Thursday, August 25, 2016

Starting a New Game Store: Motivation (Part 1)

Say you want to start a new game store. It's a dumb thing to say, but work with me. Maybe you're passionate about games and just love to expose as many people as possible to them. Maybe you can't stand working on one thing and you've got a kind of ADHD that requires you flit about, performing many different tasks, but such strong OCD that they all have to be done amazingly well (if this is you, please email me your resume). Whatever your psychosis, the best way to start a game store is not to start a game store.

First, I would suggest finding a way to tap that passion differently. Volunteer at a game store to run their game night. Seek a marketing job with a publisher either full time or part time. Try to get a sales job at one of the distributors. All of these people are starved for talent because they pay laughable amounts of money to really passionate people. The retail tier of the game trade is the only one that requires a great sacrifice of capital for you to get started.

You might also find what you want is not really to start a store, but to work for yourself. If you have a job now, investigate doing it on your own. I was in IT before this and even if I were a bad IT consultant, I would have made more money than opening a game store. Plus I wouldn't have worked many hours to do it (because in this example, I don't have many clients). The game trade looks inviting because it has a low barrier to entry. That low barrier is also why it's often a terrible choice for thoughtful individuals with capital to invest.

If you're really intent on doing this, I would suggest getting a job at a game store or at least something in retail. If you're sneering right now about working for someone else or the paltry pay you'll get in retail, this might be a sign it's not for you. Still, this is the best way to get a small bit of the experience you need. Pretend you're going to prison. Get your affairs in order. Reduce your expenses significantly. If you're someone who likes nice things, not made of paper, cardboard or plastic, this is going to be rough.

So maybe you've vacuumed your million square feet of store, you've paired down your personal expenses, and you're still intent on starting this game store thing. What's the first question you should ask? The first question is not what you should carry or where you should locate the store. It's not what drinks I should load in the cooler so I can make money on Coca Cola and Kit Kats. The first question is: How much money do I want to make?

Everything comes from this first question. There's how much money you need to make. There's how much money you would like to make (all the moneys). You need to take a hard look at your age, your material needs, your local economy, and the fact this may take a decade to get well established. How much money does the ten year older you need to earn to be happy, to possibly get married, to buy a house, to start a family, to start a college fund, to retire?

If you've got skills and a profession now, you're going to be giving up some of your best earning years to do this. Comparing your game store "happy" amount to your potential earnings in your profession might stop you cold right there. The opportunity cost is tremendous. I gave up a million dollars of potential earnings over the past decade by owning a game store. Still, what's the price of happiness, right?

In the next installment of this series, I'm going to move forward using this income number needed to get this theoretical business going. I'm going to assume you're a single earner and this is your household income. It will assume this amount earned will come in time, and not be achieved for several years, but will be achievable with this properly run store.

We'll use the US Census Bureau median household income from 2014 of $51,939. I won't even attempt to adjust it upwards, because lately it has been going down, another reason retail should give you pause. It will take great risk and effort to get to average. This number might be way above average in some regions of the country, such as the South or some of the Rust Belt, and you're welcome to adjust downward or just live a little better. In any case, when starting out on your plan to succeed, start with what you need, not what you have.

Part 2

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