Small business is supposed to be nimble, innovative, and quick to evolve. That's all good, but within your identity. This has taken me a very long time to understand and even longer to embrace, but lately it has been key to our growth. I often have demographic envy, in which I wish I had the customers of other, more urban stores, rather than my suburban clientele. It's a case of the grass is always greener or perhaps Pinocchio. If I could only sell specialty miniatures, indie role playing games and chit and counter war games, I would be a real boy!

"Prove yourself brave, truthful, and unselfish, and someday, you will be a real boy."

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