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

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