Monday, July 6, 2009

Stress Puppies.

Something I've noticed about the small business blogs I like to read -- the owners are all stress puppies.

Constant sturm and drang with suppliers, with landlords, with customers, with employees. Rarely is the course smooth in love and war -- and small business. (A great sage of failure once said, "Only dead fish go with the flow...')

(Note: I'm not talking about puff blogs, who talk only about how great they are, and then announce a few months later that they're closing to "spend more time with the family...")

No, the interesting blogs are about real working stores, and about how day to day business works.

So either:

A.) Stress puppies start small businesses.

B.) Small businesses turn people into stress puppies.

C.) Small businesses owned by stress puppies start blogs....

The answer, of course, is all of the above.

But mostly B.

I don't think you can run a real business without running into constant problems that have to be solved. It's what you do every day. So it's what you blog about.

Hopefully, we also keep a sense of humor about it.


Speaking of future stresses -- Linda said that Micheal Powell was on NPR talking about Kindle. His take was that it was too expensive, that books would always have a place, and so on....

Which seems to me to miss the point.

It isn't that Kindle will take away 100% of the book business. But how about 30% or 20% or even 10%? What with Barnes and Nobles and Borders and Amazon and Costgo, independent bookstores are obviously under a lot of stress...

So 10% could be significant. 20% even more so.

Put another way; say you keep 80% of your wages, but have to give up 20%?

My store is almost designed to live on the fringes of these things...I only carry fiction, for instance, already forgoing all non-fiction because I don't have room. And so on...

But most new bookstores can't be affording to lose elements of their business.


RDC said...

The discussion about e-books is really a question about the direction of publishing in general.

It is not how much Kindle or other e-book systems will take, but when.

I expect that the change to e-books will be slower then the change from CD's to MP3, but it will follow a similar path.

Amazon is both speeding it up, but also slowing it down. They are speeding it up because they are putting both their marketing clout, and their relationships with publishers to drive the Kindle. They are slowing it down because the Kindle uses a propriatary format for the E-books (it is interesting that Mobi Pocket has slowed, if not stopped, release of software for new devices. Mobi being owned by Amazon). Propriatary formats are a major factor in preventing full acceptance.

Jack Elliott said...

Hi, my name is Jack and I'm a stress puppy. Been one my whole life, pretty much. Generalized Anxiety Disorder with a Soup├žon of PTS thrown in for good measure. I've also owned small businesses, either in partnership (1980 - 1997) or by myself (since then).

I stress a lot. I worry about bills and making mortgage. I find myself sometimes envying folk to put in their time and take a paycheck. Then I remember how shitty it was (for me, at least) to work for someone else, how their lousy decisions could affect my job, and the sense of powerlessness I felt over their decisions.

So I guess I'd rather run my own business, biting my nails and lying awake at night fretting. At least when I get real stressy I can take a mental health break without asking permission.

Duncan McGeary said...

I read once that it's a different kind of stress.

Stress that comes from dealing with unreasonable bosses is much worse. Co-workers you can't avoid. That sort of thing.

Has to do with the power to make decisions. Dealing with a bad situation without any power to change it causes the worst stress.

At least with a small business you can make a decision, right or wrong.

tim said...

The people I know who have Kindles are big-time reader who read a lot of books. I figure those people are pretty important to anyone selling books.

blackdog said...

"Stress that comes from dealing with unreasonable bosses is much worse. Co-workers you can't avoid. That sort of thing."

Guess I was lucky, but I had only one or two bad bosses during my career. For me being in a supervisory role was much harder -- dealing with people who came running to me expecting me to solve every one of their little problems. I finally had a sign made for my desk that said "Don't Bring Me a Problem Unless You Have a Solution." Some thought it was a joke but others understood the point, i.e., try to figure out a solution to the problem yourself instead of just running to the boss and asking him to solve it. Those who got it were the ones who had initiative and leadership ability, and they were the ones I promoted.

blackdog said...

Jack, with all the medical problems you've had lately you have every right to be stressed.

Duncan McGeary said...

Believe me, Tim. I'm not underestimating the problem. I watched the anime market go poof, seemingly overnight.

I'm sort of picking up because of my circumstances the people who are already forgoing Barnes and Nobles, or Amazon, who are on vacations, who are browsing....

And I'm not expecting books to carry my store. But, yeah, if I was a full-line bookstore, I'd be worried.