Repetition and the Junior High Basketball Coach

My post on how playing soccer has helped my business got me thinking about my early adventures in team sports.

I had a growth spurt early and I was much taller than most of my peers. (They of course caught up to me in high school.)

When we first moved here from Texas, all the coaches were so very super excited to get to know me. Little did they know that I sucked a sports. I just wasn’t that interested in playing. The only sport I was remotely interested in playing was basketball.

I liked basketball.
I had friends that played basketball.
We played a lot of basketball.

This doesn’t mean I was actually good at basketball.

But, I was tall so I was on the team.I’m horrible at remembering names, so we will just call him Coach. As I think back on these days, I’m pretty sure Coach was a super-secret basketball genius. I’m really not sure why he didn’t go on to become the coach of the Phoenix Suns.

Here’s what he did.

While everyone else was practicing passing and dribbling and team stuff, he stood me directly under the net and made me shoot bank shots. Over and over and over and over, this is what I did. Each practice we would do variations of this. Hook shots. Dribble and shoot. Move up and down the key shooting. It got pretty boring. But, I did it. Over and over and over and over.

I was a nervous wreck on our first game. But, there I was standing at the key following the ball around like he told me. Suddenly someone passed to me. I don’t remember even thinking. I just turned and shot.

It went in. Everyone cheered. I was as shocked.

Then it happen again during the game. And again. I ended up scoring like 8 points that game. I don’t remember them. I just turned and shot. It was a truly amazing highlight of my very short basketball career.

And Coach knew something that its taken me a lifetime to learn. Repetition is the key to success. It really is about that 10,000 hour thing.

I need to remember this as I move forward with my life.

How Playing Soccer Helped My Business

At the age of 44, I started playing soccer. I was fat, slow and middle-aged. To top that all off, I’ve never been much of a team sport kind of guy. I did play some basketball when I was younger, but I quit the team when I started high school. American football always seemed stupid to me, as younger husky Andrew was usually cast in a position that got hit a lot. I’ve always liked soccer, yet, for one reason or another, I never really got the chance to play much.

That changed last year when a close friend taught me you can play soccer at any age. I have been playing pretty much twice a week ever since. My new hobby has done much for me. I quickly lost 20 plus pounds. I’ve made new friends. And I’ve become more comfortable playing on a team.

It hasn’t been all fun and games. I really sucked at soccer when I started. I was fat and slow and didn’t have any skills. Along the way I’ve learned some things that have helped me become a better soccer player. But, it’s still a challenge that I enjoy.

The other day I realized how much some of the things I’ve learned are helping my business.

To play defense you need to learn some offense
I’m a defender in soccer. I love stopping people from scoring. I LOVE it. That said, I quickly learned that you still need to have some offensive skills to play soccer. You aren’t much good if you can’t convert your steal or block or tackle to help your team score. When I would practice, I would totally avoid any offensive skill practice. I mostly did this because I wasn’t really good at it. I wanted to practice defense. I wanted to get better at defense. But, this left me with some very one-sided skills. I would lose the ball easily. I would miss a pass. I would get flustered when I had to carry the ball. In business, I’m learning that I still need to practice the stuff I don’t enjoy.

Be patient
As a defender, my main role is to stop the other players from getting, passing or shooting the ball. When I first started playing I thought the best way to do this was to run up on the person with the ball and defend them much like you do in basketball. I quickly learned that this is a really stupid idea. Strikers would easily overtake me and often score on me. I soon realized that good defense is not always about attacking. Sometime you need to be patient and concede some ground. You need to assess your positioning, your team positioning and the skill of the forward with the ball.

Business is much like this. We like to think that people are overnight successes, but often they are years in the making. Soccer is teaching me to be more patient. I don’t need to jump in there all at once. I need to build on a structured plan that is focused on the ball and where I want it to go.

Teams are about the right people
Soccer is a team sport. Teams succeed by working together. I would take a soccer team with minimal skills that worked together over a team of high skilled individuals that don’t work together. I think I knew this one before I started playing soccer, but it is becoming clearer to me as I move forward in growing Spiel Pro. I want to quickly work toward finding out if vendors, partners and employees are going to be good teammates.  Not only will this help us win more, but we may just enjoy the experience more.

Attitude is everything
I’m not sure what triggers it yet, but there are days I just want to win more. When these days happen, I tend to play better. I doubt my skill has changed that much. I can only attribute this change in my play to attitude. Something clicks in my head that causes my body to react better and stronger. I’m still learning how to turn this on more often. My business is much like this. There are days when I wake up and I want to own the game parts market, and there are days when I feel deflated and beaten. I predict that this experience is pretty normal for most people. I’m just looking for ways to increase the days where I feel like I’m winning this game.

I’m glad I discovered soccer before it was too late for me to enjoy it. I think the same way about business. My friend that introduced me to soccer once said that we only have so many games in us, we should enjoy each and every one of them while we can.

Happy Birthday Spiel Pro, some things I’ve learned this first year

logoAround this time last year I started Spiel Pro. I made $20 in sales by the end of the month. I’ve learned so much this year that I thought I would share some of the most important things. I didn’t come up with these ideas, but this is the first time I’ve understood them enough to put them into action.

A little history first. Spiel Pro started after I started selling my extra stuff on eBay to make a little bit of cash. I found that I REALLY, REALLY enjoyed selling stuff online. As with other things that I get obsessed about, I began to seek out information on how to get better at it. I read everything I could get my hands on about eBay and online retailing.What people were telling me was simple:

  • Focus on a product niche.
  • Find ways to capitalize on that niche.
  • Grow the niche
  • Use the cashflow to expand the niche.

I had recently begun playing and enjoying boardgames, so I decided that might be a good place to start. At this point I was pretty much just reselling vintage games that I was finding at thrift stores. I found with a little knowledge I could quickly turn some nice margins on these games. I also found that there was a odd market for used game parts.

So I decided near the end of February last year that I would start to shift from vintage games to selling new game parts. This has some huge advantages. Vintage games can be hard to source. They are intermittent and unreliable. I also found the new board game market to be flooded with online retailers that are driving the prices to the bottom. I quickly realized that I didn’t want to sell board games.

It was my success with selling used parts that got me setting up So, I picked the parts that were selling the best and ordered some. It started to work almost immediately. Sales have been consistently growing. I did take a  bit of a mid-year break to go work for Eagle-Gryphon Games, but returned this holiday season.

So what are the key things I’ve learned this year?

You aren’t a business until you sell something
I don’t remember the book title, but I will always remember reading this and going WOW.

– “You don’t have a business until you sell something.” 

Spiel Pro sold $20 in it’s first month. That was more than my previous project, HuntersDB,  made in 2 years of development. If I had to do it all over again, I would make HuntersDB a paid service from the beginning. You must sell things. Get to selling thing quickly, because CASHFLOW is king.

Mistakes will happen
I screw up…sometime a lot. The key to success is to remind yourself not to make that same mistake tomorrow. So, I’ve learned to create procedures that help me fix my mistakes. One of my first orders on Amazon was wrong. I shipped the wrong amount of an item to a person. Today, I have a system where I double check the contents of my shipments. I’ve made it a habit. It gets checked when I put the item out, and it gets checked when it goes into the package for shipping. Mistakes are going to happen, don’t let them happen twice. 

Always be testing
Testing is a must. How are you going to find new markets or new product or new customers if you aren’t trying different things? Most of my testing has been done in the amount and mixtures of my products. I also learned that my idea of retail inventory was all wrong. I used to think that you needed to buy a shit ton of product to sell. It’s not true. Buy two or three of something. If they sell, buy more. If they don’t, reduce them and move on. Testing is so crucial to grown. ALWAYS BE TESTING.

Ship today, because..why not!
I was a bit surprised at how much my customers commend my speedy shipping. Is it really hard to ship immediately? What do you gain by holding on to it for a day or two? From day one I have shipped fast and often. What surprised me what how much of an added value this can be. Apparently people are use to getting things slowly. So, my motto now is ship today.

Find a community you enjoy
This was something I learned from my previous project HuntersDB. I like hunting, but I learned that I really, really dislike the hunting community.  Sure, there were some great people that I met and corresponded with. But, it was a daily slog to try to engage a community that I just didn’t enjoy. Now a year later, when I look back on the people I’ve met with Spiel Pro, it all makes sense. I LOVE the board game community. These are my people. I want to make shit for them.

I’ve learned lots of other things, but this is a good start. Happy Birthday Spiel Pro! I’m looking forward to continued growth this year.