I get tons of inquiries from prospective owners and investors each week. This week I had a great call with Terell Lipsey who is just in the beginning stages of researching and raising funds and during the conversation I was a bit convicted after our phone call. As I stepped through the important factors to a successful game center with Terell the first thing I always talk about is the person running the show.
Usually the owner, founder, investor, manager and parent of the store is the entrepreneur themselves. I have had the experience of trying to replicate our model in 4 different locations now and the key factor to success is always the person running the show. The biggest mistake you can make in my opinion is to run your store as the “man behind the curtain”.
The relationships you start to build with the employees, customers, parents, spouses, neighboring stores, vendors are of course immensely important to your business success. Talking with Terell that night really made me start thinking of what my responsibility is with those relationships to make a difference in those people’s lives.
Without this being a spiritual discussion I want to just focus on the fact that I feel all of us as human beings are responsible to make the lives of those around us better. I don’t think that anyone would dispute that when Haiti experienced the devastating earthquake last year we all felt called to try and help them somehow. But what am I doing for those people right around me every single day?
I am going to pick on a few individuals at my store because they are on my mind recently. Some of these folks I have been friends with for the entire 6+ years we have been open but none of them I knew before I opened the doors of the first eBash. I want to break down one individual in particular because many of these gamers are in the exact same scenario.
Mark came to our store for a Halo tournament I believe in our first year at 15 years old. He was quiet and shy but probably one of the best gamers we have seen at the store. The players immediately embraced him because of his abilities and his kind and passive demeanor. I don’t think Mark missed a single day we were open, and almost every night I would drive Mark and his younger brother Matt home when we closed at 11 PM along with a few other younger customers.
Mark worked for us for about a year at eBash while he was in high school. He was late a few days and eventually our manager of the store at the time had to let him go. Mark also attended youth group meetings with us at church while my wife Janean and I were directing the program and we also took him to church camp where we were counselors in the summer. Mark has even house/dog sat for us when we go on vacation. Needless to say we have grown very close to him over the years.
Mark made it through high school and got started at Ivy Tech Community College but didn’t go to class and I believe didn’t make it through one semester. In 2008 when the flooding hit the Midwest his home was one of the many that was hit and I believe that set him back quite a bit as it did to all of us. Last year he finally got started for awhile at a call center in town and worked for about 3 months before missing too much work had them let him go.
Now Mark seems to to be standing at a crossroad. My personality is in-your-face with many of these guys and I constantly am yelling at him to GET A JOB. The problem seems to be that he is just sitting in this “limbo” time in his life and waiting for something to open up to give him a sign on a direction to take. He told me this week that he has put at least 5 job applications out there… but when I asked him where he said they were all at Best Buy. 🙂
So after my conversation with Terell I am feeling convicted about Mark and many other people around me at the store who seem to be in similar positions in their lives. I wouldn’t feel so responsible except that there seems to be 10 people just stuck in a rut for every 1 person who has their act together.
What can I do for the other folks in similar situations? In every case Janean and I have a great relationship with these individuals but yet I feel we are failing them by not helping to influence them to move onto bigger or better things. Not as a parent which would (or should) be telling them forcefully to go to college or get a job, but just to help them decide on ANY type of goal and then help them make decisions that move them towards their final destination.
I want to make a difference and I am going to try to help (if they will let me) move them onward in their lives. I feel that it is my social responsibility as a game center owner to invest my time and efforts into making these guys max out their potential.
So as a call-out to some of you other gamers out there. Let me know what your life-plan might be and help me see if I am missing something OR how I can help you guys get to the next stages of your life. People like: Nate Utt, Zach Rainbolt, Kyle McCormick, Matthew Repollet, Cliff Harrold, Jesse Bridges, Logan Abbinett, Danny Elkins, Ian Bohnsack, Hobie Pyle, Skylar Long, Lloyd Vermillion and Vick Boyer.