I just had an hour meeting with one of our event coordinators. What I generally want customers to know:
- I like our customers. The customer interaction, after twelve years, is still the best part of the job. That's despite my being a painful introvert. I must sometimes be "bad cop," and I accept that role. All blame should be pushed up to me. All credit should flow downward to my excellent staff. If you don't like something, I'm your man.
- I'm agnostic. What games I like and don't like personally aren't part of any business equation. Speculating on this is a waste of time. I also keep my gaming away from business decision making so I can remain a happy hobbyist, and I do a lot of personal gaming work. I recommend doing the same, despite my attempts to always sell you the new shiny. I'm rooting for the success of every game I carry. However, if I don't carry a game, it is literally none of my business. Dropping a game can put me at odds with my customers, and the sad part is, it's often those who supported us the most. I know this. The betrayal is real and I can't fix it.
- I'm an apologist. I will make up excuses for quite a long time before I give up on a game or an event. I'm often the last one to know. When we dropped Warmachine, nobody had bought half the models for a full year. $10,000 of decorative tin. It was a revelation. Other stores in the area had dropped it a year or more ahead of me. I was the last man standing. Even my staff knew before me. I don't like to admit mistakes and I don't like to upset the balance. Truth be told, not a week goes by that I don't think of a scheme on how to bring it back. Just ask Charlotte.
- I'm not dumb about it. I'm not always smart though. I have to make a lot of hard decisions about what we carry, what events work, how we do things, and this is just basic survival for a store. If you look around, you will find a) a lot of stores are going out of business, and b) a lot of stores are starting to look the same. That's because the path to success nowadays is increasingly narrow. This is due to increased costs, increased competitive pressure, and a change in buying habits. Those who can break out of the obvious model are worthy of study.
- I'm an enabler. When it comes to events, I want to help. I want to provide terrain, prize support, GM incentives, whatever it takes to make an event fire and for enthusiasts to promote the hobby. Enthusiasm is the hottest commodity in our store, and customers are the supplier. It usually doesn't take much, so please ask. If I'm not getting product on time, ask. If events could be slightly better with an accessory, ask. Sometimes the small things aren't on my radar. I had an angry event coordinator ask me why I didn't have the latest release of his CCG. I had never heard of his CCG before the email. Sometimes there's a disconnect between events and purchasing. I've created a customer only Facebook group for all our major gaming categories so there's always a way to speak more candidly about what's going on.
- I built a community center. Well, we did, but I'll continue to use "I" for this post. It's built, but we need the cooperation of the community to use it. That means I need the community to gather round, within the business constraints of using that center. It has its own set of loose rules and requirements that work to promote the business so the center can stay open. It's not my job to run an event for you, it's my job to facilitate events. One day it may be my job and the events will be amazing and expensive and far narrower in focus. Meanwhile, we need coordinators.
- I'm thankful. I really am thankful for our community. They've stayed with us over the years. They kept coming after construction dragged on for months. They spend money freely with us despite so many other options. We (I) want to do right by them. We want to provide a haven. We want to provide entertainment. We love to hear that they enjoy our space and feel safe and invited. That they all keep coming is a kind of miracle that I've never fully understood, it's the forest I can't see for the trees.