Sunday, December 31, 2006

It you want to know how a business is doing, about the last person you should ask is the owner. A more flinty-eyed, savvy, canny group you'll never meet. Almost all business owners I talk to prefer to keep information to themselves, to hold their cards close to their chest.

It's understandable. I know that whenever I've complained about my business, at least some people take it that my store is in trouble, when all it really shows is my propensity to complain. Maybe because I fell into this business, I'm not the business 'type.'

I've learned that even if another business owner is willing to talk, it's hard to tell what's really going on. It is almost better to observe from a distance, to gauge for yourself what's happening.

I figure its 50/50 whether being closed-mouth is more valuable than being forthright and candid. It 's just easier for me to be the latter. I treasure information, and wish that we store owners could exchange news and tips. Sigh. In the end, you run your business alone.

Except -- thank goodness, I have two bulletin boards that I frequent; one made up of comic shop owners, the other of game store owners.

There are roughly 2500 comic shops in America. Of those shops, maybe 250 belong to the forum, and of those, maybe 25 actually post messages. percent -- 1% !! -- of the store owners in America are willing to take the chance of being forthright and candid, to exchange information.

But it's a very high-powered group. Movers and shakers in our little corner of the world. I constantly have to remind myself not to try to compare myself with shops in Boston, N.Y., San Fran, and L.A. Apples and oranges. They are a very in-touch, analytical group of owners. Smart and successful. Everyday -- every single day of the year -- I learn something valuable from the forums, which helps my business.

And yet, 90% of the store owners of America can't be bothered to join and 99% can't be bothered to participate. Very strange.

There are many things in my store that I don't do that I suspect might help my business, but I have pretty strong and legitimate reasons why I don't do them.

I simply can't think of a strong and legitimate reason not to go to the forums. I repeat -- I learn something every single day which makes money for my business.

Why wouldn't you do that?

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