Monday, May 24, 2010

Welcome to Shop Week

by Chris McGinty

Hello, I’d like to welcome you to our second theme week for this blog. The first theme week came about as a mistake when Nathan wrote various articles about our involvement in video contests. Realizing that I also had material that fit the same theme, I declared it a theme week, and that was that.

One theme that has been very prevalent since we started doing a daily blog is having something to write about. One night we brainstormed ideas. We didn’t just go for one-offs though. We brainstormed topics for future theme weeks. A theme week revolving around our failed comic book store was one of the ideas thrown out.

For his part, Nathan has taken a recollection he wrote a while back, separated it into five parts, and did some updating. He plans to go through later, add more pictures, and make the posts even more entertaining than they already are, so check back. I’ll try to announce when he’s done it. If you’re entertained by this theme week, we might have “shop week 2” pending me finding my written recollection from that time.

Since he’s taking on five of the seven posts this week, it leaves me needing to fill two. So what to write about? It occurs to me to write one before reading his recollection (though I read it back when he first wrote it) and one after. The first one (today) will be a simple thought about what I think I may have learned, and the second one (Sunday) will be a direct response to bits that he discusses.

Here’s a Table of Contents for the week, I’ll update links as we post up:

Monday: Welcome to Shop Week
Tuesday: Renegade Anime Part 1/5
Wednesday: Renegade Anime Part 2/5
Thursday: Renegade Anime Part 3/5
Friday: Renegade Anime Part 4/5
Saturday: Renegade Anime Part 5/5
Sunday: Renegade Tidbits

If you’re further interested in our time in the shop, Nathan wrote an e-book which he has up for sell. It tells much of what he has written about here, but from the perspective of what mistakes not to make in business. Link forthcoming.

I’ve had a thought a few times recently about how we have a history. Here we are. No one has ever really heard of us, but we have a collective history that supports this blog on a daily basis. Even better, we are still making this history, so this blog isn’t just a compiling of old memories. I just spoke with Nathan, who is beaten down by the loss of the Season Two work he’s done. In true Chris and Nathan style, I’m talking about how we’ll recover from this debacle, and he’s talking about just quitting. All I can say, Nathan, is that for as frustrating as this is right now, it’s the new history. The situation at the shop became overwhelming for sure, but now it’s great material. Five years from now we’ll have “Hard Drive Destruction Week” and all will be well.

Now I’m going to preempt something that Nathan discusses in his recollection with a realistic point of view about things. In my review of our first 100 posts I discussed the two “Nathan the Martyr” posts he wrote. I don’t wish to be harsh on Nathan, but he does this sometimes. He sets up situations that require him to put in 200% and then turns all curmudgeon about it. The basic idea that he’s held onto for all these years is that he worked harder than me at the shop. The problem is that it may even be true, but it’s not a situation where Nathan was slaving over raising a barn made of Magic: The Gathering cards while I was drinking iced tea, and letting the prostitutes practice on me. That will make more sense when you read his articles.

I’m not even really here to argue that. I know what I did and didn’t do to make the shop work. I also think I know what a lot of the problem was.

You see when we started the shop Nathan was cool. He was living the single life. He was a regular party animal. Actually, I think I just described myself, in spite of the fact that I was married and working 757.3 million hours per week.

The truth is I’m not a quitter, at least I wasn’t then. I’ve learned a few things about quitting since the shop, and many of these lessons came from the shop experience. I was delivering pizza full time at the time, and I was doing fliers for a Chinese restaurant part time. Nathan was working as IT for a company in Fort Worth. Nathan was making a pretty good paycheck, and I wasn’t.

One might think that since Nathan was single he should quit his job, and since I had a family to support, I shouldn’t quit mine. Nathan and I even seemed to think so. The truth is that Nathan should have never quit, and I should have quit immediately.

Nathan has this impression that all I ever did at the shop was play Magic Online and play some more Magic Online. The truth is that I was getting up early in the morning and going to the shop, working until Nathan got there in the afternoon, leaving to go to my delivery job, and then often going back to the shop to work on things at night when I wasn’t doing fliers. Nathan came in at 3 pm and went home at 9 pm, and worked a full weekend day. He was probably more focused during his official hours than I was during my official hours, but it doesn’t mean he worked harder. What it does mean though is that my official shop hours were not prime activity hours for me, and I had to come back at non-official hours to get anything done. It also means that my attentions were spread out in too many directions. Unfortunately, those early hours when the shop opened was about all the downtime I had. Had Nathan been working two jobs in addition to the shop, he would have understood that better.

Nathan was the first one to feel the financial burden. Not only had he put his savings into the business, but he had gone into debt a couple of thousand dollars. Oh, and he had quit his job. And so his attentions weren’t so spread out, but this was not a better situation than mine.

Can you see the issue? Cos I can.

Nathan does a lot of work for the show, the website, and everything we do here at ATW. He’s very focused. The problem is that Nathan often feels burdened by the work rather than intrigued by it. On the flipside is me with the drive to work constantly. I don’t feel burdened by work the way Nathan does. I just feel burdened by focus.

Nathan didn’t want to work two jobs, so he quit his job. I meanwhile kept my two jobs and took on the shop as a third job. Burdened by the work, burdened by focus.

The week of the initial mad dash to shoot Season Two. Nathan took off from his job to devote full time to the project, and so did I. Of course I had two jobs, so when I took off from my job, I want you to note that I still had another job to go to. Burdened by the work, burdened by focus.

They talk about playing to your strengths and weaknesses. And this is very important. Nathan thinks he doesn’t want to be famous, so when it comes to promotion, and things of that nature, we should follow my lead. I don’t have quite as high aspirations for wealth, so we should follow Nathan’s lead on making money. I’m more about being fully independent, where Nathan is all about job security, and as that pertained to our shop days…

Nathan needed to keep his job, and do the shop as a hobby that made money. That way his every waking thought would be to increase our income at the shop so he could ditch his job; not, “Where is my income going to come from, I need to ditch the shop.” I needed to quit my jobs so that I wasn’t always pulled in different directions. Sure, I would have still been groggy coming in at 10 am, and probably wouldn’t have got my groove going until the sun went down, but I would have got my groove going, and my every waking moment would have been to making the shop work, not, “How am I going to get to my next job on time?”

I think that if you consider what I said that it makes more sense than, “Chris didn’t pull his weight, so the shop failed.” We had a poor business plan (in that I wanted to create a business plan, but Nathan didn’t see a need to.) We had little advertising, a bad location, and a market that has always been niche at best. Most importantly, we were new to the world of a bricks and mortar business. That’s why the shop failed. There’s no need to justify it, only to learn from our, emphasis on “our,” mistakes and lack of experience, and do better next time.

This goes back to the not quitting thing. I’m all for building a business again, eBay again perhaps, or what I really wish to do, which is publishing, but Nathan seems gun shy about it. We have dabbled (the Cyberpunk card acquisition) but we’re certainly not all in on anything, and it’s been over five years since the shop. All in doesn’t have to be full time. There is much we can do getting together once a week as we’ve been doing. This is what I meant about this is the new history. If we had taken a year or two to examine what we did right, and what we did wrong, (rather than blaming) then we could have tried again. And when you try again, and succeed, suddenly the first failure was just a learning curve. When you don’t try again, it remains a failure.

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