Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Stubborn Can Overcome Stupidity
In a desperate move to keep things afloat, I used credit cards and loans to try and borrow my way out of the hole that seemed to grow larger no matter what I did. And then the economy really tanked. Thankfully, I had already decided on some bold cost cutting moves months earlier and when it did tank, I was in no worse shape than before. I had not tied into any new debt for that year. I did not order any new bikes on credit. I made no huge Pre-season parts orders on credit. I decided that if I could not pay for it, I would not buy it. All this in an effort to try to pay down the old debt as much as I could and then close the shop. That was 2008.
I was sure I would not be able to keep the doors open after September, 2008. I was wrong. September, 2008 came and went. 2009 came and went. 2010 came and went. And here it is April, 2011 and I am still in business. Far freakin out.
Remembering where my head was at then and where it is now makes me grin. I had been doing business a certain way for I guess almost 20 years, and suddenly I was throwing it out and adopting a new business model. No new bikes on the floor. Parts inventory kept slim and thin. I adopted on time inventory, ordering many parts for repairs as I needed them. And I dropped my help down to one full time employee (yours truly) and one part timer who was paid a percentage of each repair he did. My gross income dropped dramatically, but my profitability on that gross increased. And I have successfully nibbled away a large chunk of my old debt. I am not out of the woods yet, but there is certainly a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Enough of one that now I am looking for ways to create new business without taking on huge new debt.
I would love to give myself full credit for this turn around. Yeah, I was too stubborn to quit. That certainly helped. But what else was I going to do? I had been my own boss for over 20 years and I was damned if I was going to go back to driving trucks. All I saw and still see is if I am not at the bike shop, I am at Loew's, Home Depot, Walmart, or Mickey D's wearing some shitty uniform and making just above minimum wage. Of course minimum wage would be a wage hike for me. I haven't drawn more than three or four thousand dollars out of my shop in at least the last three years.
My tenacity was certainly the driving force for where I am now. But without timely help from my landlord, my creditors, Bike Shop Jim, and most of all, my loyal customers, I would not be here right now feeling so grateful. Instead of seeing nothing but struggle and trouble when I open my doors everyday, I think of running the shop as a fun game. A serious game, but that's all it is. Me against the evil economic monsters who wait behind every spreadsheet waiting to take me down. I have stepped up my game and learned even more than I thought I could about retail. I have found creative ways to cut costs. I have found money in old bikes and old parts. But of all the things I have learned these past few years is that if I am comfortable or feeling full of myself, then I am in trouble. If I am not trying to grow my business when I can and shrink it when it needs to be cut back, then my business will die. I figure another two years of this and I will be back in the black or damn close.