Thursday, March 8, 2012

Stay the course.

So the store has had a terrific first 7 days of the month. This follows a good February and a very good December. January was flat, but I could easily point at the horrible shopping weather.

Anyway, I sat down a couple of days ago for a five minute Solitaire game. I quickly won, and then won again and again. Every card seemed to slot into the pattern, and I quit finally because I had other things to do.

Next night, I sat down and started losing every game of Solitaire, every card leading nowhere.

The point it -- there was a time that I would have taken the excellent sales of the last 7 days as a sign that I was doing things right and to do more of it.

Whereas now, I'm at least aware that it could be a simple statistical anomaly -- just as 7 horrible days in a row could be a simple statistical anomaly.

The answer, of course, is to wait for more confirmation.

At the beginning of my owning Pegasus Books, we went through an explosive growth stage. So I kept doubling down, putting all the winnings back into the pot. I thought I was pretty nifty. Smart and clever.

Then it all collapsed.

I thought I was pretty stupid.

It was only later, when the dust settled, that I realized that I personally was not responsible for the boom and bust of a fad. But I was responsible for how I handled it.

I survived, which meant I handled it better than most.

So nowadays, I tend to think that I ride the waves up and down, rather than instigate them. Sure -- if I negotiate the changes well and wisely, I'll do well. But mostly, I'm now aware that the ups and downs of business are built in, and that my job is to maintain a steady course.

I think most small business owners make both too many and too little changes.

Too many, in that they over-react to actual change. Too little, in that they under-react to possible change.

My job is to make steady changes based on thinking and planning -- not to wait until things get bad and make panicked changes. Not to jump into a new location, or suddenly add to expenses, or cut expenses, or change what I sell, or any number of drastic changes in the face of changed circumstances.

The idea is to plan ahead, and build in extra margins and alternatives, so that I can easily steer into the new headwinds. I think customers reward steadiness, but you have to prove it first. Excitement is all well and good, and no matter what you do, those waves will start washing over you, both good and bad, and you simply need to deal with them.

Just keep on course, steady at the wheel.


Duncan McGeary said...

This is not to say that you don't make drastic changes if you have to -- but try to avoid the necessity of it.

Duncan McGeary said...

Of course, the minute I post about the "terrific" first 7 days, business falls off....