When you own a business for as long as I have, a narrative develops. A story of how I survived, with warnings and reassurances. Warnings not to make the same mistakes. Reassurances that I made it through.
Looking back on it now, I'm more forgiving of my mistakes. So much of it I couldn't have known, nor was there much I could do about it. The mistakes I made were understandable mistakes.
The reassurances are now tempered by the realization of just how hard it was--not just on me, but on my wife.
In reading my notes for this book, my narrative is changing. I've come up with 5 distinct periods of my store, between 6 and 7 years long, each detailing a different situation. It kind of make sense of the blur of the last 32 years.
1984-1989. The Boom.
An exciting time of growth, lots of planning, lots of stress but all of it good.
1990-1997. The Crash.
I expanded too fast. There was a collapse in the sport card market, then a collapse in the comic market. I used credit cards to make it through and built up tremendous debt.
1998-2003. Hunkering Down.
It was all about survival. I had no cash, no credit. 40% of gross profit went toward debt. I worked every day.
2004-2010. The Revival.
Debt was paid off, sales started to increase, but I didn't let up. Spent most of that time building up inventory, even when the Great Recession hit. (I saw it coming and while it affected us, of course, it was easily managed.)
2011-2016. The Maturing.
Finally have the inventory level needed, the mix of product that works. Workable budgets and management procedures. Livable income and time off. Hurrah.
Out of 32 years, 14 of them were miserable, and seven of them neutral, and the others were O.K. to good.
Would have been nice if I could have skipped the middle 14 years.
It's easy to see how and why I didn't write. It's easy to see how the years passed so quickly.