in Business

The Spiel Pro Retrospective – 2016

I’ve decided to continue doing the retrospective format I used last year to look at what has worked and what hasn’t at Spiel Pro in 2017. It was interesting reading last years. Let’s hope this one does the same for me next December.

What went well?

Revenue

  • We doubled revenue this year. I know there are faster ways to do this, but many of those methods come with a fair bit of risk I’m just not interested in taking right now. We have a slow flame on right now. I’m pretty good with this. Doubling again next year would fit nicely into my plans.
  • The percentage of overall revenue from Spielpro.com is growing. This makes me very happy. This means my work on the site at the beginning of last year are paying off.

Setting up others to run the store

  • My niece and nephew helped me run the store fulfillment while I was out of town a couple times this year. This was HUGE in a couple of ways. First, it forced me to put down my insider knowledge on paper. It made me standardize a bunch of stuff that only made sense for me. I also spent a good amount of time organizing and labeling the inventory. This really helped me prepare for when I will need to bring in regular help. Plus, I got to hang out with them a bit. They did an awesome job.
  • I’ve also had some help from a family friend with fulfillment and such. This type of stuff has really helped to dip into a world where others do the work at Spiel Pro, so I can focus on the growth.

Services and equipment

  • Shipstation has been critical to running the business. They provide a way to funnel all the sales channels into one place. I’ve also been leaning very heavily on their insights section to track weekly and monthly sales trends. They also have a phone app that lets me keep track of sales and such though out the day.
  • Spielpro.com continues a record year in sales growth after switching from WooCommerce to Big Commerce. Conversions skyrocketed after I went to a site that loaded faster and was optimized. I no longer have to spend my time trying to keep WooCommerce running. WooCommerce is a great way to start with e-commerce, but I’m glad I switched. The only bad thing about Big Commerce is the have been getting a fair share of DDOS attacks. While this really hasn’t affected me much, it is the worrisome part of having your store on a large platform versus your own server.
  • LOVE my counting scale. This is probably one of the best pieces of equipment I’ve bought. Saving SO much time with big orders. Also purchased a plastic bag heat sealer this year. I’m hoping to set myself up to offer a bagging service in the coming year.

International shipping

  • I’m not sure why I have waited so long to open up international shipping. It’s going much better than I thought. Part of my 2017 revenue plan is to increase marketing to other countries. Here’s how it broke down in 2016.

 

Special orders

  • Toward the end of the year I was getting quite a few special order type of things. Mostly people looking for a 1,000 of this or that. I enjoyed helping them. I’m looking for ways to continue to do more of that.

What needs improving?

Focus

  • Sometime last year I decided I wanted to try publishing. The logic was simple. I was already close to the industry. I understood how publishing worked. I already had the structure and capacity to do my own shipping. So, I looked for some games I wanted to publish and started to work on setting up the brand and such. It seemed to be going well, but then I realized that I might have made a huge mistake. The projects were not only taking time and money away from Spiel Pro, there was a real chance that they could pull me under before I was even on solid footing. I made the very hard decision to maintain my focus on getting Spiel Pro over the goal line.
  • I find myself running 3 businesses. Huntersdb.com, Arizona Game Fair and Spiel Pro. I am always coming up with new ideas for businesses and such. I think I’ve found a way to focus my energies. If the idea doesn’t increase the revenue of these three businesses, I don’t do it. And more than that, I’ve decided this year to pick the ideas that I think can best help each of those companies now….and execute them for 2017. That doesn’t mean I don’t stop coming up with ideas. I just need to write them down. Hopefully they will make the plan for 2018.

Used merchandise

  • I am no longer buying vintage games. The margins were ridiculous on that stuff, but Spiel Pro is a game part company. The collection and listing of the used items was a vast time suck. My only problem now is that I still have a fair bit of inventory I need to get rid of. It’s just cash sitting on the shelf if I don’t do something with it.

Product selection

  • I’m not happy with our selection of products. I don’t know that I ever will. I wanted to build a store I would shop at. Not there yet. I understand why….capital and such. But, still drags me down sometimes.

Out growing the house

  • This year Spiel Pro took over another room in our house. There are some options for continued growth, but I predict by the end of 2017 we will need a warehouse. I’ve already started looking at small offices and retail spaces near our house. I want it to be close, so I can still enjoy going there.

Eliminating the middleman

  • My pattern has been to buy small amounts of items to test and grow them. The theory is I can always get better margins on them, but I lose a ton if they don’t sell. This for the most part has worked out really well. But, this year the cracks started to form. I was hanging on to shitty vendors for way too long. I need to start moving my better selling items to direct from the manufacturer. My hope is that I can replace them as the middleman.

Conventions

  • For the last couple of years, I’ve made the trip to Spiel and BGGcon. These need to start paying for themselves or I can’t see continuing to go. I think I have a plan for BGG, but Essen is a logistical problem I have not solved. I decided not to try to get a booth at GenCon, but I feel the need to go this year.

Marketing

  • Newsletter – I’m learning a ton from Arizona Game Fair, but my email marketing for Spiel Pro is pretty nonexistent. Need to start to work that into our marketing plan this year.

PPC

  • I did some Google Adwords early in the year. They actually worked. The problem is the cost versus the conversion. Instead of optimizing that, I just stopped doing them. Need to get back into that.

Action plan and goals

Continue to increase revenue while maintaining customer service.

 

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