Dan and I are at it again.  Reaching for something that seems impossible.  We are going to try to purchase the building that Victory resides in – 4863 Shawline St – for $ 25 million and no money down.

Quick backstory. We’ve been looking for a building for some time that we could permanently house Victory Gymnastics in.  Being in Kearny Mesa, choices are generally slim given our needs and requirements (+10k sq/ft with +18 ft ceiling heights). Our broker made the off-hand remark that we could put an offer in at our current place.  I said why not. And would you believe it the owner is willing to entertain an unsolicited offer.  Normally large buildings go on sale for specific reasons at specific times.  The reason for a sale is often important to know and can give you leverage during price negotiations.  In this case, it just so happens that the family that owns the property is looking to liquidate all their assets in the next 5 years and move into philanthropy – perfect!

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I had to put my 7 year old dog down last week.  Before judgement is passed the dog had attacked my 2 year old daughter, I spent 6 months trying to rehome her. Given her aggressive past no shelter was willing to take her in.  Lastly, 2 behavioral experts recommended euthanasia – I signed off on it.

Ethics and political beliefs set aside for the moment, I want to talk about decision.  Specifically, decision responsibilities that come with being a parent and decision responsibilities that come with being the leader of your company.  You know what’s right for your family and what is right for your company.  If you don’t, you have no business being in the business of either.

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trump-salute

Full disclosure, I am social liberal with moderate to left leaning economic and public policy inclinations.  Trump’s election signals real changes in the next 4 years.  Here are my fast takes and over-night plans:

1) AirTrack Factory US

We import equipment from China.  Trump has indicated that a trade war with China is possible.  If that happens, tariffs and taxes could rise to the point of making importing from China not possible.  We need to plan for either secondary supplier options or possible domestic manufacturing.  If we do that, I would want AirTrack Factory’s support and permission to do – negotiation, funding, supplier searching.

I’ll have to study up on the importing and exporting consequences of exiting NAFTA.  Thoughts to come.

2) SD UNITED /  Victory

Trump has indicated a role back of social services, specifically Obamacare.  If and when this happens all of my employees will suffer.  In their suffering, I would anticipate that they would look and – possibly even – demand from me help and support.  Despite my feelings and beliefs,  it’s not financially possible nor my moral responsibility that I take care of them when their government walks away.  It’s the government’s job and responsibility.  My state and federal taxes go to help the collective us – if we as a group have decided not to support one another – that’s our collective choice.  I need to be prepared to deny requests and redirect anger at the proper institutions.

A secondary consequence to the role back of social services would be an increase number of employees that leave expensive San Diego or take on other part-time jobs.  I should be prepared for replacing and hiring on a moments notice.

3) Me and My Family

Republicans have openly sided with the elite 1% and big business. Tax cuts, role back of regulations, government subsidies are all high on their agenda and will all pass.  The only people and entities that are “safe” and “protected” in the Trump Order are the rich.  I need to be sure I’m in that category.  Aggressive growth and expansion can possibly come from deregulation of the financial markets.  More speculative lending could lead to opportunities for me to get money.  I need to be ready to take advantage of those opportunities with ideas, businesses, and assets that can propel our personal financial status into the protected class.

The gyms have a hard-cap on potential income.  That said, with looser lending requirements asset acquisition of buildings or competitors might be more plausible.  The biggest potential growth area is AirTrack Factory US, Parkour Factory, and Cheer Factory.  These e-commerce based brands have very high ceiling for income and depend on sweat equity more than anything else – which we have in spades.  It’s potentially worth keeping eyes and ears open for more speculative opportunities including old ideas like Snowplex or new business opportunities like newly legalized marijuana dispensaries in California.  Anything and everything is on the table to ensure admission to the protected class.

4) Society

To me this signals the start of the “Get Mine” era.  The poor, the needy, women, the sick, minorities, immigrants, anyone other than myself doesn’t matter.  The all-mighty dollar has won out – for the time being – with profit becoming the golden idol.  Republican politicians like Cruz, Christie, Ryan, and Giuliani have all proven willing to sell their soles for their positions.  Democrats are just as guilty in their rigging of the primaries.To me this signals a break down of all grouping institutions.  Republicans aren’t looking out for you, Democrats aren’t looking out for you, Business isn’t looking out for you, Social Services will soon disappear for you to turn to.  That leaves only your family and yourself for you to turn to.I think this is important to realize.  Be sure to adjust expectations of others. Be ready for the cold shoulder from business and government services. Tighten your belt and ready yourself to depend solely on yourself and those closest to you. Know who you can trust. Most of all don’t waste your time expecting or asking more from those that aren’t going to give it to you.

There are real changes on the horizon and it’s my job as a business owner to anticipate and adapt.  The rules of the game are changing and you can’t not play the game.  The world is getting meaner and more competitive and my “12-hour-later-hot-take” is that I have to be prepared to battle.

As an entrepreneur and business owner your business never leaves you.  So 24 hours later, I’m still replaying this episode with no new answers but some new – maybe more pointed – questions to the question, “Where did I go wrong?  My mind is zeroing in on either a failure in the specific incident or a failure in a larger business community culture:

1) Did I fail to give specific direction or to properly explain not just the goal but how I want the goal accomplished?  I did say he could do it however he thought best, so long as it got done.  And I did preface that I didn’t think his choice of strategy was not a good one.  This is frustrating because it circles back to the balance of encouraging employee autonomy and growing a sense of personal investment and contribution to the company verse well trained drones that mindlessly and without deviation follow command.

or

2) Have I fostered a toxic community in which my employee now feels superior to our customers?  No secret, Dan and I worship movies like Boiler Room, Wolf of Wallstreet, Suits, and Glengarry Glenn Ross.  All super aggressive, hyper work ethic empire building stories.  This employee has been around while we’ve talked about business politics, shifting power, and moving leverage over suppliers, resellers, and competitors.  Of course, Dan and I are smart enough to know that ultimately the customer pays the bills and is the main driver of our personal success.  This again is frustrating because it further grows the divide between employee and owner. Seems to mean I must sensor myself around my employees to an even greater degree than I already do. On the flip side, Leonardo DeCaprio spoke extremely derogatorily towards customers in front of his employees and they seemed to understand you still had to kiss butt to get their business.  Which takes me to the 3rd possibility.

or

3) Maybe I just have a faulty untrained ignorant lacking employee.  I think it’s important to point the finger back at myself for self improvement sake but I could just be right and the employee could just be a dud.

Customer-Service-Be-Nice

From the title you can tell this is going to be a customer service post.  Or in this case a lack of customer service.  3 weeks ago a customer received their multi-product order.  One of the mats – for whatever reason not quite relevant to this post – they wanted to return back.  I handed the job of organizing the return to an employee who in his job description is responsible for these types of activities.

What followed was a 3 week stand off between my employee and the customer over who would print the UPS sticker to send the mat back first.  On the one side was my employee, who was making the case he didn’t know what size package the customer was going to send back so couldn’t setup the UPS shipment.  On the other was the customer, who claimed he shouldn’t have to do anything except print out a packing label and drop off at the corner UPS store.  This is a literal digital “you do it.. no you do it… no you do it” school yard stand off.

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I don’t watch television because I get enough drama in my daily life.  Two story lines emerged this week – one involving a divorce and one involving an arrest – are directly (positively) affecting my gyms.

One particular gym has been a thorn in my side since we started.  We are different enough that we can tolerate each other’s presence but similar enough to need to keep an eye on the other.  I – admittedly bias – feel they’ve modified their branding, website, and services to copy SD UNITED.  What can’t be questioned is that they moved from across town to 4 blocks down the street and have tried to hire away my coaches on more than one occasion.  So you can imagine my reaction when I heard that the husband/wife owner are splitting up and looking to sell/close their gym. Enter my internal turmoil of celebrating a competitors personal problems and misfortune.  But while I might morally struggle with how to react to the news, I can’t deny that a competitor’s personal issues absolutely effect me business-wise.  I’ve gotten 3 recent resumes from coaches at their gym within hours of hearing the news.

Now the gym is still there, still open and I don’t imagine anything happening for awhile.  But their marriage or divorce is looking to already play a roll in our numbers this year.

A more concrete tangible example happened IN THE SAME WEEK.

Santee Gymnastics Coach Arrested, Accused of Relationship With Minor

Actual numbers, within 3-days Victory’s enrollment went up 5%.  No joke.  Here again a horrendous story-line that you wouldn’t wish on anyone – clearly not good for the sport or community – but I see immediate benefit from.  I asked my front desk staff to come in a bit early to quickly respond to all phone calls/messages we received over the next few days.  But beyond that there was no outward celebration of another’s troubles.

There are no lessons or statements to be made through these two simultaneously timed experiences. More just my musings over the intricate web that is the small business community where personal owner problems directly manifest themselves as line items on my monthly balance sheets.  I guess in the world of small business it puts further emphasis on “so go I as the owner, so goes my business.”

act-bigger

Puffer Fish, Peacocks, Toads, and Owls all have one thing in common – they are great at making themselves appear bigger than they are.  Here’s where we as the small business entrepreneur can learn from nature’s great actors.  Be the puffer fish.

No matter the industry, people will experience your business in a variety of ways: website, social media, driving by, calling in, walking in, etc.  It’s important to do what you can to appear professional and established.  Obviously, the real answer here is money.  With enough money, you can buy the best of anything. Mission accomplished. But how do you do the same thing on a budget? Here’s some suggestions:

Professional Logo and Website Design on a budget
Technology has come so far, it’s so easy to do your logo and website right.  WordPress or Squarespace, Themeforest or TemplateMonster. There are plenty of resources for professional looking and available tools.  Don’t get me wrong, you will never do better than an expert. It’s why they cost so much.  But you can fake it until you get there.

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