Game Store Life #5: Burnout and Balance
Do you work 40 to 50 hours a week currently and make a descent wage? Say $20+ an hour or $30k a year or more? Do you have benefits? Vacation time? Take vacations? What if told you, you could work 80+ hours a week for less than half of what you make now, maybe even lose money and have no benefits, very little time off and maybe a weeks’ vacation every 3 years of so, but be your own boss?
Well, then do I have a deal for you!!!!!! Open a game store.
There is a real danger to opening a game store, well any small business, but more so for us geeks. Its bad health and early death. I hate to say this, but the only reason I opened my second store is because the market where it is had a fairly busy shop before mine, but the owner, nice guy and all, passed away early due to health concerns. This left an opening.
I hear it all the time in my retailer groups about the long hours, low returns, and the health issues. Most shop owners get in real deep when setting up and trying to guide their business to success. Since the kind of thing, we do isn’t exactly prepping for the Olympics, well for get the freshman fifteen, we have the entrepreneur 80. You think I’m kidding? Just as your LGS owner what kind of shape they used to be in.
So, long hours, bad diet, sedentary work. It all adds up, in pounds that is.
Next, we have the hours. You want to make it, so you put n all the hours, and lose track of time. Then you don’t take time off because you want to be there in case anything goes wrong; this is your baby after all. Before you know it, your kids are grown, you haven’t taken a break in 27 months and your other half is packed, gone, and been gone for weeks.
The worst part is, you may burnout and not even know it for a while. This is a big risk of running one of these things. I got lucky and learned not to put in too much time, or more than I had to. This doesn’t mean skate, if you do that, you will fail. What I mean is that I had to take time for myself, set boundaries. There will be times you have to put in the 100+ hours a week, but make sure its at most like once a quarter after the initial time needed just to open.
There are ways to do this. Get people to help you, you don’t have to do it all yourself. Though you should do every job first and figure out the best way to do it, then write it down so whomever you get to take over knows what you expect, and you know what they are supposed to be doing. Maybe don’t take a vacation the first couple of years until you can hire a manager that you trust implicitly. But don’t skip the time off. Be closed that extra weekend around Christmas and chill out.
Take time to play the games you sell. You may not be able to play in that RCQ or cash event you run, but chill out and play some casual Commander, or toss down in a local event. Have a board game group. My advice here is always play with players knowing you can’t win prizes. Just pass down anything you would have gotten to the next place. This way customers won’t feel like you’re taking from the prize pool. It also shows they know you like to play and have a vested interest in the game as well.
This helps in additional ways besides relacing. You keep up to date on games and learn new ones. Sure, you can read the rules and all that, even have game days with the staff, but that’s all work related, you should play to have fun as well. The minute you wake up and dread having to go to your shop and work, you should start thinking about an exit strategy. I’m not saying the fun is over, maybe you have reached burnout and all you need is a refresh. But knowing how you will get out is just as important as knowing how you will open.
How big is that loan you got to pen? How long to pay it off? You need to know how to get out and not lose your shirt. This goes back to my earlier article where I tell you not to get a loan. Because as the end of the day there isn’t a line of people wanting to buy your business. And to honest, no game store is worth more than its inventory.
Though there are some assets that might make you worth buying out, it’s rare and most people can just rent a space up the road, buy all the things you sell and start from scratch on their own. If you do look to sell the business, keep this in mind. Add up all the actual stuff at wholesale cost, then knock some more money off and someone MIGHT be willing buy it if they have half a brain. This isn’t an exit strategy that you can count on unless you are planning to get out in like 5 years and list it for sale now.
Just remember that on a list of things that are important, your game store is in the bottom half there. Family, time for self, health, and the like are more important, and if neglected can lead to even less time at your store because you are mentally done or just dead.
The best way to take care of yourself is to not open one of these to start with.
Thanks again for wasting your time with me.