The Only Thing That Matters

Your customers don’t matter.

The number and happiness of your employees doesn’t matter.

Having nice shelving and a freshly-waxed floor doesn’t matter.

Having clean bathrooms doesn’t matter.

Being satisfied with your business doesn’t matter.

Your health doesn’t matter.

What kind of car you drive doesn’t matter.

Your great location doesn’t matter.

Your store’s community doesn’t matter.

Your house doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter how often your kids get to see you.

Your gross sales figure doesn’t matter.

Nobody gives a flying flip whether you’re doing what you love.

The number of your peers that want to talk to you at a trade show doesn’t matter.

Your charitable contributions don’t matter.

How much cash you have in the bank doesn’t matter.

Your products don’t matter.

Your Point of Sale system doesn’t matter.

How many locations you operate doesn’t matter.

The only thing that matters is net income.

Until you have sorted out your net income, none of the other stuff matters, because you will lose that anyway. If you think that you might have to pick something–anything–over net income, then you need to get out of your business and get a real job. At a real job there’s work-life balance, and your employer is nominally prohibited from taking away whatever that thing is that you think is more important than your current business’s generation of net income.

As it is, you can’t have two number-one priorities. Choose this day whom you will serve. All of the things in the list above are awesome and super-important, but if you’re in business for yourself then the first and only question must be: What is your take after all expenses have been met, and what can you do to get that net income number to an acceptable level?

If you’re carrying the products you love and only those products, but you’re not making money, you’re not going to be carrying any products soon.

If you’re building a great community in your store but you’re not making money, that community will soon be gone.

If you’ve got lots of clever ideas and get featured on websites but you’re not making money, you’re going to lose your store. Not very clever.

If you’re able to take off whenever you want and spend lots of weekends with your kids, but you’re not making money, then you’re going to lose that control over your life when your store goes out of business and your personal bills start coming due.

Only after your net income is present and accounted for can you start asking what else might matter. This is a tough thing to require of yourself, and it wouldn’t be wrong to shrug it off and go get a jobby-job. Business ownership is a tough racket (NSFW). There is no net. You have no employer to be understanding when you phone it in for a month because of something else that’s going on in your life.

Let’s review. What’s important? Net income.

Say it with me: Net income.

I know that you just read that instead of saying it out loud. Try again, even under your breath. Come on. Ready? Net income.

It’s ten o’clock. Do you know what your net income is this month? What are you going to do about it?



(Acknowledgement: When this post was a draft at about 60% completion and languishing far down on my to-do list, Gary at Black Diamond Games did something similar but different.)



Stop Closing Early (You Must Be Present to Win)

It’s 4pm on a Tuesday. You’ve done a total of $18 in sales today, and you’re working alone because you don’t have any employees or they’re all off work. You’d normally close at 9pm, but you decide that if you don’t break $100 before then, you’re going to close at 7pm.

It’s Halloween and you’d like to spend the evening with your family, so you close early.

You’re not feeling well on a Monday morning, so you post on Facebook that the store is opening at 2pm today instead of 10am.

Your employee calls in sick on the day you were going to go fishing with your friend. Rather than stand your buddy up, you close the store.

Your business has been doing poorly and you’re not sure week-to-week when you can get the store open.qnalr0s

There’s a video game coming out that you know everyone will want to play. You know that this will lead to a crappy sales day, so you just close that day.

You’re a fool, and I’ll tell you why.

Every time that a customer pulls on your door during your normal business hours and finds that it’s locked, you are not only losing whatever sale you were about to make that day. You also degrade the reputation and reliability of your business in the mind of that customer and their friends, forever. The next time they think about making a trip out to give you their money, they will wonder whether you are going to be there. Yes, I know that they could just call before they visit or check your Facebook page, but you know that they won’t, and in your heart you also know that they shouldn’t have to.

We are open seven days a week. We are open on Veteran’s Day, because it’s a school holiday and we’d be fools not to be available for that. We are open when a new World of Warcraft expansion hits, because our employees can play that night after work, and not all of our customers play WoW. We are open on snow days as long as the store has electricity, even if that means that I have to put my truck in 4WD and work the shift myself, alone. We are open when nobody appears to be buying, because there is always work to do and we don’t have perfect knowledge of who will come in.

If there’s some question in the minds of even a minority of our customers about whether we will be open, we will be open. We’re closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day, but if we thought we would even do modest business on those days, we’d be open.

We are reliably open because we’re professionals and we don’t want our customers to worry about whether or not we’ll be there when they need us.

Be open.