Working on it? Working in It?

Growing our businesses requires a commitment to do the work it takes to grow our businesses, but sometimes when I talk to my colleagues there is a disconnect between what it takes to work in our businesses, and what it takes to work on our businesses. I love working in my business. I derive legitimate joy from discussion with customers, from matching that board game regular with the next game they're going to love, and from the relationships I've developed over the years of customer interaction in this industry. Those are things I enjoy, and things I continue to do to this day, but those things don't actually grow my business. Incremental sales through personal customer interaction are nice, but they are not, in my opinion, going to grow my business over a long period of time. To grow the business, we must work on it, instead of in it. Working on your business can take on dozens of different appearances. So today, a couple of ideas for working ON your business instead of in it.

 

Marketing

 

Are your marketing efforts successful? How do you measure that success? Is marketing success about engagement or is it about a measurable sales figure. I'm not going to tell you how to measure success, but marketing your business is a fantastic example of working on the business instead of in the business. Develop marketing plans, execute marketing plans, and develop tools for measuring the success or failure of those marketing plans. In our world of constant marketing changes through social media figuring out what you can do to stand out from the crowd is an example of working on your business, and one that you should be able to see measurable results in even in the short-term.

 

Community Engagement

 

This could be thought of with marketing, but I like to think of them separately here. Marketing (in my world) reaches customers and people who are already potential customers. A targeted Facebook ad finds people who may like a certain thing, and reaches them to tell them I have that thing, or something similar to that thing that I think they'd like. Community engagement is about creating new targets for my marketing campaigns. Community engagement is about training the next generation of gamers. Over the weekend we took a handful of games to the Family Dance at a local elementary/middle school. At that dance we taught games to small children (/poignets) and their families, as well as handed out coupons with our store information and deals on those games. Coupons with a super-short referral time (these were good for eight days) force interested parties to come to us quickly, so they'll learn where we are and what we do while things are fresh in their minds. You can do community engagement pieces at schools, churches, bars, or anywhere else that will let you do them. Some of these engagement activities are things we get paid for, and some of them are things we do voluntarily. We have yet to ever have to pay to do one.

 

Know Your Numbers

 

I keep the store sorted into what amounts to six different categories; Miniature Games, CCGs, RPGs, CMGs, Board Games, and Other Schtuff. :p Each of those has sub-categories; like Tools and Accessories, or Paint, under Miniature Games, and Minis, and Dice, under RPGs. Regardless, every product in the store belongs to one of those six major categories above. So, from that information I get to know where my bread is pretty well buttered. I can look at the bottom line number of each category that accounts for all of the sub-categories in each grouping and tell you what percentage (approximately) each category accounts for in my income. (I have to say approximately because CCGs get credit for every pack of opaque sleeves we sell, and that's not really right. Minis get credit for every pot of paint we sell, and that's not really correct either, but I can't ask every paint purchaser what they're doing with them and then categorize on the fly, can I? That would be working in my business way too much.) So, from numbers I can tell you that CCGs accounted for 26.78% of my business in 2017 (Magic, Destiny, Pokemon, and some old closeouts). But, if you add accessories that department moves to 35.34% of all income, making it, de facto, the largest of the six departments. CCG - 35.34% Board Games - 21.97% Miniature Games - 21.82% RPGs - 16.78%

CMGs - 1.73% Other Schtuff - The Rest That Other Schtuff category includes packaged F&B (2.94%), collectibles, novels & periodicals, anything that doesn't fit in the first five. It's stuff we carry, but not stuff we do, if that makes a lick of sense. I love numbers. I love giant spreadsheets with hundreds of tabs and billions of cells. I love opening a spreadsheet and seeing how a publisher did from 2016 to 2017. I love opening a spreadsheet and seeing how each publisher ranked in my store in any given year. Wanna see?

Lots of colors in that image, right? So, when I look at this list (I cut it at 100 for you, but we sold product from 213 different companies in 2017) I can see by the color codes what the primary income category from that company was. I probably don't have to explain the colors, because you can see who the companies are and probably guess what colors correspond to what major categories. You may also notice that the Asmodee companies are still split apart by publisher. As they have asked us to think about them as different publishing house, I still do. The parts of this spreadsheet you can't see are who makes up what percentage. The top 14 companies on this list comprised at least 1% of my business in 2017. I originally though that number was 13, but after some cleanup of the database I discovered some Reaper products that they didn't get credit for in the original numbers, and they slide in as the 14th member of my 1% club. It won't happen in 2018, as I've discontinued their miniatures line.

Working on numbers, understanding our numbers, is how we are better able to do the last thing I want to talk about when it comes to working on your business.

 

Research, Research, Research

 

All of those numbers help me with the single most important thing I can do to work on my business, research. I spend an inordinate amount of time looking at upcoming games, new release announcements, and a variety of industry sources. Staying ahead of what's going on is becoming more and more important to us, as we are pressured under release schedules that include a staggering amount of product being released at a breakneck pace. Doing our research is maybe the single most important thing we can do to work on our business. That research can take a lot of forms; Facebook groups, industry websites, phone calls with colleagues, and, of course, traveling to trade shows. I look forward to working on my business every day, but I'm especially looking forward to working on it in two weeks. :)

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