Thursday, January 18, 2007

Just for the sake of variety....

Instead of worrying about a job that I don't have yet, let me take a moment to express frustration over a job I've already got.

For anyone who doesn't know the backstory, I work in the hobby game industry. I work for a very small company which, despite being small, has a rather rabid following of fans on 3 continents, and makes a really, really good product. It has all the ingredients for blockbuster success, except 1) capital, and 2) a good businessman at the helm. I love my boss, he's creative and funny and talented, and yet he seems to have no clue how to manage the company in any way other than just-barely-surviving mode. He refuses to even consider taking out a small-business loan, so when we need to do something which has a high up-front cost (like, say, a print run of one of our books) we can't. Today he told me we're down to a 6 month supply of one of our core books. As his sales manager, I pointed out that it could be a 6 month supply, or a 1 month supply, depending on distributor ordering cycles, and maybe we should consider a new print run soon. No, he said, the smart thing to do would be to let it go out of print for a few months and let orders pile up. Then we'll be able to pay the printing costs when we do reprint it. But, says I, it's our core product! We don't want distributors to ever be out of this, because without it on the shelf a new player can't start playing our game! If they're out of it for 6 months, that will have a serious effect on sales of our entire line; and it's part of the nature of printed products, that they have a high upfront cost. This is what loans are for--you pay them back over time, as the product sells down. (And, think I to myself, we sold a ton of misprinted books at cons this summer, which were cost $0 since the printer had to replace them. That pure-profit money could have been set aside to pay for a new print run, if you had thought of it and planned ahead. But I didn't say this.) Nope, he says, being out of print will increase demand, and I don't like asking banks for money anyway, they'd probably just say no. So no. Now, as sales manager, very soon I am going to have to be the one to explain to all our distributors, including the ones I have carefully recruited and cultivated overseas in the last year, that we're real sorry but we'll be out of the basic rules of our game for--if I know him--six months to a year. That's going to be awesome.

This would all bother me a lot more if I hadn't made a new year's resolution to stop giving a crap about what happens to this company. As I said before, I love my boss, our product, and the hobby industry in general; but damned if I'm going to get an ulcer worrying about the fate of a company that is so completely beyond my zone of control. I've spent two years agonizing over poor decisionmaking at this company. Now I've reached a sort of detatched level of "Meh--oh well" about the whole thing. Not that I don't hope for success--but I'm getting pretty used to us falling short of the mark.

3 comments:

Carl said...

I'm sorry to hear it. I hope I can do a good job managing things with StoryCards, but I must admit, I'm not real excited about the prospect of running my own business. Especially the whole marketing thing.

Ursa said...

F#ck 'em. F#ck 'em right in the ear.

The Wax Lion said...

any time you want game marketing tips, carl, i'm here for you. :) 16 years in the game industry has got to be good for SOMETHING.

and urs--that was the best laugh i've had in days! you rock.