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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

I Need a Vacation

I need a vacation, and this is not a new idea on my part.
Running a business can be both exhilarating and exhausting, and the problem with that is that both states lead to gradual fatigue.  I have decent stamina for an old-timer, because I live in a generally healthy manner.  I don't drink, I don't smoke, I don't shoot up Krokodil until my body rots away to necrosis.  It's a healthy mindset and it leads to seven-day weeks that seem to fly by.

This is also intentional in a business sense.  I like to compete by exerting gradual pressure.  It conserves my resources and leaves me best able to pivot to serve my customers.  Rather than reacting with whiz-bang impromptu sales and tournaments, I methodically plan and build a framework and then advertise what we've got.  When it's time for a sale I prepare it thoroughly, advance it to nearly an end state, and then I push on it until we get the revenue.  I make it clear from the first Facebook boost that anyone who wants to scoop up the deal should visit as soon as feasible.  Most importantly, I act rather than reacting.  In a local market as cutthroat as this one, that's crucial.  It helps avoid spinning my tires in the mud.

Why does gradual pressure work?  Because any time my competitor is working and I am not, they are gaining on me if they are behind, pulling past me if we are even, and extending their lead if they are ahead.  No good.  Instead, I will work when they are not.  That lets me gain on them if I am behind, or pull past them if we are even, or extend my lead if I am ahead.  I want them to recognize this psychologically.  I want them to see that am willing to outwork them.  I want them to feel a fragment of resentment every time they spend an idle hour, because they realize they just handed me a little bit of market share.

I am willing to run that grind week in and week out.  And then, every now and again, I get to step away and they get to make up a bit of lost materiĆ©l.  In 2014 or 2015, I could not realistically be away very much.  The store was still on life support from the partner splits of 2014.  My trips in 2015 to the GAMA Trade Show and the GTS Distribution Atlanta Open House just about hit my limits, and I had to spend a lot of time during both trips on the phone or computer putting out fires.  By last year things were stable enough that I was able to enjoy GAMA, then later an extended holiday at my parents' place, then a four-day weekend in Flagstaff with my other family members, and a few other impromptu days away besides.  My managers and staff really grew the beard, and took a level in "we got this."  But if things had hit the fan in 2016, I was only ever really a couple of hours away.

This year, 2017, will be different.  This year is the tenth anniversary of my wedding to Stephanie Jarczyk, the love of my life and the mother of my three children, and we will damned well celebrate on a tropical beach of some sort, most likely by means of a large oceangoing vessel.  Steph is a schoolteacher, so she's not free until June anyway, but when the time comes, we are outta here for I don't even care how long.

Oh, and there's GAMA again in March, GTS in Anaheim (I believe) in the fall, and it would sure be nice for this to be the year I make it to Alliance's Open House but my magic 8-ball says all signs point to "2018" on that.  Still, with GAMA, GTS, and some time on a party barge, the Bahr-not-on-the-premises quotient is going to be at its highest ratio ever.  The opportunity to attend GTS and then take my kids to Disneyland is nuclear strong.

For me to be gone, like really gone and unavailable, banking and procurement and HR still have to happen.  And realistically I had nobody else that could accomplish those tasks before now.  With my mergequisition of Tempe Comics into DSG Tempe, and the addition of Mike Griffin to the DSG partnership, it appears that problem may finally be solved as well.  Griffin has been taking care of everything for the Tempe store for over a year already.  I have confidence that if I roll us into June without any serious outstanding unfinished business, he can execute everything for the duration.

There are things I can't control.  Crystal Commerce continues to suffer from repeated outages, functionality breaks, and related problems.  We can still do business with the point-of-sale down, but it adds labor and slows things down and makes things difficult for customers, which we never want to do.  The exacting deliverables demanded by TCGPlayer are something I would confidently leave running if Justin were on the job, but all summer long he will be deep in the forest primeval, hunting wabbits.  I will probably deactivate my TCGPlayer account for the duration of the trip, unless the rest of my crew seems like they're rock sharp at it by then.  And we are already crying out for labor with the hourly cost so much higher due to the minimum wage hike.  And no, the expected spending boost has not happened, to any noticeable extent.  But they promised!

As much as I can batten down the hatches, I will, and leave ongoing operations to the people who are already capably doing them every day.  And then I will sit on a beach with Steph.  And we will do nothing.  And it will be everything I hoped for.  And then I'm sure she and I will think of something fun to do.

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