Saturday, January 08, 2011

Day 8 of 362

One my recent acquisitions from I seriously like the herringbone texture of the tie.

Well, I've technically passed the one week date of doing this. So far, no real regrets. Only minor annoyances in regard to body temperature. Translation: People in the store are cold while I am comfortable. Action: I turn the heat up a couple of degrees and sweat a little for their comfort. It's a small price to pay. We'll see what happens when the "Store Sweaters" finally get here. They're 100% Acrylic which means they'll be VERY WARM, but I'll adjust.

Today is a light day on the store schedule in terms of events. I have a HERO System 6E/Champions game that I am GM'ing later on tonight. It's been a while since we last played, so I will have to go over some notes (ha!) to get things back on track.

As for store business, the boy (our son) and I are going to organize some M:tG uncommon playsets, price them, and then fold them into the for sale stock. Then, if we're feeling up to it, we have a fair number of uncommon cards to fold into the loose cards box from which we build playsets. This is called tedious busywork, kids, and it's the kind of work you hire employees for. It's also the kind of behind the scenes work that will build sales for your store, so don't neglect it.

After all...'s all in the details.

peace... GopherDave

Ownership Interest

I am currently sitting in our store with a few of the regular Magic: the Gathering players after Friday Night Magic. They are all playing a big multiplayer game and having a good time. I am sitting here listening and watching them, still dressed in a shirt and tie, even though the store is technically closed... Why?

Simple... they are our friends and customers, and they deserve the best store experience we can give them. I am part of that experience. They may not care how I am dressed, but I do, and I should have cared in the past. All I was doing by presenting myself as a slovenly gutter troll was hurting our business. So I decided to take an ownership interest in our OWN establishment.

"Ownership Interest"

I've always hated that phrase before now. In many jobs, I was "asked" to take an "ownership interest" in the business in which I worked. In the beginning, I was naive enough to do so. Then, one by one, each of those businesses would ask its employees to take such ownership interest and then turn around treat those employees like they didn't even matter in the equation. After a few years of this, whenever the next management drone would espouse this nonsense to myself or others, I was derisive and dismissive, and rightly so.

Whenever a low-level employee takes an ownership interest in a business, the only people to truly benefit are the actual OWNERS of the business. Those employees might see some sort of token raise or slight shift in authority, but in the end, they simply do not matter to most employers. Eventually, the employees catch on and get rightly upset. Upset employees tend to do their jobs poorly, if at all.

So to all business owners (myself included)... Do not ask an employee to take an ownership interest in YOUR business. Unless you are giving them actual ownership percentage in the business, you are just lying to them... Hmmm, perhaps lying is too strong of a word... How about "You are giving the employee false hope that what they think and do actually matter".

No, instead, you are the only person who should taking ownership interest in your business.

However, your employees DO  matter, and I don't remember where I heard this phrase, and, in fact, I may have coined it myself some long, distant time ago...

"Treat your customers like gold, but treat your employees like platinum."

Why? Well, your customers are who help keep the doors open and the lights on with the purchasing of your useless goods with their worthless shekels. However, your employees help you do that, and the better you treat your employees, the better they should treat your customers. If they don't, then you are well within your rights to get new/different employees...

Friday, January 07, 2011

Day 7 of 362

I was in a small panic this morning as either my wife took her camera with her to work this morning, or I just couldn't find it. Then I remembered my old cell phone was around somewhere. While we cancelled the cellphone plan a while ago, the thing still works as a camera, so...

Trouble is, it's not a great camera, and between the light and the camera, the color of my shirt is way washed out. Just imagine it being a light blue oxford instead and you're close enough.

As I stated yesterday, the wife and myself and some friends went and looked at some larger retail spaces. Out of the six we looked at, we've ruled out three immediately. There is one that has been ruled out IF the landlord remains inflexible about combining spaces. Even his largest space is smaller than we wish to move to, but he has several units in the same strip mall adjacent to each other that could be combined into a larger unit which we would be interested in.

The two we liked the most, are beautiful. Each is very spacious and would require very little work to be ready to move into. Trouble is, the rent is a bit higher than we'd like on both of them, and I am not thrilled with either of their locations in terms of where they are at within the town.

Overall, my gut instinct did not scream at me like it did when we moved to our current location or when we looked at the space offered to us back in November of 2010. A location can meet all of our other factors and criteria, but if it doesn't pass my initial "gut check", then I am eminently less interested in it than I possibly should be. Sue me.

Sales at the store continue to be pleasantly steady. While I do not expect the current pace to keep up, if it does, then the rent for those other spaces becomes much more doable. It'll also lead to us hiring actual employees and expanding store hours and all those things which will honestly boggle my mind. These situations will require me to be less hands-on and more supervisory at the store. That'll be difficult. I'm a good employee, but I am not the best supervisor in that I don't always trust people to do the tasks I assign to them to the standards I want them done. I tend to hover and want to immediately "fix" what they are doing wrong in front of customers, thus embarrassing the employee. I'll seriously need to work on that.

Oh well, I have errands to run. Until no later than tomorrow...

peace... GopherDave

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Day 6 of 352

One of my favorite ties, with one of my new favorite shirts.

Once again, so far, so good. In about a month or so, things are going to get pretty boring. I have more shirts on the way, but they are all white. Basic, but goes with just about anything. I also have some pants on the way. Nothing fancy, just some chino/Docker/khaki contrivances from J.C.Penney. The price was right, and I made the realization that I am WORKING in them. Granted, working retail doesn't involve a *LOT* of physical labor, but it does involve more than I'm willing chance a $200+ pair of gray, worsted flannel trousers with, no matter how comfortable those pants might be. One snag and those pants are ruined. No... better to not splurge on something that has a fair chance of being "destroyed" at work.

Going along with the boring front, I also have a dozen sweater vests on the way with the store logo embroidered on them. They are acrylic (ugh!), but again, they're for work, and they're much rougher wearing than merino wool or cashmere. They should be here by the end of the month, just in time to unveil them at the local gaming convention we attend every year. There... I'm going to get some very shocked reactions.

That leaves about the only changing piece in the equation being the necktie. Those are something I own 200+ of and am always on the lookout for more that appeal to me.

It's okay, though. Taking and posting the pictures will go on despite the blandness as I have begun building a routine around this whole blogging thing, and routines are the easiest way for me to build and preserve self-discipline. Once something becomes a habit, I'm no longer "forcing" myself to do it and it ceases to be drudgery.

Later today, the wife and I and some trusted friends are going to look at new places for our little retail establishment. We've outgrown the old one about a year ahead of schedule, plus we have a year left on our current lease. Last time we moved the store, we had about three weeks to find a place and move everything due to our previous landlord not getting back to us with what they wanted to hike the rent up to until then. Never mind that I had started asking about that matter some four and a half months previous. *SIGH* What can you do.

So, instead of being rushed, we had planned to take our time and do it right this time. Silly us.

Onward! To look at big, empty spaces... to haggle about overpriced rent... to consider very mundane things like automobile access, bus routes, parking, utilities, crime rate, the condition of an HVAC unit, and other what not... to envision what the store could be "in that space"... to think of the possibilities... =)

- GopherDave

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Day 5 of 362

So far, so good as progress on projects proceeds apace...

As we go further into this program of abrupt wardrobe change on my part and how our regular customers are taking it, the result has been pleasantly strange. At first, they seemed shocked, then they seem happy as perhaps the idea dawns on them that I respect them enough to do this. I can't say the effect on sales has been bad, though I suspect that has more to do with our main competitor being closed for inventory for the last few days than my wearing a necktie.

Who knows? We shall see...

Onward to business!

-- GopherDave

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Small Tasks... Many Small Tasks...

As we enter the new year, the wife and I are looking at ways we can make our store better. She's currently working on a policy manual, which I will look over and help her adjust. I'm currently working on a shift schedule that includes both of us (instead of just me) and have just finished a preliminary cleaning schedule, which she will have to look at and help me adjust .

As part of my New Year's Resolution, I've changed how I present myself at the store. The changes are starting to pay dividends. Customers seem pleased that we're stepping up our game. They're smiling a bit more and it SEEMS like they are spending more money. I say it seems because I only have four days worth of data to study thus far. There are also other factors to consider.

Long story short, we're taking a store which pretty much grew despite my general lack of effort beyond orders, supply, and restocks, and we're actually putting even more effort into it to make it as good as we can make it. The place is ready to explode business-wise, even more than it already has. We can feel it... ...and it's kind of exciting.

I hope we're ready...

peace... GopherDave

Day 4 of 362

Okay, bear with me as I get used to Blogger's idiosyncrasies with regard to photo uploading. The first shot is the main picture, but the shirt has very subtle striping inbewteen the one's you see in that shot, so I took a closer shot. Blogger will not arrange them as I like, so for now, we're stuck with this.

I love how the stripes work with this.

Now, I have to go to the store and get some work done. Orders have to be placed, tables moved, and projects completed. I have a preliminary schedule done. Now all I have to do is find the notepad which I was sketching out the cleaning schedule. If I can do that, that could be done as well by tonight.

peace... GopherDave

Monday, January 03, 2011

Day 3 of 362

So far, so good. Not many projects got done today, but a fair bit of errands got accomplished (more than usual).

Looking back at my attempts to write about things "sartorial", I've come to the realization that I have a LOT more to learn than I can convey. There are better authorities on the subject who blog, and my "musings" are coming off like rambling narcissism anyway.

So, that leaves me with writing about things I know with some authority, mostly games, music, and running a specialty-oriented retail establishment (which sells games, go figure).

My lovely wife came in and sent me home early. She knows how busy I can be and she knows when I need a break before I do usually. That's one of the reasons I love her. =)

Right now, we are sort of in slow scramble mode. Our business has grown a LOT over the last year or so, and we are now looking at hiring a part-time employee or two. Small problem... Since we've never had employees before, we have nothing written in the way of procedures and policies. I cleaned when I had time and something looked like it needed it. We were the only ones handling money and we're not going to steal from ourselves. Inventory is handled once a year, after early February, and we handled that together.

My main projects for the next day or so is to get a cleaning schedule put together, followed shortly by the skeleton of a shift schedule. Eleven years of food service management pretty much means that neither of these tasks will be too difficult for me. It's mostly finding the time to commit it all to paper and have it all laminated for repeat use.

Amongst all this I need to find time to write some e-mails and go look at bigger spaces. We have thirteen months left on our lease, so putting together an exit strategy is sort of a priority with us. Our last move was made with about three weeks of warning and while we came out of it with flying colors it's not an experience I want to repeat again.

Well, time to grind again. Break time is over. Until tomorrow, y'all take care...

peace... GopherDave

Sartorially-Inclined, Redux...

Looking at my first attempt at explaining my view point on this whole "dressing-up" concept, I realize I rambled WAY off-topic. I did say things that gave you, the reader, a glimpse of a bit of my personality, but I sort of lost sight of the original point I was trying to make. So, I'm here to try again... bear with me as I'll probably ramble off the road once more...

In the last two years since I became my own boss, two things have happened. One, I've gained a bit of weight, and two, I fell in love with the freedom to be "who I am".

The weight thing is something I am going to try to work on, but I straight-up admit right now that it's going to be difficult. I'm a fat, soda hound who loves food, and being at the store as much as I am, eating healthy is really hard to do. It's very easy to have someone bring me a pizza, some Thai food, or a tasty steak quesadilla with sour cream to the store so I can keep working without interruption.

Hand in hand with the weight gain, my level of dress went right down the tubes. I'm pretty much a t-shirt and sweats guy anyway, but after about six months of a steady diet of fast food, those were really the only clothes I had that would fit me anymore. Being my own boss, the only one who could keep me in check was... me. Major fail.

In short order, the uniform I chose to wear for our store, A PUBLIC PLACE OF BUSINESS, was a black t-shirt with the store logo on it, a pair of sweats or jogging shorts (dependant on temperature), a backward baseball hat, and either a pair of beat-up high-top sneakers (socks optional) or a pair of $12 sandals from Wal-Mart. Now, I'm a fairly friendly person, and the regulars never seemed to have a problem with this, but I have to wonder how many POTENTIAL regular customers did I scare off with it.

Combine those thoughts with me seeing the previously mentioned pictures of Comic-Book-Guy-Me, and it brought reality crashing down around me as I realized the potential damage I was causing to our business. Suddenly, all of those various workplace rules and regulations I had previously been dismissive of made sense to me. It all clicked...

So, I broke out the "dress" clothes to see what still fit me. What I was left with was very... anemic to say the least...

One pair of brown deck shoes...
Four pairs of blue jeans (two dark wash, one medium wash, one light wash)...
Two braided leather belts (one black, one brown)...
Several various pairs of socks...
And a *HUGE* necktie collection.

As "accessory" wear, I had...

Five cotton, V-neck long sleeve pullover sweaters...
One pullover sweater vest that fit well...
Two sweater vests that fit OKAY...
A long-sleeve cardigan sweater...
and several other sweaters that I should not wear again until I lose some weight.

Notice something missing? I had no dress shirts that fit anymore...

So my first step was to procure some shirts that fit, and that led to my first new discovery about the world of clothing... Big & Tall stores are a scam worthy of Bernie Madoff. Seriously, the increase in price from regular sizes to B&T sizes is actually pretty staggering. If that alone isn't incentive to lose weight, I'm not sure what is.

I also needed to find some comfortable black dress shoes. My feet are an oh-so-not-easy-to-find-shoes-for size 12EEEE.

The shirts were easy to find, but pricier than I wanted. The shoes had me running to four different stores, but cost me about what I expected to pay for them. Overall, not horrible, and now that I have my new shirt measurements, I can find better bargains online if I need to.

Moving on... armed with a few shirts to start with, I able to begin this New Year's Resolution on New Year's Day.

Most of the regular customers have been pleasantly surprised, but appreciative. A few have been outright shocked and flabbergasted to the point of "Who are you and what have you done with Dave?"

So two days are down, and more are still to come. I plan to add to the new wardrobe on a regular basis and cull non-fitting items out as I replace them. Along the way, I'll get to break out and show off my extensive tie collection for the first time in about five years. Hopefully, I can find a bow tie that will fit my 20-inch neck.

One thing that I have noticed is that the few new customers that have come in now make a beeline straight for me because I LOOK like the one in charge and with the "new style" I blend in a whole lot less with our typical black t-shirt/jeans gamer crowd.

Looking over what I just wrote, I realize that I have once again veered from my original topic. Bear with me... I'll hit it eventually.

peace... GopherDave

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Day 2 of 362

As promised, here is a picture of a bit of what I wore today....

When I get more into the swing of this, I'll begin posting pictures of the store. I might even start posting before and after pictures for various projects in the store that I have been putting off for far too long. Who knows... I may even get into a routine or something and make this a habit.

peace... GopherDave


...and what it means to me is simple.

It means dressing better than you are required to by society's norms given the social situation you are in.

Whether you are wearing J. Press or K-Mart, looking better than you have to reflects well on you. It means you took some time and some pride in how you present yourself. Eventually, that pride will begin to rub off on the work you do and the relationships you form with other people, and it WILL affect how people treat you in public. Don't get me wrong. There are some well-dressed jackasses out there, but that is more a reflection of upbringing in an environment of unchecked privilege (and the subject of an ENTIRELY other post).

Perhaps divulging a little about myself will enlighten you to my viewpoint a bit. I grew up the youngest son of VERY blue-collar parents. Both of my parents are from the south (Mother: Arkansas, Father: Louisiana), but each somehow ended up in the Midwest, where my older brother and I were born and raised. Being Southern parents, manners were of some importance in my household.

My father worked construction and was an operating engineer (i.e., he drove bulldozers and backhoes) for all of the working life that I have known him. He graduated high school, but had no interest in going to college, choosing instead to hang with high-school drinking buddies and become a functional alcoholic. At 71, my father still drinks too much, but growing up with an alcoholic father wasn't nearly as ugly as that word usually indicates. My dad never hit myself, my brother, or my mother in the abusive sense. To my knowledge, my father never raised a hand to my mother, and only (deservedly) tore into my brother with a belt once that I witnessed. He once reached for his belt with me, and I immediately backed off and apologized. I remembered what happened to my brother, and I learned from my brother's mistake.

My father also never missed a day of work, be it to a hangover or due to sickness. Frequently he would get up as early as 3 AM, drive an hour plus to a job site, work for 10 to 12 hours for the day, drive back home, take a bath, eat dinner, and go to bed. Many times, routines like this for him would last months, and as a result my brother and I never wanted for food or clothing or shelter. It is from my father that I got what work ethic I do have. For all that, I heartily thank him.

My mother did not graduate high school, choosing instead to drop out at the age of sixteen to marry my father. By all the family math that has been professed to me, this was indeed for love and not necessity as my brother wasn't born until two and a half years after they were married.

Early on, my father was the breadwinner and my mother was the homemaker, as was the norm for the era. My mother went to work (went back?) once she felt I was old enough to stay by myself for a short bit between when I got out of school and when she got off work. I think I was twelve. Anyway...

The long and the short of it, my parents WORKED for a living, and my father, given his profession, had no use for suits, ties, and the 3-martini lunches that went with that crowd during that era. Nothing wrong with that, it's just how it was...

So how did I become enamored with a colorful piece of silk worn around a man's neck that seemed to serve no real function and the culture that typically surrounds it? Envy...

See, just because my family wasn't swimming in money doesn't mean that I didn't have friends that were better off. In fact, I was apparently intelligent... ...documented, off-the-chart-for-the-time intelligent. I skipped a grade and a half in school due to my academic prowess, and could have skipped more had my mother not declined the opportunity for me. Here's where things get muddied a bit and I get to do some social math for you...


Sounds like fun, yes?

Anyway, being "gifted" meant that most of my friends were also gifted, and those kids were typically the offspring of affluent and intellectual parents. That meant I got to hang around the homes of bank officers, college professors, and other such professions where the uniform of the day was suit and tie. This is where the envy comes in... Most of these gentlemen carried themselves with a sense of decorum, integrity, and authority. These men got things done. I love my father to pieces for all he's done for me, but, by his own admission, he never aspired to be anything more than a grunt performing manual labor as he didn't want any more responsibility than that. In my friend's homes, I was around men who got to tell people like my father what to do, when to do it, and how it needed to be done. It was a heady cocktail... It made me want to be like them.

Now, here's where things get mixed a bit... I wanted the affluent life that my friend's had, but being my father's son, I didn't want to do the work actually required to achieve that. Don't get me wrong, manual labor did not scare me, but, like my father, actual intellectual work was my bane. Yes, I was genius-level smart, but that meant that high school was easy for me and required little to no effort on my part. College and University... That's a whole other ball of wax. There, you will eventually reach a level where you actually have to do real work and study.

Up until college, I hadn't needed the skills to actually truly study anything, nor was I ever interested in acquiring them. So I dropped out of college after two years and three changes of majors and started what turned out to be a 20-year career in food service and food service management, with a two-year interruption to get married, go back to school, and drop out once again. I am literally one semester away from having my Bachelor's in Mass Communications/Radio-TV Production, but I have ZERO desire to go back.


Take a blue-collar kid who wants the good life but doesn't want to work to achieve it, add in a support system of family who has ZERO idea how to help him beyond high school, toss in a bit of slacker attitude, and mix liberally with life's hard knocks gained from mistakes aplenty. Once that's set, take that mixture and stir in a highly-supportive wife, great kids, and fantastic friends... ...and you get me.

A man in his 40s with a penchant for dressing as well as he can when it suits him. Doing so brings out in me the integrity and decorum and authority that I witnessed in the fathers of my friends. I am calmer and more polite to others. It raises my spirits and in turn I radiate such to others. My friends notice this and comment on it. My wife, once I explained my viewpoint, thinks it's sexy and really likes it when I dress well. Bonus!

So there you have it... take the story above how you will. I know it rambles and I have gotten off track with my original point, but I also think that doesn't always matter at times. It's like starting a journey intending to go to a cool place and ending up in some other really cool spot entirely.

peace... GopherDave

PS - Pictures have been taken for today. I'll post them when I get home tonight. For now, I have a store to run...



            So either Blogger lost my account, or I am just absolutely misremembering how to get into it. Probably the latter as I can see my old blog, but cannot for the life of me remember the passwords to get in to post. Ehh… getting’ old… what can ya do?

            By the time this actually gets posted, it will be early into the second day of the new year. That’s okay, ‘cause I am talking about the first day of a new rebirth, awakening, re-imagining, insert appropriate word here.

            Those who know me know who I am and what I do. My wife and I own and run a small game store in the Midwest. No video or computer games, just table top stuff. Board games, miniatures, RPGs, collectible card games, and associated accessories. I do most of the in-store stuff and she handles the back office situations. We make a good team (and have for 19+ years).

            Over the last two years, a LOT of stuff has happened to us as a result of our owning the store, the economy turning way BAD, physical exhaustion on my part, and just our world getting turned in upheaval. As a result, we had a decision to make, either give up our house or give up our store. We chose to give up the house. What can I say? In five years of home ownership, I came to realize that I sucked at it. I am no good with tools, and with running the store, I was never there to either (badly) fix things that needed fixing or supervise someone who could do the job better than I could. On the other hand, despite pretty much being thrown into the deep end, it seems that I have something of a knack for running a retail establishment. *SHRUG* Who knew?

            Anyway, after pretty much twenty years solid of working for other people and having them dictate how I needed to behave all the way down to my way of dress, unfettered freedom made me giddy. As my own boss, walking into my own business, I could pretty much wear what I wanted. Left to my own lazy devices, I will dress for extreme comfort. Translation: T-shirt… sweatpants… backward baseball cap… shaving when the whiskers began to itch… showering when I had time… Yeah, you see where this is going. The business was never neglected, but practically everything else in my life was, from personal hygiene to my wife and kids on an emotional level.

            The combination of the house situation and the lack of self-discipline pretty much made me check out mentally for about a year and a half. In the back of my mind, I knew something was wrong, but I really paid it no mind as I had truly fallen into a mindset where I was ignoring all but the most basic of needs.

            In the store, we have a customer who shows up for some of our regular events, and they like to take pictures. There was only one taken directly of me, but I was in the background of more than a couple. Looking at those images I was slightly disgusted. Somehow, I had turned into Comic-Book Guy from the Simpsons. In terms of friendliness, I was better than he was, but visually, I was a dead ringer. I was always slumped or slouching, looking WAY overweight (which I am, for me), wearing a T-shirt that was at least one size too small for me, and four days of beard growth on my face with a dour look on my face. I had become the typical gamer geek store owner who customers only tolerate because they can’t get their fix anywhere else nearby. (In our case, that is not true. We have a competitor not five miles away from us.) Looking up from the images, I realized that everything else in my life was taking on some of those figurative qualities, from the store sliding into a dingy state to my home life being barely up kept on my end. I was a mess. Those pictures brought me a plain truth and showed me what was happening.

            As a person, one of my strengths is that I tend to tackle perceived problems with reckless abandon and overkill. Have I mentioned that one of my weaknesses is the fact that I can be highly oblivious for long periods of time?

            So… when presented with an outward image of myself that I do not like, what do I do? Well, in true overkill fashion, I make a New Year’s resolution to effectively be one of the best-dressed game store owners anyone has ever seen. Yep, from t-shirts and sweatpants to shirt, tie, dress shoes, and good jeans/khakis. There are also plans to wear a sweater vest on a regular basis, possibly one with our store logo on it. I have resolved to do this every day I work at the store this year, which should be roughly 362 of them as we are only closed for Memorial Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

            Why start there instead of the store or some other aspect of my life? Simple… Dressing well on a regular basis requires more self-discipline that one might think, and that self-discipline frequently carries over into other aspects of life. On this first day, I found myself cleaning things in the store I had ignored for weeks and clutter I’ve ignored for MONTHS. There’s still a lot to do (in all aspects of my life), but small steps forward are still steps forward. I meant to take a picture, but I left the camera at home and by the time I remembered it at home, I had already changed into, you guessed it, a t-shirt and some sweats. However, for those with a good mind’s eye, I can at least attempt to describe what I wore…

White Button-Down Oxford...
Dark Blue Sweater vest (Darker and more muted than royal blue, but a shade or two lighter than navy blue)...
Dark wash jeans...
Black, braided leather belt...
And this tie from…

            I do plan to take pictures, if for nothing else to document how well I'm doing with this whole resolution thing. The shirts and sweaters won’t show much variety for a bit, as I had to go get some new dress clothes that actually fit my over sized self right now and was working with a modest budget, but more will be coming in the future.

Peace… GopherDave