Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Working Kids

I'm in Guatemala right now, where young children work alongside their parents selling brooms, hoping to earn enough for a meal by the end of the day. My son is with me. He's a little sad because we've just extended the trip an extra few days and he won't get to work at the store at all this summer. He has his heart set on the next Fallout game, which he would earn with his money.

My boy wakes up in nice hotels each morning in gorgeous Central America, which was kind enough to skip the rainy season for us this year. An impossible number of maids scurry around the hallways, waiting for us to depart so they can expertly clean our room. They avert their eyes when I give them a "buenos dias." There's a free breakfast waiting in the lobby, so I'm pushing him a bit to get up. He declares "I hate my life." It's all a matter of perspective I guess.

He's 13 and when he works for me, he's working under a school sanctioned work permit. If I was a sole proprietorship, we wouldn't need such a thing, but as the store is a corporation, we play by corporate rules. As an official employee of the corporation, and not some slave labor of my proprietorship, he's on payroll and makes minimum wage. This is not charity. I can't afford a wink and a nudge child employee. I need minimum wage work from this kid to afford to have him on.

He does not report to me, which I think is important. He reports to my manager, who provides him tasks appropriate for his age and abilities and the need to get solid work done. He often sorts cards, cleans bathrooms and the game center. During the last shift he worked, he discovered how to use the point of sale machine. You see, there's a chair at the point of sale machine, and if you're the cashier, you can sit in it while everyone else scurries around working. This laziness introduced him to the knowledge economy.

He gets a formal paycheck with direct deposit. The money goes into an account with his name, but it's really a sub account of my personal checking. From there, he gets to keep half, which goes to things like Fallout video games. He should really be taught to save a percentage, but we'll get to that later.

The other half of his paycheck is taken by me and put in his 529 college savings plan. I contribute a modest amount to his 529 plan each month but even a little bit of work by him turbo charges this account. As he gets older and works more, I expect that to accelerate. It's too bad he can't work more as a small child and less as he approaches adulthood, the compound interest would be fantastic.

Will he one day run my store? Why would I want to entangle my loved ones in such a mess. I've got plans in place so if I die, the store isn't a burden, so why would I want to burden them while I'm alive? If he comes to enjoy the work during his teenage years, reaches his potential in school and elsewhere, and gravitates back towards the store, then sure, why not. Parents just want their kids to be happy, generally within the framework they believe happiness arises. If that means running a game store, well I think you might be a fool, but I'm not going to deny your happiness kid.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Vacation Essentials and the Shiny Bucket (Tradecraft)

I've been on vacation for nearly a month now, exploring Mexico and Guatemala and later this week, Honduras. Along the way I'm visiting game stores, which in Mexico has meant stores that specialize in Magic: The Gathering almost exclusively, but with some green shoots in other categories, like board games and D&D. I'm documenting some of this on my author Facebook page. Having an interpreter with me has been essential in understanding where game stores fit in the local culture. It's fascinating stuff.

This trip will span nearly two months and is a test of my stores policies and procedures. A month long trip is a great test, and I did that last year, but two months spans my normal billing cycle. It forces me to create procedures for posting bills while I'm on the road. It even resulted in my finally adopting online banking. When I crossed the country last year, I brought my printed checks with me and mailed them along the way. Old ways are good ways. Of course this is only possible with a great manager, so if you're unclear where to begin, look there.

New product is a concern. Because I pre order absolutely every new product that enters my store, new items arrive with my managers restocks. She does this using Open to Buy, so although I haven't trained her on turn rates and culling inventory, the budget dictates the restock. Everything else is details. This is the first time I've given up ordering, and last year I spent many hours while on vacation restocking the store.

I never really looked at it too closely, but there's about a 90 day lead time on new product solicitations, with Games Workshop being the infuriating exception, with every new release being a surprise. While on the road I continue to pre order product for the future, with some concerns I'm not doing enough research. However, something has to give if you ever want a vacation. Since 80% of my sales come from 30 companies, it's the fringe stuff that will be taking a hit about 90 days from now. That may be a lesson in personal time management.

I've got a list of about $20,000 worth of upgrades my store needs. This trip has emphasized what I really need, especially if I want a stress free vacation: a shiny bucket of money. Managing cash flow on the road is no fun, with regular reviews, contingency plans and transfers when things get slow. This is mostly because of debt from our big construction project, but also because I'm constantly eying that $20K list of stuff we need and checking them off. That shiny bucket of money would provide some vacation peace of mind about now. If you handed me $20,000 in a shiny bucket, I could easily see putting it on a shelf and just leaving it there. Veterans will confirm keeping the shiny bucket is the best bucket strategy.

Resting on the throne outside the Cosmovitral in Toluca, Mexico