This December we will celebrate our 9th year anniversary for eBash Video Game Centers. We have had our ups-and-downs over the years. There have been times when I wasn’t sure if we would be around and other times when I was sure we would have 100+ stores by our 10th anniversary.
I have started almost 10 different companies since I graduated college in 1998 and I can say with confidence that I have plenty of real world experience owning and operating a small business. I get frustrated with our industry time-and-time again because I see so many owners following the same path of destruction.
Back in my software days I would also see other small businesses struggling with the same problems. Would you like to know what I believe most small businesses fail?
You cannot be one of the biggest consumers of your own product.
What do I mean by that statement? Look at it from this perspective: Could an alcoholic be a successful bar owner?
I have been very, very close to many game center owners over the years and it seems that most people get into this business because they love to play video games. Don’t get me wrong, I think that you have to be passionate about what you do for a living to have a satisfying career, even if you are not the business owner and just an employee.
But I think as the owner/manager you have to be able to recognize the priority of being the engine driving the train instead of one of the box cars just getting pulled along for the ride.
Many of you that know me, know that I have a great love of achievements on the Xbox 360. Over the years I have played in many competitions for Gamerscore that tempts my competitive spirit and makes me push way beyond the normal realms of competitive gaming. Currently I am still the #2 player in the world on Kinect and I haven’t touched a game in almost 4 months.
But that has caused me problems in the past when I would just perform the bare minimum tasks for the business so that I could concentrate on my gaming. Instead of putting 50-60 hours per week into growing the business, pushing events, working for partnerships and staying up with technology I would find myself gaming for 6-8 hours each day. Luckily for me, eBash was established enough during these lapses in judgment that the company didn’t die. I also am surrounded by a great set of employees that could help pick up the slack in the areas that I was neglecting.
That was not the case in the past for our first and only official franchise store. The owner of that store became consumed with a certain game. If you ever wanted to find him, he was probably at the store sitting at a computer playing. His attitude followed his success in the game. He actually threw customers out of his store for playing poorly on his team, threatened to fire employees who refused to play with him and the business itself quickly went from an upward trend to a quick descent into disaster.
In the end he had his back against the wall with creditors and vendors and had to sell the assets of the store to pay a debt with the IRS so that he wouldn’t go to jail. Currently I am considering buying back that location at the corporate level from the current owner just so that we don’t see another store in our industry close down for good. It will stretch me to my limits, but if we are successful I have potential investors ready to help us build more stores over the next 5 years.
At the same time I am worried about our newest partner store as well. So much so that I am considering removing the partner program completely and only focusing on building out our own stores. We are already seeing them choose not to participate with us in events that are going on at all of the other eBash stores and I am hearing reports that they have a gaming machine at the front counter so that they can play while they are “working”.
If you are a video game LAN center owner and you are reading this I would challenge you to answer these questions for yourself truthfully:
1. Do you game more than 10 hours per week?
2. Are you struggling to grow your business?
3. Do you feel you are doing everything you can for your business to succeed?
4. If you have employees, I challenge you to ask them if they think there is more you can be doing for the business.
I would love to hear from some of you other owners (of any small business) in the comments below if you have similar observations or even opposing ones.
I never try to be the person who only complains or points out things that are wrong, so I am using this subject to start a new series to share some of the things we do for eBash to grow and promote the business that cost little to nothing but require a good work ethic and consistent follow-through. Subscribe to my blog on the right of the page to receive an email each time I add a new blog.