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Thursday, May 16, 2013


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself that Jean wants him to do a blog about the company.

1. We own three big Kyocera print engines (and a fourth, smaller one). We like that because these industrial-size print engines (from the $7K version to the $100K Docutech) all tend to break down when used at maximum rate for a day or two. If you put all your money into one big print engine, then when it's down, you're down. Having four, we're never down. If one breaks down, we just turn it off and keep going with the others, and call the Kyocera dealer at the start of the next business day. Every single time I have consulted with another company about setting up a print plant, the chosen vendor (Kyocera, Cannon, Xerox, whoever) tries to get the game company to buy one big box instead of three or four small ones. I patiently explain (to the game company and to the vendor) just how stupid this is. The bloody things break down (with something a technician can fix in an hour), and it's better to have a second, third, and fourth machine. It's also more cost effective. Our four Kyoceras (which cost us less than $25,000 total) run rings around even a $100,000 Docutech machine.

2. The utility infielder in a game publishing company is the company president. Having built the company from nothing, the president of the company once did everything by himself. Pretty much everything this company does is something I learned how to do a long time ago, and (except in the case of accounting where Leanna told me I was all wet, and that web design stuff that confuses me) something I taught everyone else how to do. So when we had a bit of a crisis getting all those new products out on the same day last January, I was the guy who filled in for anyone else who wasn't available.  While Leanna was doing invoices, I added the new products to the shopping cart. While Mike was packing orders, I was shrinkwrapping products. While Joel was uploading shopping cart photos, I was packing Reinforcements Attack. 

3. I wonder if anybody out there understands how this business (or any business) runs if they haven't run a business. There are lots of categories of things to do, and it's hard to balance them. Some of them are "get to it as fast as you can" and there is a list of those and when not doing anything else I go to the top of that list for my work. Some things magically appear on the list from time to time and go right to the #1 spot. Some of those are predictable (e.g., Communique that has to be done before the 7th of any given month so the staff can report before it goes out on the 10th) while others are less so (I got a set of ACTASF cards from Matthew and had promised him that whenever he sent a set I would drop anything other than an emergency to check the cards right away and fire the required fixes back to him; those cards get this treatment because they've been delayed too long and because we need the fixed cards to get the revised rulebook out). Some new items that show up get to start their march to the top of the list from a higher or lower spot (e.g., a possible big money deal for a project goes to the highest part of the list). That, unfortunately, means everything else goes down a notch. Then there are the fires that blow up or break out. Recently, something that should have been a simple yes/no decision ended up being a major multi-hour project involving phone calls to outside parties. That kicked other things off that day's schedule. (I had promised one guy on Thursday afternoon that his thing was now #1 on the list and would obviously get done on Friday. Then a fire broke out Friday noon and pushed his thing to Saturday.) Other things happen.

4. A big drive-engine to my work schedule is my email (and to a lesser extent, the BBS and Forum). Every morning, I walk in here to find (after de-spamming the in-box) anywhere from four to ten real emails that actually require more than a one-word answer (yes, no, sure, whatever, laugh, etc.). The BBS and Forum produce similar "items that should be attended to". Some of those go away with one or two minutes of thought and reply, or looking something up. Others take longer. Some take so long that they don't get done that day, and become line items on the to-do list, or just get lost altogether. (Still in the in-box, they get found on "sweeps" where I go looking for things I can delete easily. When I find one of these forgotten projects, I re-direct it to myself which puts it at the top of the in-box where it gets another chance.)

5. Then there is the Visitation of the Great Dragon. This is when something happens that is so big it totally wipes out the schedule. Even routine stuff gets delayed, the to-do list gets all but forgotten, and promises get broken. Mostly this is the last week or two of finishing a new product. In Jan 2013 I found myself spending hours working on the packing line or the shrinkwrap machine, which of course pushed my "to do" list back a few days. During Jean's December visit, she had priority over my time and I got to go look at routine or to-do items only when she had nothing for me to do.

6. In a small business (and ours in no exception) everybody has more than one job, but being human, they tend to spend most of their time on one job, pretty much ignore the job they hate the most, and dabble in the others. For example, I hate doing marketing and my failure to do it right causes sales to suffer. (Jean will take that over in May. She likes doing marketing.) So, I started a practice of several times a week taking a scratch pad to work. I assigned everybody a "priority task for after lunch" to make sure at least something gets done on the jobs they hate the most. Leanna, buried in orders, uploaded Fed ePack #2 (after having it for a week and having sent nothing to e23 for a month) only because of the priority task system. I made it a point to walk around right after lunch and remind everyone of their priority task, and to go back in mid-afternoon to check on those who had yet to report their task having been done. It's called Leadership, which is one of my "other jobs" that I don't do very often.